White House shooting as police tackle knifeman Homeless man from park injured after wielding machete-like weapon on Pennsylvan ia Avenue

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It is fast becoming one of the more dangerous places to be in America. After gunfire penetrated the White House once more at the weekend, there was shooting near by again yesterday when a man with a knife was brought down by police.

The trend is unnerving, even if, so far, the First Family has not come close to being harmed.

There have now been three shootings in the vicinity of the executive mansion inside two months. And that is ignoring the light plane that was crashed into the building in September in an apparent suicide gesture.

At least yesterday, no one was aiming at the White House directly. Instead, two shots were fired at a man from the community of homeless people who are encamped year-round in Lafayette Park on the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue, across from the mansion grounds. He was identified as Marcelino Corniel. Witne s ses said the incident happened at about 9am when Mr Corniel, 33, made a run - wielding a knife or machete - at the security police positioned along the perimeter of the White House.

He was shot twice after ignoring an order to freeze and jettison his weapon. He was taken to hospital where he underwent surgery. Television tape of the incident showed the man, carrying a long knife in his left hand, standing with his feet apart confronted by at least four officers aiming handguns at him on the wide sidewalk alongside the White House fence.

He turned to look over his left shoulder and was shot as he turned back to face the officers. Two gunshots could be heard on the television tape.

The secret service, responsible for guarding the President, was already investigating a separate incident in the early hours of last Saturday when several shots were heard being fired from the area of the Ellipse, another public park, south of the White House. Four bullets were found in the White House grounds, one inside the State Dining Room.

That came after the arrest of a Colorado man, Francisco Martin Duran, on 29 October after he sprayed the north side of the mansion with an automatic rifle, pitting the walls with bullet holes. He has since been charged with attempting to assassinate the President.

That attack prompted a review of security arrangements, the findings of which will be published next month. The secret service has long favoured closing the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House, but such a move has been resisted by successive presidents.

"This is a free society. It's a democratic society. And we've got to be careful that we try to find that balance between protecting the President but also giving people access to the White House," the Chief of Staff, Leon Panetta, said.