CHICAGO (AP) _ A member of a prominent Chicago family faces a felony gun charge after being arrested Tuesday when he approached security barriers outside Barack Obama’s home. The U.S. Secret Service insisted he never posed a threat to the Democratic presidential candidate.
Omhari Sengstacke, 31, of Chicago, was apparently intoxicated but not armed when he was arrested about 6:30 a.m. as he neared the barriers posted with no-access signs a block from the South Side home, said police spokesman Daniel O’Brien.
Police found a gun and a bulletproof vest in his car nearby.
Sengstacke did not utter any threats against Obama or make any threatening gestures before his arrest, and he never breached the outermost perimeter of multiple security layers, U.S. Secret Service spokesman Malcolm Wiley said.
Asked if Sengstacke may have wanted to hurt Obama, his brother, Robert Sengstacke, told The Associated Press, “I seriously doubt that.”
In a statement issued Tuesday night, the Sengstacke family said they have “passionate support” for Obama and that Sengstacke “had no intent to harm Obama nor his family.”
The fact that Sengstacke did not have the firearm with him at the time of his arrest “is proof that he had no ill intent toward the presidential candidate,” the family said.
There was no telephone listing for an Omhari Sengstacke in Chicago.
Sengstacke is also charged with misdemeanor criminal trespassing for approaching security barriers near Obama’s home. The more serious charge accuses him of possessing a firearm while being a felon.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported he had convictions on theft for stealing a cell phone and forgery for trying to use a fake traveler’s check; he received probation both times.
Discovery of the gun, Wiley said, did not change the Secret Service’s view that Sengstacke never constituted a threat.
“There are probably hundreds of people a day who are in, near or at that checkpoint (around Obama’s house) who have a weapon in their car that they’re not supposed to have,” he said. “Even with the knowledge of that, our information that we received did not make him any more of a threat.”
Omhari Sengstacke is the grandson of John Sengstacke, publisher of the Chicago Defender for decades until his death in 1997.
The black-owned newspaper gained prominence in the early 20th century by campaigning against segregation policies in southern states, a crusade that sparked the migration of blacks from the rural South to the industrial North.
After years of family discord and legal haggling, a deal was reached in 2003 to sell the Defender.
In 2001, Omhari Sengstacke attended a ceremony at the White House when then-President Bill Clinton awarded his grandfather the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously, the Defender reported at the time.
Obama was believed to be home at the time of the incident, though Wiley declined to confirm whether he or his family was present. Obama left the house later in the morning to go to the gym and then took a flight to Florida, where he will be preparing for Friday’s presidential debate.
Sengstacke first approached the barriers just before 5:00 a.m., Wiley said, and Chicago police arrested him about an hour and a half later. Police spokesman O’Brien did not immediately say what specifically Sengstacke did to prompt his arrest.
Both Chicago police and Secret Service agents questioned Sengstacke before police charged him.
Wiley said it did not appear the man would face federal charges.
Associated Press Writer Caryn Rousseau in Chicago contributed to this report.
Pictured above is Omhari Sengstacke.