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Would-be White House Crasher Wanted to Paint ‘Patriot’ Snake Symbol

By Don Terry on June 12, 2013 - 1:27 pm, Posted in Antigovernment
Gadsden Flag

An unoccupied black Jeep Patriot rolls down the street and crashes into a light pole and steel bollard of a guard booth near the White House shortly after 3 a.m. Sunday.

A block of wood had been affixed to the accelerator with Velcro. Inside the vehicle – its motor still running, its airbag deployed – are 200 rounds of ammunition, eight knives of various sizes and two machetes.

Heavily armed Secret Service agents, including an emergency response team and a counter sniper team, immediately scramble into action.

The special teams are ordered to take up defensive positions.

Minutes after the crash, agents spot a 5-foot-11 white man jumping a fence of the White House complex. He ignores agents’ orders to halt and runs deeper into the complex, towards the White House.

There’s been a breach.

This is not the beginning of a Hollywood movie, but the real-life drama that unfolded early Sunday morning when, according to federal authorities and a criminal complaint, 32-year-old Joseph Clifford Reel of Kettering, Ohio, crashed his Jeep and jumped the fence because, as he told officers, he wanted to paint the “don’t tread on me snake” somewhere in the White House complex as a symbolic gesture.

What Reel was referring to is the Gadsden Flag, a Revolutionary War-era relic that features a coiled, hissing snake on a yellow background with the words “Don’t Tread on Me.” It has become a symbol of the Tea Party movement and is also commonly used by antigovernment “Patriot” groups. Whether Reel is a member or sympathizer of either faction is unclear. According to NBC News, Ohio records indicate Reel is a registered Republican.

A federal detention hearing has been scheduled for Reel on Thursday afternoon in Washington.

President Obama was in California at the time of the incident and was never in any danger.

Reel told investigators, according to the complaint, that “he had conducted his own surveillance on the White House complex, which included taking pictures of the White House complex, for the past day because he was looking for ‘a way in.’”

After the Jeep crash, Secret Service agents spotted Reel on a bicycle near the scene. They asked him what he was doing in the area. He said he was just “trying to see what was going on,” according to the complaint.

They told him to leave the area. “OK,” he said, riding his bicycle about 25 feet away before hopping off and jumping the fence of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which is part of the White House complex.

He was on the loose in the complex for less than two minutes but did manage to get about 40 feet “from the wrought-iron fence located on West Executive Avenue, N.W., which constitutes the internal perimeter of the grounds of the White House residence,” the complaint says.

Just before being taken into custody at 3:17 a.m., Reel dropped a can of spray paint covered in silver duct tape.

After he was in handcuffs, Secret Service and bomb squad officers used explosives-sniffing dogs to search Reel’s jeep, where they found the ammunition and a hand-held rifle scope.

They did not find any guns or explosives. Reel was unarmed except for a pocketknife. He was also carrying a handcuff key.

  • Kiwiwriter

    You know, I used to like that flag, because I’ve had snakes as pets, but since the Tea Party took it over, I want nothing to do with it.

    This guy is obviously a walking mass of neuroses and despair. He was probably hoping to achieve martyrdom…being shot down by the government seconds after completing his graffiti job, thinking that his example of defiance would inspire like-minded wackos across the nation to better his example, and spontaneously rise from their barcaloungers to overthrow the government.

    Doubtless he dreamed that some day there would be a life-size, nude, anatomically correct statue of him, in a suitably Stalinist/Social Realism pose, in downtown Washington, maybe on wheels, so that it would always face the sun…and generations of blonde-haired white people with big shoulders, big muscles, and bigger husbands would gaze upon the statue of their martyred leader with awe, wonder, and reverence, laying flowers.

    Instead, he’ll be lucky if his public defender can get him an insanity plea deal, he’ll go inside for the rest of his life, and nobody — not even his descendants — will remember his name.

    I guess he had the handcuff key so that if he was caught, he could make the great escape…amusing how these guys think the government is omnipotent and all-powerful, but not smart enough to deal with idiots like them.

  • What

    He is REALLY lucky they didn’t shoot him. Not the sharpest crayon in the box.

    Maybe Sarah Palin can have him on Fox News when he gets out! :)

  • Underwriter

    Gregory – I have a degree in Latin and saw that movie in its first run with a Catholic priest. That scene had us in (loud) stitches while everyone else in the theater was looking at us wondering what was so funny. Oh my! Thanks for the chuckle!

  • Linnea

    No one has ever accused the TP/antigovernment crowd of intelligence or rational thought, and this is just another example.

  • Mitch Beales

    This flag should be referred to as the “forked tongue flag” when used by the tea party.

  • Sam Molloy

    Good thing it wasn’t a Dodge Nitro.

  • Erika

    what a maroon!

    Not only did he come up with an idiotic plan more likely to result in his death than success, he came up with a plan that was so stupid that the unlikely even that he actually suceeded who would actually know what it means? A spray painted snake is very likely to look like a spraypainted squiggly line.

    i’m sure that the people in the federal prison are going to have a good laugh at his response to the question “what are you in for” though.

  • New Media Manager

    This is Scott, New Media Manager here at SPLC. I apologize for the stoppage in approving comments over the last few days. We’re back on track and will be moderating more frequently.!

  • Reynardine

    He pledges allegiance to the flag…of the yellow-bellied rattlesnake! How refreshingly appropriate!!

  • Gregory

    Two things.

    First, a Jeep Patriot? That had me chuckling.

    Second, I was immediately reminded of the scene in The Life of Brian in which Brian is tasked by the People’s Front of Judea (PFJ) with painting “Romans go home” in the city center. Maybe the Secret Service didn’t see the film…

  • Aron

    Yup. Definitely sounds like a sane individual.

    What the hell happened to the GOP?