By Abebe Gellaw
The U.S. Secret Service had announced on Monday that the embassy gunman was in custody. According to Ethiopian Embassy sources, embassy officials immediately complained that the gunman’s diplomatic immunity, as per the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, was violated. The gunman was freed later in the day after facing grilling by U.S. Secret Service. Established in 1865, the federal agency is mandated to protect the U.S. President, Vice President and visiting foreign leaders and dignitaries. The elite force also conducts criminal investigations.
In the aftermath of the shooting incident, Brian Leary, spokesman of U.S. Secret Service, issued the following statement to members of the media:
“At approximately 1215 pm today, U.S. Secret Service Uniformed Division received information of possible shots fired in the vicinity of the Ethiopian Embassy, 3506 International Drive NW, Washington, D.C.Secret Service Uniformed Division Officers immediately responded and detained an individual believed to be the shooter. There have been no reported injuries as a result of this incident.MPD, State Department, and USSS Uniformed Division are on scene.”
Nicole Mainor of the U.S. Secret Service told this reporter that further information on this matter should be obtained from the State Department. She referred any questions related to the case to the State Department and declined to give further details.
In a brief statement, State Department spokesperson, Jen Psaki, said that the Department of State took the incident involving the use of firearm very seriously. “The Department is in contact with the Embassy of Ethiopia and the U.S. Secret Service,” she noted.
The investigation into the criminal incident is ongoing. The State Department is in talks with the Ethiopian Embassy on the fate of Wedi Weyni, who is likely to face either prosecution or deportation because of the criminal nature of the incident. The department is expected to give further updates in the next few days.
Wodi Woyni, a member of the ruling ethnic junta, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, was captured on video while dramatically brandishing a gun and shooting at peaceful and unarmed protesters.
The protesters said that they went to the embassy to protest recent mass killings in the Ogaden and Gambella regions as well as the detention of a number of journalists, bloggers and activists who have faced trumped-up terrorism charges.