By DOUG THOMPSON
Feb 22, 2006, 07:35
Secret Service agents guarding Vice President Dick Cheney when he
shot Texas lawyer Harry Whittington on a hunting outing two weeks ago
say Cheney was "clearly inebriated" at the time of the shooting.
Agents observed several members of the hunting party, including the
Vice President, consuming alcohol before and during the hunting
expedition, the report notes, and Cheney exhibited "visible signs" of
impairment, including slurred speech and erratic actions.
According to those who have talked with the agents and others
present at the outing, Cheney was drunk when he gunned down his friend
and the day-and-a-half delay in allowing Texas law enforcement
officials on the ranch where the shooting occurred gave all members of
the hunting party time to sober up.
We talked with a number of administration officials who are privy
to inside information on the Vice President's shooting "accident" and
all admit Secret Service agents and others say they saw Cheney consume
far more than the "one beer' he claimed he drank at lunch earlier that
"This was a South Texas hunt," says one White House aide. "Of
course there was drinking. There's always drinking. Lots of it."
One agent at the scene has been placed on administrative leave and
another requested reassignment this week. A memo reportedly written by
one agent has been destroyed, sources said Wednesday afternoon.
Cheney has a long history of alcohol abuse, including two
convictions of driving under the influence when he was younger.
Doctors tell me that someone like Cheney, who is taking blood thinners
because of his history of heart attacks, could get legally drunk now
after consuming just one drink.
If Cheney was legally drunk at the time of the shooting, he could
be guilty of a felony under Texas law and the shooting, ruled an
accident by a compliant Kenedy County Sheriff, would be a prosecutable
But we will never know for sure because the owners of the Armstrong
Ranch, where the shooting occurred, barred the sheriff's department
from the property on the day of the shooting and Kenedy County Sheriff
Ramon Salinas III agreed to wait until the next day to send deputies
in to talk to those involved.
Sheriff's Captain Charles Kirk says he went to the Armstrong Ranch
immediately after the shooting was reported on Saturday, February 11
but both he and a game warden were not allowed on the 50,000-acre
property. He called Salinas who told him to forget about it and return
to the station.
"I told him don't worry about it. I'll make a call," Salinas said.
The sheriff claims he called another deputy who moonlights at the
Armstrong ranch, said he was told it was "just an accident" and made
the decision to wait until Sunday to investigate.
"We've known these people for years. They are honest and wouldn't
call us, telling us a lie," Salinas said.
Like all elected officials in Kenedy County, Salinas owes his job
to the backing and financial support of Katherine Armstrong, owner of
the ranch and the county's largest employer.
"The Armstrongs rule Kenedy County like a fiefdom," says a former
Secret Service officials also took possession of all tests on
Whittington's blood at the hospitals where he was treated for his
wounds. When asked if a blood alcohol test had been performed on
Whittington, the doctors who treated him at Christus Spohn Hospital
Memorial in Corpus Christi or the hospital in Kingsville refused to
answer. One admits privately he was ordered by the Secret Service to
"never discuss the case with the press."
It's a sure bet that is a private doctor who treated the victim of
Cheney's reckless and drunken actions can't talk to the public then
any evidence that shows the Vice President drunk as a skunk will never
see the light of day.
(Updated at 7:21 p.m. EST to reflect new information)