A man, said to have been running toward the White House brandishing a long knife or machete, was shot Tuesday by police in the third shooting incident at or near the executive mansion in two months.
This time, no shots were aimed toward the White House.The incident occurred about 9 a.m. EST. President Clinton was in the Oval Office but was never in any danger. An aide said he was informed of the incident but made no changes to his schedule.
The man was taken to George Washington University Hospital, where he was in critical condition and was undergoing surgery, said spokesman Rich James. He identified him as Marcelino Corniel, 33, a homeless man.
He was wounded once in the chest and once in the right leg, James said.
"He was recognized by Secret Service people as someone who was (outside) the White House a lot," spending much of his time in Lafayette Park, across Pennsylvania Avenue from the presidential mansion, with the homeless people and protesters who live there year-round.
Others who live in the park described Corniel as a Los Angeles native who first showed up in the park two or three months ago.
Maj. Robert Hines of the U.S. Park Police said the man was running across Pennsylvania Avenue when officers stopped him.
"There was a struggle," Hines said. "They told the man to drop his knife two or three times. The man did not drop his knife, so he shot him.
"He refused to drop the knife. He was close enough that the officer felt threatened."
Hines said, "We don't know what started it. All we know is that our officers tried to stop him as he got to the edge of the White House sidewalk."
One of the homeless men was shouting at police, "This is not a police state, this is not a police state."
It was the third shooting incident at the White House in two months.
Eyewitnesses said that the man, wearing a tan coat, was brandishing what appeared to be a machete. They said he appeared to be excited and was walking toward three policeman with a knifelike object on the sidewalk immediately in front of the White House.
The police ordered him to freeze, and when he continued walking, two shots were fired by police, witnesses said.
The first shooting was Oct. 29 when a man walking on Pennsylvania Avenue peppered the north side of the White House with 29 rounds fired from a semiautomatic weapon. Two tourists wrestled the man to the ground.
No one has been arrested in the second shooting, in which at least four bullets were fired at the South Side of the White House from the ellipse and police theorize it might have been a drive-by shooting.