When Harry Rakosky saw a man in a trench coat shooting at the White House in October, he crouched behind a cement barrier on Pennsylvania Avenue NW and waited until the man paused to reload a semiautomatic rifle.
"I thought that would be a good point to do something," Rakosky, 34, testified yesterday in U.S. District Court in Washington. "I told my feet to move, and I went and tackled him."
Rakosky, who works for a security company in San Antonio, said he pinned the man, holding him close so he could not grab another weapon or use the one he was carrying. After Secret Service officers arrived to help, Rakosky said he simply stood up, checked to see whether he had been injured and tucked his shirt back in his pants.
But a videotape, played in slow motion in the court, showed that Rakosky's rendition of the Oct. 29 shooting was understated. In it, the gunman, identified as Francisco Martin Duran, appeared to be fumbling with an ammunition clip, trying to reload the gun. As Rakosky ran toward him and leaped, Duran pointed the weapon at Rakosky's chest and abdomen.
Under questioning by prosecutor Brenda Johnson, Rakosky said he doesn't remember feeling the gun hit him, although he said he had a mark on his stomach from it. "I probably landed on it," he said.
If Rakosky had not tackled Duran, Secret Service Officer Carl Persons would have shot the gunman in the back, the officer testified at Duran's trial.
Duran, 26, a hotel upholsterer from Colorado, is charged with trying to assassinate President Clinton and with various firearms and assault offenses. His attorneys, A.J. Kramer and Leigh A. Kenny, have acknowledged that Duran opened fire on the White House. But they argue that he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and was not aiming at the president but at the building as a political symbol.
But four witnesses -- including two middle school students from Indiana who were sightseeing at the time of the shooting -- raised the possibility that Duran might have thought, as they did, that Clinton was on the White House lawn.
Robert DeCamp, 14, testified that when he saw a group of men in dark business suits standing on the lawn, he pointed out one of them to a friend and said he looked like Clinton.
DeCamp said the shooting started immediately after he pointed at the men on the lawn. He said he turned toward the gunfire and saw a man dressed in a trench coat and holding a rifle standing about 13 feet away. Brent Owens, DeCamp's friend, testified that the gunman appeared to be aiming the gun at the men on the lawn.
In other testimony, the prosecutors continued to trace Duran's activities just before the shooting. Only days before, witnesses testified, Duran answered a personal advertisement, went on a date and tried to persuade another woman he met in a hotel hot tub to go out with him.
Helen Malone, of Ashburn, Va., said Duran answered her personal ad -- "witch seeking magician" -- in The Washington Post in mid-October. After they spoke by telephone, Malone and Duran met at the Tysons Corner I mall, saw the movie "Pulp Fiction" and went to dinner at Magic Pan restaurant.
Malone told the jury in U.S. District Judge Charles R. Richey's courtroom that, during their date, Duran was polite and acted normally. Under questioning by Kenny, Malone said that at one point Duran told her that he was going to become Jesus Christ.