Vice President Cheney Accidently Shoots Hunting Companion
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RAY SUAREZ: For that, we’re joined by political reporter Jaime Powell of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. She broke the story of the shooting at the Armstrong ranch, posting it on the newspaper’s Web site yesterday morning.
Jaime Powell, welcome. Tell us how and when you found out that the vice president had accidentally shot Harry Whittington.
JAIME POWELL: Katharine Armstrong, one of the ranch’s owners, called my cell phone yesterday morning, and did not reach me immediately, finally got in touch with me late morning and explained the circumstances surrounding the shooting.
RAY SUAREZ: How is it that Katharine Armstrong would come to have your number and think of you first to call?
JAIME POWELL: Katharine is the daughter of Tobin and Anne Armstrong, influential ranchers, Republicans. I had a very good relationship, working relationship with her father. And the relationship has continued with the children.
RAY SUAREZ: Now when you first were on the phone with Katharine Armstrong, did you realize that you were the first reporter to find this news out?
JAIME POWELL: I knew I was the only person she was calling, yes.
RAY SUAREZ: When the Corpus Christi Caller-Times gets a bona fide national scoop, what happens next?
JAIME POWELL: You call both of the editors from your cell phone and then you drive back from Austin really quickly so that you can write the story.
RAY SUAREZ: Was this something that was easy to confirm? I mean, you get this tip from someone who you know through your work as a reporter. And then you have to nail it down, don’t you?
JAIME POWELL: Absolutely. I was driving, calling sources, and Catherine Garcia, my counterpart, was at the office calling the White House to confirm what Ms. Armstrong had told us.
RAY SUAREZ: And as far as you’ve been able to piece together, how did this all happen?
JAIME POWELL: They were walking three abreast. So there were Mr. Whittington, Vice President Cheney and the U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland Pam Willeford were all hunting quail in the northwest quadrant of the 50,000-acre Armstrong ranch.
Mr. Whittington stepped away from the hunting party and had come back up without announcing himself.
RAY SUAREZ: Is this rolling country, wide open and flat? Is it heavily treed?
JAIME POWELL: It’s 50,000 acres, so it’s really huge, pastures, lots of mesquite trees, brush, so there are areas of wide open country with native coastal grasses but there are also areas that have brush.
RAY SUAREZ: So you don’t always have full field of vision in every direction?
JAIME POWELL: Certainly not. Well, it depends on where they were hunting but not in all areas of the ranch.
RAY SUAREZ: What’s the protocol on the ground when you’re in open country like that?
JAIME POWELL: I don’t actually hunt quail. I’ve hunted dove. Quail are a ground bird. From what I’ve understood, he should have announced that he was coming up behind. When the vice president tracked to the side with his gun to shoot that’s when he peppered Mr. Whittington.
RAY SUAREZ: Have you been hit by bird shot?
JAIME POWELL: I’ve been peppered with bird shot. I haven’t ever had the skin broken or anything like that. But, yeah, I’ve been peppered.
RAY SUAREZ: So I guess the extent of the injury depends on how close you are to the person discharging their weapon?
JAIME POWELL: Absolutely.
RAY SUAREZ: And how is Mr. Whittington doing as far you’ve been able to tell?
JAIME POWELL: I know that Mrs. Anne Armstrong has been up to see him, as has most of the rest of the Armstrong family, and the Swiss — U.S. ambassador to Switzerland has been up too, and they’ve all assured me that he is doing well. And the hospital administration has said he’s fine also.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, Jaime Powell, thanks a lot for being with us.
JAIME POWELL: Thank you.