WASHINGTON -- Kenneth Davis arrived at the White House on Oct. 29 too late for a tour. The rest is now history.
While stuck outside the fence on Pennsylvania Avenue, he watched a man firing a series of rounds at the mansion from a semiautomatic rifle. As the gunman dropped an empty magazine and prepared to reload, Mr. Davis joined in tackling and holding him down until Secret Service agents arrived to arrest him.
Yesterday, the 24-year-old Maryland corrections officer from Hagerstown finally made it inside the White House, for a hero's welcome and thanks, a handshake and five to 10 minutes of small talk with President Clinton.
Sauntering from the West Wing lobby afterward, a gray-suited Mr. Davis told the waiting microphones that the president "is an awesome man."
With him at the White House meeting was Harry Rakoski, 34, of San Antonio, Texas, who had been the first to jump the gunman, hitting him "hard on the back," as Mr. Davis tells it. Mr. Rakoski, whom Mr. Davis didn't know before the incident but with whom he plans to go fishing if he travels to Texas, avoided the news media after the White House meeting.
In a sour note, Robert Edward Haines, 47, a self-described presidential candidate and "information broker" who had also helped restrain the gunman, was not included.
"Robert Haines was there and trying to get the gun out of the individual's hands," Mr. Davis said. "I'm not sure why he wasn't here."
Ernie Gibble, of the White House media affairs staff, said he wasn't sure what the "cutoff point was" for those included in the meeting, but said "these two gentlemen [Mr. Davis and Mr. Rakoski] had the primary role in tackling" the assailant. Mr. Haines could not be reached for comment.
Yesterday's meeting was, from Mr. Davis' account, short and simple. The president, who had previously called him from Air Force One, "thanked us for a job well done. He just shook our hands and was doing some small talk. . . . He was asking where we were from and how we liked it around here basically."
Still in training as a corrections officer, Mr. Davis has not yet had to restrain any unruly prisoners.
The White House shooting, he said, was unlike anything he had experienced.
The suspect in the White House shooting, Francisco Martin Duran, 26, of Colorado Springs, Colo., has been charged in the Oct. 29 incident. As Mr. Davis describes the scene, the gunman opened fire just as some people were seen walking into the mansion.
"I feel he was shooting at somebody," he said. "I can't judge what was going through his mind."