A friend of an Iraq war veteran from Southern California accused of scaling the White House fence said Monday that even in high school he had a military crew cut, a spit-and-polish attitude and a growing interest in the armed forces.
Robert Maladinovich remembers his 1991 classmate Omar Gonzalez as an athlete with tenacity, a football player at Orange High School who seemed to be a straight arrow.
"He was always talking to the recruiters and he carried himself in a manner that was military, very to the point and proper," Maladinovich said.
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Gonzalez, 42, is accused of scaling a fence and making it into the White House before the Secret Service arrested him on Friday.
Gonzalez faces federal charges of unlawfully entering a restricted building or grounds while carrying a deadly or dangerous weapon — a small folding knife in this case.
Family members told The Associated Press Sunday that he posed no threat to anyone and needs counseling instead of prosecution.
Jerry Murphy, whose mother was married to Gonzalez for several years, told The AP Gonzalez suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and that he needs treatment.
He said Gonzalez has been driving around the country and living out of his truck for the past couple of years, and that he always carries his knife.
"I know he's got heavy artillery, you know?" Murphy added. "He's got all kinds of weapons and he was trained to use them. I believe if he wanted to make a scene or cause problems, he very well could have. But it's clear that he didn't."
Friends question whether Gonzalez acted out of stress, confusion or anger over injuries suffered in the war.
"This is just another case of the government turning its back on veterans," Maladinovich said. "For this person to do a 180 like that just blew me away."