WASHINGTON -- Leland William Modjeski has a master's degree in industrial psychology, but ended up delivering pizza for $4.25 an hour.
He and his wife lived in a modest suburban Virginia townhouse with a blue parakeet and pots of purple and yellow pansies on the front step.
And yesterday, he was charged with assault and firearms violations after scaling the 10-foot, spiked wrought-iron White House fence, triggering several alarms and a shooting that left him and a Secret Service agent wounded.
Federal investigators yesterday began piecing together the life story of Mr. Modjeski, trying to learn why a 37-year-old man described as quiet and serious by neighbors sprinted toward the White House late Tuesday night with an unloaded .38-caliber handgun.
Federal prosecutor Eric Dubelier told reporters that Mr. Modjeski had no criminal record but had a history of mental problems.
Mr. Modjeski's motivation remained a puzzle. Were his actions a cry for help? Or was he trying to get shot to end his own life?
To neighbors, he was a mystery man. They didn't know what he and his wife, Rosemary, did for a living to afford their townhouse and two Honda Accords.
"I've always tried to figure out what he did," said Roy Eberhart, 42, a retired serviceman who lived next door since 1986. "He has always been a very quiet person. They seemed very serious. He was around the house during the day and didn't keep regular hours."
The Modjeskis had lived on tiny Prince Albert Court near Falls Church, Va., since 1982, when they bought their new three-bedroom townhouse a year after getting married. They paid $86,875 for the brick townhouse with the pink rhododendron bushes in front, a property now assessed at $134,065.
Mr. Modjeski and Mr. Eberhart exchanged pleasantries about the weather and lawn care. They never talked politics. Mr. Eberhart used to pass vegetables from his garden over Mr. Modjeski's 6-foot wooden fence in the back yard.
But that was the extent of it.
The Modjeskis had no children, neighbors said, but she ran a small day-care program in the townhouse years ago.
Mr. Modjeski delivered pizzas for Pizza Hut from June 1994 until he was fired five months later, according to Pizza Hut spokesman Rob Doughty in Wichita, Kan.
Born in Italy, Mr. Modjeski was a doctoral student in industrial psychology at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., before dropping out in 1992, citing personal reasons. Industrial psychology is the study of people at work.
Professor Louis Buffardi, head of the program, said that Mr. Modjeski did not elaborate on his reasons for leaving, but he had the impression that financial problems were partly responsible.
Mr. Modjeski earned a master's degree in psychology from GMU in May 1992 and a bachelor's in psychology in May 1989.
"He doesn't stand out in my mind," said Mr. Buffardi, who was also Mr. Modjeski's academic adviser, although they were not close. "There was nothing remarkable, either about his stay here or his leaving."
While Mr. Modjeski was at GMU, "there was no untoward behavior, no incidents that would have said, 'Ah, this guy is a troublemaker,' " the professor said.
But on Tuesday night, Mr. Modjeski became the latest person to breach security at the White House, in the third incident since September and just three days after the two-block section of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House was closed for security.
As Mr. Modjeski sprinted toward the mansion with the unloaded handgun, Secret Service Agent Scott Giambattista ordered him to stop.
Mr. Modjeski was only 30 to 50 yards south of the White House, just outside the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden behind the East Wing and not far from the spot where President Clinton had stepped from his limousine only half an hour earlier.
"When he didn't stop, Agent Giambattista went after him. A struggle ensued," said Secret Service spokesman Carl Meyer.
During the struggle, a second agent noticed Mr. Modjeski's handgun, yelled "weapon" and fired. A single bullet hit Mr. Modjeski's arm, exited, then hit Agent Giambattista's arm.
Both the intruder and agent were in good condition yesterday after surgery at George Washington University Hospital.
Mr. Clinton was in his residential quarters, working with his chief of staff, Leon E. Panetta, when the incident occurred, at about 10:45 p.m. First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton had gone to bed. Daughter Chelsea, 15, had just finished her homework and gone to her room.
Neither Mr. Clinton nor Mr. Panetta heard the shot. The Secret Service --ed to the presidential quarters within seconds to report the incident.
Then, Mr. Clinton went back to work, toiling until well past midnight, according to White House spokesman Mike McCurry.
"Just another day at the White House," joked Mr. Clinton, who went jogging for 30 minutes yesterday morning under heavy guard on the grounds of Fort McNair, a military base near downtown Washington.
Mr. Clinton called Agent Giambattista and "congratulated him on a job well done and thanked him for the sacrifice he made in performance of his duties and in protecting the White House and the president," said Mr. McCurry.
Mr. Modjeski was the 24th person to jump the White House fence since 1989, but the first to be shot. Most fence jumpers have been "pranksters, peaceful protesters and harmless, mentally ill individuals," according to a report issued Saturday by a Treasury Department task force on White House security measures.