White House lockdown lifted, armed suspect in custody

Tourist take advantage of a sunny day to visit the White House in Washington, DC, USA, on May 20, 2016.
Tourist take advantage of a sunny day to visit the White House in Washington, DC, USA, on May 20, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

WASHINGTON (AFP/ REUTERS) – The White House was briefly placed on lockdown on Friday (May 20) after a man reportedly brandished a weapon at Secret Service agents on the edge of the complex, prompting the officers to shoot him. 

President Barack Obama was not on the premises at the time of the incident – the White House said he had gone to play golf at Andrews Air Force Base. 

CNN, citing an unnamed law enforcement source, said the suspect approached a security checkpoint, where he drew a weapon.  Secret Service officers shot the man, who was wounded and taken into custody. His condition was not immediately known. 

The shooting took place near 17th and E streets, near what is known as the South Lawn outside the executive mansion, which serves as the home and offices of the president.

The Secret Service reported an “adult male subject, carrying a firearm, approached an outer perimeter checkpoint accessible to the general public,” according to spokesman Robert Hoback. 

“Secret Service Uniformed Division Officers gave numerous verbal commands for the subject to stop and drop the firearm.”

“When the subject failed to comply with the verbal commands, he was shot once by a Secret Service agent and taken into custody.”

He received emergency medical attention and was taken to a hospital for treatment. 

The incident prompted the White House doors to be locked and agents in full tactical gear and brandishing automatic and heavy-caliber weapons were deployed around the complex and Lafayette Square to the north. 

The normal throng of tourists were pushed back well away from the building. 

A White House official said “no one within or associated with the White House was injured, and everyone in the White House is safe and accounted for.”

“The president has been made aware of the situation.”

Another official said that Vice President Joe Biden had been at the White House complex at the time of the shooting, but was “secure.”

Eyewitness Brett Polivka, a 26-year-old visiting from Texas who was standing near the south side of the White House with his girlfriend, said a man who looked to be in his mid-20s walked to the gate of the White House holding a silver-colored gun pointed at the ground.

“A couple of officers drew their guns, went right at him and within two or three seconds we heard a gunshot,” Polivka said, adding that he believed it was an officer’s shot. They were then cleared from the scene, Polivka said. 

The Secret Service confirmed a police involved shooting near the White House complex, reporting on Twitter that all the people under its protection were safe. The Secret Service also protects the president’s family and other top dignitaries. 

One person in critical condition was transported to hospital, said Oscar Mendez, a spokesman for the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department. 

Lafayette Square, a park near the White House, was closed to tourists. US Park Police and a Secret Service officer with a police dog kept tourists on the sidewalk north of the park.