ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A rifle-wielding attacker opened fire on Republican lawmakers at a congressional baseball practice Wednesday, wounding House GOP Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and several others as congressmen and aides dove for cover. The assailant, prepared with “a lot of ammo,” fought a gun battle with police before he, too, was shot and later died.
Scalise dragged himself off the infield leaving a trail of blood as colleagues rushed to his assistance.
Capitol Police officers who were in Scalise’s security detail wounded the shooter, who was taken into custody. In all, five people were taken to area hospitals, including the suspect, Alexandria police said. The shooter later died of his injuries, President Donald Trump told the nation from the White House.
“Everyone on that field is a public servant,” Trump said. “Their sacrifice makes democracy possible.”
Scalise, 51, the No. 3 House Republican leader first elected to the House in 2008, was in stable condition and undergoing surgery.
A government official identified the shooter as an Illinois man named James. T. Hodgkinson. The official was not authorized to discuss an investigation by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Texas Rep. Roger Williams, who coaches the GOP team, said that one of his aides, Zack Barth, was shot, but “is doing well and is expected to make a full recovery.”
Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina said he had just left the practice and encountered the apparent gunman in the parking lot before the shooting. The man calmly asked which party’s lawmakers were practicing and Duncan told him they were the Republicans. The man thanked him.
The gunman had a rifle and “a lot of ammo,” said Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who was at the practice.
The shocking event left the Capitol horrified and stunned. The House canceled proceedings for the day.
The shooting occurred at a popular park and baseball complex in Alexandria, Virginia, where Republican lawmakers and others were gathered for a morning practice about 7 a.m. They were in good spirits despite the heat and humidity as they prepared for the congressional baseball match that pits Republicans against Democrats. The popular annual face-off, which raises money for charity, was scheduled for Thursday evening at Nationals Park across the Potomac River in Washington.
The team was taking batting practice when gunshots rang out and chaos erupted.
Scalise was fielding balls on second base when he was shot, according to lawmakers present, then dragged himself into the outfield to get away from the gunman.
Rep. Mo Brooks, an Alabama Republican, said his colleague “crawled into the outfield, leaving a trail of blood.”
“We started giving him the liquids, I put pressure on his wound in his hip,” Brooks said.
Texas Rep. Joe Barton, still in his baseball uniform, told reporters a shooter came out to the practice and opened fire, shooting at Rep. Trent Kelly, R-Miss., who plays third base.
“He shot at Steve Scalise, our second baseman. He hit Steve Scalise,” Barton said, “Scalise’s security detail and the Capitol Hill police immediately returned fire, and Alexandria Police also immediately came and began to return fire. They shot the shooter. The security detail saved a lot of lives because they attacked the shooter.
Barton said the shooting lasted 5-10 minutes, and there were dozens if not hundreds of shots fired.
“It was scary,” Barton said.
Lawmakers took cover in the dugout. Barton said his son, Jack, got under an SUV.
FBI special agent in charge Tim Slater said it was “too early to say” whether it was an act of terrorism, or whether Scalise was targeted.
After the gunfire stopped, Sen. Flake, of Arizona, said he ran onto the field and also tried to come to Scalise’s aide. After medical personnel arrived, he said he retrieved Scalise’s phone and made the first call to Scalise’s wife to notify her of the shooting. He said he did so to ensure that Mrs. Scalise would not find out about the shooting through the media.
Flake estimated that more than 50 shots were fired.
Scalise, a popular and gregarious lawmaker, is known for his love of baseball and handed out commemorative baseball bats to fellow lawmakers when he secured the No. 3 job of House whip several years ago.
Falisa Peoples was just leaving the YMCA next to the ball field when she saw the shooter open fire.
“He was just very calm. He was just walking and shooting,” she said of the man, whom she described as white and wearing a T-shirt and shorts. She said he was using a long gun and exchanging fire with law enforcement officers, one of whom yelled for her to get down.
In a brief interview in a Senate hallway, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “I think everybody handled it well and things seem to be under control.”
Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, with Rep. Pat Meehan, R-Pa., left, arrives on Capitol Hill after the shooting.
Other lawmakers were stunned in the aftermath of the event, which raised questions about the security of members of Congress. While the top lawmakers, including Scalise, have security details, others do not and regularly appear in public without protection. The last time a lawmaker was shot was when Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona was hit in the head and grievously injured while meeting with constituents at a supermarket parking lot in 2011.
Following the Giffords shooting, lawmakers have held fewer open town halls and have been advised to increase security at such events.
Associated Press reporters Eric Tucker, Mary Clare Jalonick, Ken Thomas, Vivian Salama, Stephen Ohlemacher, Alan Fram, Andrew Taylor, Sarah Brumfield and Michael Biesecker contributed to this report.
Senator Chuck Grassley's office sent out a statement to the media saying the senator was not in attendance at the Congressional baseball practice. He was at his office in the Capitol monitoring the situation.
JUST IN: No House votes are expected today following shooting at Alexandria baseball park— NBC News (@NBCNews) June 14, 2017
Please join me in praying for @stevescalise, Capitol Police and all those impacted at the congressional baseball practice this am.— Joni Ernst (@SenJoniErnst) June 14, 2017
My prayers are with @SteveScalise this morning as he's treated after this morning's shooting & will continue to monitor developments closely— Darin LaHood (@RepLaHood) June 14, 2017
My prayers are w my colleagues, congressional staff + Capitol police at GOP congressional baseball practice this morning— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) June 14, 2017
Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) released the following statement after a gunman opened fire on a Congressional Men’s Baseball practice:
“My thoughts and prayers are with Majority Whip Steve Scalise, my colleagues, law enforcement, staff and those injured after the horrifying shooting at the Congressional Men’s Baseball practice this morning. I’m incredibly grateful to the U.S. Capitol Police and security officials who bravely and heroically protected Members of Congress and staff from further violence and bloodshed. The Congressional Men’s Baseball Game – and the Congressional Women’s Softball Game – are two of the few truly bipartisan events left on Capitol Hill, and we will not be deterred by this senseless act of violence.”
U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) released the following statement:
Our hearts go out to the victims of a tragic shooting this morning. We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the United States Capitol Police who put their lives on the line this morning and each and every day to keep members, staff, and visitors safe.
Loebsack Statement on the Congressional Baseball Practice Shooting
Congressman Dave Loebsack released the following statement:
“I was shocked and deeply saddened to hear the news of this morning's shootings. My thoughts and prayers go to Congressman Scalise, the injured staffers and law enforcement officers who were hurt by this senseless act of violence.”
U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) released the following statement:
“This is a sad day for all Americans, regardless of political affiliation. We can all agree that these sorts of actions simply have no place in civil society, and we should do much more to prevent this sort of needless violence. I wish all the victims a speedy recovery and look forward to seeing my former House colleagues, Congressional staffers and Capitol Police officers back on the Hill soon. I also want to thank all the first responders for their bravery in risking their lives this morning—without their efforts, today could have been even worse.”
Congressman Adam Kinzinger (IL-16) released the following statement:
“As we continue to learn more about what happened this morning, we know that it could have been much worse if it wasn’t for the swift action by our U.S. Capitol Police and the first responders of Alexandria, VA.
“My thoughts and prayers are with my friend Steve Scalise, our Capitol Police special agents, our staff and aides, and all of their families. I extend my best wishes to each of them for a safe and speedy recovery.
“What happened today was a targeted act of senseless violence from a disturbed individual. This hate will not divide us; it will unite us. Today and every day, I am grateful to our Capitol Police and our strong Congressional community.”
BREAKING: Reports that gunman opened fire on members of Congress practicing for a softball game.
BREAKING: Congressional aide: House Majority Whip Steve Scalise shot at congressional baseball practice Wednesday morning.— The Associated Press (@AP) June 14, 2017