‘WE WERE SITTING DUCKS’
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and a congressional aide were shot by a rifle-wielding gunman who sprayed a hail of bullets at a GOP baseball practice in Virginia Wednesday morning, before U.S. Capitol Police took the gunman down.
The shooter was identified as 66-year-old James T. Hodgkinson, of Illinois, the AP reported, citing a government official.
Scalise was “badly injured,” according to a tweet from President Trump, but is expected to recover. A news release from Scalise’s office said he was “stable” and undergoing surgery after being shot in the hip. Five people were “transported medically” from the scene, Alexandria Police Chief Michael Brown said. It appeared that included Scalise, Zack Barth, a congressional aide to Roger Williams, Hodgkinson and two law enforcement officers — one of whom was hit by fragments.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told Fox News: “We were like sitting ducks.”
“Without the Capitol Hill police it would have been a massacre,” Paul said, describing the scene as “sort of a killing field.”
The gunman was shot by Capitol Police and Alexandria Police, apprehended and taken to the hospital, officials said. The incident occurred at Simpson Field in Alexandria, about 10 miles from Washington D.C. The FBI was taking over the investigation because a federal official — Scalise — was assaulted in the attack.
FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Washington Field Office Timothy Slater said it was too early to tell if the attack was terror-related.
“The vice president and I are aware of the shooting incident in Virginia and are monitoring developments closely,” President Trump said in a statement. “We are deeply saddened by this tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with the members of Congress, their staffs, Capitol Police, first responders and all others affected.”
Trump later tweeted: “Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, a true friend and patriot, was badly injured but will fully recover. Our thoughts and prayers are with him.”
Trump was set to make a statement at 11:30 a.m. from the White House and House Speaker Paul Ryan is going to address the House at noon. Trump had spoken to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Ryan, Scalise’s wife and chief of staff and the chief of the Capitol Hill Police.
The Department of Homeland Security was monitoring the episode.
Rep. Roger Williams, R-Tex., was seen being taken from the field on a stretcher, but he was reportedly injured while jumping into the dugout as the shots rang out. Williams’ office released a statement saying a staffer had been shot, however.
“Finally, the shooter was shot behind home plate as he was circling around to the first base dugout where there were a number of US congressmen and other folks,” Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., told FMTALK1065. “Our security detail was able to incapacitate him at that point. I don’t know if he [the shooter] was dead. He was wounded. I don’t know how many times he was wounded.”
Brooks reportedly used a belt as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding of an aide who was shot in the leg.
Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., told Fox News he left just before the shooting. As he walked to his car, a man asked DeSantis if it was Republicans or Democrats practicing. About 3 minutes later, at around 7:15 a.m., the shooting began, DeSantis said. It reportedly lasted about 10 minutes.
Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, told Fox News he “felt like I was in Iraq, but without my weapon.”
“Behind third base, I see a rifle…I hear Steve Scalise over near 2nd base scream,” Brooks said. “…While all of this is going on, Steve Scalise our whip was lying on the ground near the second base position crawling into right field, leaving a trail of blood.”
Brooks said the gunman was using the dugout as cover and estimated the assailant got off 50-100 shots during the attack on the 15-25 people gathered at the field.
“We were there within 3 minutes,” Brown said. “Two of our officers engaged in gunfire and returned fire.”
A man walking his dog at a park near the field told Fox News he heard police yelling at the gunman to put the gun down followed by someone in or around the dugout screaming back “Just shoot him.”
Aside from Scalise, Williams, Paul, Brooks, Wenstrup and DeSantis, Sen. Jeff Flake and Reps. Mike Bishop, Jack Bergman, Chuck Fleischmann and Joe Barton were also at the field. A photographer and Bishop’s aides were present, too.
Alexandria schools were placed on lockdown as the incident unfolded. There was an uptick in the police presence around the Capitol, however, the building was still open. There was not expected to be any votes held on Wednesday in light of the shooting.
Witnesses and residents described a shattered calm Wednesday morning in a normally peaceful neighborhood now plastered with police tape.
Reba Winstead, who lives in the area, described hearing a “boom boom boom boom.” She said she was getting her daughter ready for school and then “all of a sudden there was gunfire in our neighborhood.”
Scalise, 51, is the House majority whip. He has represented Louisiana’s 1st Congressional District since 2008 and chairs the House Republican Study Committee. He is married with two children. Scalise’s district includes New Orleans.
Since he’s in leadership, Scalise has a security detail.
Scalise, who studied computer science at Louisiana State University, worked as a systems engineer before launching his political career. Scalise endorsed President Trump during last year’s presidential campaign, and has been a vocal backer of Trump’s travel ban. As leader of the powerful study group, he has also spearheaded the effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare.
The Congressional Baseball Game is scheduled for June 15 at Nationals Park. The game, which has been a tradition since 1909, pits Senate and House members of each party who sport the uniform of their home state.
Fox News’ Chad Pergram, Garrett Tenney and Barnini Chakraborty contributed to this report.