The Sun News

U.S: Shooter in congressmen shooting confirmed dead

A heavily armed gunman ambushed Republican senators and congressmen at a baseball practice Wednesday morning, leaving House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and others injured.

A Facebook page belonging to a person with the same name as the reported suspect has expressed fiercely anti-Trump views. President Trump announced that he had died.

Lawmakers and aides ducked behind trees, ran, and dove into a shallow dugout, where some shielded Arlington Rep. Joe Barton’s son as Capitol police — Scalise’s security detail — traded gunfire with the attacker, eventually capturing him alive. An aide for Austin Rep. Roger Williams, the team coach, was shot in the calf. Williams himself broke an ankle scrambling into the dugout.

“It was scary,” said Barton, the longtime manager of the GOP team.

The terrifying incident in Alexandria, Va., a short drive from the Capitol, lasted at least 10 minutes. Dozens of witnesses, most of them elected officials, reported at least 50 shots.

“Nobody would have survived without the Capitol Hill police,” said Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky on CNN. “Who knows how heavily armed he was, but nobody else had a weapon. So he was just killing everyone – or would have…. It would have been a massacre without them.”

The lawmakers were practicing for an annual charity baseball game Thursday night against the Democrats’ team. Three hours after the incident, the House cancelled votes and postponed many committee meetings for the day.

“The assailant has now died of his injuries,” Trump said at the White House in four-minute remarks. “Many lives would have been lost if not for the heroic actions of the two Capitol Police officers, who took down the gunman despite sustaining gunshot wounds during a very, very brutal assault.”

The Washington Post identified the shooter as James Hodgkinson of Belleville, Ill., according to law enforcement officials, a 66-year-old who owns a home inspection business. He has posted anti-Trump comments online, including a comment on Facebook when he signed a petition demanding the president’s impeachment that “Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.”

House members gathered late morning for a closed-door security briefing with the House sergeant at arms. Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa said his officers were in good condition.

President Donald Trump called Barton and others, including Scalise’s wife and the House speaker and majority leader.

Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama also said this could easily have turned into a massacre if there hadn’t been police on hand already. “All we would have had was baseball bats against a rifle,” Brooks, who was taking batting practice when the shooting began, told CNN.

Zack Barth, an aide to Williams, posted on Facebook that he’d been shot but was recovering at a hospital. The congressman later wrote on Twitter that Barth is “doing well and is expected to make a full recovery.”

Williams, who has coached the team since 2013, injured his leg when he dove into the dugout, Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, told Fox News.

In the halls of Congress, the incident sent shudders and raised anxiety about security, particularly outside the heavily protected Capitol complex.

“This could have turned into a bloodbath,” Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., who wasn’t at the practice, said on Fox News.If the gunman targeted the practice knowing these were members of Congress and in particular, Republicans, it’s unclear how he knew that. The timing and site of these practices isn’t publicized.

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office said Scalise’s wounds were not life-threatening and that a member of the security detail was also shot, according to AP.

Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, was playing second base when the shooting began. He was undergoing surgery at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, his office said. The condition of the others was not immediately known.

Several Republican lawmakers were gathered in Arlington, Va., for a practice ahead of the annual congressional baseball game which pits Republicans against Democrats in friendly competition.

The Republican team is managed by Barton, the Texas Republican who had two sons with him at the early morning practice. At the Capitol, still in uniform and visibly shaken, he recounted the terror.

He heard “dozens if not hundreds of shots,” he said. The attacker started firing at Scalise and others in the infield. Scalise’s security detail immediately returned fire, soon to be backed up by Alexandria police.

“They shot the shooter and the security detail saved a lot of lives,” Barton said.

Everyone scrambled for cover. Some dove on the ground, others ran to the dugout. Barton said he was behind the dugout, while his son Brady was in the batting cage. He said his son Jack, meanwhile, was forced to hide under an SUV.

“He was very brave,” Barton said.

“Joe Barton’s boy was here, 10 year old, just shagging balls. We got him into the dugout and stuffed him under the bench,” Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, who was at bat when the shooting started, said on Fox News.

Flake used Scalise’s cell phone to call the wife of his injured colleague.

Texas Reps. Mike Conaway and Kevin Brady also play on the team, as they have for several years. A Conaway aide said he was at the practice and is safe.

In a statement, President Donald Trump said that he and Vice President Mike Pence are aware of the shooting and are monitoring developments closely.

“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,” he said.

Officers were dispatched to an incident in the 400 block of East Monroe Street, which is across the Potomac River from Washington. Lawmakers said more than 50 shots were fired.

The exact number of people shot wasn’t clear, but five were transported to hospitals, according to Alexandria Police Chief Michael Brown. Emergency personnel and the FBI quickly descended onto the field.

Scalise, as a member of House leadership, had a security detail from the Capitol Police.

In a horrifying account, Brooks told media that he saw a rifle near the baseball field moments before he heard Scalise scream.

According to the AP, Brooks said that Scalise, 51, was down on the ground with what appeared to be “a hip wound.” The Alabama lawmaker said Scalise “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, according to the AP.

A congressman reportedly used a belt to make a tourniquet on Scalise’s leg, near where he’d been shot as security detail returned fire.

Scalise, as a member of House leadership, had a security detail from the Capitol Police.

Paul, a Kentucky senator, was in the right field batting cage when the first shot rang out — about as far as anyone at the practice could be from the shooter, who was positioned at the third base dugout.

“I grew up in the South. I’m used to hearing an occasional shotgun,” Paul told CNN by phone. This sounded like a rifle, and the blast didn’t begin right away. “Nobody dropped to the ground, nobody ducked…. Then five or 10 shots rang out.”

He saw Scalise go down. Two congressional staffers were on the ground near Paul in right field, gunshots hitting in the dirt around them. One staffer ended up scrambling a tall fence to get out of the line of fire.

Paul figures that 50 or 60 shots fired from the shooter before he began hearing pistol shots from Capitol police.

Flake saw shots kicking up gravel, he told reporters. Some lawmakers hid behind trees. He and six or eight others took cover in the first base dugout, forced to stay low and unable to get to Scalise, shot and bleeding in the infield.

Once the shooter was down, Flake and Wenstrup, a physician, rushed to Scalise to stop the bleeding.

“It looks like only one shooter. You’ve got to assume he knew what he was doing. Whether he was targeting certain members, we don’t know,” Flake told reporters at the scene.

“He had a lot of ammo,” Flake said. “It was tough to get to him.”

The whole incident lasted at least 10 minutes. In the dugout, lawmakers called 911 and worked to stop a staffer’s leg from bleeding.

Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Illinois, was among the lawmakers taking cover in the first base dugout. Emotional on Fox News, he blamed overheated political rhetoric for violence directed at politicians.

“This political rhetoric, this political discourse that has led to hate has led to gunfire. I never thought I’d go to a baseball practice for charity and have to dodge bullets,” he said. “This has got to stop and it’s got to stop today.”

(Source: Dallas News)

 

 

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