Wednesday, December 21, 1994
Associated Press


A man, said to have been running toward the White House brandishing a long knife or machete, was shot today by police in the third shooting incident at or near the executive mansion in two months.

This time, no shots were aimed toward the White House. This incident occurred about 9 a.m. EST, President Clinton was in the Oval Office at the time. An aide said he was informed but that no changes were made in his schedule

The man was taken to George Washington University Hospital, where he was in critical condition and was undergoing surgery, said hospital spokesman Rich James. The spokesman identified him as Marcelino Corniel, 33, a homeless man.

He Was wounded once in the chest and once in right leg, James said.

"He was recognized by Secret Service people as someone who was (outside) the White House a lot," spending much of his time in Lafayette Park across Pennsylvania Avenue from the presidential mansion with the homeless people and protesters who live there year-round.

Others who live in the park described him as a Los Angeles native who first showed up in the park two or three months ago. Said. Robert Hines of the U.S Park Police said the man was running across Pennsylvania Avenue when officers stopped him.

"There was a struggle," Hines said. "They told the man to drop his knife two or three times. The man did not drop his knife. so he shot him.

"He refused to drop the knife. He was close enough that the officer felt threatened." Hines said the two shots were fired by park police.

"We don't know what started it," he said. "All we know is that our officers tried to stop him as he got to the edge of the White House sidewalk."

One of the man's friends, Walter Gregory Jackson, said "he left due to police harassment" about a month ago, then returned two weeks later

One of the homeless men was shouting at police, "This is not a police state, this is not a police state."

Police closed off Pennsylvania Avenue, one of the city's main thoroughfares, after the shooting.

It was the third shooting incident at the White House in two months.

Eyewitnesses said that the man, wearing a tan coat, was brandishIng what appeared to be a machete. They said he appeared to be excited and was walking toward three policeman with a knifelike object on the sidewalk immediately in front of the White House.

The police ordered him to freeze and when he continued walking, two shots were fired by police, witnesses said.

"He wouldn't stop, so they shot him," said Martha Poppink- Melcher of Tecumseh, Mich., who had just left the White House gate following a tour with the Stanford University basketball team.

Wade Varner, 37, of Oregon, who protests in Layette Park across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, said that for the Last three of four days park police have "been hassling" homeless people in Lafayette Park. including the man who was shot in front of the White House.

Until court orders intervened, some protesters built elaborate encampments bearing signs that could be read from the White House. The signs have been reduced in size and number, but one woman, Concepcion Picciotto, has been there since 1981.

"People can't take any more injustice," she said Tuesday. "I'm protesting against proliferation of weapons all over the world."

Apostle John C. Zahos -- he showed his Social Security card to verify it was his real name -- says he has been there daily for three months because he wants to give President Clinton a Bible. "I want the president to be spiritually prepared from attack from his enemies," he said, pausing between chanting hymns in full voice.

Walter Gregory Jackson, who claims to be directly descended from John Quincy Adams and James Madison, said he had a conversation with Corniel over breakfast Tuesday about police harassing the residents of the park.

"He was upset by their hypocrisy," said Jackson, more interested in pursuing a discourse about how his family had advised presidents for generations.

Courts have ruled on activities in the park. The Supreme Court said in 1984 that "sleep-ins" in parks near the White House may be banned without anyone's free-speech rights being violated.

The court said the government's interest in protecting parks located in the heart of the nation's capital outweighs the constitutional rights of the homeless or other activists.

Michael Martinez, a former assistant U.S. attorney who handled litigation connected to Lafayette Park demonstrations, noted that since the s there has been a semipermanent population there.

"Many of them came to the park with messages of nonviolence," he said. "But they obviously have not always been peaceful. There have been incidents of violence."

After the incident Tuesday morning, the park quickly returned to normal.

Searching FOR CLUES: Authorities in Lafayette Park examine the belongings of homeless man Marcelino Corniel, 33, who was shot by police after allegedly brandishing a knife Tuesday across from the White House. Corniel was in critical condition. Caption under Associated Press photograph.

Pennsylvania Ave. Closure || Peace Park