Federal officials are defending the shooting of a knife-wielding homeless man outside the White House as a justified use of force because the man did not follow orders to give up his weapon.

White House security precautions have been increased in light of a string of recent incidents, but police rejected any suggestion they were more prone to shoot."I feel this was just a normal police reaction to a man with a knife," Park Police spokesman Maj. Robert Hines said Wednesday as he made a round of TV appearances to defend the shooting. "We have had numerous people call questioning what we did," he said on ABC's "Good Morning America." "If the officer had not fired when he did, the man could have turned and ran."

Hines added on CBS' "This Morning": "If he had run away and stabbed away, then I probably would have been sitting here telling you why we didn't shoot him when we did."

Hines said the officer who fired the shots was a seasoned employee who would be assigned to administrative duty in keeping with routine procedure. The officer's name was not released.

The alleged attacker, Marcelino Corniel, 33, remained in very critical condition at a local hospital after being shot twice.

Despite the shooting and increased security concerns, President Clinton took an early morning jog Wednesday. However, he followed a less public route than usual, jogging through a nearly deserted park along the Potomac River.

Prosecutors planned to charge Corniel with assaulting a federal officer, said Monty Wilkinson, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office. Additional charges could be added later, investigators said. The assault charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

Witnesses said Corniel charged across Pennsylvania Avenue from Lafayette Park armed with a knife and menaced Park Police and Secret Service officers before the shooting.

Extraordinary video footage from the Conus television service shows that in the final moments of the confrontation, Corniel stood practically motionless facing four officers, one of whom then fired.

Witnesses said officers had repeatedly ordered Corniel to drop the knife, which it turned out was taped to his hand.

"The fact that he had the knife taped to his hand, what does that tell you? He wants to use it. He wants to get at them," Hines said Tuesday.

Asked on NBC's "Today" why it was necessary to shoot Corniel in the chest, Hines said, "If we try to shoot someone in one of the extremities, the chances of missing or hitting an innocent person are far greater."

View Comments

Corniel was one of the homeless people who frequent Lafayette Park.

Another park regular, Wade Varner, 37, said Corniel had shouted at a Park Police officer before the shooting, "I'm going to get you!"

Other regulars said Corniel had been angered by Park Police efforts to roust those who sleep in the park and move them out in the morning.

The incident took place at about 9 a.m., in morning rush hour. Clinton was in the Oval Office and never in danger, and investigators were not treating Tuesday's incident as a direct threat against him.

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.