WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) — Gunfire erupted at a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia early Wednesday morning injuring a U.S. Congressman and three others.
House Majority Whip Congressman Steve Scalise was shot in the hip while fielding balls during batting practice. The 51-year-old Republican from Louisianna was taken to George Washington University Hospital where he underwent surgery and is listed in critical condition. His office had said previously that he was in stable condition.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) June 14, 2017
The shooting happened during an early morning practice for Thursday’s annual charity Congressional Baseball Game which pits Democrats against Republicans. The players are members of Congress and their aides.
The three other victims were former congressional staffer turned lobbyist Matt Mika, Zachary Barth, a staffer for Rep. Roger Williams, and a Capitol Police officer. Another police officer and congressman were not shot but did sustain injuries.
President Donald Trump tweeted out his condolences:
Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, a true friend and patriot, was badly injured but will fully recover. Our thoughts and prayers are with him.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 14, 2017
Just after 11:30 a.m., the president made a four-minute televised statement on the shooting.
“Many lives would have been lost if not for the heroic actions of the two Capitol police officers who took down the gunman despite sustaining gunshot wounds during a very, very brutal assault,” said Mr. Trump.
The President also called for unity.
“We are strong when we are unified and work together for the common good,” said the President.
Late Wednesday night, Trump made a surprise visit to the hospital where Rep. Scalise is recovering.
Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot during a public appearance near Tucson, Arizona in 2011, tweeted out:
My heart is with my former colleagues, their families & staff, and the US Capitol Police- public servants and heroes today and every day.
— Gabrielle Giffords (@GabbyGiffords) June 14, 2017
The alleged shooter, identified as 66-year-old James Hodgkinson from Belleville, IL, emerged from behind the third base dugout with both a rifle and a pistol. CBS News confirmed he used an M4 assault rifle.
“All of a sudden we heard a very loud shot,” said Senator Jeff Flake from Arizona. “Everybody thought that sounds like a gun. The gunman, by the third base dugout, had a clear view of the field and everybody on it. Then all of the sudden a couple of more shots and we knew what it was.”
More than 50 shots were fired.
“We climbed into the dugout and got our people engaged calling 911,” said Flake. “It was at least ten minutes because we were applying pressure to one of the staffers who had been shot in the leg. We could see Steve Scalise out in the field. He dragged himself after he was shot near second base about 10 to 15 yards out into the field just to be a little further away from the gunman.”
Hodgkinson was killed in a shootout with police. Hodgkinson’s social media accounts show he supported Sen. Bernie Sanders and attempted to join his campaign for president.
“We were going through our normal practice of taking batting practice, playing in the field, I had just gotten to the batting cages when I heard a gunshot,” said Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-OH. “Everyone just started getting down and then we realized, after a few more shots, that Steve Scalise had been hit and people were running for cover. There was a guy behind the third base dugout shooting a rifle. He moved from the outfield side to the infield side. He then moved some more, behind a building, still firing at people. Fortunately, the Secret Service was here because Steve Scalise was here. If they had not been here it would have been far worse. Then the guy moved again and he was firing a pistol.”
Wenstrup, who served in Iraq as a surgeon, tended to Scalise’s injury until the paramedics arrived. Flake said he grabbed Scalise’s phone and called his wife because he didn’t want her to find out that her husband had been shot by watching the news.
Capitol police, which were assigned to Scalise’s security detail, and the Alexandria police returned fire and Hodgkinson was injured. He was taken to the hospital where he died.
Rep. Tom Rooney, R-FL was at the practice but left minutes before the shooting to take his kids to school.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you,” said Rooney when asked if he had a message for Scalise.
Florida lawmakers offered their support on Twitter:
We are all Americans first, regardless of party. We are all on the same team. And we’re praying for those injured in this heinous attack.
— Bill Nelson (@SenBillNelson) June 14, 2017
— Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (@RosLehtinen) June 14, 2017
Unbelievable that someone would attempt the life of an honorable, gracious, positive person. Prayers for @SteveScalise + staffer injured.
— Mario Diaz-Balart (@MarioDB) June 14, 2017
Rep. Joe Barton from Texas said the quick actions of the Capitol police, the Alexandria police, and the Secret Service saved many lives. Barton said among those saved was his young son who was at the practice.
“There are too many guns on the street. We lose 93 million Americans a day to gun violence,” said Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
Law enforcement is treating the shooting as a criminal matter, not an act of terrorism. The FBI said it was too soon to say if this was an assassination attempt.
“Since there was only one shooter you have to assume he knew what he was doing. Whether he was targeting certain members, we don’t know,” said Flake.
House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi addressed the House of Representatives following the shooting.
“We are united in our anguish,” Ryan said. “An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.”
Because Scalise is a member of the House leadership, all votes scheduled for today have been canceled. The White House has also canceled President Trump’s only scheduled event for the day.