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Gunman Shout Outside of White HouseAired February 7, 2001 - 1:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: Leon, thanks very much for a tough morning here.
Just to recap, ladies and gentlemen, we believe now that the incident is over, according to the Secret Service, but now investigators are looking for evidence of whether shots were, in fact, fired by this unidentified gunman we now know has been injured by Secret Servicemen.
Just to recap this incident: Late in the morning, just before the noon hour, we understand a man was seen brandishing a pistol, and according to some eyewitnesses, had fired two or three shots when he was then approached by Secret Service officers and was told to drop the gun.
According to eyewitnesses, he was actually talked to by Secret Service for several minutes in attempt to disarm and diffuse the incident before they actually fired.
For more details on how the Secret Service actually responded to this incident, we're going to turn now to our senior White House correspondent John King, who's been following the story all morning.
John, bring us up to date, please.
JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Stephen, what we know is the suspect in custody is a 47-year-old man, a white male. We're told he is from a Midwestern state and that he is not of record with the United States Secret Service -- that does not mean he does not have a criminal record, period; it means he is not of record with the Secret Service, meaning he has made no known threats against the president of the United States or anyone who is protected by the Secret Service. They keep a special database of that so they can be aware of any security risks around the White House.
The investigation now under way we're told, including in this man's home area -- again, a 47-year-old white male. The secret service, to the best of its knowledge, says only one shot fired, by an officer, at this man, in the leg, after he refused repeated requests by law enforcement officials to stand down, to drop his weapon and turn himself in.
They say they are investigating reports from the eyewitnesses on the scene that perhaps the man fired a shot or two prior to the law enforcement officers approaching him at about 11:30 a.m. this morning, just outside the southwest gate here at White House complex. They say there are still unconfirmed reports, obviously, that he may have fired a shot or two before the Secret Service approached him. But they stress there are no other injuries known here at all.
FRAZIER: John, let me interrupt if I may, your narrative. We'd like you to continue.
But first, let's just put people in the know that the Secret Service is telling Associated Press and other news sources now that the gunman is identified as Robert Pickett, 47, of Evansville, Indiana -- and as you said, no prior record.
Now, John, let's pick up the story as you were telling it.
KING: We're told that approximately 11:30, the officers approached him after several civilians in the area had said they saw a man brandishing a weapon. Again, the man refused to drop his weapon. He was shot once in the leg.
We're also told that the president at no point was in any danger.
And in fact, at this hour, the Secret Service has no information to believe the man was trying to get inside the White House grounds. They say he did not rush the fence, for example, was not trying to climb the gate nor was he in a line trying to get into a White House and sneak his way into the building.
President Bush was in the White House residence at the time, he was alerted that there was a security threat near the campus, and certain security steps were taken to guarantee his safety -- but those are routine procedures, as was the sweep we saw, of all the agents running around the White House grounds, making sure all the perimeter was secure. That a routine step taken whenever there is a security threat in or around the White House area,
Again, this man in custody now, and were told police waiting to question him after surgery and responding as well to his hometown in the Midwest.
FRAZIER: John, can you see anything else happening on the grounds there at this hour?
KING: Very calm now, a very different scene than a short time ago -- agents still policing the perimeter as they always do. I'm on the north side of the White House. On the south side, still a gathering of evidence we have seen -- I don't know if it's continuing at this minute but we have seen in recent minutes agents and investigators with metal detectors, trying to see if there were any more gun casings, shell casings.
I'm told -- I forget to mention -- that it was a handgun the man was brandishing. So the police will look through that area to see if the man threw anything when the officers approached him, if there are any gun casings from shots that they were not aware of. A routine police investigation now under way, not so routine, of course, because it falls so close to the White House grounds.
FRAZIER: John King reporting from the north side of the White House. as he points out. John, thank you very much for that update.
And just to let you know, we are joined now -- that the handoff is complete here at CNN Center -- by Natalie Allen -- Natalie.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Stephen, thank you.
And to remind everyone, that we will be hearing from White House spokesman Ari Fleischer in about 25 minutes. The Secret Service is supposed to hold a news conference. We'll be getting a statement from the hospital about the condition of the gunman.
The first officials we have heard from are the U.S. Park Service, and Eileen O'Connor is here to tell us more about what they had just said -- Eileen.
EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're basically being told -- as we saw -- we had a little bit of technical problems where you couldn't actually get our picture out earlier. But as you may have heard, Rob MacLean was here -- he is a member of the U.S. Park Service. They said that about 11:22 this morning, they got a report that there was a incident.
They got the report actually, from a uniformed Secret Service agent there that there was this incident in the -- near the southwest gate. And so they came and investigated and surrounded a gunman.
They said that he was in his 40s, and as they said, was being treated for these non-life-threatening injuries.
Now, they said that they believe the grounds are currently secure, that this is now, though, being considered a crime scene, and that they are, obviously, treating it as such. But they do believe that the safety of the president right now is secure, that this is a secure area. They do not know, they said -- although they were engaging conversations with the gunman for some 20 minutes, according to eyewitness; the police are not confirming how long, they said it was -- they had negotiators on the scene talking to him -- but they did not say what the content of those conversations were, whether the man had any demands to make at all. And they say that right now, again, he is in the hospital being treated for this nonthreatening injury -- Natalie.
ALLEN: Eileen, did he clear up whether this gunman fired any shots? Some of the witnesses we've had on CNN have said they heard shots fired a few minutes before the Secret Service finally fired a shot.
O'CONNOR: Yes, and the Secret Service -- and the Secret Service -- this was actually the U.S. Park Police -- they said that they could not confirm that the gunman had, in fact, fired any shots. They said that they were investigating that.
Obviously, they are aware of what the eyewitnesses said, and as you heard earlier, Martin Manley (ph), on our air, say that he heard shots -- two or possibly three shots were fired. At first he thought it was a car backfire, but he said they were short cracks, and the he saw a cash takeoff -- and he also saw a woman in a minivan suddenly reverse her car and actually then get out of her car and get down on the ground -- and he went to join her behind her car, where she then told him that she had seen a man.
And this woman we have not spoken to directly, but she told Martin Manley, who we did speak to directly, that she saw a man actually firing shots with a handgun in the direction of the White House.
But again, the Park Police are investigating that allegation, and they say they have no confirmation.
In addition, Natalie, they say they're not sure where that leg injury came -- whether or not it could have been self inflicted, or whether it was a shot that was fired from a police officer's weapon -- Natalie.
ALLEN: And Eileen, do you happen to know, since you talked with some of the witnesses who were right there in the area, how many people were in that immediate area when this all went down today?
O'CONNOR: Well, the witnesses said that it didn't seem to be an inordinate number of people. As you know, there was tours leaving. We talked to another man who was leaving at the time, but as soon as the incident had taken place, as soon as there was a report, the Secret Service inside the White House, uniformed Secret Service, and others, then directed people who were exiting the White House from other exits away from the area.
So there was a few people around that area, some were, in fact, passersby going by the area to get to their hotels, we were told by a couple of witness. So there weren't an inordinate amount.
But what they did say was as soon as the shots were fired, one person thought it was just a car backfiring. His mother said that sounded like shots, and he said well, he said if it was shots, they'll be here in a second. In fact, they were.
A black suburban converged on the scene, there were police, he said, immediately there. It was a very structured situation. Also people from the other side of the White House told us that it was a very orderly way that the police secured the area immediately and got away from the area and then immediately started talking to the gunman trying to convince him, they said, according to the witnesses, to drop his weapon. They said it doesn't have tend to like this, just put down your gun, we can talk about it.
That was according to the eyewitnesses -- Natalie.
ALLEN: So it doesn't sound like, then, it was a scene of people running and screaming, because it all happened so fast that many people didn't know what was going on? O'CONNOR: Exactly -- in fact, it sounds like, according to the eyewitnesses, what happened is most of them assumed, in fact, it was a car backfiring, and it was only a couple of people very close to the man, the suspect, that, in fact, reacted. And this woman in the minivan, as I said, reversing and then telling other people what was happening.
So therefore, they basically -- they stayed still and immediately the police just kind of pushed them back gradually from the area as the police came and surrounded them.
And they said once the police were there and around the suspect, that basically it was very calm, and they were talking to him, trying to get him to lay down his weapon.
Again, in the other areas of the White House, they were just keeping people, pushing them until -- they offered to leave the White House area if they wanted to.
And again, the eyewitnesses said that there was a lull there while they were talking to him, and then suddenly a shot was heard. And at that point the police all converged on the area where they saw the man had been -- they thought he was the suspect -- and they said and then shortly after that an ambulance came, and as we know the Park Police says the man was taken to the hospital for treatment for non- threatening injuries -- non-life-threatening injuries.
ALLEN: We'll be hearing from the hospital as well. One final quick question; did the witnesses say, whether the man ever responded to the secret service at all?
O'CONNOR: No, in fact, they couldn't hear if the man was saying anything and what he might have been saying. But again, they said they were pushed back. And I asked the U.S. Park Police what he said. Did he make any demands? Did he have a protest, perhaps, to laws? They said they do not know what the content of the conversations were with the negotiators -- Natalie.
ALLEN: Eileen O'Connor, thanks for that information. We will talk with you again. Right now, over to Stephen with more.
FRAZIER: Natalie, as you said, we expect to hear from the hospital soon. They're preparing for a news conference at any moment now at George Washington University Hospital where the gunman has been taken for surgery, presumably to remove the gunshot -- for the effects of the gunshot wound, which we now know -- which we now don't know was either self-inflicted or inflicted by the Secret Service in response to his actions outside the White House.
We also expect to hear, in a little more than 20 minutes from the White House itself, from White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. We hope he will bring us up to date on what the president himself was doing at the time. We have two conflicting reports. One is, that he was exercising at the time, and was not in any danger, and that Vice President Cheney was working in his office nearby. Another report, which comes from a congressman from Tennessee, Representative Bob Clement, is that the president -- excuse me -- Mr. Clement with in a meeting with Bush Chief of Staff Andrew Card at the West Wing, and was not allowed to leave the grounds because of the incident. He knew the entire White House was locked down and was safe. Anyway, those two updates.
Just recapping on what it is we know at this hour. A single gunman has been apprehended outside the south side of the White House, where he was brandishing a gun, and may, according to eyewitnesses, may have fired two or three shots. There's the scene there as Secret Service and Park Police apprehended him. He was taken to George Washington University Hospital where he was to be treated. Here's the scene now as he was brought to the hospital, treated for a single gunshot wound, which we believe, until now anyway, was shot by the Secret Service in an attempt to end this incident.
We also know that the Secret Service is identifying the gunman as Robert Pickett of Evansville, Indiana. No prior record of any kind of threats against the White House. And at this moment, we are waiting for updates from the principles in the case, especially the surgeons working on Mr. Pickett.
Once again, we'd like to turn to John King, our senior White House correspondent, who was at the White House at the time of this incident and who has been following it very closely -- John.
KING: Well, Stephen, law enforcement sources confirming to CNN, the suspect in custody shot once in the leg, is 47-year-old Robert Pickett. He is from Evansville, Indiana we're told, and he is of no record with the Secret Service. That means there is nothing in the Secret Service database indicating any history of threats against the president of the United States, against the United States government or against anyone who falls under Secret Service protection.
They are now doing a much wider scan to see if Mr. Pickett has any criminal record of any sort. We are told by law enforcement sources as they guard Mr. Pickett at the hospital and wait to question him, there are also Secret Service and other federal law enforcement officials responding to Evansville, Indiana -- his home town -- to see if they can learn anything from that end of the investigation, as to why he was here outside the White House gate today, and obviously, as to why he was brandishing a handgun.
A few more details on the encounter: we're told by these law enforcement sources, the initial report came in at 11:22 this morning, 30 minutes or so before noontime -- 11:22 -- several citizens reported to the Secret Service who guard the White House that they saw a man brandishing a handgun. Officers responded and asked the man to drop the gun, asked the man to turn himself in.
He was brandishing the weapon and we're told by these sources, pointed it in the direction of several of the law enforcement officers. At that point, one of the officers, at 11:36 a.m., fired a single gunshot, wounded the suspect in the leg. He was then taken into custody. As we have seen, brought to George Washington University Hospital for treatment. We're getting more details -- we expect more details later in this hour from the Secret Service.
Obviously, because the president was in the residence at the time and because this happened so close to the White House, extraordinary security measures taken; most of those described to us as routine, a sweep of the grounds. The president was notified -- we're told he was exercising at the time in the White House residence. He was told there was a security threat outside the White House campus, but at no point, was the president in danger or considered to be in danger.
And again, White House officials and law enforcement sources stressing there's no indication that the man was actually going to attempt to get inside the White House grounds, but obviously, he was very close to the proximity and the perimeter of the White House campus when he was first approached by Secret Service officers and then shot by one of them in the leg -- Stephen.
FRAZIER: Several new details there. John King, thank you very much. John King at the White House -- Natalie.
ALLEN: Now we have with us Dennis Maroney with the U.S. Park Police. Mr. Maroney, thanks for joining us. Tell us, were you there when this happened?
DENNIS MARONEY, U.S. PARK POLICE: No, I was not on scene when this happened. U.S. Park Police were notified at approximately 11:22 this morning that a man with a gun had been seen on the south side of the White House on the E Street area. Responding unit were on scene as well as members of the Secret Service and Metropolitan Police Department. So, this was a multi-agency situation that took place on the south side of the White House.
ALLEN: When you say the call came in, we just heard from John King that many citizens were the first to report there was a man with a gun. Did that come in from citizens around the White House?
MARONEY: Our report to the United States Park Police came from the uniform division of Secret Service.
ALLEN: All right, is that standard procedure that you have so many different police officers from the different units respond to a situation like this?
MARONEY: The situation in which -- this situation occurred on the White House sidewalk outside of the fence line. And that is United States Park Police primary jurisdiction. We are the lead agency in regards to anything that occurs on the sidewalk outside of the White House.
ALLEN: There have been reports, officer Maroney, about whether this gunman fired his gun at all -- fired shots at the beginning; do you know anything about that?
MARONEY: The investigation is still continuing as to how many gunshots and who fired them. Our initial reports at this time is that there was only one shot fired and we are still trying to determine who in fact fired that shot. ALLEN: Do you know, how close were officers to him, when he apparently ducked behind some bushes when the officers arrived?
MARONEY: Well, there was several officers nearby. And officers did actually speak to the subject. I don't know exactly what was said. Officers were trying to negotiate with the subject. We would rather not have to engage in a fire fight with the subject. So officers routinely -- we try to talk the subject out, ask him to give up his weapons, and him to ensure that nobody is injured during the encounter.
ALLEN: Did he ever respond, do you know? Verbally?
MARONEY: I do not have anything that indicates that he responded to anybody. However, that is still being investigated at this point.
ALLEN: All right, and the other -- what we also heard is that they tried to talk with him for what about 10 minutes, before a shot was finally fired?
MARONEY: Well, I don't have the exact times. I can only state that we were originally called at 11:22 and indications are that the shots were fired at approximately 11:36. So there is a 14-minute time span there. That would also include responding time to the area.
ALLEN: And what would be the procedure, once you realized what you've got there, Officer Maroney; you know there's one person with a gun. That's when our correspondents at the White House reported to us that there was heightened activity all around. How long before you figured out that this was all that -- that was going on there -- that that was the danger was just with this one individual? And what happened between that time when you had to figure that out?
MARONEY: Both the United States Park Police and the Secret Service Uniform Division have officers posted right in that area. So we were on scene within moments as well as several members of the uniform division Secret Service and Metropolitan Police Departments. As I said, this is an area of multi-jurisdictions all touching upon each other right around the White House area.
ALLEN: And from what we've heard, it doesn't seem this person made any threats or ever tried to gain access on to the White House grounds.
MARONEY: Well, our indications and our preliminary investigation reveals that he was, in fact, on the sidewalk just outside the White House fence and that there was in fact a gun on his person. He did have a gun and the possession of a weapon in Washington, D.C. is a felony. So, in fact, we had reason enough to contact him at that point.
ALLEN: We thank you. Dennis Maroney with the U.S. Park Police. Thank you for talking with us.
And again, law enforcement authorities are telling us the gunman has been identified as 47-year-old Robert Pickett of Evansville, Indiana. We do still expect to hear from the White House. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer will be holding his usual briefing. We expect to hear from George Washington University Hospital as well about the suspect -- Stephen.
FRAZIER: Natalie, before we turn to John King, who seems to be generating new details every couple of minutes, let me just reiterate that we heard that information from law enforcement officials, that ID of the suspect. Not, as I misspoke a few minutes ago, from the Secret Service themselves.
Anyway, now let's turn to John and see what it is he's learned for us in the moments since we last spoke -- John.
KING: Well, Stephen, I just wanted to fill you in. There was a question before as to how much we could expect Ari Fleischer to talk about this and sometimes the White House refers the questions directly to the law enforcement organizations in this case and declines to answer questions about the police tick-tock -- the tick-tock of the police operation.
But we are told the briefing might even be delayed by a few moments because Mr. Fleischer, the White House press secretary, is in the process as we speak of receiving an update from the Secret Service, a tick-tock of their account of the investigation.
And again we know from sources that that tick-tock says at 11:22 a.m., the Secret Service was first alerted that there was gentleman behind the White House brandishing a handgun. At 11:36, after several requests that he stand down and drop his weapon, that man was shot once in the leg and taken into custody first and then to local hospital.
And as we've been reporting, law enforcement sources identifying him as 47-year-old Robert Pickett of Evansville, Indiana. We're Secret Service investigators and other law enforcement officials on their way to the Pickett home in Evansville, Indiana. The Secret Service saying its review of its database shows this man is not of record with the Secret Service.
And again, that means he not identified in the Secret Service database as someone who has indicated any threats against the president or the United States government or a member of Congress, for example. That would be in the secret service database as well. They are doing a wider search now, and presumably have completed it by not, to see as to whether he has any local criminal record back home in Indiana.
FRAZIER: John, one last question for you. Was there any evidence from which -- were you able to determine from your questions with people, how they learned who this is? Was it something he gave up himself or did they just go through his wallet?
KING: We know when they first took him into custody, they said that they had taken material from the gentleman and were pursuing a positive identification. We can assume, and not safe to assume sometimes in these situations, but we do know they took material from him when he was taken into custody. Exactly what those personal effects were we do not know yet.
But we assume they made the identification from them. And again, we'll pursue more detailed information as this unfolds. A reminder as well, Stephen, you saw all the activity around here, that the White House is quite a secure complex.
The Secret Service saying that there might have seemed to be a buzz of activity and frantic officers running to secure the routine sweeps to make sure that there's not anyone else involved, and they're confident that this was an individual acting by himself. It was May 1995 a gentleman actually jumped the gate with a handgun, turned out to be unarmed.
But that gentleman was shot on the South Lawn of the White House and taken into custody, and it was in that same month, May 1995, that here on the North Side of White House they closed Pennsylvania Avenue because the year prior to that a gentleman had actually opened fire from the street and fired guns into the White House. Again, no one was hurt in that incident, but some shots did hit the windows of the White House complex.
So, there's great security around this complex and the Secret Service saying that this us an unfortunate incident, obviously, and quite a bit of activity around the White House but in their view, their officers responded quickly. They credit those citizens for bringing the gun to their attention, and they say things went just about as well as they could have and they stress the president of the United States was never in any danger.
FRAZIER: Chilling event, though, especially in light of the history you just recounted for us. John King at the White House. Thank you, John -- Natalie.
ALLEN: We've learned the White House briefing expected in about seven minutes has now been moved to 2:00 p.m. Eastern time. So, a delay there. Of course, we'll bring you live coverage when it happens.
As we've just found out, this gunman is Robert Pickett and he's from Evansville, Indiana. We have on the line with us a detective from the Evansville, Indiana Police Department. He is Brett Hilsmeyer.
Mr. Hilsmeyer, do you know of this individual?
DET. BRETT HILSMEYER, EVANSVILLE, INDIANA POLICE: No, I do not. We have not had any dealings with him.
ALLEN: How would your department -- we know that the Secret Service has no record of this person, either. How do local police departments handle situations if there is ever a threat from someone in a different community that could be made against the president or very high officials?
HILSMEYER: If anyone were to threaten the president or we got information like that, we would refer it to our local Secret Service agent and he would follow up on it from there.
ALLEN: So, you haven's had any unknown individuals making any threats that your department has found out about recently.
HILSMEYER: No, we have not.
ALLEN: OK, so no record of this person ever being in trouble with the law at all?
HILSMEYER: No, not as far back as our computer systems go, which is 1990.
ALLEN: Have you been contacted with anyone from Washington, say the Secret Service or other police officials?
HILSMEYER: The local Secret Service agent has already been into the office, and he and some of our local detectives are en route to Mr. Pickett's house just to see if it's a good address. If it is, talk to family members, talk to neighbors, get whatever information they can.
ALLEN: But right now, you don't have answers to those questions? They're just heading out now?
HILSMEYER: They left a short time ago. They are probably arriving at the house about now.
ALLEN: How far would the home be from your department? Is it right in the city of Evansville?
HILSMEYER: It's within the city limits. It's 15 minutes from the police department.
ALLEN: Was there anybody at the home when they called the home?
HILSMEYER: We don't have a phone number, as far as I know, for the home. I don't know if anybody was there when they arrived or not.
ALLEN: OK, we'll talk with you again, then, perhaps after you learn more information about this individual. We thank you. Brett Hilsmeyer with the Evansville, Indiana Police Department saying this isn't a person that they know about as far as someone who's been in trouble with the law there in Evansville recently. But, again reporting that the Secret Service is on the way to a home where Mr. Pickett allegedly lived and once we get more information about that part of this investigation, we'll bring it to you -- Stephen.
FRAZIER: Natalie, as we await updates from George Washington University Hospital and from the White House itself, let's turn now to someone who was inside the White House during all of this and who can give us some sense of what he experienced.
It's Representative Bob Clement, a Democrat of Tennessee, and I understand, Mr. Clement, that you were in a meeting with Andrew Card at the time of this event, is that right? REP. BOB CLEMENT (D), TENNESSEE: Stephen, I was meeting with Larry Lindsey, who's the president's economic policy adviser, on tax fairness for all Americans, and right after the meeting, I was proceeding out with several others, including Congressman Brian Baird from the state of Washington. And we were detained there at the West Wing.
And the Secret Service informed us that there'd been a shooting, that someone had been surrounded and not to leave the White House at that moment in time. So we stayed for a while until the person was detained and, as you know, transported to George Washington Hospital.
FRAZIER: You may help us understand the distances involved in the size of the White House itself. Were you at any time able to hear any of this fracas outside?
CLEMENT: We were not, but we were just told not to leave the premises until this matter was over. And that's what we did. We just followed orders and instructions. But you're right, the White House is massive. And what occurred was on, as I understand, the southwest side of the White House where we were in the West Wing, the northwest gate.
FRAZIER: And is it the kind of place where you can sense a change in the air during the meeting? Did you notice people moving about quickly or running from outside the windows? Was there any sense on your part at all that there was anything happening?
CLEMENT: Believe it or not, it was very calm where we were. Everyone in the room seemed to be aware of what was happening outside, but there was no tension, no anxiety.
FRAZIER: How about yourself?
CLEMENT: No, I've been through this before, years ago. My father was governor of Tennessee and I remember so well when -- when incidents like this would happen. We didn't even have a fence around the governor's residence, but we'd have a trooper at every tree. And even when President Kennedy assassinated in 1963, my father, Franklin, that was governor of Tennessee and the threats on my father's life and the family's life tripled just overnight simply because a lot of crackpots and crazies thought this is their opportunity to commit some terrible crime.
FRAZIER: Well, that's a wonderful sense of openness there, but did they put up a fence after that?
CLEMENT: They've got one now, no doubt, and need one. But it's just sad that all the precautions have to be made. I've always enjoyed driving by on Pennsylvania Avenue by the White House, which you cannot do anymore. But you have to take some precautions to protect everyone else's freedoms.
FRAZIER: In fact, congressman, wasn't it one of the campaign issues of the president now that Pennsylvania Avenue be reopened and I understand that the Secret Service approached him and said that's not the best idea?
CLEMENT: I think that may be right. There have been discussion about the reopening of it. I doubt if that happens simply because of the -- what incidents or terror attacks could occur, and this is just part of life and we must proceed on, but I just hope, as time goes along, we still give people in our country as much freedom as we possibly can because we don't want to be in strait-jackets, and we want to be able to go and move and do as we so desire without a lot of limitations.
FRAZIER: Well, congressman, set the scene for our viewers, please, of what it's like on that side of the White House now. Pennsylvania Avenue has been closed off ever since the truck bombing in Oklahoma City. Where is it blocked, and for how far?
CLEMENT: I can't really tell you that. We left from the northwest gate and we proceeded out. The activity, naturally, is on the other side of the White House...
FRAZIER: We're showing a map...
CLEMENT: ... on the southwest side of the White House.
FRAZIER: In fact, Congressman, as you're speaking we're showing a map now. And I believe that Pennsylvania Avenue is blocked off for that entire block that we're showing at the top of the screen.
CLEMENT: Yes, it appeared to be because we were -- we had to go around a lot of traffic.
FRAZIER: Of course that's a big change in our democracy, where demonstrations used to file right by the White House within just yards of the front gate itself, of the front door of the White House.
CLEMENT: Absolutely. And that's the way it ought to be. But because of attempts and attacks and this particular incident, it appears this person almost wanted to commit suicide but wanted to provoke where someone else would take his life. But we don't have all the facts yet. It appears like there was only a single shot. It's a non-life-threatening injury, as we know. And a Secret Service agent fired the one shot.
FRAZIER: Well, Congressman, we're grateful for those insights about what it was like inside the White House during all of this. Rep. Bob Clement, Democrat of Tennessee, we're glad you're safe -- Natalie.
ALLEN: CNN's Eileen O'Connor is outside the White House. She's been talking with Park Police and witnesses who were there outside the southwest gate when this happen this morning.
And I presume that's about where you are now, Eileen.
O'CONNOR: Yes, well, basically I'm on the Ellipse, which is south of the South Lawn of the White House. And earlier, about a half an hour earlier, we were briefed by the U.S. Park Police. And also we are expecting another briefing, Natalie, within a half an hour by the U.S. Park Police. The person briefing us went on to the hospital, to George W. Hospital, George Washington Hospital, to find out more about the condition of the suspect. They said he was being treated there for a non-life-threatening injury. He was shot in the leg.
The U.S. Park Police said they are not sure if that injury was self-inflicted or if it was, perhaps, caused by a shot from an officer's weapon. Basically, the Park Police said that the incident started with a call to them from a uniformed Secret Service agent about 11:22 in the morning.
Now, earlier, as you know, eyewitnesses told us that they saw a man...
ALLEN: Apologies. We're losing audio with Eileen O'Connor. We do have statements from the U.S. Park Service, which talked before cameras a little over 30 minute ago about how this all evolved this morning. So let's see if we can play that now, a statement from Rob MacLean of the U.S. Park Service, who spoke about 1:00 Eastern.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SGT. ROB MACLEAN, U.S. PARK SERVICE: At about 11:22 A.M., the United States Park Police Communications Section received a phone call from the Uniformed Division Secret Service, referenced a man with a gun on E Street on the south side of the White House. We had units responding. Actually, Metropolitan Police Department had a personnel on the scene and actually engaged the subject in conversation, was talking with the subject. The subject was a white male in his in mid- 40s.
At some point during the conversation with the Metropolitan police officer, a shot rang out. The subject was hit in the leg. I don't know which leg. An ambulance transported the subject to George Washington University Hospital, where he's being treated for non-life- threatening injuries.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'CONNOR: As you heard, he is being treated at George Washington Hospital. And also, they said -- we spoke to Mr. MacLean and asked him if there was any motivation, if they knew of any motive for this, if perhaps during that talk with the negotiators did the suspect say anything to them? Was there a protest involved? What were his demands?
Again, that's still be investigated. He said that he did not know the contents of the conversation that the suspect had with the police officers. Obviously that's one of the things that they are going to be trying to assess at the hospital. And hopefully we'll hear more, perhaps, about whatever motivation there could have been at this briefing in about half an hour. Again, the U.S. Park Police say that they are still investigating the reports of eyewitness that the man did fire in the direction of the White House. They say that they did not see evidence of that thus far, but that he did have a handgun. Again, he was a suspect in his 40s -- Natalie.
ALLEN: All right, we're going to play the videotape in a moment, Eileen, of the eyewitnesses that said that they heard gunshots. First I want to the ask you, has anyone commented on the gunman's demeanor, whether he was despondent, anything about his mannerisms?
O'CONNOR: No, they didn't. I mean, basically, they said, Natalie, that it happened so quickly, many of the eyewitness thought that these were cars backfiring. And they said that, as they went down when they realized that it was gunshots, several of them went to the ground. And then they said they thought that the man had gone into some bushes and that the police officers immediately pulled up, more police arrived on the scene, handguns drawn, coming out of cars, and that they surrounded, basically, this Bush. And so, again, they say that the man was hidden and they couldn't really see his demeanor.
But the one person that spoke to -- an eyewitness we spoke to, a woman in a minivan who basically reversed her car, got out and got on the ground, she told a man who was hiding next to her that she had seen the man basically firing seemingly aimlessly, but in the direction of the White House, but that he hadn't seemed to be actually aiming at anything -- Natalie.
ALLEN: Eileen O'Connor. We thank you, Eileen.
We want to let our viewers know we've just learned of another news conference, so we should be able to get more answers to the questions we've been asking for the past two hours. The U.S. Park Police will be holding a news conference in about 25 minutes. We're still going to hear from the hospital as well where this gunman was taken. And we'll be hearing from the White House, too.
Right now, we're going to play for you videotape we have of some of the eyewitnesses Eileen spoke with just after this shooting -- this incident occurred this morning.
GERALDINE HALLIBURTON, EYEWITNESS: Well, we didn't see anything. We heard two shots. And I made a joke: Son, they're going to shoot us, huh. And he said, oh, that was just fireworks, firecrackers. I says -- he said, but you know what? They'll be here in a minute, the police and stuff. And by the time we looked around, they were there just like that.
MARTIN MANLEY, EYEWITNESS: I originally thought I heard three gunshots. And then the police pulled up, you know, within about a minute. Within three or four minutes, several police cars were pulling up. I was directly on the opposite side of the street as the Halliburtons. And I didn't realize how serious it was until the police were jumping out of their cars with their guns drawn, and they were hiding behind large trees.
So that's when I got down. And they probably talked to him for, I would say, a good 10, 15 minutes. And all I could make out was, you know, drop the gun, it doesn't have to be this way, we can talk to you. And then the police were -- as they were moving us back, I was still tried to keep an eye on the scene. And I heard a single gunshot. And right as soon as I heard that gunshot, all the police just converged in the bushes area right outside the White House there.
The police had him surrounded for a good 15 minutes before I heard that single gunshot. And then immediately they all just converged on him. And then they brought an ambulance in. And they were gone shortly after.
O'CONNOR: So did you see him getting into the ambulance at all? Did you see any other people hanging around the southwest gate at all? Or were the police looking for other people, did it appear to you?
MANLEY: No, it appeared to me that they -- the police were just focusing on that one area of the bushes where he was. And it wasn't -- I'd like to make clear it wasn't the bushes right next to the White House, it was down near the street running by the White House.
LYNN HALLIBURTON, EYEWITNESS: I never heard a word. We just heard the two shots as we were walking by, and, you know, I made a comment that, well, they'll be all over that in a heartbeat. And, yes, within a few seconds, that's when the police had showed up.
ALLEN: And, again, we have talked with officials who have said that this gunman had talked of wanting to commit suicide and rebuffed a request to hand over the gun before he was shot. We still have not confirmed whether this gunman shot himself or was shot by police. And we do want to let you know in case you're just joining us, that President Bush was in the residence and was never in any danger.
And, again, the suspect's name, the gunman's name, Robert Pickett. He is from Evansville, Indiana. And we've learned from the Evansville Police Department a short time ago, he has no record with the police department. But Secret Service there in Evansville are on the way to his house and we should know more about this man as we push on here this afternoon.
FRAZIER: One person who seems to know more about this every couple of minutes is John King at the White House. So we're going to turn to John one more time now -- John.
KING: Well, first, let me, Stephen, clear up one bit of information. The Secret Service says they are certain that the gunshot wound the man has, and he has been taken to George Washington University to be treated for, the Secret Service says they are certain that was a Secret Service officer who shot the man once in the knee.
We're also told by law enforcement sources that they have been in touch with the hospital and that the man, Mr. Pickett, 47-year-old Robert Pickett, has a single gunshot wound to the knee and will have surgery this afternoon to have that bullet removed, but his injuries are not considered to be life-threatening at all.
The Secret Service saying a Dr. Chris Fox (ph) at the hospital informing them that he has a single gunshot wound to the knee. That bullet removed, again, in surgery later this afternoon, but those injuries not life-threatening. And again, law enforcement sources say they are operating under the assumption that this man wanted to harm himself. Not that he was here to harm the president or anyone else in any way, but that his motive was to harm himself.
That is the preliminary finding now, as the investigation continues and again, they believe at least one shot was fired, and to their knowledge, as of now, they say only one shot was fired by one Secret Service officer striking this man in the knee. We are told by law enforcement sources that a single shell has been recovered from the area, one shell has been recovered from the area.
A search continues they look into those eyewitness reports that perhaps the man fired the weapon before the officers first responded at 11:22 this morning. It was 14 minutes later, at 11:36, when he was shot once in the knee by a uniformed Secret Service officer and taken into custody. Again, they know of the one shot fired and we're told one shell has been recovered from the scene. They are investigating, though, because of those eyewitness reports that perhaps the gun was fired before the officers did respond.
FRAZIER: John, a remarkable event where one shot, as disciplined as that sounds it was, aiming at the knee would actually completely disarm this individual?
KING: Well, he was also surrounded at the time, remember, by several law enforcement officers. They were asking him to turn himself in. Again, the law enforcement sources telling us he was brandishing the weapon and resisting, rejecting that advice and that the officers then believed that their lives were at risk and, of course, as you heard from our security expert earlier, with a weapon in play like that, the officers have the right, the discretion to fire if they believe that they are at risk or any of the civilians in the area are at risk.
Certainly, in the case of the Secret Service, if they believe the president was in risk, although they say he was not; well out of range and in the White House residence at the time, but the officers responding with a single gunshot wound to the leg and again, the Secret Service saying the best that it can tell, this episode went about as well as it could have from a security and a law enforcement standpoint.
FRAZIER: Now, John, did I understand you to say that he is operated on later today?
KING: Their indication from -- again, I just spoke to a law enforcement source who said they had just been in touch with the hospital, that the man was treated for his wounds and stabilized when he arrived at the hospital. And they said there would be surgery sometime this afternoon. This source did not believe that surgery had yet begun.
This, a conversation, about five minutes or so ago to have a single bullet removed from his kneecap area, we were told, and that that surgery, again, this a conversation about five minutes ago, that that surgery would take place sometime this afternoon. The indication was that it had not yet begun and again, the Secret Service said it had been in communication with a Doctor Chris Fox at George Washington University Hospital.
FRAZIER: John King reporting from the White House. John, thank you very much. We do know that a press conference is scheduled for 2:00 this afternoon at George Washington University Hospital, where some of those details, we hope, will be ironed out and where also we hope to learn whatever law enforcement officials have learned from Mr. Pickett in the hour since they've brought him to George Washington University Hospital and prepared him for this surgery if, in fact, it hasn't yet begun -- Natalie.
ALLEN: Again, the gunman identified as Robert Pickett of Evansville, Indiana. We have on the line with us now a woman who was his neighbor for 20 years. Beverly Buck is with us. She lived near this man. Miss Buck, thank you so much for talking with us.
What was the last time that you saw him?
BEVERLY BUCK, SUSPECT'S FORMER NEIGHBOR: Just last week. He was doing our taxes for us.
ALLEN: I'm sorry?
BUCK: He was an accountant and he was figuring our taxes for us.
BUCK: Oh, I see, so you were his client.
BUCK: Well, in a way. We was a friend, also, you know, at that time.
ALLEN: Well, what can you tell us about him, and what was your reaction when you heard he was the man?
BUCK: I was hoping it was not he. You know, when they said it was a Pickett from Evansville, I was hoping it was not the Bob we knew. But it happened to be. But he is an accountant with Greg Bacherd (ph) here in Evansville and he's had emotional problems with his family and he's had, you know, other emotional problems but he's always been very kind and a very good person, as far as I was concerned. And we lived next door all of those years and knew them so well. This is very upsetting.
ALLEN: It has to be. You have to be shocked that even though he had problem ares and someone would take it to the step that he apparently did. Had he ever threatened to kill himself before that you knew of?
BUCK: Not to my knowledge. I don't know what he has said, you know, to others, but not to my knowledge and he was always just very kind and good to us. But we lived next door for the 23 years you know, and so I knew him when he was young.
ALLEN: He has ever talked with you on a personal level about what problems he had?
BUCK: Well, in a way, yes, with his family and everything. I -- I never really knew who was at fault, and liking them all, I did not try to pass judgment. But I always tried to be a friend, and good to Bob, and I knew when his birthday was of, and he was alone and so I would have him out for his birthday or some other time. He was always, like I said, very, very kind to us.
ALLEN: Had he been missing recently? Did his family know of his whereabouts?
BUCK: No he has not -- his mother and father both passed away while we still lived on Tyler and Bob was more or less left alone. And then his two sisters and his brother, they just kind of lost contact with each other. They just didn't mix anymore. So, like I said, I did not pass judgment because I didn't really know who was at fault.
ALLEN: So, I'm sorry, if you said this and I missed it, did he live alone?
BUCK: Yes, he did.
ALLEN: So, no, he wasn't married? No children?
ALLEN: And can you tell us anymore about what problems that he had, that you kind of knew of?
BUCK: Well, the family problems. And then his own emotional problems, you know. I think he was always trying to find himself and -- and he was such a good person and I think it was difficult for him.
ALLEN: But you never saw any threats of violence with him? He never threatened anyone?
BUCK: No, no, no, no. He was always very good and kind as far as we were concerned.
ALLEN: And he was your accountant, as well. How long had he been your accountant?
BUCK: Oh, for about three years, but that was because we were friends and he did it. He did it for us. That's, you know...
ALLEN: How long has he been employed as an accountant?
BUCK: Oh, several years. It was his father's business, and then Greg Bacherd, who is a certified accountant, and then they worked together and they got along beautifully, as far as I know, and I am really shocked to even hear this. And I was hoping it was not -- when I heard it was Pickett from Evansville, I was hoping it was not our Bob. But...
ALLEN: Well, it seems in situations like this when we talk with people who know people who do such things, they're always in such shock that someone they know or even a neighbor could go to such extremes like this. When you think back in your relationship with him, would you describe him as outgoing? Did he visit with neighbors other than you and your husband?
BUCK: Yes, he visited neighbors. Yes, on a -- you know, if they would meet out in the yard or this and that and the other. Yes. He was always friendly around the neighbor.
ALLEN: And you don't know whether he had ever sought mental treatment?
BUCK: I think he did a few years ago, but I don't really know for sure. Like I said, it was just a friendly neighbor-sort of relationship.
BUCK: Did you say that you're still his neighbor? You still live on his street.
BUCK: No, no. We moved about five years ago, but we have kept contact because we were always, you know, right there when everything was going on, you know, with as far as Bob and his mother and dad. His mother and dad were wonderful, wonderful people. I know that his mother would not be at all happy with this.
ALLEN: Well, I know, Miss Buck, you said that you just talked with him last week. What was he like last week?
BUCK: Oh, fine. Of course, you know, we just saw him in the office and -- but he was fine. We didn't know anything was a mess, and I was certainly shocked that he was even in Washington. So, because he didn't say anything about going at that time. But of course, it is really none of our business, but, you know...
ALLEN: Does he work in a big office with lots of employees?
BUCK: No, no. He and Greg ran this accountant's office together, and Greg Bacherd is a wonderful man and he's an accountant down there also, and I know he's shocked, if he knows about it.
ALLEN: There have been reports -- we're trying to figure out why he went to the White House? Why was he outside?
BUCK: I really don't know because I didn't even know he was in Washington. That's why I was shocked about the whole thing. In fact, I'm still a state of shock.
ALLEN: Oh, I'm certain, I'm certain, because you call this person a friend and then you see him on CNN outside the White House; it's a terrible thing. We can't thank you enough for helping us learn more about this person -- Beverly Buck, a neighbor and friend of the man at George Washington University Hospital, and apparently, the Secret Service is at his home, trying to get more information about why he went to the White House and had a gun there today. We push on here, Stephen.
FRAZIER: Background details from a neighbor of Robert Pickett of Evansville, Indiana. We're hoping for some up to date details of how he is doing now at George Washington University Hospital. We are expecting several news conferences in the next few minutes: one from the hospital itself, where you can see, right now, they are preparing for the arrival of a spokesman.
Also, the daily White House afternoon briefing by Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, which has been pushed back to a little after 2:00, in light of all the events in the last two hours. And finally, we're expecting to hear from the Park Police staging a news conference, we believe, near the site of the incident itself, and our Eileen O'Connor is there now and can fill us in on what we might be able to hear there -- Eileen.
O'CONNOR: Well, we talked to the U.S. Park Police about an hour earlier and they are expected to come back in about 10 minutes from now, Stephen. We were told they were, in the mean thyme, from the time they left here before -- they were going to go over to the hospital to assess the situation there, and of course, we asked them if, you know, there was a conversation with police and the suspect while he was hidden, according to eye-witnesses, in bushes. Police asking him to put down his weapon.
We've been asking if any motivation, any motive was deemed then, if there were any kind of protest -- any words that he said of protest or why he did this, and we were told that the contents of that conversation was not clear, and that also, it was not clear whether he'd been assessed psychologically.
Now, we are hoping -- there is some activity behind me right now -- I think it's some officials taking an inspection, some law enforcement officials, of the situation. But again, we're waiting mainly for details of the suspect's condition, but also, again, the all-important question, why he would have done this? Stephen.
FRAZIER: What we have, Eileen, is no sense whether this was at all political in its nature at all. Whether this was a threat to President Bush?
O'CONNOR: No, we do not. Because, as we said, the eyewitnesses themselves -- we've asked them if they could hear anything said from the man and as we know, it was one eyewitness told another one that she only saw him shooting a couple of times. Again, the U.S. Park Police is saying that they're not sure the man fired any shots, they are investigating that account. And again, all of the eyewitnesses we spoke to said that they could not hear anything that the man may have said, but again, we have obviously only spoken to a few people that we could find at the time, and again, the U.S. Park Police say they are investigating that, and they're obviously investigating any information that they have from the eyewitnesses and also that conversation that took place with police officers they were trying to negotiate him out.
FRAZIER: All right, Eileen O'Connor, thank you very much for those insights. We'll be turning back to you a little later as the Park Police begin their news conference. Let's go to Natalie.
ALLEN: John King first told us a couple of hours ago what had happened at the White House; let's go back to him now to get the very latest from there -- John.
KING: Well, Natalie, as we reported earlier, the man Mr. Pickett was taken to the hospital after being shot by a uniformed Secret Service officer, a single shot to the leg. We're now told the kneecap area, and we're also told by law enforcement sources it was a uniformed Secret Service officer from the ERT, the Emergency Response Team. That team called in, once there was a report of a security threat near the White House grounds.
They are the -- you see in the pictures shown today, men wearing very basic police uniforms, they wear bulletproof vests, it's the SWAT Team, they usually respond in a four-wheel drive vehicle of that type. They were are the White House grounds. That man you are seeing there would be a member of the Emergency Response Teams. It was a member of the Emergency Response Team, we're told, who fired a single shot outside the White House gates at the time that hit this man in the knee area and, after that, he was brought into custody.
Again, we're also told that the police are looking for a red vehicle, believed to be a Ford with Indiana plates in the area of the White House in the ellipse where you have seen Eileen O'Connor with those eyewitnesses on the south side of the White House -- looking for a red vehicle with Indiana plates believed to belong to Mr. Pickett who is now, of course, at the George Washington University Hospital.
Again, we do know also from the investigation that a single shell casing has been recovered so far. Law enforcement sources and officers, investigators, still looking in the area to see whether or not, as some eyewitnesses have reported, that the man now identified as Mr. Pickett actually discharged his weapon, but the Secret Service saying it is now confident that law enforcement officers fired one single shot. That was the shot from that member of the Emergency Response Team that downed Mr. Pickett. He was then taken into custody and is now at the hospital with injuries that are not at all considered life threatening -- Natalie.
ALLEN: All right, John King, we expect to hear more from the White House in just a few moments. Now, let's go over to Stephen.
FRAZIER: We expect to hear now, Natalie, from the neighborhood where Robert Pickett is said to be living. Let's turn to, on the phone, to Pennie Reinhart, who's outside his house with a neighbor.
Ms. Reinhart, can you hear us?
PENNIE REINHART, SUSPECT'S NEIGHBOR: Yes.
FRAZIER: What's happening there?
REINHART: There's lots of media and some policemen and probably some undercover policemen, and they're just all standing in the front yard right now. Just, lots of cars and lots of media. FRAZIER: The front yard of what? Can you describe the house Mr. Pickett lives in?
REINHART: I think it's a brick house, on the same side of the street that I'm on but it's like three houses down.
FRAZIER: And he lives there alone; is that correct?
REINHART: I don't know. I wouldn't know him if I have seen him.
FRAZIER: How big a place is this?
REINHART: Oh, I assume, probably a three- bedroom home.
FRAZIER: And you say that it's a lot of cars, and a lot of activity. Can you see anybody moving around?
REINHART: I can see the police and some, probably, undercover people I guess, and the media and mostly, they're just standing in the front yard, and I don't know if anyone has been in the house or not, they're just all kind of scattered in the front yard right now.
FRAZIER: Have you seen any evidence that anything has been taken from inside the home?
REINHART: Not so far, no.
FRAZIER: Now, you are saying you don't know whether he lives there alone -- does that mean you don't know Mr. Pickett all that well yourself, or can you give us some details of what he's like?
REINHART: I don't know him at all.
FRAZIER: And how far away do you live?
REINHART: I live, oh, probably four houses down, but there's a street between us and he lives on the same side of the street.
FRAZIER: Is it the kind of neighborhood where you tend not to know your neighbors, or do you know most of them and just don't know Mr. Pickett?
REINHART: Well, it's just kind of a quiet neighborhood, and lot of time during the day, people aren't here, so I don't know him, I don't know if he has little kids or...
FRAZIER: What was your reaction when you heard it was a person from Evansville with the same as one of your neighbors?
REINHART: Did I know that?
FRAZIER: What was your first reaction when you learned of that?
REINHART: Pretty shocked. I didn't even know his name or anything, until I just happened to see all the media and the police and we figured it out. It's pretty shocking. FRAZIER: Pretty shocking. And, what are your other neighbors saying?
REINHART: About the same thing. Everybody is standing outside looking right now.
FRAZIER: Are you in a cluster of neighbors out in the front yard?
REINHART: I'm not down as far as the rest of them are.
FRAZIER: Are you being a little discreet?
REINHART: If I go too far, the phone will cut out. So, I won't be able to hear you.
FRAZIER: I'm awfully glad that you can hear us, and we're grateful to have your insights; tell us, the first arrival, was it the kind of thing where police cars were coming with lights flashing and sirens going, or...
REINHART: No. No sirens or no flashing lights, no sirens. The first thing we saw was the media, and the police may have already been there, but they didn't come with their sirens on or anything like that.
FRAZIER: What do you expect will happen next; how long are you going to stay there?
REINHART: Well, I'll be here the rest of the evening. I don't know what they will do. I don't know if he is married or has kids or what?
FRAZIER: And is there any effort on the part of police to interview you or the other neighbors for details about Mr. Pickett?
REINHART: I don't know that the police have. I have seen the media interviewing some of the neighbors, but I don't think the police has yet. They really haven't been there that long.
FRAZIER: Would it be fair to expect the folks next door might know a little bit about him?
REINHART: Possibly. I don't know, because... I don't know.
FRAZIER: Right, but you don't -- that little bit of Indiana reserve there coming out from you, Ms. Reinhart.
REINHART: I just don't know him. So I don't know.
FRAZIER: All right, since the initial arrival of all these people, has there been anything else happening, have they come on in larger numbers?
REINHART: Who? The cars and stuff that are coming?
FRAZIER: Right, I'm more concerned with the investigators than with the reporters.
REINHART: Oh, I haven't seen any more come up. Just what's already there. There is -- (TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES) parked cars, but I don't think any more of them -- any policemen or anything has come up yet.
FRAZIER: Well, we're awfully glad you're on the scene; we're grateful for your filling us in. We hope that you stand by there, so that we can turn back to you as things develop. Pennie Reinhart, a neighbor, outside the home of Robert Pickett, our suspected gunman, apprehended today outside the White House -- Natalie.
ALLEN: And she mentioned the media is there as well, and we have someone with WTVW -- that's a local station in Evansville, Indiana. Melinda Roeder is there as well, outside Mr. Pickett's house, where investigators are.
What can you tell us about what's going on, Melinda?
MELINDA ROEDER, WTVW REPORTER: Right now there are several local authorities here on the scene and two agents with the U.S. Secret Service. Right now, they're waiting for a search warrant to come through so they can go through Robert Pickett's home and search for anything that might prove to be valuable evidence in this case.
What is not clear at this point is why Robert Pickett is in Washington, D.C. Neighbors say he is a certified public accountant, although they're not sure which firm he works for in town. They say he may have been in Washington, D.C. on business.
They are saying that they don't think he is a staunch political reporter. Neighbors say they've never seen any campaign signs in his yard and they've never heard him talk politics. But they do say that Robert Pickett is a quiet man. He's a loner. He lives by himself in a quiet, middle-class neighborhood. And we're told that he has absolutely no criminal record with local authorities.
ALLEN: Had -- Melinda, had anyone talked about whether he had personal problems that would be to the extreme that he would wind up at the White House with a gun?
ROEDER: No, the only thing we're hearing right now is that there was a missing person's report filed on him back in 1993, but that proved not to be an issue with police. And there is no criminal record from that point, although his next-door neighbor tells us that he has not seen Robert Pickett at his home since before Christmastime. So it's -- they really have no idea how long he's been out of town.
ALLEN: Oh, so any other neighbors? Have they said whether they -- anyone else has seen him recently?
ROEDER: No, the neighbors that we've talked with say that they haven't really seen him around, but that's not unusual. They say he usually did stay at home by himself, keep to himself. He was very quiet. Occasionally, he would come out to check his mail and say hello to the neighbors, maybe help them carry in groceries, I'm told. But usually he was not outdoors.
ALLEN: Well, what is the reaction as you talk with people, Melinda, that people are hearing about what has happened and that their neighbor is involved with what just happened in Washington?
ROEDER: Well, everybody is very shocked. In fact, neighbors are driving by. They're asking the media what has happened. A lot of them have not been watching television, have not been listening to the radio and aren't really sure what has happened so far. So they're very surprised to hear that this could happen. And this is a fairly quiet neighborhood. It's right by the high school where Robert Pickett grew up and where he did attend classes. And everyone is just saying this does not seem like it's normal activity here for this neighborhood, or for Robert Pickett.
ALLEN: Can you describe -- you say that the agents are waiting for a search warrant so they can go into his home. Can you describe his home?
ROEDER: Yes, it's a split-level home. It's brick. It looks like most of the other homes here in this neighborhood, a very similar design, very middle class, not exactly what I was expecting from hearing the reports that he was a loner. A lot of people said they weren't sure really where he worked or if he did hold a regular job. I did find out, though, from another neighbor that this house is where his parents used to live. He lived there with his parents until his parents passed away just a few years ago.
ALLEN: All right, we talked with a former neighbor of his who had told us that his parents had died and he lived alone and that she did know of some emotional problems, but that he had never discussed them with her. Have you seen whether agents are trying to talk with anybody in the neighborhood, or are they just waiting to get into the house?
ROEDER: At this point, they've just been talking with the local authorities. And some detectives have kind of been standing by during media interviews with the neighbors listening to what the neighbors have to tell reporters at this point. And until they get that search warrant, they said they're pretty much just standing guard here at this location, sort of closing it off. They have not closed the street, though. There are still several neighbors driving right through, lots of media vehicles driving right through the streets here in this neighborhood.
But they said until that search warrant comes together, there is not really much they can do at this point, or give any more details.
ALLEN: And, again, Melinda, interesting information you tell us about. The only known report on him is this 1993 missing persons report. Do you know anything more about that, where he was and why he was missing?
ROEDER: Right. The police officers here on the scene say they're not sure at this point. They did a search for more details on that report before they left the station to come out here to the scene, but they said that apparently that he did turn up after that. He wasn't missing for very long. They said it was just a report that was called in by a friend, at that point. But that is the only report, so it doesn't seem that there is a pattern of him disappearing or going out of town for great lengths without telling anyone.
ALLEN: Melinda Roeder with our affiliate WTVW in Evansville. Melinda, we can't thank you enough. We know it's a busy scene there and we hope to talk with you again if you learn anymore details about the investigation that's taking place there.
Now over to Stephen.
FRAZIER: Now that it's just past the start of a new news hour, let's bring you up to date on all of this that we've been reporting. There was an incident outside the White House this morning at 11:20 on the -- near the southwest gate on the southern side of the Ellipse, where a lone gunman apparently fired off some shots, according to eyewitnesses, maybe not, according to other authorities, but at least was approached by Secret Service and by Park Police and asked to drop the gun that he was brandishing.
They spent about 15 minutes talking with him and then a single shot was fired by a Uniformed Emergency Response Team member of the Secret Service, who hit the gunman, who is identified at Robert Pickett of Evansville, Indiana, in the knee. Mr. Pickett was subdued and was taken then to George Washington University Hospital. We are expecting shortly an update from the White House itself in its afternoon briefing.
But before we turn to that, let's go to our Charles Bierbauer, who is standing by now at George Washington University Hospital for an update. We're expecting a news conference shortly -- Charles.
CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Stephen, information here at the hospital is so far negligible other than acknowledging that Mr. Pickett has been brought here and is being treated. We do not have any further information from the hospital. More information so far has been coming from police officials rather than hospital officials. But they have promised us a news conference this afternoon. They're going to hold off here at the hospital until after the White House news conference.
I should point out this hospital is just six blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. It's the George Washington University Hospital. And, yes, it is the same hospital to which President Ronald Reagan was brought when he was shot, at that's just shy of 20 years ago in early 1981.
So we will get more information here. We're able to tell you only that the gentleman is here and is being treated -- Stephen.
FRAZIER: Charles, do you know who will be talking to us? Will it actually be the doctors who've been dealing with Mr. Pickett?
BIERBAUER: I've been given a list of three of the hospital officials who will be -- are expected to join us at the news conference. They would include the chief executive officer of the George Washington University Hospital itself, the dean of the school of medicine, Dr. John Williams, and a Dr. Yolanda Haywood, who's an associate professor of emergency medicine.
Fairly typical to bring out an array of doctors, those directly involved in it and those responsible for the administration of the hospital. We expect to see them at some point after 2:00, probably after the White House has completed its briefing.
FRAZIER: Charles, you are with the man who's exciting the most interest this afternoon, so stand by. We'll turn back to you a little later. Thanks for those insights now.
And Natalie, next.
ALLEN: And we're told senior White House correspondent John King has more for us now. He's outside the White House -- John.
KING: Well, Natalie, as we have been reporting throughout the morning and into the afternoon, one of the key questions is to whether Mr. Russell -- Robert Pickett, excuse me, fired his weapon before the officers responded to the scene. We're now told by law enforcement sources that the Secret Service believes the eyewitness reports that he had fired his weapon before the officers got there to be, quote, "credible."
They are still gathering some additional information, as we have seen from our pictures of the scene. There have been metal detectors out there and other law enforcement agencies looking around the area of the shooting. We're now told, though, that the Secret Service believes that he indeed -- it is credible, those reports from the eyewitnesses, that he may have fired his weapon beforehand. And we're told to expect shortly some more information on that, leading us to believe, of course, that they have recovered some additional evidence from the scene.
But just a short time ago, the Secret Service was saying it could not comment on those reports from the eyewitnesses, except to say that they were being investigated. Now we are told by a reliable source that those reports are believed to be credible, meaning law enforcement now believes the gentleman did indeed fire his weapon before the officers arrived on the scene at 11:22.
We're told that once they did arrive on the scene, no additional shots were fired. The only shot fired was by the Uniformed Secret Service officer who struck the suspect in the knee, and he was then, of course, taken to the hospital.
ALLEN: And this is new information. This is what the witnesses had been saying to us all morning, John, that they had heard gunshots fired. Did the Secret Service say whether he was aiming at anyone, they could determine any intent yet? And did they talk about how long they tried to talk with him before they fired the shot, before they were able to subdue him?
KING: They do not have any information as yet. Again, they're still trying to gather details from the scene. And one of the things they're looking for is shell casings from any weapons that were fired on the scene. We do know that the law enforcement is proceeding under the belief that this man wanted to harm himself. And they say there have been no other injuries reported in the area and no evidence, certainly, that he fired in the direction of the White House.
As for the other details of the investigation, they're still interviewing the agents out on the scene. And as for your question as to how long it took, we know that the agents first responded at 11:22, and that the suspect was taken into custody after being shot in the leg at 11:36. So it was 14 minutes between when the officers first responded and approached this man; 14 minutes later when he was shot in the leg and taken into custody.
ALLEN: John King, thank you.
John had told us earlier that this went pretty much by the book as far as how agents usually respond to incidents that happen outside the White House.
We also have information that agents had asked him to surrender, Mr. Pickett to surrender. He spoke with them about wanting to commit suicide. That's why we've been saying that it -- that it does appear that he only wanted to harm himself and no one else. But we should be getting more information about that momentarily.
Right now, we want to talk with Dwight Ellison, who's been with us all morning here. Dwight has been listening to all of this. All of it's familiar to you because he is a Secret Service agent and worked at the White House. And what's your assessment of how -- certainly, everyone's assessment is thank goodness that no one else was hurt today. But it seems like it happened very quickly and it ended quickly.
DWIGHT ELLISON, VICE PRESIDENT, TURNER SECURITY: Well, I've been thinking while sitting here about the measured response from the Service to the suspect. And the one thing that's consistent with how agents are trained if at any -- any given time a law enforcement officer -- in this case, a Secret Service employee -- feels threatened, or if that agent perceives someone else is threatened -- and in this case, could very well have been the suspect -- they're authorized to fire a weapon.
The first thing you would want to do in responding to an incident is to defuse it. You don't want necessarily to use -- rather, you would want to avoid at all cost the use of deadly force if it's not absolutely called for. It appears that that was done here. So training and -- well, excuse me -- repetitive training on the part of the agents was very, very much apparent here, the uniformed officers responding. It was very, very much apparent. And I'm happy to see it and I'm happy to hear it.
ALLEN: And we know that Park Police were in the area. You had uniformed officers, nonuniformed officers. How is it determined in a situation like this who is the person that's going to make contact with a gunman? Is that something you can tell us about? ELLISON: It depends upon where the person is located, where the gunman is. In this case, he was outside of the White House grounds, literally, according to what witnesses have testified to or statements made, on the sidewalks outside the White House grounds. Those...
ALLEN: I'm going to have to interrupt just a minute, Dwight.
ALLEN: We'll get back to you in a moment, because the U.S. Park Police is holding a news conference. Let's hear what they have to say.
ROB MACLEAN, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, U.S. PARK POLICE: My name again is Sergeant Rob MacLean. That's spelled M-A-C-L-E-A-N. I'm the public information officer with the United States Park Police.
Like I said before, we are the lead agency in this case and I will reiterate all the facts for the people who weren't here before so they can get caught up.
At around 11:22 a.m., the United States Park Police received information from the Uniform Division Secret Service about a subject on E Street on the south side of the White House, just outside the fence, that had a handgun. At some point, a D.C. police officer engaged this subject in conversation right outside the White House, outside the fence.
Obviously, U.S. Park police, Uniformed Division Secret Service and Secret Service agents responded to that location.
At some point during this dialogue, a gunshot went off and the subject was struck in the leg. An ambulance transported this subject, who was a white male in his mid-40s, to GW University Hospital. He is being treated for non-life-threatening wounds to his leg.
It's unclear at this time whether the gunshot came from the subject or from law enforcement. The investigation is ongoing and fluid at this time. I will provide periodic updates. We'll convene again in an hour for more information.
The update I have right now is that this subject was brandishing the firearm. He was waving it in the air. The weapon was pointed at the White House at one point and pointed in all directions. And there were pedestrians present.
The subject is being evaluated at GW University psychiatrically. Obviously, in these kinds of cases that's a routine measure that we take. We can't confirm now what state of mind this subject was in, whether he was planning to commit suicide or to injure himself or anybody else.
I did fail to mention that he did at one point have the weapon pointed at himself in his mouth.
Any questions? (CROSSTALK)
QUESTION: In total, how many gunshots were fired?
MACLEAN: The information we have right now -- the information that we have right now is that there was one gunshot. This is preliminary. Obviously, we're interviewing witnesses. We're interviewing the officers on the scene as well as the subject.
QUESTION: Do you have any officers who say they fired their weapons? How -- you must know that by now.
MACLEAN: I cannot answer that at this time. As I said, the investigation is ongoing. We have to develop our interviews with the witnesses as well as the officers to determine which agency, if any, fired -- fired a shot or whether the subject self-inflicted the gunshot.
QUESTION: Any officers (UNINTELLIGIBLE) their weapons?
MACLEAN: I cannot confirm that because there were several agencies involved. We have to determine, if there was a shot fired from law enforcement, what agency fired the shot or if this gunshot was self-inflicted. I can't comment further on that.
QUESTION: The reports we heard have the Secret Service firing the shot at him. Have you talked to them yet?
MACLEAN: No, I've not talked to the witnesses. Obviously, our detectives are handling that. They will interview Secret Service agents, they will interview U.S. Park Police officers, they will interview the subject that was shot, and interview any witnesses.
QUESTION: While he was brandishing the weapon, did he say anything?
MACLEAN: There was a dialogue established with a D.C. police officer, but as far as the content, I do not have that information available right now.
QUESTION: How many witnesses? How many witnesses?
MACLEAN: We have no idea at this time. We're interviewing witnesses. I saw several of you from the media interviewing witnesses around the Ellipse. So as far as the number of witnesses, I can't say.
QUESTION: Some of the witness we talked to say, they -- they recollect two or three gunshots. Would they be inaccurate or...
MACLEAN: They wouldn't be inaccurate per se. However, this could have occurred prior to law enforcement arriving on the scene. So, that's why I say we have to interview witnesses. We have to interview the officers that were responding initially to the scene. So I can't make that determination or give you factual information as to how many gun shots were fired.
As far as we know right now, it was one. So we have to interview witnesses.
QUESTION: Were there any shell casings up there, sir?
QUESTION: Were (OFF-MIKE) the Secret Service were saying that they fired the shot that hit the man. Is there a reason to doubt that, or have you straightened out or coordinated your stories?
MACLEAN: I'm the only person. And we're lead agency putting information out on this. So the information other than coming out of my mouth right now would be erroneous I would say at this point. It may be true, but I'd have to confirm that. And as I said, a complex, fluid investigation. So, that information will come out at a later time.
QUESTION: Have you...
QUESTION: Do you have any idea how long the man was outside the White House and why he may have done this? Have the police actually spoken to him yet?
MACLEAN: He is at GW Hospital. We have detectives there as well as a psychiatric evaluation.
QUESTION: Have you found any shell casings yet and where are the shell casings?
MACLEAN: I don't know that question. The Secret Service inside the fence of the White House were using metal detectors to find any type of bullets or shell casings or anything like that as well as outside the fence.
I don't know if any of those shell casings were found.
QUESTION: Did he have any other weapons with him? Did he have anything else with him?
MACLEAN: The information we have at this point, it was one handgun.
QUESTION: And what kind of handgun?
QUESTION: How far away from the White House was the gentleman?
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE), had you heard anything or was he just on patrol there and he came across this person?
MACLEAN: We don't know whether the D.C. police officer responded to a call for this incident. QUESTION: Whoever called you first, how did they -- because the witnesses said that there were shots fired. They saw shots into the ground, other things. You're saying there was only one in the presence of law enforcement officers...
MACLEAN: I didn't say that. I said at this time they're confirming one shot to me.
QUESTION: In the presence of law enforcement.
QUESTION: I'm saying you don't know anything about before that. Was there anything that attracted the Uniform Secret Service agent to the area? Was there noise? Was there -- or he just happened upon the person with a gun in his hand?
MACLEAN: The information that we have was a subject with a gun. The initial report that we got from the Uniform Division of Secret Service didn't say anything about shots being fired.
ALLEN: All right, we'll continue to listen to this and monitor this news conference, the Park Police. The White House is about to hold a briefing. So we want to break away for just a moment to tell you that we're hearing some different information here. Park Police saying one shot was fired. Still not confirming whether it came from the Secret Service or the gunman. However, John King reporting from the White House that the Secret Service has confirmed that they did shoot the gunman after telling him to drop his weapon several times, and the Secret Service saying that reports from witnesses of the gunman firing his gun randomly are credible and they're continuing to look into that.
We did learn from the Park Police just now that this gunman did point the gun at himself at one point before he was taken in this morning. So we'll continue to listen to the Park Police, but we want to get ready to go now to the White House.
Let's take you into the White House, where we expect to hear from White House spokesman -- White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. We haven't heard from the White House during this incident so far. But here's, of course, what we do know.
Here comes Ari Fleischer now. The suspect is Robert Pickett from Evansville, Indiana.
ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Good afternoon.
At approximately 11:30 this morning, while the Secret Service was on routine patrol around the White House, they heard shots fired and proceeded to surround a subject who was wielding a weapon, a gun. A 10-minute standoff ensued, following which time the Secret Service fired a shot into the suspect's leg, a Secret Service officer.
The suspect, as you know, is in custody, has been taken to George Washington University Hospital, where he's being treated for injuries that do not appear to be life-threatening.
During this time, the president was in the residence and was never in any danger. The vice president was working in his West Wing office, also was never in any danger at any point. The vice president and the president continued their routine schedules. Mrs. Bush during this time was in Texas. And that is the information, as far as the shooting is concerned.
QUESTION: Ari, how was the president notified of this? What procedures were followed to ensure his safety?
FLEISCHER: The president was in the residence at the time. The Secret Service notified him that there had been an incident outside the gates of the White House, just outside the southern most tip of the South Lawn. And he resumed his activities that he was in the middle of.
FLEISCHER: The Secret Service took the routine precautions they've always taken.
FLEISCHER: I'm sorry?
QUESTION: Can you tell us what those routine precautions were? Did they involve him moving...
FLEISCHER: No. Any of the matters that pertain to the Secret Service's handling, the methods that they used, we're not going to discuss, of course.
QUESTION: Secondly, could I ask you, did the gunman aim his gun at anybody or himself?
FLEISCHER: All the specific facts of that matter will be investigated by the relevant agencies, including the Secret Service and the U.S. Park Police, and that investigation is under way.
QUESTION: What was the president's reaction to this incident?
FLEISCHER: The president has full faith in the Secret Service, so the president understood that he was not in any danger.
Again, we all have full faith in the Secret Service here. They are professionals, they do their job, and they do it well.
It's unfortunate that it ever comes to this point. But if it ever does, the Secret Service serves our nation very, very ably.
QUESTION: What was the president doing in the residence at the time?
FLEISCHER: The president was working out in the residence at the time. QUESTION: We have seen some people leave. Was there any time where visitors and tourists were asked to leave the White House? Any evacuation, temporary evacuation that went on?
FLEISCHER: The White House was opened at that moment for tourists. And tourists were asked and escorted out the gates of the White House as a routine precaution.
QUESTION: Can you confirm that this wasn't an act of terrorism?
FLEISCHER: Again, the whole matter will be under investigation, but I've seen no evidence that would suggest that.
QUESTION: Was it a handgun that the suspect had? Did he, himself, fire the shots?
FLEISCHER: That will be under investigation.
QUESTION: Do you have any idea what his motive or intent was?
FLEISCHER: Again, it's all preliminary. The investigation is under way.
QUESTION: How many shots were fired?
FLEISCHER: I will decline -- that will be part of the investigation.
FLEISCHER: There were a number of shots.
FLEISCHER: A number of shots.
FLEISCHER: I'm not going to indicate a specific number.
QUESTION: Fired at him? Is that what you're saying?
FLEISCHER: The suspect fired a number of shots.
QUESTION: Were they shot at the White House, the White House steps?
FLEISCHER: That's part of the investigation.
QUESTION: When you say the "southern most tip," that means the part where you'd have a clear line of vision.
FLEISCHER: That's correct. I've seen a number of press reports that say it was the southwest gate. That's not correct. It was very close to the southern most tip, just slightly west of the southern most tip. QUESTION: Ari, we asked you this question before. Is the president, in view of today's shooting incident, have any further thoughts about whether to reopen Pennsylvania Avenue?
FLEISCHER: I did not discuss that with the president.
QUESTION: What about jogging on Pennsylvania...
FLEISCHER: No, I talked to the president, and the president said that he understood he was never in any danger and he kept up what he was in the middle of. And, again, the president has full faith in the Secret Service. But we did not discuss the issue involving Pennsylvania Avenue.
QUESTION: On the jogging track, you say that he's jogged a number of times on that track. He would be exposed, if he were on that track, given the facts as we know them in this scenario.
FLEISCHER: The president was at the residence at the time this incident took place.
QUESTION: Is there any rethinking of whether he should be running on that open-air track?
FLEISCHER: The event just took place a few hours ago. And as a standard, a review will be done, an investigation will be done.
QUESTION: If I understand what you're saying, from where he was standing, he would have a clear line of sight of the White House?
FLEISCHER: The southern tip is very far removed from the White House. It's quite a distance.
QUESTION: So there was no way -- either a clear line of sight or...
FLEISCHER: It's a very public place down there. Tourists often gather at the southern most tip of the gate to look in.
QUESTION: Ari, was he menacing the tourists, or was he menacing...
FLEISCHER: At the fence, that's correct.
QUESTION: Was he menacing himself, the tourists, or the White House, or all of the above?
FLEISCHER: Well, I think it's fair to say that any time anybody has a weapon that they are discharging, there's a safety problem for all concerned. QUESTION: Does the president or the Secret Service have any intention to make the White House less accessible and the president less accessible to the public or the press after that?
FLEISCHER: There's been no discussions of that.
QUESTION: Ari, are we under a heightened measure of security here at the White House right now?
FLEISCHER: No. E Street remains closed pending the investigation. Traffic is coming in and out of the White House. Authorized traffic, of course, is allowed through that particular southwest gate, if you're authorized. But everything else is back to normal.
The routine investigation proceeds. But other than that, the White House is at work.
QUESTION: Do you know if this man was ever a threat or made any threat to the White House, this president, or when he was governor of Texas?
FLEISCHER: I have no information on that.
QUESTION: One aspect of the story is a little confusing. The Secret Service was saying that they were informed by a citizen who had seen the man with the gun. What light can you shed on the fact that he did, in fact, fire some shots in the air, according to eye witnesses? Is that what Secret Service heard.
FLEISCHER: A Secret Service vehicle was on routine patrol around the White House at approximately 11:30. They heard shots fired, at which point they exited their vehicle and took appropriate action.
QUESTION: And that was what?
FLEISCHER: They surrounded the suspect, and additional agents arrived, additional officers arrived.
QUESTION: ... talked with him for a while?
FLEISCHER: No, I'm not going to tick-tock the whole standoff. It was a matter that's going to be part of their investigation that they engage in.
QUESTION: But is there any indication as to why they fired a shot after apparently talking with him for some time?
FLEISCHER: Because the Secret Service felt it was necessary to do so in this case.
FLEISCHER: He was armed with a weapon that he had discharged.
QUESTION: But did he take any threatening action?
FLEISCHER: I'll refer you to the Secret Service.
QUESTION: What were they talking about for 10 minutes?
FLEISCHER: I'm sorry?
QUESTION: What were they talking about for 10 minutes...
FLEISCHER: I'll refer you to the Secret Service.
QUESTION: Why was he shot in the leg only if it was a standoff and he had a weapon? That's not par for the course.
FLEISCHER: Again, I think that's a question you should address to the Secret Service.
QUESTION: Ari, how close does that track come to the southernmost tip of the perimeter, the track...
FLEISCHER: Not very close.
QUESTION: Ari, are they looking for where these bullets ended up?
FLEISCHER: That's part of their investigation.
QUESTION: So they're investigating around here, if it hit the White House or anything like that?
FLEISCHER: That's correct.
QUESTION: Did they recover any shell casings from the South Lawn?
FLEISCHER: That's part of the investigation.
QUESTION: Ari, will this impact on the happy face of the new administration?
FLEISCHER: Nobody ever wants to have to go through anything like this, for anybody, not for the Secret Service who guards this building, not for the people who work here, and of course the suspect. Nobody ever in our society wants to have to have these types of incidents arise.
Unfortunately, as we've seen through history, they sometimes do. That's why we're all grateful to the people who protect this building and protect our president.
QUESTION: Ari, you said the standoff was 10-minutes long. The Park Police are saying 15 minutes. Can you resolve that discrepancy?
FLEISCHER: My information is 10 minutes, and that will all be part -- I would refer you to both the Secret Service and to the Park Police.
QUESTION: ... comes from the Secret Service?
FLEISCHER: I'm sorry?
QUESTION: Your 10-minute figure comes from the Secret Service?
FLEISCHER: That's correct.
QUESTION: Are you wearing your flak jacket under your suit today?
QUESTION: Ari, was it the vice president's decision to stay in the West Wing while the Secret Service was trying to secure the outside area?
FLEISCHER: I don't know whose decision it was, but he just kept working as normal. And I think that's a reflection of the threat inside the grounds, that the president continued to what he was in the middle of, the vice president continued what he in the middle of.
And of course, the suspect never entered the White House grounds. It all took place outside the gate of the White House, on public property, on a public sidewalk.
QUESTION: Ari, wouldn't the Secret Service decidedly tell the president and vice president where to stay or not to leave?
FLEISCHER: As I mentioned, the appropriate precautions were taken.
QUESTION: Did anyone hear the shots from within the White House?
FLEISCHER: Not that I'm aware of.
QUESTION: Could you go over any biographical information you have about the suspect? We hear he might have lived in Baltimore...
FLEISCHER: No, I do not have that information. That will be, I think, addressed by the other authorities.
QUESTION: ... reports that his vehicle has been found, and there were some materials inside...
FLEISCHER: I think, as for any follow-up questions about what the investigation is finding, I am not an investigator. I would refer you to the appropriate law enforcement authorities. In this case, the Secret Service and the U.S. Park Police.
QUESTION: From what they know, initially, was his intent to threaten the president? Or was his intent otherwise...
FLEISCHER: That was asked. And that will be a part of the investigation.
QUESTION: What you describe as a standoff, might that be interpreted differently? Might the various officers been trying to coax him out of committing suicide, for instance? Is that part of what's being investigated?
FLEISCHER: I'm going to refer that question to the people who speak for the law enforcement officers. I speak for the president.
QUESTION: But you used the word standoff.
FLEISCHER: That's correct.
FLEISCHER: Well, I think that any time you have law enforcement officers with drawn weapons and you have a suspect with a drawn weapon, that's a standoff.
QUESTION: Were the families who came to see the president this morning on the South Lawn ever in danger?
FLEISCHER: No, there was never any danger to the people here in the building.
QUESTION: Are they still here?
FLEISCHER: If they were taking the tour, they could have been. There were tourist walking through the White House as part of the normal White House tours. But, again, I have no information that anybody was in any danger at that point.
QUESTION: What time did people go inside from the South Lawn event?
FLEISCHER: What time did that event conclude? I think the event begin at approximately 9:30. It probably ended shortly after 10:00.
QUESTION: Did they hang around at all?
FLEISCHER: I don't know what each of those families did.
QUESTION: Ari, is it still standard practice to block pedestrian traffic along that perimeter of the White House while there was an event taking place on the South Lawn?
FLEISCHER: I don't know that it's ever been the practice. You have to address that to Secret Service.
QUESTION: Ari, going back to Pennsylvania Avenue. I know you didn't talk to the president about it today, but what's going on with regard to this administration keeping it open or keeping it -- or opening it or keeping it closed?
FLEISCHER: On the question of Pennsylvania Avenue, the president has spoken with the Secret Service, the president has spoken with Mayor Williams. He's going to continue to speak with relevant parties.
And he's made no determination at this moment, at this time, about what he will do or won't do, what can be done or cannot be done with Pennsylvania Avenue.
QUESTION: Will today's incident affect...
FLEISCHER: I think that's, as I indicated earlier, I've not talked to the president about that.
QUESTION: Ari, do want to talk about the Middle East election or are you still...
QUESTION: There are people in other countries who look at the United States and say it's a particularly violent society. Do you think, for people watching this in other countries, that this says anything about the character of the United States?
FLEISCHER: I would not engage in any such thought. I think many nations on this Earth deal with issues and matters of protection of their presidents. And the United States does not stand alone in having to have people protect the president, protect the building in which the president resides. That's common throughout the world. There have been incidents around the world unfortunately, where violence has taken place that we all come to regret.
QUESTION: Ari, can we just get one thing clear. You said a number of shots were fired.
FLEISCHER: That's correct.
QUESTION: Were they fired in the air or at anybody or at any...
FLEISCHER: That will be part of the investigation.
QUESTION: May I ask a policy question? The tax families who visited the president this morning were all Republican voters. They were involved in the Republican campaigns or they had changed sides for reasons such as the abortion issue.
QUESTION: Wouldn't it be reasonable to pick families for not taking sides politically?
FLEISCHER: You mean like the family we visited...
QUESTION: For demonstration purposes.
FLEISCHER: You mean like the family we visited yesterday at the toy store in MacLean who began her statement by saying she did not vote for President Bush?
QUESTION: That's an example, yes, but not this...
FLEISCHER: That was an example. Perhaps she'll vote for President Bush in the future.
QUESTION: On the Israeli elections, we know what the president said, what you said. But how does the president feel now, after speaking to Barak, to Sharon? Is he optimistic? Pessimistic?
FLEISCHER: Well, again, the president believes very much that the United States must be committed to the peace process in the Middle East, and he will endeavor to do so.
Obviously, in the wake of an election that took place yesterday, the prime minister now will be putting together his government, putting together his Cabinet, and we must allow time for the new Sharon government to come into place.
QUESTION: Ari, what's the status of AIDS office now? There's differing reports out there. What is the bottom line on that?
FLEISCHER: The White House, in order to fight the scourge of AIDS, will continue to have an office dedicated to that mission. That's an important mission in the president's opinion.
And the manner in which we will do that will be the following: The Department of Health and Human Services will be detailing people to the White House. In addition, at our Domestic Policy Council, we will have a White House employee who was dedicated to fighting AIDS and developing policies that can help us to fight AIDS.
There is also a task force in place that will remain in place. There also is concern with the battle against AIDS. That will be the entities within the White House that are dedicated to that cause.
QUESTION: Will there be an AIDS coordinator and will the number of people dedicated to this issue be the same or less than were in the AIDS office under Clinton?
FLEISCHER: I can't speak yet to the exact number of people. There will be an AIDS coordinator on the Domestic Policy Council. There will also be, as I mentioned, the question of the detailees from the Department of Health and Human Services and then the task force. It'll be those three entities.
QUESTION: A follow-up not on that question, but on the race office. It's now changing, we understand, from the president's Initiative on One America to another office.
FLEISCHER: Right. The former president had an initiative that he called One America that was part and parcel of a commission that he had set up, that focused on a matter that the former president brought to the forefront of his agenda. Their work has basically been completed.
As part of the commission that the president brought forward -- I think everybody remembers the event surrounding when President Clinton concluded his work on that area -- the office was set up in conjunction with that. What President Bush intends to do is to broaden that effort. And that is why we will, as part of our effort to improve race relations in America, create a working group on uniting America, that picks up the themes and develops the policies that the president talked about in his Inaugural Address, the concerns he mentioned about people who don't see the justice -- that we have justice for all. And that will be conducted also through the Domestic Policy Council as well as the Office of Public Liaison.
QUESTION: A follow-up to that, Andy Card said, outside today -- he said that it will be dealing with the same issues, but the bureaucracy, quote, unquote, will be different. Is that what the administration is thinking of?
FLEISCHER: That's correct.
QUESTION: Could I ask one two-part question, because I have to leave?
First, Israel's new prime minister, by a landslide, has stated with pride, quote, "I have never shaken hands with Yasser Arafat." Does the president believe this is wrong? Or does he understand General Sharon's reaction, given Arafat's connection to the killing of so many Israeli civilians as well as Americans, including Ambassador Noel (ph) and Mr. Klinghoffer?
FLEISCHER: The president is going to continue to work for peace and security in the Middle East. And that means that he will be working with the parties involved to bring peace to the Middle East.
QUESTION: As the president's press secretary, could you give us your impression of Columbia Journalism School inviting, as a guest lecturer, our recent presidential candidate, who refused for 62 days to answer reporters' questions and whose lecture Columbia Journalism School tried to conceal from all reporters, including its own alumni, several of whom are here?
FLEISCHER: I have full faith that any journalist who graduates from the Columbia Journalism School will be an excellent journalist.
QUESTION: Will they learn how to deal with presidential candidates who try to evade reporters' questions, Ari?
FLEISCHER: I hope not.
QUESTION: Ari, a federal judge in Sacramento ruled that Reliant Energy must continue selling energy to California after the deadline that was set on the federal emergency action. The judge decided that, when it comes to a weighing between the law of supply and demand and the general welfare, that the law of supply and demand must bend. Is the president also of that same opinion? FLEISCHER: Well, as you know, Governor Davis has publicly thanked President Bush for the leadership he showed in helping California to manage the crisis. And the president is committed to helping California through whatever tools are available, and that will continue to be the position of this administration as we develop our national energy policy. But I'm not going to comment on a specific judicial ruling.
QUESTION: The deregulation that has been a part of the Republican program and the president's program has led to a lot of problems in California, but there are also clouds on the horizon in the state of Washington. New York this year, if it's a hot summer, may also have problems.
Doesn't this indicate that the deregulation policies, that they have benefited only one side, and that is the energy companies, which have had a surge in profits as a result of deregulation?
Now, given that these companies were largely in support of...
FLEISCHER: Is there a question here?
QUESTION: Yes, there is. Given that these companies were in support of candidate Bush during the election, doesn't this create kind of an unseemly condition where they're making the money, people are suffering as a result of these policies, which, as I understand it, are still the policies of the president?
FLEISCHER: I think what it indicates is that America's supply of energy is not sufficient to meet its demand. And that is why the president is dedicated to increasing the supplies of energy, so that we can have supply and demand come into an equivalent level, which will bring prices down and also provide us energy security and independence.
QUESTION: Ari, on the AIDS and race relations offices, what are the current staffing levels and budgets for those offices, and how might they change?
FLEISCHER: The AIDS task force is a $250,000 program on an annual basis funded by the Department of HHS, there's a detailee also that comes with that. Working out of the White House Office of the Domestic Policy Council is an employee who will be focused on health care issues and AIDS.
And there will be one person in the public liaison office also, who has among their duties outreach and liaison, as well as in the Domestic Policy Council, somebody who will be also focused on policies that help advance the cause of civil rights and racial unity. That's part of our working group.
QUESTION: Talking about that, though, isn't there currently an Office of National AIDS Policy on Jackson Place, and is that going to be used or is all going to be...
FLEISCHER: That's exactly the point. No, no, that's exactly the point. That's why there is nothing that is closing; that office is open.
QUESTION: So that'll be where the...
FLEISCHER: That's a task force.
FLEISCHER: That's one of the elements.
QUESTION: Has the administration decided not to ask for a supplemental defense spending bill for this fiscal year?
FLEISCHER: The president has said that he will seek no immediate supplemental. He has not ruled one out for later in the year.
But his first priority is to make certain that we attend to America's defense needs. And that is why he has directed Secretary Rumsfeld to begin the force structure review, so that we can make certain that we have a military that is prepared to face the threats that our nation has to deal with, and that process has now begun.
And that is precisely what the president said he would do during the course of the campaign. The president proposed a pay raise for members of the military, which will be in this year's budget. He proposed funding to increase housing. He proposed funding for more R&D.
And he said in a speech at the Citadel, which I would point you to -- we have copies available for those who would like to read it -- on September 23, 1999, that he "was going to begin an immediate," and I'm reading from his speech, "comprehensive review of our military. The structure of its forces, the state of its strategy, the priorities of its procurement, conducted by a leadership team under the secretary of defense." He said, "this will require spending more and spending more wisely."
So what the president indicated more than a year ago is exactly what he is doing now. That he wants to have a strategic review of what our needs are. Once that review is complete, then we will proceed to have a dollar figure for those priorities, other than the ones I mentioned -- military pay raises, et cetera.
QUESTION: Immediately there is this shortfall between what the president is willing to give and what the Pentagon says it needs. FLEISCHER: And that's why the president has said that we need to complete this review. And he has sent a signal of fiscal discipline, that there will be no immediate supplemental.
QUESTION: Ari, if he is refusing immediately to ask for a supplemental spending bill, what would cause him in the future to seek one? FLEISCHER: I think we'll just have to monitor events to see what the reviews start to indicate and what the recommendations are.
QUESTION: On the AIDS question again, the last administration, last year, declared that AIDS was also a national security problem, and therefore had to be dealt with out of the national security structure. Is that continuing to be the policy of this administration? And is there a plan to deal with that through the NSC as well?
FRAZIER: We're going to step away from the White House news briefing now because another is about to begin at George Washington University Hospital, where officials can tell us a little bit more about Robert Pickett and his condition now.
Let's listen in.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... Dan McLean, who is the chief executive officer and managing director of the George Washington University Hospital.
DANIEL MCLEAN, CEO, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Good afternoon, I'm Dan McLean and my only function here is to introduce one of our emergency department physicians, Dr. Yolanda Haywood. Dr. Haywood is associate professor of emergency medicine at George Washington University Hospital and assistant dean of student and curricular affairs at the university -- Dr. Haywood.
DR. YOLANDA HAYWOOD, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: I'm Yolanda Haywood from the department of emergency medicine here at George Washington University. Our patient is a 47-year-old white male who the Secret Service tells us was involved in a shooting incident near the White House.
We've been asked not to release any personal information about this patient as the Secret Service investigates. The patient is medically stable. He has been shot in the leg, doing damage to the right knee joint. He will need surgery later today to remove the bone fragments and if available, the actual bullet.
In the meantime, the patient will undergo a vascular surgery and psychiatric evaluation. Dr. Craig Faulks, an orthopedic surgeon, will perform surgery later today, most likely after 5:00 p.m. Our next update will be after surgery. For updates on this patient as they become available, you can check the hospital Web site at www.gwhospital.com.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, and we'll be open for questions.
QUESTION: Could you tell us his mood right now? Is he agitated? Is he calm?
HAYWOOD: He is calm.
QUESTION: He was calm. Is he...
HAYWOOD: He was conscious, yes.
QUESTION: Was he talking and has he said anything?
HAYWOOD: No, he has not.
QUESTION: Can you be more specific about his wound?
HAYWOOD: There is a gunshot wound to the right knee.
QUESTION: What kind of -- what caliber weapon?
HAYWOOD: I don't know what caliber weapon was used.
QUESTION: Do you know if it was self-inflicted?
HAYWOOD: I don't have any information.
QUESTION: Would you describe it as a serious wound, not serious wound?
HAYWOOD: It's a serious wound.
QUESTION: Do you believe the bullet...
QUESTION: What's his official condition?
HAYWOOD: Stable, yes.
QUESTION: How long do you expect him to be hospitalized?
HAYWOOD: I don't have any information on that right now.
QUESTION: Why does he have to have vascular surgery?
HAYWOOD: To be certain that the injury doesn't involve any of the blood vessels that supply the knees.
QUESTION: What can you tell us about the psych-eval?
HAYWOOD: It is part of a standard evaluation under these circumstances.
QUESTION: What circumstances?
HAYWOOD: The circumstances of someone who's sustained a gunshot wound outside the White House.
(LAUGHTER) QUESTION: What are the exact procedures that are to be done? Can you go through that again?
HAYWOOD: The exact procedures will be done by the orthopedic surgeon and your question again is...
QUESTION: What happens first? What is already -- what has he already undergone and what will happen next?
HAYWOOD: He has already undergone an initial evaluation. He's been stabilized, and the next procedure will be performed by the orthopedic surgery department.
QUESTION: Surgery on the knee?
HAYWOOD: On the knee, where the wound is.
QUESTION: Is that the same as vascular surgery?
HAYWOOD: No, it's not, and for details about the orthopedic surgery itself, you probably would need to have an orthopedic surgeon.
QUESTION: Will the vascular procedure go on before the orthopedic?
HAYWOOD: There is no vascular procedure planned. There is an evaluation, which may have already occurred.
QUESTION: Doctor, you said he was calm, and I believe you said he was talking...
HAYWOOD: No, I didn't say that.
HAYWOOD: He was calm, and he did not speak.
QUESTION: He did not speak?
HAYWOOD: He did not speak.
QUESTION: He hasn't said anything to you?
HAYWOOD: He didn't speak at all to me.
QUESTION: Has he assisted you in treating his injury and telling you where the pain is or anything?
HAYWOOD: No, he did not.
QUESTION: Does he have a history of mental...
HAYWOOD: I don't know anything about his medical history.
QUESTION: So, he's been completely silent, basically?
HAYWOOD: I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Is he being interviewed by police now?
QUESTION: Has he been...
HAYWOOD: Not while I was in his -- not while I was attending him.
DR. JOHN WILLIAMS, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: Don't know. Doctor Haywood's job was to stabilize him, to do an initial evaluation to see whether he needed surgery and what types of physicians needed to be called in. And at that time, there was no police interrogation.
WILLIAMS: I'm sorry.
QUESTION: You've done a psychiatric evaluation and...
QUESTION: ... have you treated him with any psychological drugs in stabilizing him?
QUESTION: Can you give us the prognosis...
QUESTION: ... just from a preliminary -- the prognosis is good. So, he should be able to walk and have full use of the leg at some point?
HAYWOOD: That's my initial impression, yes.
QUESTION: Dr. Haywood, how long did your evaluation take? What time was consumed by that?
HAYWOOD: Oh, 15, 20 minutes.
QUESTION: So, you were with him for that span of time and he said nothing during that span of time?
HAYWOOD: Correct. That's right. QUESTION: What time did he arrive?
HAYWOOD: 11:57, I believe, or thereabouts.
QUESTION: Has his family been contacted yet?
HAYWOOD: I don't know.
QUESTION: He didn't seem to be under stress when he was wheeled into the emergency room. Was he under some sedation at that time?
HAYWOOD: Not that I'm aware of.
QUESTION: Was he in pain?
HAYWOOD: Not that I can tell.
QUESTION: He didn't seem to be in pain?
QUESTION: What is the status of the psychiatric examination?
HAYWOOD: The status?
QUESTION: Has it been completed?
HAYWOOD: I don't know.
QUESTION: Who called for the psychiatric evaluation?
HAYWOOD: The emergency physician, me.
QUESTION: Did you say the bullet is still in his knee?
QUESTION: And it will be removed after 5:00 or sometime...
HAYWOOD: If it's possible for it to be removed.
QUESTION: And did you say it fragmented or do you know?
HAYWOOD: It appeared on the x-ray to be fragmented.
QUESTION: When somebody suffers this type of injury, how long do they spend in the hospital?
HAYWOOD: Again, it depends on what they find when they do the operation, and I don't have any way of knowing that right now.
WILLIAMS: Right, see, what we don't know is whether a vascular surgeon will be needed to do a vascular repair, whether they'll have to repair the joint or are they just taking fragments out of the knee. These are all unknowns at the moments. The surgeons will know that when they make the incision and begin to look inside of the knee. QUESTION: Beyond the leg wound, was there any tissue damage, any burns or anything like that?
HAYWOOD: On the surface of the knee, yes.
QUESTION: The surface of the knee?
QUESTION: Was there gunpowder on the surface of the knee?
HAYWOOD: I did not see gunpowder.
QUESTION: What did you see? Was it a burn or was it...
HAYWOOD: Some lacerations.
QUESTION: What's that consistent with, do you know?
HAYWOOD: A gunshot wound.
QUESTION: Can you give us any type of how -- I mean, can -- from looking at the gunshot wound, can you tell how far the shot was?
HAYWOOD: No, I can't.
QUESTION: So, it wasn't close enough to cause gunpowder burns, then?
HAYWOOD: I did not see any gunpowder wounds.
QUESTION: Doctor, I don't quite understand the significance of the lacerations. Is that just...
HAYWOOD: It's just what...
QUESTION: Is that the entry wound?
HAYWOOD: It's the entrance wound. That's right.
QUESTION: Just clarify, nothing that indicated that there was powder that would suggest firing at very close range and possibly self-inflicted?
HAYWOOD: Not that I was able to tell.
QUESTION: Was there also an exit wound?
HAYWOOD: There was not.
QUESTION: When you said fragment (OFF-MIKE) thinking of bone fragment or a bullet fragment?
HAYWOOD: Both. QUESTION: Could you tell what caliber?
HAYWOOD: I could not.
QUESTION: Is there any gunpowder residue or any evidence of a gun in his hands?
QUESTION: Is it unusual to treat a patient for 20 minutes and not exchange any words or information?
QUESTION: Is there something unusual about this patient that you could tell? I mean (OFF-MIKE)...
HAYWOOD: His aspect was unusual.
QUESTION: His what?
WILLIAMS: The way he appeared.
WILLIAMS: The way he appeared. The way he came in. You know, some of the questions you've asked, usually patients who are shot are in pain, they're writhing, they're talking, they're agitated. What Dr. Haywood is describing is a patient who came in, was not talking, was completely motionless, was not giving any indication of having any pain or anything.
QUESTION: Doctor, were you involved in his care at all?
WILLIAMS: No, I was not.
QUESTION: You were not involved in the care. You did not see the patient?
WILLIAMS: Not at all, did not.
QUESTION: Has he been tested for the presence of drugs?
HAYWOOD: I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Has he been tested for the presence of drugs?
HAYWOOD: As part of a routine evaluation. That would be included in the routine evaluation of a gunshot victim.
QUESTION: Were there any positive findings?
HAYWOOD: I'm not aware of any of those results.
QUESTION: Can you describe the security that he's under right now?
QUESTION: Were there any other injuries beside the knee?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. Thank you very much. We're going to have an update after the orthopedic surgery. And that will be sometime after 5 o'clock this evening. For those of you who've left us your name and your numbers, we will have (OFF-MIKE)...
QUESTION: Could you guys just spell your names?
WILLIAMS: Spell the name? Sure.
FRAZIER: All right, just to recap, we are looking at the scene at the George Washington University Hospital, where Dr. Yolanda Haywood and Dr. John Williams were explaining what happened after the suspect arrested outside the White House was brought to them.
The suspect, Robert Pickett, 47, of Evansville, Indiana, -- and just a very quick recap here, Dr. Haywood said Mr. Pickett was calm, never said anything during the time she spent with him, completely silent. She found that to be unusual. His affect, she said, was unusual, and Dr. Williams explained that means the way he appeared, that most gunshot victims are writhing around, complaining of pain and are agitated. Mr. Pickett was none of those.
He is undergoing a psychiatric evaluation now and also an evaluation to see if he's under the influence of any drugs. Those results are not yet known. He has not yet been interviewed by police -- or he was not interviewed by police while Dr. Haywood was with Mr. Pickett. So with that, we turn now to other sources of information -- Natalie.
ALLEN: Well, we also learned from Ari Fleischer, a spokesman for the White House, that Mr. Bush was in the residence at the time, was never considered in any danger. He was working out, and continued exercising after told by the Secret Service that there was an incident going on outside the White House.
Also, the vice president was working in his office in the West Wing. He continued his work as well at the West Wing. So pretty much business continued inside the White House despite what was going outside the White House.
Mrs. Bush, we learned, is in Texas right now.
Also, Ari Fleischer confirming that the Secret Service fired a shot, the shot into the knee that put this man in the hospital, and that the suspect did fire shots. The gunman fired shots at the beginning of all of this, and that's what got a Secret Service patrol that was in a vehicle on routine patrol at the scene there so quickly, because the Secret Service heard the shots as well.
Let's go to Eileen O'Connor, who's near the scene, which we learned actually changed. It was the very southernmost part of the southern tip of the White House there, Eileen, instead of at that gate we were talking about, the southeast gate.
O'CONNOR: Yes, exactly. It was about 600 yards, in fact, according to police from that southeast gate. Basically it was along the middle section of the fence, directly behind the south lawn of the White House.
Now I was just over there, and we were told by a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent that the handgun was traced, and they do know, although they won't disclose what kind of caliber and what kind of ammunition was in the handgun, but he did say that if he was unobstructed, that he would have been able, potentially, to reach the White House.
Natalie, I was just over there looking at it, and there are bushes and trees between where we are being told the gunman was on the sidewalk, again, outside the fence of the White House, and there are trees between where he was and the White House itself. So it does appear that he wouldn't have been able to hit White House.
And again, also in a briefing that we had from the U.S. Park Police, they say that they do believe that, in fact, his intent was to harm himself. And they're investigating whether or not -- they said he was brandishing a weapon at one point. They said he did aim it toward the White House, but mainly they believe that his intent was to harm himself.
They said at one point he did have the gun in his mouth. And again there was a negotiation going on between police officers and the suspect, and that basically they fired the shot, as you know, and wounded him in the knee. But again, that was, according to them, they think really mainly to prevent him from hurting himself -- Natalie.
ALLEN: Eileen O'Connor, we thank you. We want to tell you again his name is Robert Pickett. We haven't said that in a while. He's from Evansville, Indiana. We talked with someone who was his neighbor for 20 years, about an hour ago. She describes him as nice, quiet, had some problems, but she was absolutely shocked to hear that the Robert Pickett she knew was the man who's now in George Washington University Hospital following this incident.
Now over to Stephen for more.
FRAZIER: Natalie, while Eileen O'Connor was talking to us, we were looking at pictures there of Park Police and city metro police in a very solemn walk along the sidewalk. It wasn't really a ceremonial procession. What they're doing when they link arms like that and move around is looking for evidence. They're looking for shell casings or anything else that can tell them what might have happened when that gun handled by Robert Pickett was being brandished, and now we know from authorities as well as from eyewitnesses was being fired.
So this is the way investigations work in the search for evidence. It's the kind of thing John King has been describing to us for a couple of hours from his position at the White House, and we're going to turn once again to John for the latest from there -- John.
KING: Well, Stephen, we can now confirm to you that several shell casings have been recovered. We're told by law enforcement sources that the gun they are now examining is a handgun capable of firing five rounds at a time, and from one source, we're told, there were no bullets in the gun when it was recovered.
They're not certain that five shots were fired, however. We're told that they have confirmed that several shots were fired and that several casings have been recovered. The question investigators are now trying to answer is exactly where those shots were fired.
Again, the suspect has one gunshot wound, and that shot came from a Secret Service uniformed officer. So those other casings recovered from the scene, unclear, the Secret Service says, whether he was shooting up in the air, whether he was shooting randomly.
The one thing, though, we are told by sources is from the position where this happened outside of the southwest side of the White House there, he did not even have a clear view of the White House.
Again, no indication that this had anything to do with a threat or any attempt to threaten the president of the United States or anyone on the White House grounds.
FRAZIER: John King reporting live from the White House lawn. John's been ahead of the story all day actually.
ALLEN: Yes, he has, and we've heard from John. We have many correspondents still on the story. We've heard from witnesses, neighbors, of this man from Evansville, Indiana. So we'll continue to follow the story. We'll continue to play the videotape of people that described just what happened outside the White House today.
"TALKBACK LIVE" is continuing on with the story. Steve and I will bow out for now. I'm Natalie Allen.
FRAZIER: Thanks for joining us. I'm Stephen Frazier. Have a good day.
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