On the Scene at the White House Shooting

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Security officials take an alleged gunman into the emergency room

TIME White House correspondent John Dickerson, who'd just left a South Lawn press conference about President Bush's tax-cut plan, was on his way to the office when the news broke: A man, waving a handgun in the direction of the White House and threatening to kill himself, had been shot by Secret Service agents. The alleged gunman, later identified as Robert Pickett of Evansville, Ind., was in surgery early Wednesday afternoon at George Washington University Hospital. At an afternoon press conference, held after the arrest, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer emphasized that the President had never been in danger. However, as Dickerson reports, four hours after the event D.C. was still swarming with cops.

Q: So what's the scene where you are now?

Dickerson: I'm walking down past 15th Street, which is not at all close to the White House. And here we've got two ambulances and about 15 police cars in a two-block area. However, at 1:30, when we got to the White House for the press conference [about the shooting], it was hard to tell anything had happened at all. Except for a few more black Secret Service sedans and vans than usual, it was business as usual.

Q: What was happening at the White House when the gunman appeared?

Dickerson:The President was apparently inside the White House working out. And the Secret Service took its regular measures, which of course they don't detail. The Vice President reportedly kept working in his office while all this was going on.

Q: Who were those people we saw on TV filing out of the White House after the shooting?

Dickerson: Those were the people on the White House tour — it's standard procedure to get everyone out in case of an emergency.

Q: Were the families who were brought in for the President's tax-break presentation still inside?

Dickerson: Ari [Fleischer] didn't seem to know if the tax families were still around. Some of them might have been, but they'd finished their official visit. The weird thing is that we were all out on the South Lawn this morning for the presentation, and this guy was captured on the southernmost point of the lawn, where people line up to look at the White House — you can get the best view of the building from there. It makes you wonder, though: Could someone with a handgun get a clear shot from that angle?

Q: The shooter was on the street, just outside the fence surrounding the lawn?

Dickerson: Yes, he was just beyond the fence on E Street, which, unlike the chunk of Pennsylvania Avenue that runs right in front of the White House, is rarely closed off.

Do you think they'll change security measures at the White House after this?

Dickerson: It's hard to say. But President Bush has been known to run around the outdoor track that loops around southernmost point of the lawn, right about where the gunman was captured. So it will be interesting to see if he heads back out there again, or sticks with his usual workout routine — inside.