Authorities arrested Joseph Sean McVey, 23, on Sunday afternoon at the Asheville Regional Airport in North Carolina.
McVey, who was carrying a sidearm, had a car equipped with police gear, including a siren and flashing lights, though he did not work in law enforcement, authorities said.
Security was heightened at the airport Sunday because Obama was leaving abord Air Force One after spending the weekend vacationing in Asheville.
McVey was charged with being armed in terror of the public, a misdemeanor. A first appearance in court was scheduled for Monday, said Sgt. John Lutz of the Buncombe County jail, where McVey was being held on $100,000 bond.
At about 2 p.m. Sunday, airport police saw McVey get out of a maroon car with Ohio plates, airport police Capt. Kevan Smith said. Both airport police and the Secret Service questioned him and he was taken into custody. The suspect was nowhere near the president's plane, which had just departed, and was in a rental car return lot that is open to the public, Smith said.
His car was equipped with clear law enforcement-style strobe lights in the front and rear dash, Smith said. The car also had a mounted digital camera in the front window, four large antennas on the trunk lid, and under the steering wheel was a working siren box.
When McVey got out of the car, he was listening to a handheld scanner and radio that had a remote earpiece, Smith said. Police said he was monitoring local agencies and had formulas for rifle scopes on a note in his cup holder. Police did not immediately elaborate on what the formulas might mean.
McVey gave authorities an Ohio driver's license, but a computer check failed to show the number was valid, police said.
When Officer Kaleb Rice asked him what he was doing, McVey told him he heard the president was in town and wanted to see him. Rice removed the firearm and took McVey into custody.