Gunman Attacks Congressmen; ‘He Was Looking for All of Us’
Steve Scalise, the No. 3 House Republican, was shot with several others when a gunman opened fire at a congressional baseball practice early this morning.
ALEXANDRIA, Virginia — A gunman attacked members of Congress early Wednesday morning at a baseball practice, wounding House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and several others. Five people were transported to the hospital following the 7 a.m. shooting, according to local police.
Scalise is said to be in stable condition, and President Trump told reporters the gunman has died of his injuries. Rep. Mo Brooks told CNN the wounded included a staffer for Rep. Roger Williams, a House aide, and a Capitol Police officer. The Capitol Police officers who were injured are in good condition, said officials.
The gunman was James T. Hodgkinson, a law-enforcement source told The Daily Beast, confirming reports identifying the suspect. The FBI is leading the investigation because it involves the assault of a federal officer.
Eyewitnesses told The Daily Beast they heard a hail of gunfire break the 7 a.m. silence in Del Ray, a leafy, affluent neighborhood minutes from Washington, D.C. CBS News reports that an initial police report said the suspect used an M-4 rifle.
“It was going on forever,” said a woman named Julia, who lives next door to the baseball field and was awoken by the gunfire. “It was just rounds and rounds being fired for so long.”
Rep. Mike Bishop was standing at home plate when the gunfire began.
“As we were standing here this morning, a gunman walked up to the fence line and just began to shoot,” Bishop told Detroit's WWJ radio. “I was standing at home plate and he was in the third base line. He had a rifle that was clearly meant for the job of taking people out, multiple casualties, and he had several rounds and magazines that he kept unloading and reloading.”
Bishop said the gunman was clearly targeting lawmakers.
“He was coming around the fence line and he was looking for all of us who had found cover in different spots,” he said. “But if we didn’t have return fire right there, he would have come up to each one of us and shot us point-blank.”
Brooks said the shooter ran around the bases, while Scalise “crawled into the outfield leaving a trail of blood.” Brooks said he heard upwards of 50 shots fired.
The congressmen were reportedly practicing for a bipartisan charity baseball game set to take place at Nationals Park on Thursday.
The Republican baseball team holds practice every morning at 6:30 a.m. Rep. Williams has been the coach of the team since he joined Congress in 2013.
Sen. Jeff Flake said he believed one of Scalise’s security detail “brought the shooter down... he ran around for quite a while with a leg wound, returning fire.”
Rep. Brad Wenstrup, a former Army combat surgeon who served in Iraq, said he treated Scalise, who had a hip injury, at the scene and that he was “conscious and OK.” A Wenstrup aide told The Daily Beast that the congressman said it was “like being back in Iraq, except without his weapon. He did what he’s been trained to do.”
Scalise’s office released a statement saying he spoke to his wife before entering surgery.
“We ask that you keep the Whip and others harmed in this incident in your thoughts and prayers,” his office said.
Alex Heimberg and Ryan Walsh, two 19-year-old college students who were at the nearby YMCA working out, said they heard the “pop pop pop” of bullets.
“We were like, ‘Whoa,’” Walsh told The Daily Beast. “But we didn’t really register what it was. We kept working out.”
Then a man sprinted into the gym yelling, “Hide! Hide! Hide!”
After 20 minutes, they ventured up to the lobby of the YMCA, where shattered glass was spread across the floor and a bullet was lodged in the window, Heimberg and Walsh said.
“Legitimately, if somebody had been on the elliptical at that time, they would have been shot,” Walsh said. Authorities kept the YMCA on lockdown for about two hours.
U.S. Capitol Police presence was significantly ramped up in the early morning hours, with some entrances to the main Capitol complex closed and uniformed officers standing around the perimeter with rifles. Pedestrian walkways were closed and cordoned off, but staff members and reporters were still allowed to enter as normal. Capitol tours were proceeding as normal.
“The Vice President and I are aware of the shooting incident in Virginia and are monitoring developments closely,” said President Trump, in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the members of Congress, their staffs, Capitol Police, first responders, and all others affected.”
In an email sent to members of Congress and staff, Capitol Police added that “all buildings within the Capitol Complex are open in accordance with routine operations” despite the increased police presence.
Scalise’s office, which sets the House schedule each day, announced just before 10 a.m. that all votes in the House were canceled. The lower chamber will convene and then immediately recess, the majority whip’s office said. On the Senate side, scheduled press conferences and other events were immediately postponed.
“Word started getting out of what had happened, and it was a big shock to us and very sad,” Rep. Carlos Curbelo told The Daily Beast, adding “it would have been a massacre of members of Congress and staff” if Scalise’s security detail was not present.
Curbelo said he would be open to the idea of providing a security detail for members of Congress who gather off of Capitol grounds for events like the baseball practice.
“We ought to consider trying to provide some protection, because that’s obviously a rich target for anyone seeking to kill or in any way threaten lawmakers,” he added.