May 25, 1995 in Nation/World

Suspect Faces Assault Charges

Associated Press
 

The government filed charges Wednesday against a 37-year-old graduate student who was shot on the White House lawn after scaling a fence with an unloaded gun. Officials said he had a history of mental problems and may have acted out of suicidal impulse.

Leland William Modjeski, recently fired as a pizza deliveryman, faces assault and firearms charges after he was apprehended less than 50 yards from the executive mansion late Tuesday night.

Federal prosecutor Eric Dubelier said there was “some indication of a mental history.” He did not elaborate.

Two other law enforcement officials said investigators suspect Modjeski wanted to draw police fire. Officials stressed that the investigation was in its early stages, and a motive had not been firmly established.

Modjeski was not charged with attempted assassination, but officials did not rule out future charges. “We have to figure out why he did what he did,” Dubelier said.

Modjeski had earned a master’s degree in psychology three years ago and had been admitted to the psychology doctoral program at suburban George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., near his home in Falls Church.

Police said Modjeski, wearing business attire, climbed a 10-foot, wrought-iron fence at the southeast edge of the grounds, setting off security alarms.

Uniformed Secret Service police officer Scott Giambattista spotted the suspect and approached him near where a limousine had dropped off Clinton half an hour earlier.

According to a Secret Service affidavit, Modjeski was holding a gun. Officer David Levine ordered him to drop the weapon. “When Modjeski did not comply with Officer Levine’s command, Modjeski was shot one time,” the affidavit said.

Two law enforcement officials said Modjeski responded with the order to drop his gun by uttering an expletive at Levine. Investigators believe Modjeski may have been daring the officer to fire, the officials said.

“He wanted to be a cop-shot,” one of the officials said.

The .38-caliber bullet, fired by Levine, apparently wounded both Modjeski and Giambattista. Modjeski’s gun was unloaded, Secret Service spokesman Dave Adams said.

Modjeski and Giambattista were expected to recover, although Modjeski may suffer minor nerve damage.

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