Men recall stopping White House gunman

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON There was that defining moment outside the White House, that split second when Harry Rakosky and Ken Davis had to be either horrified tourists or heroes.

On Saturday, they chose gallantry.

Francisco Martin Duran had just fired bursts at the White House from his Chinese semiautomatic and was fumbling with the gun, possibly trying to reload as tourists tried to escape.

Adrenalin surged through their bodies as the security specialist (Rakosky) and the corrections officer-in-training (Davis) hurled themselves toward the gunman. Although they sprang from different concrete barriers, and acted on their individual whims without coordination, they were a team. Rakosky hit him high and Davis hit him low.

"He was concentrating on his weapon and started putting in another magazine and I thought that would be a good time to take him out," Rakosky, 34, said in an interview Sunday.

"I think the Lord had me at the right place at the right time."

The right place was the Pennsylvania Avenue sidewalk outside the metal White House gate, an area surrounded by concrete barriers that would stop a car bomber. The right time was about 3 p.m. on a gorgeous afternoon, when Davis was taking pictures of the presidential mansion and Rakosky was just walking by.

By coincidence Davis, 24, was actually trained to handle such situations, perhaps explaining why he acted so professionally moving behind a barrier when the man was pointing the gun, then seizing the moment to attack the second he faltered.

On Nov. 16, the Hagerstown, Md., resident will graduate from his training course and become a Maryland correctional officer, serving at a maximum security facility.

"I was not afraid. Everything moved in slow motion," Davis said in an interview Sunday.

Rakosky works for a private security firm in San Antonio and has been a private guard for embassies that were under construction.

Davis said he noticed a commotion about eight to 10 feet away, then saw a man pulling a rifle out of his trench coat.

"I stood there facing him. I was dumfounded. I thought, what could be done about this?

"He pointed the gun at me, holding it at waist level. I just kind of froze. I backed up into Pennsylvania Avenue. He turned back toward the White House and resumed firing. Then he kept firing as he was walking.

"He dropped a clip and was trying to get another one loaded. He was fumbling with it. He was nervous. I started running towards his back.

"Harry hit him high, in the back. I grabbed his legs as he went down. He kicked a tiny bit and stopped."

Rakosky said he crouched behind a concrete barricade and "waited for an opportunity to deck him. I thought it wouldn't do me any good to go after him when he had the gun pointed my way.

"At first I thought it was firecrackers. The whole mass of people turned around toward me. ... Then I saw him walking quickly my way. He was starting to concentrate on his weapon. I saw him trying to unjam it or reload it. I thought, it's now or never."

Davis and Rakosky said they did not feel like heroes, although President Clinton indirectly thanked them when speaking at a dinner Saturday night.

"The man was captured in part because ordinary citizens who were standing there did their duty, and I hope that is an example for others around the country," the president said.

Davis said he talked to his girlfriend in Hagerstown after the incident.

As Davis related the conversation: "She said never do this again."

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