Sunday, February 12, 2006

Vice President Dick Cheney, on a weekend quail-hunting trip in Texas, accidentally shot a fellow hunter with birdshot, spraying him in the face, neck and chest but not seriously injuring him.

Although the incident occurred about 5:30 p.m. Saturday, it was not made public until 20 hours later on the Web site of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times (, which had been alerted to the shooting by the property owner, Katharine Armstrong.

The White House did not issue a statement.

Mrs. Armstrong said the vice president shot Harry Whittington, 78, while the two were hunting at the Armstrong Ranch in southern Texas.

Mr. Whittington, who was taken to a hospital by ambulance, was “alert and doing fine” yesterday, she said. He was in stable condition, said Yvonne Wheeler, spokeswoman for the Christus Spohn Health System.

Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride said the vice president was with Mr. Whittington, a millionaire lawyer from Austin, Texas, and his wife at the hospital yesterday afternoon.

Miss McBride told The Washington Times that Mr. Cheney “was pleased to find Mr. Whittington feeling fine and in good spirits.”

When the incident occurred Saturday, Mr. Cheney, Mr. Whittington and another hunter got out of a vehicle to shoot at a covey of quail.

Mr. Whittington shot a bird and went to look for it in the tall grass, while Mr. Cheney and the third hunter walked to another spot and found a second covey.

Mr. Whittington “came up from behind the vice president and the other hunter and didn’t signal them or indicate to them or announce himself,” Mrs. Armstrong said.

“The vice president didn’t see him,” she said. “The covey flushed and the vice president picked out a bird and was following it and shot. And … Harry was in the line of fire and got peppered pretty good.”

She said Mr. Whittington was “knocked … silly. But he was fine. … It didn’t get in his eyes or anything like that. … This is something that happens from time to time. You know, I’ve been peppered pretty well myself.”

She said Mr. Whittington was bleeding but not seriously injured, and Mr. Cheney was apologetic. Emergency personnel traveling with Mr. Cheney tended to Mr. Whittington, she said.

“Fortunately, the vice president has got a lot of medical people around him and so they were right there and probably more cautious than we would have been,” she said. “The vice president has got an ambulance on call, so the ambulance came.”

Mrs. Armstrong said Mr. Cheney is a longtime friend who comes to the ranch to hunt about once a year. She said Mr. Whittington is a regular, too, but she thought it was the first time the two men hunted together.

Mr. Whittington has been a lawyer in private practice in Austin since 1950 and has long been active in Texas Republican politics. He has been appointed to several state boards, including when Gov. George W. Bush named him to the Texas Funeral Service Commission.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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