A shooting near the White House on Monday afternoon prompted Secret Service agents to take the rare action of abruptly escorting President Trump out of a press conference as a precaution, moments after the president’s briefing started.
The drama unfolded minutes after Mr. Trump took the podium in the White House press room to begin a briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic and other news. Journalists outdoors on the White House grounds reported hearing two shots in quick succession from somewhere beyond the perimeter of the complex.
The Secret Service said one of its officers shot a man at 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, about one block from the White House. The agency said the suspect and a Secret Service officer were transported to a hospital.
“At no time during this incident was the White House complex breached or were any protectees in danger,” the Secret Service said.
The suspect suffered serious or possibly critical injuries, The Associated Press reported, and authorities were investigating whether the person has a history of mental illness.
Inside the White House press room, Mr. Trump had been talking to reporters about mail-in voting and the success of the stock market when a plainclothes Secret Service agent interrupted him at the podium on live TV. The agent cut off the president in midsentence.
“Sir, we’re just going to have to step out,” the agent said to the president.
“What’s happening?” the president could be heard asking the agent as he was led out of the press room.
The president returned to the press room several minutes later and reported, again on live TV, that Secret Service officers had shot a suspect outside the White House grounds.
“There was a shooting outside of the White House. It seems to be very well under control,” Mr. Trump told reporters, who began peppering him with questions. “It was the suspect who was shot. There was an actual shooting, and somebody has been taken to the hospital.”
He added, “I would like to thank the Secret Service for doing their always quick and very effective work. They’re the best of the best, highly trained.”
The president’s daughter Ivanka tweeted, “Thank you, @SecretService.”
Mr. Trump said he had waited during the interval in the Oval Office, which is a short walk from the press room in the West Wing.
“They just wanted me to step aside for a little while,” he said of his security detail.
Asked by reporters whether the suspect had been targeting him, the president replied, “It might not have had anything to do with me.”
Asked whether he felt “rattled” by the incident, Mr. Trump responded, “I don’t know. Do I seem rattled? The world has always been a dangerous place.
“You were surprised, I was surprised,” he told reporters. “I think it’s probably pretty unusual.”
He said no law enforcement officers were injured and that he believed the suspect was armed.
“I didn’t even think about not coming back [to the press room],” the president said.
It’s rare for the Secret Service or other officials to interrupt an official presidential event.
In 2018, a 35-year-old woman was arrested after she drove into a security barrier near the White House.
In 2016, during the presidency of Barack Obama, a man carrying a gun was shot by a Secret Service officer outside the White House when the man refused to drop the firearm.
In September 2014, a knife-wielding man climbed the north lawn fence and ran in through the front door of the White House before he was apprehended.