WASHINGTON: A man accused of jumping the White House fence while draped in an American flag left a suicide note with friends and a will with his mother, telling her she may never see him again, court documents show.
Joseph Caputo, 22, of Stamford, Connecticut, was ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation on Friday, a day after authorities said he scaled the fence while President Barack Obama was celebrating Thanksgiving with his family, prompting a lockdown.
Caputo is charged with one count of illegal entry onto restricted grounds, which carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison. He did not enter a plea during his brief appearance in District of Columbia Superior Court on Friday afternoon. A judge released him to the custody of the Secret Service for the sake of an emergency psychiatric evaluation. He is scheduled to appear in federal court on Monday.
Caputo is the first person to be charged with scaling the White House fence since May, when the Secret Service added a second layer of steel spikes to the top of the fence in response to a series of security breaches, including an intruder who got deep inside the executive mansion last year. Other long-term security enhancements for the White House perimeter are under construction.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat who represents the District in Congress, said in a statement that she was “flabbergasted” by Caputo’s “remarkable jump” and urged the Secret Service to find a way to improve security without sacrificing public access to the White House.
According to court documents, Caputo had been staying with two friends in Virginia this week, and the friends provided the Secret Service with a note in which Caputo stated his intention to die on Thursday.
According to the documents, the note read, in part, “Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around us who transform into the Force,” in an apparent reference to the mythology of the “Star Wars” movies.
Caputo wore the American flag like a cape when he went over the fence, the documents show, and he was carrying a USB flash drive in the shape of a “Captain America” shield. He also carried weightlifting gloves and pocket guide to the Constitution, authorities said. In court on Friday, he wore a white-and-blue baseball-style T-shirt, white pants and sneakers with an American flag pattern.
Caputo ran toward the White House after he scaled the fence, but when Secret Service officers ordered him to stop and get on the ground, he quickly complied, according to the documents. He told the officers, “I love my country” and “I knew I would be locked up,” the documents state.
Caputo’s mother provided the Secret Service with a “last will and testament” her son had written and played an audio message in which he tells her something will happen and she may not see him again, the documents state.
Caputo was represented in court by a private attorney, Paul Signet, who declined to comment. At one point, U.S. Marshals retrieved a note written on yellow paper from Caputo’s rear pants pocket. The marshals delivered it to a man and a woman sitting in the courtroom, who read it. The pair declined to comment or identify themselves as they left court.