Political News

Officials can't say why wanted White House contractor eluded arrest

Posted June 6, 2018 6:33 p.m. EDT

— The National Security Council contractor accused of attempted murder and arrested at the White House Tuesday made his first appearance in court Wednesday as questions over how he was able to elude authorities for nearly three weeks mounted.

Martese Edwards, 30, waived his right to an extradition hearing at his appearance at DC's Superior Court, and he is expected to be transported to face charges in Maryland in the coming days. He was represented by a court-appointed attorney at the hearing and wore a gray suit, just as he had Tuesday morning when he showed up for work at the White House complex.

Police in Prince George's County, Maryland, located less than 10 miles from the capital, allege Edwards shot and critically injured the 26-year-old boyfriend of his ex-girlfriend on May 3. According to a statement from the county sheriff's office, detectives on the case applied for and received an arrest warrant for Edwards on May 17. The same day, the Prince George's County Office of the Sheriff entered Edwards' warrant into a national crime information database, the police statement says.

It wasn't until June 4 that the Secret Service says it was notified by a federal crime clearinghouse that Edwards was the subject of the Maryland warrant. The Secret Service said in a statement that the original May 17 entry by Prince George's County did not contain information that would have triggered an "alert," explaining the lag in Secret Service notification. On Tuesday, Edwards was "promptly arrested by Secret Service Uniformed Division Officers at a checkpoint outside of the White House complex when he was reporting to work as a contractor," the Secret Service said.

An NSC official on Wednesday described Edwards as an administrative staffer who handled things like room bookings and parking passes for the agency. Another person familiar with the matter said Edwards' badge access was limited to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which houses the NSC and is located adjacent to the White House, and not the West Wing.

The Secret Service has not said if Edwards had successfully gained entry to the White House complex in the period after the Maryland warrant went out.

At a news conference in Greenbelt, Maryland, a spokesman for the county prosecutor's office said the sheriff's office had updated their entry in the national database on Edwards on June 4, though it is unclear if that is what triggered the notification to the Secret Service on that same day. Among the new information included in the update was Edwards' Social Security number, the fact that he had a tattoo on his arm, and the fact that he was believed to be "armed and dangerous," according to a person familiar with the investigation.

"The warrant was entered into the national database on May 17. It was applied for that day, it was granted by the courts here in Prince George's County that day, and it was entered into the system that day. Now, as to why it was not seen by the Secret Service until June 4, that's a question that they would have to answer," said John Erzen, a spokesman for the Prince George's County State's Attorney's Office.

Erzen did not know when authorities determined Edwards worked for the White House, but the person familiar with the case told CNN Wednesday that after the warrant was issued for his arrest, investigators contacted the Pentagon because they believed he had done contract work with them. CNN has reached out to the Pentagon for comment.

Detectives also had a search warrant for Edwards' home address and visited the location during their investigation but had not found him, the person said.