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Ohio man charged with ramming into White House perimeter to leave political graffiti


An Ohio man crashed a Jeep into a security perimeter and then jumped the fence at the White House because he wanted to spray-paint the Revolutionary War-era "Don't Tread on Me" snake on the grounds, authorities said in court documents Tuesday.

The man, identified in federal charging documents as Joseph Reel, 32, of Kettering, Ohio, near Dayton, was charged with destruction of government property after the incident in the predawn hours of Sunday.

Encyclopaedia Britannica / UIG via Getty Images

File photo: Charging documents said the suspect wanted to paint an image like this one somewhere on the White House grounds.

The Secret Service said Reel, who Ohio records indicate is a registered Republican who voted in the November general election, went to elaborate lengths in his quest to breach White House security so he could leave behind his political message.

According to the charging document, Reel told officers that he conducted "surveillance" of the White House complex on Saturday "looking for a way in." 

Sunday, about 3 a.m. ET, he returned in a Jeep Patriot, according to the charges. He attached a wood block to the accelerator and set the vehicle on its way — unoccupied — ramming into a light post, a bicycle rack and a steel security bollard at 17th Street NW and Pennsylvania Avenue, which is the northwest corner of the White House complex.

A short time later, according to the report, Reel rode up on a bicycle and climbed over a fence at the north courtyard of the Old Executive Office Building, just west of the White House itself. 

He was carrying a can of spray paint, which he dropped as he fled Secret Service agents, the court records allege.

The documents say Reel wasn't armed when he jumped the fence. But they say investigators found 200 rounds of ammunition, eight knives and two machetes in the Jeep, which caused about $1,000 in damage.

Pete Williams of NBC News contributed to this report.

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