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Vice President Dick Cheney, a darling of the National Rifle Association and a strong advocate of guns and hunting, shot and injured a man during a weekend quail hunting trip in Texas.
Harry Whittington, 78, was "alert and doing fine" after Cheney sprayed him with shotgun pellets on Saturday while the two were hunting at the Armstrong Ranch in south Texas, said property owner Katharine Armstrong.
Armstrong said Whittington was mostly injured on his right side, with the pellets hitting his cheek, neck and chest, and was taken to the hospital by ambulance.
Whittington was in stable condition Sunday, said Yvonne Wheeler, spokeswoman for the Christus Spohn Health System.
Cheney’s spokeswoman, Lea Anne McBride, said the vice president was with Whittington, a lawyer from Austin, Texas, and his wife at the hospital on Sunday afternoon.
Armstrong said she was watching from a car while Cheney, Whittington and another hunter got out of the vehicle to shoot at a covey of quail late afternoon on Saturday.
Whittington shot a bird and went to look for it in the tall grass, while Cheney and the third hunter walked to another spot and found a second covey.
Whittington "came up from behind the vice president and the other hunter and didn’t signal them or indicate to them or announce himself," Armstrong told the Associated Press in an interview.
"The vice president didn’t see him," she continued. "The covey flushed and the vice president picked out a bird and was following it and shot. And by god, Harry was in the line of fire and got peppered pretty good."
The shooting was first reported by the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.
She said Whittington was bleeding but not very seriously injured, and Cheney was very apologetic.
"It broke the skin," she said. "It knocked him silly. But he was fine. He was talking. His eyes were open. It didn’t get in his eyes or anything like that."
She said emergency personnel traveling with Cheney tended to Whittington, holding his face and cleaning up the blood.
"Fortunately, the vice president has got a lot of medical people around him and so they were right there and probably more cautious than we would have been," she said. "The vice president has got an ambulance on call, so the ambulance came."
Armstrong said Cheney is a longtime friend who comes to the ranch to hunt about once a year. She said Whittington is a regular, too, but she thought it was the first time the two men hunted together.
"This is something that happens from time to time. You now, I’ve been peppered pretty well myself," said Armstrong.