Cheney accidentally shoots fellow hunter
Texas lawyer struck in face, chest with birdshot
From Dana Bash
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and wounded a campaign contributor during a weekend quail hunt on a friend's South Texas ranch, local authorities and the vice president's office said Sunday.
The wounded man, 78-year-old Harry Whittington, was in intensive care at a Corpus Christi hospital after being hit by several pellets of birdshot Saturday afternoon, hospital spokesman Peter Banko told CNN.
"He's doing well and in stable condition today," Banko said.
Whittington, an Austin attorney who gave $1,000 to President Bush's 2000 campaign and $2,000 to his 2004 re-election bid, was among a handful of people accompanying the vice president when the accident occurred Saturday afternoon.
Cheney, 65, visited him Sunday afternoon at the hospital, "and was pleased to see he is doing fine and in good spirits," Cheney spokeswoman Lee Anne McBride said. (Watch when Cheney's office decided to release information -- 1:23)
The shooting occurred about 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Kenedy County Sheriff Ray Salinas said. He said his deputies are investigating the shooting but consider it an accident.
Cheney, an avid hunter, was shooting at a covey of quail on the Armstrong Ranch near Kingsville, about 30 miles southwest of Corpus Christi. The ranch's owner, Katharine Armstrong, said Whittington was about 30 yards from Cheney when the vice president fired.
Armstrong, who was with the group when the accident occurred, said Whittington was "peppered" with birdshot. Pellets hit him in the face and chest, but he never lost consciousness, she said. (Watch how a witness described the accident -- 6:34)
She said Whittington had just shot a quail and had dropped back to retrieve it. He was hit upon rejoining the group and "apparently came up unannounced" as Cheney prepared to fire.
Whittington, a prominent Texas Republican, has been active in state politics since the 1960s and served as chairman of the state Board of Corrections from 1979 to 1985.
In 1999, then-Gov. George W. Bush named him to the state Funeral Services Commission, which had been stung by allegations of widespread corruption and mismanagement in the industry.
Armstrong told CNN that Whittington was a guest of hers, not someone Cheney invited, and she did not know whether the two men had met before.
The vice president, his Secret Service detail and other companions rushed to the wounded man's aid, Armstrong said.
Similar accidents occur "not frequently, but often" among hunters in the area, Salinas said. He said an ambulance that was posted at the ranch while Cheney was visiting took Whittington to the hospital.
Armstrong said Cheney was firing a 28-gauge shotgun, a small-bore weapon commonly used for hunting birds. Cheney has come to her ranch to hunt quail once a year for at least 15 years, and she called him "a very conscientious hunter."
"I would shoot with Dick Cheney everywhere, anywhere, and not think twice about it," she said. But she said, "The nature of quail shooting ensures that this will happen. It goes with the turf."
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