The man shot by US Vice President Dick Cheney experienced a heart irregularity after birdshot moved into his heart and was moved back to the intensive care unit for further treatment this morning.
Texas attorney Harry Whittington was recovering and will be monitored for seven days to make sure more shot doesn’t move to other organs or that move into other part of his body, hospital officials said.
“However some of the bird shot appears to have moved and lodged into part of his heart in what we would say is a minor heart attack,” Christus Spohn Corpus Christi-Memorial hospital administrator Peter Banko said in a news conference.
White House physicians who attended to Whittington at the scene after Cheney accidentally shot him were involved in the treatment, the officials said.
Cheney was in violation of the game laws of Texas when he accidentally shot and wounded his hunting companion because his license lacked a required hunting stamp.
Cheney wounded Whittington in the face, neck and chest on Saturday, apparently because he didn’t see Whittington approach as he fired toward a covey of quail on a southern Texas ranch.
Hunting safety experts interviewed yesterday agreed it would have been a good idea for Whittington to have announced himself as he approached Cheney, which he apparently did not do, according to a witness. Under the rules of hunting, however, they stressed that the shooter is responsible for knowing his surroundings and avoiding hitting others.
“We always stress to anybody that before you make any kind of a shot, it’s incumbent upon the shooter to assess the situation and make sure it’s a safe shot,” said Mark Birkhauser, president-elect of the International Hunter Education Association and hunter education co-ordinator in New Mexico. “Once you squeeze that trigger, you can’t bring that shot back.”
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said Cheney and Whittington would be given warnings for violating game law by not having an upland game bird stamp, a requirement that went into effect in September. Cheney had the required non-resident hunting license, the vice president’s office said last night in a statement, and he has sent a 7 check to the state to cover the cost of the stamp.
Cheney, an experienced hunter, has not commented publicly about the accident. He avoided reporters yesterday by leaving a White House meeting with United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan before the press was escorted in.
President George Bush’s chief political aide, Karl Rove, told Bush about Cheney’s involvement in the accident shortly before 8pm on Saturday, about an hour after it occurred, but the White House did not disclose the accident until Sunday afternoon, and then only in response to press questions. Press secretary Scott McClellan said he did not know until Sunday morning that the vice president had shot someone.
Gilbert San Miguel, chief deputy sheriff for Kenedy County, said his department’s investigation had found that alcohol was not a factor in the shooting, but he would not elaborate how that had been determined. The Texas Parks and Wildlife hunting accident report also said neither Cheney nor Whittington appeared to be under the influence of intoxicants or drugs.
Cheney and another hunter, Pamela Willeford, the US ambassador to Switzerland, moved on to another covey of quail – Armstrong estimated it was roughly 100-150 yards away – and Cheney fired on a bird just as Whittington rejoined them. She said Whittington was in tall grass and thick brush about 30 yards away, which made it difficult for Cheney to see him, although both men were wearing bright-orange safety vests.