| A youth is led away from the scene of a car crash at the Desoto county civic centre in Southaven, Mississippi, on Saturday. (Reuters)
Southaven (Mississippi), Nov. 2 (Reuters): A woman rammed a car carrying children into a building where President George W. Bush was campaigning yesterday, drawing a swarm of police in her wake before being dragged away at gunpoint.
Bush was in his limousine ready to leave the arena when the screaming woman hit the same side of the building, near the exit the President’s motorcade was to use. Bush was a level below, down a ramp about 75 metres away.
“We don’t think there was any malice against the President. ... It was a matter of very bad timing,” a DeSoto county sheriff’s department official, who wished to remain anonymous, said.
Employees of the DeSoto civic centre said they ran away from the crash, scared that it was an attempted car bombing. But the sheriff’s department official said the woman had been awake all night arguing with her husband, was late for the event and grew increasingly frustrated as she was turned away from the building at checkpoint after checkpoint. “She then took the matter into her own hands,” he said.
The sheriff’s department charged the woman, Betina Mixon, 29, with aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer. While Bush was apparently in no direct danger during the security scare, the incident raised questions about how well the President is protected at a time when he is leading a war on terrorism.
“The President was never in any danger whatsoever,” White House spokesperson Trent Duffy said.
The Secret Service, which is responsible for protecting the President, said they had not filed any federal charges but were still investigating the incident. After interviewing Mixon, they did not think she intended to harm the President. “She had no direction of interest toward the President,” Secret Service spokeswoman Ann Roman said.
Several minutes after the incident, the President’s motorcade left the scene from the exit near the crash.
Bush kept to his schedule, travelling to Paducah, Kentucky, for the second of four speeches to rally support for Republican gubernatorial candidates.
Mixon, who lives a few miles from the 10,000-seat convention centre in a poor area of the county, had two young children in the car with her.
Television footage showed helmeted police officers surrounding the car and struggling with the blond-haired woman who was pushed to the ground and later led away, apparently resisting.
“Bush had to have seen what happened,” said Chad Payton, 18, a centre employee who was waiting to watch Bush leave.
Security officials had chased the car as it crossed a VIP parking lot, breaching the security perimeter around the building, witnesses said. Some security personnel were seen running with guns drawn toward the exit of the arena, where Bush had given a speech.
In Washington, a law enforcement official said the woman disobeyed a local police officer’s command to stop. She hit a curb, her tires blew out and the car then crashed into the building, the official said.