Steve Scalise, the third highest-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, was among five people taken to hospital after a shooting at a baseball practice in Alexandria, Va., involving Republican politicians and officials.
Scalise’s office released a statement indicating he was shot in the hip and underwent surgery.
“Prior to entering surgery, [Scalise] was in good spirits and spoke to his wife by phone. He is grateful for the brave actions of U.S. Capitol Police, first responders, and colleagues,” the statement read.
The FBI is overseeing the investigation, as it involves crimes against federal officials, but officials were tight-lipped at a news conference.
Tim Slater of the FBI said it was too early to tell if anyone was targeted or if it was a random act. Slater wouldn’t release the identity of the suspect or say if he was a local resident or travelled to the area.
Speaking from the White House, President Donald Trump said the “assailant” was dead. Trump praised Scalise as “a patriot” and said he had spoken to the congressman’s wife, Jennifer, and offered his full support.
Hodgkinson reportedly volunteered for the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders, but in what capacity or for how long was not immediately clear.
Sanders released a statement condemning the shooting.
“I am sickened by this despicable act,” 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, and anything else runs against our most deeply held American values.”
Prominent Republicans recounted a chaotic scene at their regular 6:30 a.m. practice, including Alabama congressman Mo Brooks, who helped tend to Scalise.
Brooks said Scalise, 51, was down on the ground with “a hip wound.” The Alabama lawmaker 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.
Michigan Congressman Mike Bishop said Scalise was standing on second base when gunfire erupted.
“I was looking right at him,” Bishop told Detroit radio station WWJ. “He was a sitting duck.”
Police, staffers also wounded
Texas Congressman Joe Barton, whose young son was with him, said the gunman was wearing jeans and a blue shirt, and appeared middle aged and “Anglo.”
Barton told reporters after returning to Capitol Hill that the person who fired the shots directed a rifle at Mississippi Congressman Trent Kelly first before hitting Scalise.
“I think the security detail saved a lot of lives because they attacked the shooter,” said Barton. “So the heroes are the Capitoll Hill police, the Alexandria police and Steve Scalise’s security detail.”
Police said they responded to a report about an active shooter just after 7 a.m. and there was an exchange of gunfire with the suspect.
Two law enforcement officers were also injured.
Matthew Verderosa of U.S. Capitol Police said the officers suffered non-life-threatening injuries and are in good condition.
Verderosa wouldn’t confirm reports that one officer was male and one female.
Expanded police presence in D.C.
Arkansas-based Tyson Foods Inc. says one of its employees was among those shot. Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson identified the wounded employee as Matt Mika. He says Mika was taken to a hospital and that the company is awaiting word on his condition.
Mickelson says Mika is director of government relations for Tyson’s Washington, D.C., office.
Roger Williams, a Republican from Texas, said a member of his congressional staff, Zachary Barth, was shot.
Barth confirmed that later in a Facebook post.
“I got shot this morning at the baseball fields, but I am in the hospital and OK,” said Barth. “Thank you for the thoughts and prayers.”
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe praised the response of police and paramedics, but said guns are too easy to obtain in his state.
“I think we need to do more to protect all of our citizens,” said McAuliffe. “I have long advocated, there are too many guns on the street. We lose 93 Americans a day to gun violence.”
Police said there were no other active threats in the area, but U.S. Capitol Police said a “robust police presence” is to be expected around the prominent government buildings in Washington, D.C, about a 30-minute drive from the shooting location.
Trump said earlier in a written statement that he and Vice-President Mike Pence were “deeply saddened by this tragedy,” and send their thoughts and prayers to the victims and first responders.
In Statuary Hall, congressman Chuck Fleischmann was on the field when shots rang out. Hopes community of Capitol Hill will “pull together” pic.twitter.com/cq42eE9kRL
Trump said in a subsequent tweet that Scalise, while badly injured, is expected to fully recover, but officials at their first news conference would not release information on the condition of the victims.
Rand Paul, a Republican and former presidential candidate, was also at the practice at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park.
He told MSNBC he heard a shot, followed by a pause and a “rapid succession of shots” that appeared to be coming from the third-base side of the diamond.
House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats, who also play in the charity game, expressed their condolences in statements and on social media.
My thoughts and prayers with @SteveScalise, Capitol Police and staff at the shooting in Alexandria, VA this morning.
Chris Murphy is the Democratic senator from Connecticut whose constituents live in the area of the deadly Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in Newtown in 2012. On Twitter on Wednesday, he simply said: “Oh my god,” in reaction to the ballpark shooting.
2nd shooting involving House representative
Scalise was elected in 2008 and named majority whip for the Republicans in the House of Representatives in 2014.
Just after his appointment, he dealt with controversy in late 2014 surrounding his appearance as a speaker at a 2002 event in New Orleans.
Scalise said he was unaware the hosts, from the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO), were white nationalists.
It is the second shooting in six years involving a member of the House of Representatives.
Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat from Arizona, suffered brain injuries when she was shot outside a supermarket. Giffords no longer serves in D.C. but has made a remarkable recovery from the shooting, in which six were killed.
She, too, offered her condolences on social media.
My heart is with my former colleagues, their families & staff, and the US Capitol Police- public servants and heroes today and every day.