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Investigators gather near the scene of a shooting in Alexandria, Va.(Photo: Alex Wong, Getty Images)

Rep. Steve Scalise, others shot at congressional baseball practice

(PhatzNewsRoom / USA Today)   —-  A gunman opened fire on a Republican congressional baseball team practicing on a suburban Virginia field Wednesday, wounding Louisiana congressman Steve Scalise and at least three others as horrified legislators and staffers scrambled for cover amid a hail of bullets.

Capitol Police were providing security for the practice and engaged the shooter, identified by a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity as James Hodgkinson, 66, from Belleville, Ill. President Trump later said the suspect was killed in the ensuing shootout.

None of the victims’ injuries appeared life-threatening, authorities said. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., said the baseball practice session was almost over when the shooting began on the field shortly after 7 a.m.

“I heard a bang, and I thought it sounded like a gun. I never saw a shooter,” Fleischmann said minutes after the gunman was taken into custody. “I heard him. I was close to the damn thing. Some of our people have been hit. This is horrible. I got bloody running and jumping into the dugout.”

Fleischmann estimated there were 50 to 60 people at the practice, including House members, senators and their staff. “Many have been shot, but a lot like me got bloody running for cover,” he said.

“It is just a madhouse here,” Fleischmann said. “It’s horrible. I’ve never experienced anything like that.”

South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan said he was leaving practice early when the man he believes was the gunman asked him if the players were Democrats or Republicans.

“I told him they were Republicans, he said ‘OK, thanks,’ and turned around,” Duncan told reporters. “I got in the car and left.”

Minutes later he heard about the shooting.

Scalise, the third-ranking GOP “whip” in the House, was in stable condition after being shot in the hip and undergoing surgery at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, his office said in a statement.

“Prior to entering surgery, the Whip was in good spirits and spoke to his wife by phone,” the statement said. “He is grateful for the brave actions of U.S. Capitol Police, first responders, and colleagues.”

President Trump 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.”

Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, said staffer Zach Barth was among the wounded and was in stable condition. U.S. Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa said some of his officers were wounded but were in good condition.

Tim Slater, an FBI special agent in charge of the investigation, said it was too early to say if the shooter was targeting Republicans.

Capitol Police officers were providing security at the practice and quickly returned fire when the shooting began, Verderosa said. Alexandria Chief Michael Brown said his officers arrived three minutes after the first emergency call came in at 7:09 a.m. ET, and also joined the gunfight.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who was at the scene, said several people were shot but Scalise was the only House member wounded.

“We heard a very loud shot during batting practice,” Flake said. Then many more shots, and Capitol Police returned fire.

Sen. Rand Paul said he was “shaken but unharmed” after the rampage.

“Many people likely would have died this morning if not for the bravery of the Capitol Police,” Paul said. “My thanks to them are inadequate but heartfelt. They never hesitated to put their lives on the line to s

Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., told CNN people scattered when the shooting began. Scalise was standing in the in the infield and fell where he stood.

“He was not able to move under his own power. He was dragging his body from second base,” Brooks said. “There was not a whole lot we could do. He was shot in the hip. I think it was not a life-threatening wound.”

“It’s not easy when you see people around you being shot and you don’t have a weapon yourself,” Brooks said. “You feel helpless.”

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said President Trump and Vice President Pence were getting updates on the incident.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected,” he said.

The team of Republican congressman and staff members were practicing for a charity baseball game scheduled for later this week against a Democratic team. Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., said his team was practicing when they heard about the attack on the Republicans.

“We’re safe & with police, everyone praying for GOP colleagues, staff & Cap police,” Huffman tweeted.

The shooting took place at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park, in the Del Ray section of Alexandria about seven miles from the Capitol. It’s a quiet community made up of restaurants, small businesses and lots of families. Residents describe it as a safe neighborhood where people walk around outside until late at night. The field serves as a community hub, with games and activities at all hours.

 

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