Rep. Steve Scalise Among 4 Shot; Suspect Is Dead (Multi-Video)

By Michael D. Shear, Adam Goldman and Emily Cochrane, The New York Times

A lone gunman who was reportedly distraught over President Trump’s election opened fire on Republican members of the congressional baseball team at a practice field in this Washington suburb on Wednesday, using a rifle to shower the field with bullets that struck four people, including Steve Scalise, the majority whip of the House of Representatives.

President Trump, in a televised statement from the White House, condemned the “very, very brutal assault” and said the gunman had died after a shootout with the police.

Law enforcement authorities identified him as James T. Hodgkinson, 66, from Belleville, Ill., a suburb of St. Louis.

(A rifle-wielding attacker opened fire on Republican lawmakers at a congressional baseball practice Wednesday, critically 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. Courtesy of CBS Philly and YouTube)

Two members of Mr. Scalise’s Capitol Police security detail were wounded as they exchanged fire with the gunman in what lawmakers described as several chaotic, terror-filled minutes that turned the baseball practice into an early-morning nightmare.

One was wounded by gunfire and one suffered other, minor injuries.

Steve Scalise, the majority whip of the House of Representatives (Image Credit: Twitter)
Steve Scalise, the majority whip of the House of Representatives (Image Credit: Twitter)

Standing at second base, Mr. Scalise was struck in the hip, according to witnesses, and collapsed as the shots rang out, one after another, from behind a chain-link fence near the third-base dugout.

Witnesses said Mr. Scalise, of Louisiana, “army crawled” from the infield to the grass as the shooting continued.

Aides to Mr. Scalise said he had undergone surgery at MedStar Washington Hospital Center and was in critical condition by midafternoon.

Local officers arrived minutes after they received desperate calls for help, including from those still under siege at the field, the authorities said.

The F.B.I. said it would take the lead in the investigation, treating it as an assault on a federal officer.

(FBI Special Agent Tim Slater fields questions on the shooting at a congressional baseball practice in Del Ray, Virginia that wounded House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and four others. Courtesy of Bloomberg TV Markets and Finance and YouTube)

Tim Slater, special agent in charge of the bureau’s Washington field office, said investigators were “exploring all angles” but could not comment on a motive.

Asked whether the shooting was an assassination attempt, he said it was “too early in the investigation to say one way or another.”

The F.B.I. said Mr. Hodgkinson was armed with a handgun and a rifle.

Witnesses described a man with white hair and a beard wielding a long gun as he stood behind the dugout.

“He was hunting us at that point,” said Representative Mike Bishop, Republican of Michigan, who was standing at home plate when the shooting began.

Mr. Bishop said the gunman had seemed to be firing a series of two shots at a time, a firearms technique known as “double-tapping,” sending off bullets that kicked up the gravel on the baseball field as they struck the ground.

“There was so much gunfire, you couldn’t get up and run,” he said. “Pop, pop, pop, pop — it’s a sound I’ll never forget.”

(Rep. Rand Paul describes the scene at a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, where a gunman opened fire on congressional staff. Courtesy of CNN and YouTube)

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who was among the lawmakers practicing for the annual charity baseball game, which is still scheduled to take place on Thursday, told CNN that “the field was basically a killing field — it’s really sick and very sad.”

Representative Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, who left the practice just before shooting, said later that he had encountered a man in the parking lot — later identified as the gunman — who “asked me if the team practicing was a Democrat or a Republican team.”

“I told him they were Republicans,” the lawmaker recalled. “He said, ‘O.K., thanks,’ turned around.”

(Republican Rep. Jeff Duncan says he suspects he spoke with the man who minutes later opened fire on the congressional baseball practice. Courtesy of AP and YouTube)

The shooting stunned the capital as it began its workday. Out of caution, officials quickly put in place a “robust police presence throughout the Capitol complex,” and the Secret Service added security around the White House.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan addressed his colleagues in the House chamber shortly after noon, saying the body was united in its shock and anguish.

“We do not shed our humanity when we enter this chamber,” Mr. Ryan said, his voice seeming to nearly break at times. “For all the noise and all the fury, we are one family.”

(Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) addressed the House of Representatives after a shooting on Wednesday morning at a Virginia baseball field that wounded Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana and other congressional staffers. Courtesy of The Wall Street Journal and YouTube)

As the magnitude of the episode became apparent, House leaders canceled the day’s votes, and Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence both canceled speeches.

Mr. Trump came to the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House after the shooting and said, “We may have our differences, but we do well in times like these to remember that everyone who serves in our nation’s capital is here because, above all, they love our country.”

“We can all agree that we are blessed to be Americans, that our children deserve to grow up in a nation of safety and peace, and that we are stronger when we are unified, and when we work together for the common good,” the president said.

(A gunman has died after opening fire earlier this morning on members of Congress practicing for a charity baseball game in Alexandria, Virginia, injuring Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, the House majority whip, and four others. Courtesy of ABC Action News and YouTube)

Mr. Hodgkinson seemed to be a fervent opponent of Mr. Trump. He signed an online petition calling for the president to be impeached, posting it on Facebook with a chilling comment: “It’s time to destroy Trump & co.”

His brother, Michael Hodgkinson, said Mr. Hodgkinson traveled in recent weeks to Washington to protest.

“I know he wasn’t happy with the way things were going, the election results and stuff,” Mr. Hodgkinson said in an interview shortly after he received the news on Wednesday.

He said that he had not been close to his brother and that he had not been aware of why he remained in Washington.

James T. Hodgkinson (Image Credit: Twitter, Facebook and YouTube)
James T. Hodgkinson (Image Credit: Twitter, Facebook and YouTube)

Mr. Hodgkinson also appeared to be have been a fervent fan of Senator Bernie Sanders, according to a Facebook page with references to the Vermont senator.

A LinkedIn page for James Hodgkinson had a profile photo showing Mr. Sanders’s famous hair and glasses and the words, “The Dawn of a New Democracy.”

In a statement Wednesday morning, Mr. Sanders said he had been told the suspect had volunteered for his presidential campaign. He offered his “hopes and prayers” for the shooting victims.

“I am sickened by this despicable act,” Mr. Sanders said.

“Let me be as clear as I can be. Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society, and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms. Real change can only come about through nonviolent action.”

(Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke from the Senate floor on Tuesday, condemning the actions of the shooter who opened fire at a Congressional baseball practice, injuring Majority Whip Steve Scalise and others. Courtesy of PBS NewsHour and YouTube)

Two of those who suffered injuries were Capitol Police officers assigned to protect Mr. Scalise, the third-ranking member of the House Republican leadership team.

Officials identified the two officers as Crystal Griner and David Bailey, both 32. Law enforcement authorities said in early reports that both officers had been shot, but they later said only one was wounded by gunfire.

A friend of Zachary Barth, a staff member for Representative Roger Williams, Republican of Texas, posted a message from Mr. Barth on Facebook saying: “I got shot this morning at the baseball fields. But I am in the hospital and ok. Thank you for the thoughts and prayers.”

Matt Mika, 38, a former Congressional staff member and the director of government relations for the Washington office of Tyson Foods, was wounded in the shooting, according to a spokesman for the company.

“Matt has worked for Tyson Foods for more than six years and we’re deeply concerned about him,” the spokesman, Gary Mickelson, said in an email.

A friend of Mr. Mika’s said that he had been shot twice in the chest, and that a bullet went through a lung. The friend said he was in stable but very serious condition.

Members of the baseball team began arriving early Wednesday morning at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park, which is nestled among a neighborhood dog park, the local YMCA, a coffee shop and a grocery store.

It was the last practice before the big game on Thursday — a friendly, partisan competition that has been played to raise money for charity during most years since 1909.

By 7:09 a.m., when the first shots rang out, several dozen lawmakers, members of their staff and a handful of others — many wearing red shirts with the word “Republicans” on the front — had been practicing hitting, pitching and catching for more than a half-hour.

Then bedlam erupted.

(Authorities identified James T. Hodgkinson as the man who shot Rep. Steve Scalise and several others during a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia. Courtesy of USA Today and YouTube)

With the sound of loud bangs, one after another, people dived for cover, crouching down by the concrete wall of the dugout.

Marty Lavor, an Alexandria-based photographer and former House staff member, fell on top of a lawmaker as someone shouted: “Stay down, stay down. Get closer to the wall!”

Mr. Lavor later found a bullet hole in his car.

Standing along the first base sideline, Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona crouched near the ground and then helped Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama treat a congressional aide who had been shot in the leg while in center field and had managed to stumble into the dugout.

Mr. Brooks said he had used his belt as a tourniquet to help stop the bleeding

Standing near second base, Mr. Scalise had nowhere to hide.

Several lawmakers said they saw him go down — the victim of a bullet to the hip — and then attempt to pull himself toward the dugout with his hands.

Failing to get very far, Mr. Scalise remained in the field while the barrage of bullets continued, according to several lawmakers who said they had been forced to wait until the shooting stopped to reach him.

(Arizona Senator Jeff Flake was in attendance of the Congressional baseball game where dozens of shots were fired on Wednesday morning. Courtesy of BC15 Arizona and YouTube)

“If not for the detail who stepped up with basic revolvers, we would’ve all been dead,” Representative Bishop said.

When the hail of bullets stopped, Mr. Flake and Mr. Brooks made their way to Mr. Scalise, bringing water for him to drink.

Mr. Flake told CNN he had put pressure on Mr. Scalise’s gunshot wound. He said Mr. Scalise never lost consciousness.

Mr. Brooks told CNN that security officers were “screaming for reinforcements” and that “it seemed like forever, but it was probably shorter than it was.”

The gunshots shattered the quiet morning in the residential neighborhood. They woke up John Patrick, 40, who lives in a house directly overlooking the baseball field.

“They were attending to somebody in the outfield, put them on a stretcher and that’s when the stretcher came to medevac them out,” he said later.

Law enforcement is looking at anti-Trump postings on Hodgkinson's social media account. (Image Credit: Facebook and YouTube)
Law enforcement is looking at anti-Trump postings on Hodgkinson’s social media account. (Image Credit: Facebook and YouTube)

David Miller, 50, was finishing his coffee when he heard the “pop, pop.” He thought it was from nearby construction until he opened the door of the building and saw people looking for shelter and heard gunfire.

“I started hollering for them to come into the building,” he said.

Five or six people came inside, at least two people in baseball uniforms and one with a baseball bat. “They were disheveled,” Mr. Miller said, “emotionally shaken, covered in dirt.”

Reaction to the shooting poured in quickly as news of the attack dominated local television broadcasts and cable news programs repeatedly interviewed witnesses.

Among those who issued statements was Gabrielle Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who survived being shot in the head in 2011.

Ms. Giffords said she was “heartbroken” by the shootings and praised the police officers who responded quickly at the baseball field.

View image on Twitter

Giffords twitter

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican, nor if you’re a senator or a representative, nor a staffer or a sworn officer,” Ms. Giffords wrote.

“If you serve the institution of Congress, you’re connected to your colleagues, current and former, by a shared sense of service to ideals far greater than yourself.”

She said: “This shooting is an attack on all who serve and on all who participate in our democracy.”