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Gunman opens fire at congressional baseball practice, wounding Scalise and others

Majority Whip Steve Scalise is pictured. | AP Photo

Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise, pictured in a file photo, was shot at a congressional baseball practice, according to Rep. Mo Brooks. | AP Photo

Police say the suspect is in custody and that five people were transported for medical attention.


A gunman opened fire at a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Va., on Wednesday morning, wounding House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, members of his security detail, and a congressional staffer, in a scene that Sen. Rand Paul said could have been a “massacre.”

It does not immediately appear that there were any fatalities, and the gunman is in custody, according to law enforcement. The identity and motivation of the shooter was not immediately disclosed.

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Alexandria Police Chief Michael Brown told reporters that five people were transported from the shooting scene but didn’t identify them. He said the attacker was also shot and wounded during an exchange of gunfire with Capitol Police and local police. The shooter was also taken to an area hospital.

Scalise’s office said he was undergoing surgery and in stable condition after being shot in the hip. He was transported to MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

“Prior to entering surgery, the Whip 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,” his office said. “We ask that you keep the Whip and others harmed in this incident in your thoughts and prayers.”

There was also increased security at the Capitol Wednesday, with police blocking off the area surrounding the main entrances to the House and Senate. Only members of Congress were allowed in while others were sent through the visitors gallery.

Christine Searight, George Washington Hospital director of marketing, confirmed that two individuals, both in critical condition, are at the hospital.

The lawmakers were practicing for the annual congressional ballgame when the shooting took place in Alexandria, Va.

Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas), a captain of the Republican baseball team, said an armed gunman arrived at the Alexandria field at about 7 a.m. Wednesday and opened fire. One of his aides was shot and was getting medical attention, his office said.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said two members of Scalise’s security detail were also shot.

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) described on CNN how Scalise was wounded in the shooting. “He’d crawled into the outfield but leaving a trail of blood. We started giving him some liquids,” said Brooks, who was not hit.

Paul vividly recounted the scene, and gave credit to law enforcement for saving lives. “Nobody would have survived without the Capitol Hill police,” Paul said on CNN. “He was just killing everyone — he would’ve. It would have been a massacre.”

“And having no self-defense, the … field was basically a killing field. If you were to run out while the killer was still shooting, he could have shot anybody,” he added.

President Donald Trump issued a statement on Wednesday saying he and Vice President Mike Pence are “deeply saddened” by the shooting.

“The Vice President and I are aware of the shooting incident in Virginia 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,” the president said.

Trump later 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.”

Brooks identified a handful of other lawmakers in attendance at Wednesday morning’s practice, including Paul and Flake, as well as Reps. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.), Williams, Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio). Brooks said Wenstrup, a medical doctor, immediately attended to victims, including Scalise.

Investigators gather near the scene of an opened fire June 14, 2017, in Alexandria, Virginia. Multiple injuries were reported from the instance.

Investigators gather near the scene of an opened fire June 14, 2017, in Alexandria, Virginia. Multiple injuries were reported from the instance.

“I felt like I was back in Iraq as a surgeon,” Wenstrup, a former combat surgeon in the U.S. Army Reserve, told CBS News.

Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.) also received medical attention, Brooks said in his interview with CNN. The Alabama congressman said the gunman fired from behind the field’s third base dugout and was using a rifle. He said the protective detail that travels with some members of Congress returned fire.

“And I look around and behind third base in the third base dugout, I see a rifle,” Brooks said. “And I see a little bit of a body and then I hear another bam and I realize there is an active shooter. At the same time I hear Steve Scalise over near second base scream. He was shot. He’s our majority whip.”

The Alabama congressmen went on to describe that he never saw Scalise lose consciousness, though there was a “15 foot” stream of blood behind him.

Brooks then realized that the rifle was a semiautomatic weapon as chaos ensued.

“The gun was a semiautomatic,” he said. “It continues to fire at different people. You can imagine all the people in the field scatter. I run around to the first base side of home plate. We have a batting cage with plastic wrapped around it to stop foul balls. I was lying on the ground as gunfire continued.”

Worried that the plastic batting cage would do little to protect him and staffers from gunshots, Brooks said he took a gamble to get to cover.

“Heard a break in the gunfire and decided to take a chance. Ran from home plate to the first base dugout for better cover. There were a number of congressmen and congressional staffers who helped us lying on the ground,” he said.

Flake, who had just batted when the incident occurred, said the shooter was shot.

“There was a lot of yelling going on,” he said.

There were approximately 25 members at the field, Flake said. One staffer was shot while on the field, and ran with a wound to the dugout, Flake said.

“He had a lot of ammo,” Flake said, explaining why it took several minutes to get the situation under control.

Flake, in an interview with reporters at the scene, estimated that the entire incident lasted around 10 minutes. He said that the airlifted victim was a female U.S. Capitol Police officer.

He described the shooter as a white man with dark hair, apparently in his 40s.

“Just a harrowing scene,” said Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.), who ran into a dugout when the shooting started. “If this gunman had come into [the] dugout, we would have been sitting ducks.”

Fleischmann said the incident “seemed to go on forever… It seemed like it took forever to subdue the gunmen.”

Fleischmann added: “It was just horrible… The fear factor was horrific.”

Capitol Police stand guard in front of the Capitol Building on June 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. This morning House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and others were shot by a gunman during Congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia.

Capitol Police stand guard in front of the Capitol Building on June 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. This morning House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and others were shot by a gunman during Congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia.

The shooting took place in a neighborhood baseball field near a dog park that was full of early-morning dog walkers. As the shooting started, neighbors on the adjoining streets heard what they described as “dozens” of shots as people in exercise clothing began to flee past their homes.

Reba Winstead was standing on her porch behind the ballfield when she heard shots and began dialing 911. The dispatcher could hear the shooting in the background when she called, she said. Then, she heard a bullet whiz past her porch.

“I said, I’m going inside,” she said.

Holly Jackson of Old Town was in Simpson Dog Park when the shooting started. “I got down on the ground,” she said. “Everyone got down on the ground. ” The dogs were “running around, terrified,” she said.

Katie Filous, a 29-year-old resident of Alexandria’s Old Town section, said she had just gotten out of her car to take her four dogs to the park when someone on the ballfield screamed, “Everybody get down! Someone has a rifle!”

She said a woman who looked like a security guard or a Secret Service member pulled out a handgun and shot at the man.

Gaver Nichols, who lives just a couple of blocks away in the neighborhood of modest bungalows, schools and eclectic shops, said he was mowing the lawn around 7 a.m. when “there was a bunch of rapid fire. It stopped, and then you hear a bunch of rapid fire back.”

Pence canceled a morning speech to the National Association of Home Builders. At the group’s annual D.C. gathering, Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) called for a moment of silence.

“I thought I was going to come up here and charm you on tax reform, but we’re here on a very different day,” Roskam told those assembled. “Will you just pray for these people and their families.”

In the wake of the shooting, Democrats canceled a press conference announcing a lawsuit against President Trump. The Senate also postponed a hearing examining a budget request for the Capitol Police.

Kyle Cheney, Jake LaHut, Heather Caygle, Clea Benson, Negassi Tesfamichael, Toby Eckert, Anna Palmer and Burgess Everett contributed to this report.

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Source: POLITICO – TOP Stories

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