Dick Cheney hunting accident

On February 11, 2006, United States vice president Dick Cheney accidentally shot Harry Whittington, a then-78-year-old Texas attorney, with a shotgun while participating in a quail hunt on a ranch in Riviera, Texas.[1] Both Cheney and Whittington called the incident an accident.

The incident was reported to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times on February 12, 2006, by ranch owner Katherine Armstrong.[2] The Bush administration disclosed the shooting incident to the public the afternoon of February 12. Local authorities released a report on the shooting on February 16, 2006, and witness statements on February 22.

On February 14, 2006, Whittington suffered a non-fatal heart attack and atrial fibrillation due to at least one lead-shot pellet lodged in or near his heart.[3] He also had a collapsed lung. Cheney did not speak publicly about the incident until February 15 in an interview with Fox News. Early reports indicated that Cheney and Whittington were friends and that the injuries were minor. Whittington later clarified that he and Cheney were not close friends but acquaintances.[4]

Shooting incident

Day of shooting

The shooting was widely reported to have taken place on Saturday, February 11, 2006, based on the public statements of Katherine Armstrong, owner of the 50,000-acre (200 km2) Armstrong Ranch. However, in her written statement to the Sheriff, she said that the shooting happened on February 12. Harry Whittington said shortly after the incident, "Accidents do and will happen – and that's what happened last Friday (February 10)."[5]

Time of shooting

Mary Matalin stated on Meet the Press that "Somebody had talked to some ranch hand".[6] Neither the Sheriff's report nor witness statements identify who this first reporter was.

The Secret Service said that they gave notice to the Sheriff about one hour after the shooting.[7] Kenedy County Sheriff Ramone Salinas III states he first heard of the shooting at about 5:30 pm from Captain Charles Kirk, and Salinas implies that he received 'official' notice from the Secret Service at about 5:40 pm.

The time of the shooting was not stated by Cheney.[8]

The events

Cheney had a televised interview about the shooting on February 15.[8] On February 22, the Sheriff's office released statements from Katherine Armstrong, Sarita Hixon, Pamela Pitzer Willeford, Oscar Medellin, Gerardo Medellin and Andrew Hubert. Cheney's statement and all six of the other hunting party members' statements specify that Cheney, Whittington and Willeford had first shot birds together in a covey. While Whittington was searching for a downed bird, Cheney, Willeford and a guide walked towards another covey about 100 yards (91 m) away. Whittington approached to within 30 or 40 yards (27 or 37 m) of the shooters, at which point a single bird flew up, around and behind Cheney in the direction of Whittington. Cheney shot at the bird and hit Whittington.

Armstrong, the ranch owner, claimed that all in the hunting party were wearing blaze-orange safety gear and none had been drinking,[9] and that at lunch they drank beer,[10] which contradicts her later statement that "there may (have been) a beer or two in [the lunch coolers], but remember not everyone in the party was shooting."[11] Cheney has acknowledged that he had one beer four or five hours prior to the shooting. Armstrong said she never saw Cheney or Whittington drink until later at the house where Cheney had a few cocktails.[12] Armstrong did not actually see the incident happen, believing that the reason Cheney's security detail was running was that Cheney had a heart problem,[11] but Cheney described her as an eyewitness in his Fox interview.[8]

Secret Service agents and medical aides, who were traveling with Cheney, came to Whittington's assistance and treated his birdshot wounds to his right cheek, neck, and chest. An ambulance standing nearby for the Vice President took Whittington to nearby Kingsville before he was flown by helicopter to Corpus Christi Memorial Hospital in Corpus Christi.

People present

At the scene:

In a car at an unstated distance away from the shooting:

  • Katherine Armstrong, owner of the ranch
  • Sarita Storey Armstrong Hixon, Armstrong's sister

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department report

On February 13, 2006, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (an agency once headed by Armstrong)[13] issued an incident report. According to the report, Cheney "was swinging on game", i.e., turning to track it with his shotgun.[14] The summary of the incident given was:

Whittington downed a bird and went to retrieve it. While he was out of the hunting line, another covey was flushed and Cheney swung on a bird and fired, striking Whittington in the face, neck and chest.[2]

The report cited clear and sunny weather at the time of the shooting.

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