The WhiteHouse was placed on lockdown as Secret Service agents responded to an incident in which a man shot himself to death close to the perimeter fence of the building.
With President Donald Trump at his estate in Florida, the Secret Service said it was “responding to reports of a person who allegedly suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound” along the north fence line of the building.
The Secret Service added on Twitter: “No other reported injuries related to the incident at @WhiteHouse.”
The man was identified by the Secret Service and the city’s Metropolitan Police Department, but his name was not immediately released so authorities could notify his relatives.
The incident began at about 11:46am when the man approach the fence, “removed a concealed handgun and fired several rounds, none of which appear at this time to have been directed towards the White House,” Mason F Brayman, assistant special agent in charge for the Secret Service, said in a statement.
The incident happened while Mr Trump was at Mar-a-Lago where he was seen in golfing gear. He was due to return to Washington on Saturday evening where he was scheduled to attend the annual black-tie Gridiron media dinner. The First Lady and the couple’s son, Bannon, were also not in the White House.
White House-based journalists were put on lockdown in the press briefing room following the reports.
NBC White House correspondent Geoff Bennett, wrote: “We’re sheltering in place at the White House briefing room. A report of “shots fired“near North Lawn, per a US Secret Service agent. Trying to learn more.”
The White House press secretary said “we are aware of the situation, the president has been briefed”.
Mr. Trump was due to fly back to Washington on Saturday where he will attend the Gridiron dinner, the sort of event he was largely avoided since taking office.
The dinner is an occasion where the media and presidents have traditionally gently ribbed each other. Mr Trump last year boycotted the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner and the Gridiron event carries the potential to become awkward if the President decides to attack the media or accuse reporters of peddling “fake news”.
“I think he is in a potentially strange spot where he either attacks the press in a way that works really well at a rally but just gets crickets in that room, or he has spent the past two years calling reporters “fake news” and then suddenly admits it’s just the act,” David Litt, a former speechwriter for President Barack Obama who helped write many of Mr. Obama’s comedy speeches, told the Associated Press.