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Man shot by Cheney: 'Accidents do and will happen'

Vice president notes Whittington's recovery in Wyoming speech

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Harry Whittington, 78, speaks Friday outside a Corpus Christi hospital for the first time since the shooting.

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (CNN) -- Harry Whittington said Friday he was sorry for what Dick Cheney and his family have "had to go through" after the vice president shot him in a weekend hunting accident.

The 78-year-old Bush-Cheney campaign donor spoke briefly to reporters upon his release from a Corpus Christi hospital, but he took no questions.

Cheney sprayed Whittington with birdshot on his face and upper torso in Saturday's hunting accident. Whittington suffered a mild heart attack Tuesday, doctors said, after a piece of birdshot in his body migrated to a heart muscle.

"We all assume certain risks in whatever we do," Whittington said. "Whatever activities we pursue and regardless of how experienced, careful and dedicated we are, accidents do and will happen." (Watch Whittington thank doctors for caring for his wounds -- 3:25)

Whittington, wearing a suit and tie, appeared with several bruises on his face and neck. His discharge from the hospital came earlier than expected.

"My family and I are deeply sorry for all that Vice President Cheney and his family have had to go through this week," Whittington said.

Minutes later in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Cheney delivered his first speech since the shooting in an appearance before the state Legislature.

"Thankfully, Harry Whittington is on the mend and doing very well," Cheney said after receiving a standing ovation from lawmakers. Cheney, who grew up in Casper, Wyoming, said returning home was "a wonderful experience" after a "very long week."

The vice president remained publicly silent about the shooting for four days until a television interview Wednesday when he accepted blame, saying it was "one of the worst days of my life." (Transcript)

Whittington's departure from the hospital comes a day after President Bush and local authorities said they were satisfied with Cheney's account of how he accidentally shot his friend while quail hunting on a south Texas ranch.

Bush said he "thought the vice president handled the issue just fine, and I thought his explanation yesterday was a powerful explanation."

"I'm satisfied with the explanation he gave," Bush told reporters after meeting with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

Bush also said he knew Whittington, an Austin attorney and major player in Texas politics, and that he and Cheney were concerned about the man's condition.

"It profoundly affected [Cheney]. Yesterday when he was here in the Oval Office I saw the deep concern he had about a person who he wounded," the president said. "And now our concerns are directed toward the recovery of our friend."

Meanwhile, Kenedy County Sheriff Ramon Salinas said that authorities have deemed the shooting a "mere hunting accident" and that no charges will be filed.

Salinas' remarks came shortly after his office released a report in which Whittington insisted alcohol played no role in the shooting. Cheney acknowledged in his TV interview to having a beer at lunch several hours before the shooting.

The attorney also was concerned the accident could give Texas hunting a bad name, according to the report.

"Mr. Whittington again reiterated that this incident was just an accident," the report stated.

Though hunting accidents occasionally warrant warnings or citations, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department spokesman Aaron Reed said criminal charges are not filed in shootings that authorities determine to be accidental.

"There are no charges for hunting accidents," Reed wrote in an e-mail, explaining that citations or warnings are sometimes issued for code violations.

A state game warden issued a warning to Cheney for hunting without a required stamp on his license, and the vice president's office later submitted the $7 payment for the stamp.

In Thursday's report, Chief Deputy Gilberto San Miguel Jr. said that he went to the Armstrong Ranch about 8 a.m. Sunday -- more than 14 hours after the shooting, which took place around 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

Police knew of the shooting Saturday, but authorities didn't interview anyone until the following day when San Miguel talked to Cheney and other witnesses at the ranch.

Ranch owner Katharine Armstrong was the first to notify the media about the shooting, calling a reporter at the Corpus Christi Caller-Times newspaper on Sunday. The national media didn't learn of the accident until a story appeared on the paper's Web site Sunday afternoon.

CNN's Ed Lavandera contributed to this report.

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