Image: Cheney interview
David Bohrer  /  White House via Reuters
Vice President Dick Cheney talks with Brit Hume of Fox News on Wednesday about the accidental shooting of his friend and fellow hunter Harry Whittington.
updated 2/16/2006 4:18:33 PM ET 2006-02-16T21:18:33

The sheriff’s department closed its investigation Thursday into Dick Cheney’s accidental shooting of a hunting partner and said no charges will be filed.

The Kenedy County Sheriff’s Department issued a report that supports Cheney’s account of the weekend accident that wounded 78-year-old lawyer Harry Whittington. Whittington, interviewed in the hospital, also assured investigators no one was drinking at the time and everyone was wearing bright orange safety gear.

Sheriff’s dispatcher Diana Mata, speaking for the department, said the case is closed and no charges will be filed. She said Sheriff Ramon Salinas III, a Democrat, would have no comment on the report.

Texas authorities have been saying all along that the shooting appeared to be an accident, and they all but ruled out the possibility of charges early on.

Whittington was peppered with bird shot in the face and chest Saturday while hunting quail with Cheney on a ranch in South Texas. He is in a Corpus Christi hospital in stable condition after suffering a mild heart attack caused by a pellet that traveled to his heart.

Cooperative with investigation
Gilberto San Miguel Jr., an investigator with the Sheriff’s Department, interviewed Cheney at the ranch a day after the shooting. San Miguel reported that Cheney shook his hand and “told me he was there to cooperate in any way with the interview.”

The vice president said the sun was setting when Whittington fired at some quail and went to find his downed birds, according to the report.

Cheney said he walked about 100 yards and met up with the hunting guide. He said a bird flew behind him, and he followed it in a counterclockwise direction, not realizing Whittington had walked up behind him to rejoin the group. He said Whittington was about 30 yards away, on lower ground, when he fired his shotgun.

“Mr. Cheney told me if Mr. Whittington was on the same ground level the injuries might have been lower on Mr. Whittington’s body,” the investigator reported.

The investigator, accompanied by another officer, briefly interviewed Whittington at his hospital room on Monday.

“I asked Mr. Whittington if we could record our conversation and Mr. Whittington requested not to be recorded due to his voice being raspy,” San Miguel wrote.

The investigator asked for an affidavit, and Whittington said he would provide one when he returned home to his office in Austin. Doctors have said Whittington will probably remain hospitalized until next week.

Before a nurse asked the officers to “hurry up so Mr. Whittington could rest,” Whittington “explained foremost there was no alcohol during the hunt and everyone was wearing the proper hunting attire of blaze orange,” San Miguel reported.

Whittington said the shooting “was just an accident,” and he was concerned all the media attention would give hunting in Texas a bad image, the report said.

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