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Dec 2 2019

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Rep. Steve Scalise, three others shot by gunman in Virginia, officials say

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House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) was among those shot at a congressional baseball game practice session in Alexandria, Va., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017, officials said. Photo Credit: AP; EPA

A gunman opened fire on a Republican congressional baseball team as it practiced on a suburban Washington, D.C., field Wednesday — wounding House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and three others — before police killed him in a shootout, authorities said.

Lawmakers at the practice later described Scalise dragging himself across the field seeking safety after being shot near second base.

“It was just surreal to hear the first bang, and you think, ‘That sure sounds like a shot.’ And then boom, boom, boom right after it, there’s three more,” said Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the captain of the team. “There was shooting for at least 10 minutes.”

Scalise was listed in critical condition after surgery for a gunshot wound to his hip, and a lobbyist, legislative aide and U.S. Capitol Police officer hit by bullets as the gunman peppered the field with his rifle also were taken to local hospitals.

The FBI identified the shooter as James T. Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville, Illinois. The Associated Press said he had posted anti-Trump sentiments on social media and belonged to a Facebook group called “Terminate the Republican Party.”

On Wednesday night, President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump paid a surprise visit to Scalise at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, bringing him flowers.

They also met with Scalise’s doctors and spoke with his wife Jennifer, said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

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Afterward in a tweet, Trump asked for prayers for Scalise, adding that the congressman is in “very tough shape — but he is a real fighter.”

Barton and others said the casualties could have been much worse if Scalise had not been accompanied by his security detail, provided by the U.S. Capitol Police to him as a member of the House Republican leadership. Those agents went directly after the shooter after the first shots.

Officials with the hospital said Scalise would require additional surgeries.

Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), a member of the Democratic congressional baseball team, recounts learning about the shooting at the Republicans’ practice and gathering in prayer for his colleagues. He spoke from the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. The shooting injured Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.). Credit: Newsday/Emily Ngo)

“The bullet travelled across his pelvis, fracturing bones, injuring internal organs, and causing severe bleeding,” the hospital said in a statement Wednesday night.

U.S. Capitol Police said Special Agent Crystal Griner was hospitalized in good condition after being shot in the ankle and Special Agent David Bailey was treated for a minor injury and released. Special Agent Henry Cabrera also took part.

The first couple met with Griner and her wife and brought a bouquet of flowers.

One other lawmaker was injured. Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas) twisted his ankle.

Editorial: Rare political moment after shooting

Tim Slater, the FBI special agent in charge of the Washington Field Office, in an evening news conference said Hodgkinson was shot several times in the torso by members of “multiple local agencies.”

Slater said that since March, Hodgkinson had been in Alexandria, Virginia, where the shooting took place, living out of a white cargo van. He said the FBI is investigating his “associates, whereabouts, social media impressions and potential motivations.”

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also is running a trace on a rifle and a handgun, the FBI said.

The unexpected assault shook Washington, prompting House leaders to cancel all votes for the day and Trump to postpone his public events.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination last year, said on the Senate floor that the suspect “apparently volunteered on my presidential campaign” but added, “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.”

The shooting, and its possible political motivation, left many on Capitol Hill shaken and reflective, as they spoke of the need for toning down rhetoric and expressed concern for their own safety, especially back home in their states.

Trump, who announced the shooter’s death, said, “We are strongest when we are unified and when we work together for the common good,” he said.