I lean into the telephone and say, "I'm curious about this Katharine Armstrong. She called the Corpus Christi paper and told them Cheney shot a hunting companion and that's how the story got out."
"That's what I heard," says Nueces County assistant district attorney Mark Skurka.
"Isn't that a bit odd? That Armstrong was the person who reported the incident and she wasn't in the hunting party."
"I don't know why she did that," Skurka says. "Carlos [Carlos Valdez, Nueces County district attorney] and I were talking about it earlier and he said, 'Well, it's on private property. They treated the guy, took him to the hospital.'" Skurka sighs, "Hell, I don't know how it works in the press corps, who they want to report the accident, but...do you know how it works here, jurisdictionally?"
"Our DA office covers Nueces County, which has about 400,000 people," Skurka says. "Corpus Christi is the big city. South of us is Kleberg County, home of the King Ranch. The county seat is Kingsville, which has about 30,000 people, and it's got Texas A&M Kingsville, and that has about 25,000 people. And then you go south of that to Kenedy County where the Armstrong ranch is. There's about 300 people who live in that whole county. So, when you go by the town of Armstrong there's nothing there except a post office. The closest town to Armstrong Ranch is Sarita. Sarita is the county seat of Kenedy County, and I bet you there are no more than ten buildings in the town."
I ask, "Who has the prosecutorial and police powers for that area?"
"Police powers would be Kenedy County sheriff," Skurka says. "It's a small operation, three to five officers. Now, Kenedy County has their own county attorney's office. They handle criminal misdemeanor cases like criminal trespass, DWI, and stuff like that. We handle the felonies."
"You have jurisdiction over felonies in that area?" That would include mafia-style murder.
"Yes," Skurka says. "They don't have a lot of crime. We send our prosecutors down there once in awhile. We probably have 10, 20 felonies a year. Not very much. Dope cases, running dope up and down [U.S. Highway 77], they intercept those once in awhile."
No wonder Cheney picked this place for gunplay.
"The ranch is self-contained. They've got their own landing strip. Guests, probably, never have to leave the ranch." Skurka laughs, "Fifty thousand acres," and laughs again, "I go hunting in a place that's 52 acres."
"If I was out shooting quail and shot someone, wounding his face, neck, torso, and the victim wound up in a hospital's intensive care unit, if that happened to me there would be police crawling all over my life."
"This is South Texas," Skurka says. "Accidents happen. I mean, I've had friends get shot. We're Texans, we like our guns. My boss said, 'Our office is not involved unless local law enforcement request us, and we're not expecting that to happen.' You got to look at two things. Number one, does the victim want to press charges? And then, the circumstance of the event. I don't see anything to indicate that it was anything but a hunting accident."
Okay, the shooting occurred around 5:30 p.m. on Saturday. Cheney has a problem, since the shooter is responsible for his shot, period, full stop.
Cheney schemes for the next 21 hours, decides to have Katharine Armstrong, a ranch owner and republican lobbyist, tell the story. The AP reports that, "Armstrong said everyone at the ranch was so 'focused' on Whittington's health Saturday that it wasn't until Sunday she called the Corpus Christi Caller-Times to report the accident..." Yes, I see it. Cheney is focusing on the accident, not taking food or drink, for 21 straight hours.
Then, Armstrong spins the story of the accident, blaming the victim, saying that Whittington stepped out of the hunting line to retrieve a dead bird and failed to call out that he was returning to the line. Step out of line, get shot in the face.
Then, you get Whittington to say he won't sue. Then you get someone to minimize his gunshot wounds. Peter Banko, vice president and administrator of Christus Spohn Hospital Memorial, got down on his knees, and while licking reporters' shoes, said this about Whittington, "He is stable and doing well. It was almost like he was spending time with me in my living room." Then catch a plane out of that jurisdiction and go into hiding.
Turns out, Whittington was riddled with over 200 of Cheney's pellets and at least one of them lodged in his heart, causing a "minor" heart attack. If Whittington dies, we'll get to see exactly how much juice Cheney has. It would take massive, legendary juice for his bullshit story to survive a real investigation.