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SUV Breaches Mar-A-Lago Security; 2 In Custody After Chase

Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida
Associated Press
Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida

Law enforcement officials say they have a 30-year-old woman in custody after the SUV she was driving breached a security checkpoint at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.

Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw identified Friday’s intruder as Hannah Roemhild. He says she wasn’t “even remotely close” to getting into the “inner perimeter” of the resort in Palm Beach. Bradshaw says Roemhild was impaired.

He says when officers first approached her, she was inside her car and would not respond when they tapped on the window. Officers finally smashed through the window glass and she drove away. She crashed through two checkpoints before authorities caught up to her. Bradshaw says she will be charged with assault on a federal officer, deadly assault on two sheriff’s deputies and traffic charges.

Trump was not at the resort at the time, although he was scheduled to arrive there later Friday. The president had been briefed, said press secretary Stephanie Grisham. There were no changes to his travel plans. Trump usually plays golf in the mornings at his nearly Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach and attends a Super Bowl watch party there for the big game.

The black SUV breached security a little after 11:30 a.m. at the main entrance of the resort, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Officers fired shots and the SUV raced off. It was pursued by the Highway Patrol and a sheriff’s office helicopter.

Investigators say the vehicle approached the checkpoint at a high rate of speed and did not appear to brake in any way, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss the investigation.

The official stressed the investigation was just beginning and the information was preliminary. The breached checkpoint, one of several set up when Trump is traveling to the resort, is a few blocks away from the actual resort. The Secret Service said it would have a news conference later Friday.

Several hours after the breach, cars were allowed to drive on streets near the resort. Armed guards were present as usual but did not appear to be on a higher alert than normal.

Mar-a-Lago has been the scene of several intrusions since Trump became president. On Jan. 5, just hours after Trump and his family had left the club following a two-week vacation, a Florida man who had been dishonorably discharged from the Marines for sex offenses was arrested after he got past two checkpoints by falsely identifying himself as part of the president’s helicopter crew.

In March 2019, Chinese national Yujing Zhang gained access to Mar-a-Lago while carrying a laptop, phones and other electronic gear. That led to initial speculation that the 33-year-old businesswoman from Shanghai might be a spy, but she was never charged with espionage. Text messages she exchanged with a trip organizer indicated she was a fan of the president and wanted to meet him or his family to discuss possible deals.

Zhang was found guilty of trespassing and lying to Secret Service agents and was sentenced to time served.

In December, the club’s security officers confronted Jing Lu, 56, for trespassing and told her to leave, but she returned to take photos. Lu was charged with loitering and resisting an officer without violence after taking photos by entering a service entrance.