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Alleged White House shooter used controversial assault rifle

Romanian-made WASR-10 was subject of iWatch News probe in February

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Law enforcement officers photograph a window at the White House after a bullet was stopped by ballistic glass, the Secret Service said.

Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP

The man accused of firing shots at the White House last week allegedly used a Romanian-made gun that was the subject of an iWatch News investigation earlier this year.

A source close to the investigation said the weapon used in the incident was a so-called WASR-10, a Romanian version of the Kalashnikov assault weapon that is sold in the United States by a Florida-based importer, Century International Arms. The gun was reportedly purchased in Idaho Falls, Idaho by a friend of the alleged White House assailant, Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez. Ortega-Hernandez appeared in federal court in Washington, D.C. this afternoon; a public defender was appointed for him, and a hearing set for Nov. 28.  

WASR-10 models have frequently been recovered at crime scenes in Mexico linked to drug trafficking. The WASR-10 has been the subject of scrutiny in part because of the route it has traveled from Romania to the United States to Mexico — a journey made legally even though for years it has actually been illegal to import high-powered, semiautomatic weapons that do not have a “sporting purpose” into the U.S.

U.S. gun laws have been interpreted by regulators in a way that affords importers a way around the ban. Foreign guns like the Romanian AKs are shipped into the United States stripped of their military features so they can be treated as sporting guns. The weapons are then modified by Century in a Vermont facility with a few U.S. made-parts, declared to be American made and shipped through wholesalers to local gun dealers with a variety of assault-style features.  

The route traveled by the WASR-10 was the subject of a story published by iWatch News in February. 

The piece was the result of an investigation conducted by the Center for Public Integrity, the Investigative Reporting Workshop at the American University School of Communication, InSight, FRONTLINE and the Romanian Centre for Investigative Journalism.