A uniformed Secret Service officer shot a person who drew a weapon just outside the White House Friday afternoon, a U.S. law enforcement official said Friday.
The shooting happened within view of sightseers outside the front of the building, near sidewalks crowded with families, school groups and government workers.
The White House was briefly placed on a security alert. President Barack Obama was away playing golf, but Vice President Joe Biden was in the White House complex and was secured during the lockdown, his office said.
The Secret Service later tweeted that everyone it protects was safe.
First Lady Michelle Obama was wrapping up a speech in downtown Washington at midday Friday. Her office would not say where she and the Obama daughters were at the time.
The U.S. law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity for lack of authorization to release the information, said the person approached the Secret Service officer and drew a weapon, and then the officer opened fire.
A single patient was taken to a nearby hospital in critical condition shortly after 3 p.m., said Doug Buchanan, a spokesman for D.C. Fire and EMS.
Sightseer Jenna Noelle of Austin, Texas, said she had just taken a photo in front of the White House when she noticed a man harassing an agent.
Then, “as we were walking away we heard a shot fired, then some people started running away and agents had guns and were evacuating people.”
“I had a panic attack,” she added. “I’m doing OK now, but it was pretty freaky to be right there a second before it happened. Not really the experience we wanted,” she added.
U.S. Park Police said the shooting happened on West Executive Drive, which runs perpendicular to Pennsylvania Avenue, between the White House and the Old Executive Office Building.
Community activist Akil Patterson said he heard a single gunshot while waiting in a security line. Within seconds, a security guard shouted to drop to the ground, and then he was evacuated to the street.
Patterson said he was at the White House to get a presidential award for his work with Baltimore teens.
He says his community work aims to “get rid of the notion that gun violence is the answer.”