(AP) SOUTHAVEN, Miss. – A car ran a police checkpoint outside the arena where President Bush was speaking Saturday and rammed the building. Authorities swarmed the car with weapons drawn and took away the driver and at least two children who were with her.
Bush was inside the building at the time and wasn’t hurt. He left the arena shortly afterward from an exit about 40 yards from the car.
No shots were fired from or at the car, White House spokesman Trent Duffy said. “There was a vehicle that did crash into the side of the building,” Duffy said, although it was “not close” to the president’s car.
“The president was never in any danger and is keeping with his schedule,” Duffy later told reporters aboard Air Force One as Bush flew to Paducah, Ky.
He would not say whether Bush saw what happened or say what the president’s reaction was.
Mike Pearson, Secret Service agent in charge of the bureau’s Jackson field office, said the woman ran a police checkpoint outside the center and was in the custody of the Desoto County Sheriff’s Department. Bush was kept inside the center until the situation was under control, Secret Service spokesman Ann Roman said in Washington.
The driver was not immediately identified. A witness, Linda Neeley, 40, a teacher from Horn Lake, Miss., said the woman was white and in her 30s or 40s. She said the children appeared to be 8 to 10 years old.
Neeley and other witnesses said the woman drove a gray Toyota Camry through a parking lot on the same side of the DeSoto Civic Center as the president’s exit. The car jumped the curb, drove through a gate where press buses had just left and rammed the building near a loading dock.
“We heard sirens and looked and the car was flying around the corner,” said Michael Smith, 17, who was on the loading dock with about dozen workers taking a break from their food service jobs at the center.
“As soon as the car hit the wall, there were probably 20 cops on her,” Smith said.
Neeley, who was standing at the press gate taking photos, said the cars “was going pretty fast,” though no ambulances were called after the crash.
Police rushed the car immediately and dragged out the woman, handcuffed her and wisked her away. Local law enforcement officials detained the suspect, Duffy said. The children were also taken away.
The loading dock where the car hit was about 40 yards away and up a hill from the exit where Bush’s limousine left about five minutes later. Bush had given the first of four campaign speeches he had scheduled for Saturday.
JACKSON, Mississippi (AP) # A woman who rammed her car into an arena where President Bush had just given a speech was charged with aggravated assault on a police officer, authorities said Sunday.
Chief David Mitchell, spokesman for the DeSoto County sheriff’s department, said Betina Mixon was being held in the DeSoto County jail without bond and would be arraigned Monday or Tuesday.
Federal officials said Mixon, 29, had no intention of harming the president and no federal charges are pending against her.
A friend said she might have wanted to hurt herself.
Mixon, of Horn Lake, had her three children in her car when she crashed into a wall of the DeSoto County Civic Center on Saturday.
Bush had just spoken at a campaign rally for Haley Barbour, the Republican nominee for governor, and was in his limousine preparing to leave, a senior administration official said. The president left the arena less than five minutes later from an exit about 40 yards from the crash.
The Secret Service was reviewing how the car was able to drive past a police checkpoint and penetrate the security perimeter around the arena in Southaven, Mississippi, agency spokeswoman Ann Roman said.
Alicia Graves, 19, who said she had known Mixon for about 10 years, said her friend had gone through a lot the last few months.
“With marriage, her dad just dying and her brother sick and all that, I think she had a nervous breakdown,” Graves said Sunday. Mixon, a nurse’s aide, also had a hysterectomy and “was having a lot of stomach problems,” Graves said.
It had nothing to do with politics, Graves said. “She’s not even registered to vote.”
Graves and federal officials said Mixon was trying to locate her mother-in-law, who was attending the rally.
“The kids’ grandma was there inside, and she said she wanted to get her kids somewhere safe,” Graves said. “I think she wanted to try to get her to get the kids so she could go and try to hurt herself.”
Graves said Mixon’s children were now staying with relatives.