WASHINGTON - A man draped in an American flag was taken into custody Thursday afternoon after he jumped the fence of the White House while the first family was inside celebrating Thanksgiving.
Joseph Caputo faces criminal charges after he scaled the north fence line of the grounds and was immediately apprehended about 2:45 p.m., according Robert Hoback, a spokesman for the Secret Service. Officials did not provide details on Caputo's age, hometown, or any reason for the jumper's actions.
The U.S. Secret Service did not immediately provide details of the incident, and it is unclear how the man made it past new "pencil-point" spikes added to the White House perimeter earlier this year designed to deter intruders.
Virginia resident Vanessa Peña was visiting the White House with her sister Thursday afternoon when she saw a man behind them take off his sweatshirt and wrap an American flag around himself.
Peña then heard him take a deep breath before saying, " 'All right, let's do this.' "
"Then he just ran through us, jumped over the first barricade and went over the fence," said Peña, who captured photos of the incident. "Right when he landed he threw his arms in the air and went to his knees."
Officers and K-9s quickly swarmed the man, who carried a binder in his mouth as he sailed over the fence, and took him into custody, Peña said. The incident lasted no more than five minutes.
Police deployed rapidly, pushing the usual crowd of tourists back through Lafayette Park to H Street.
The park and Pennsylvania Avenue were then cordoned off for much of the afternoon.
A group of Jehovah Witness members were also in the area Thursday, distributing literature by the black iron fence on Pennsylvania Avenue on the mild, sunny afternoon.
One of them, said he saw the man climb over the fence.
"He was walking toward the White House with his hands up," said the man, who asked not to be named. "The police told us to move away as quickly as possible. I looked over my shoulder. I was scared."
The Secret Service and security at the White House have been under scrutiny since last year, after Omar Jose Gonzalez was able to make it to the president's front door and into the first floor.
Gonzalez, who was eventually convicted in connection with the incident, jumped the fence and bolted past several layers of security before a Secret Service agent detained him, prompting a review of the agency's practices and the resignation of Director Julia Pierson.