KETR

Suspect Dead After Shooting At GOP Baseball Practice In Virginia

Jun 14, 2017
Originally published on June 14, 2017 10:45 pm
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Gunfire broke out this morning on a baseball field in Alexandria, Va., just outside of Washington, D.C. Republican lawmakers were on that field practicing for a congressional charity game. Five people were shot.

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Representative Steve Scalise, the No. 3 Republican in the House, remains in critical condition. Two Capitol Police officers who intervened to stop the shooter were also injured along with a congressional staffer and a lobbyist. House Speaker Paul Ryan addressed lawmakers today.

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PAUL RYAN: We are united. We are united in our shock. We are united in our anguish. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.

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CORNISH: Federal authorities confirmed to NPR that the shooter was James Hodgkinson of Belleville, Ill. He was killed when police returned fire. We're still trying to learn what led him to carry out the attack this morning. NPR congressional reporter Geoff Bennett has been in Alexandria all day and has more on what unfolded.

GEOFF BENNETT, BYLINE: Shortly after 7 o'clock this morning, Arizona Senator Jeff Flake was taking batting practice with roughly 20 other Republican lawmakers.

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JEFF FLAKE: All of a sudden, we heard a very loud shot. Everybody thought, that sounds like a gun. And the gunman was over by the third-base dugout with a clear view of the field and everybody on it. And then all of a sudden, a couple more shots, and we knew what it was.

BENNETT: Flake and the other witnesses say they saw a lone gunman emerge from the third-base dugout. Congressman Mo Brooks of South Carolina says the shooter, James Hodgkinson, carried a rifle and sprayed bullets across the baseball diamond. Brooks was on deck when the shooting started.

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MO BROOKS: You have a baseball bat. They have a rifle. You're defenseless.

BENNETT: Steve Scalise, the House majority whip, was fielding balls near second base, says Congressman Joe Barton of Texas. Barton is the baseball team's manager.

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JOE BARTON: He shot at Steve Scalise, our second baseman. He hit Steve Scalise.

BENNETT: Scalise was struck in the hip. Witnesses say he dragged himself across the field, leaving a trail of blood as he and the others tried to take cover. Again, Barton.

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BARTON: Scalise's security detail and the Capitol Hill Police immediately began to return fire. I think the security detail save a lot of lives because they attacked the shooter.

BENNETT: Local law enforcement was fast on the scene, says Alexandria Police Department Chief Michael Brown.

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CHIEF MICHAEL BROWN: We were there within three minutes.

BENNETT: Once the gunman was down, Congressman Brooks says he and another lawmaker, Ohio's Brad Wenstrup, who's a doctor, administered first aid to the wounded using their belts as tourniquets. South Carolina Congressman Jeff Duncan says he believes he spoke with the shooter earlier in the morning.

JEFF DUNCAN: As we were walking through the parking lot to our car, we were approached by a gentleman who asked if the team on the field was the Republican or the Democrat team. And we said that it's the Republican team. He said, OK, thanks. And there was nothing earth-shattering about it. This is the park. People are walking dogs. They're exercising. This is before work. This is a city recreation area, YMCA right beside it.

BENNETT: Joe Moskovitz was inside that YMCA.

JOE MOSKOVITZ: We saw a large number of police, fire trucks, ambulances, unfortunately two people being loaded on gurneys into those ambulances.

BENNETT: Those injured include the two Capitol Police officers who exchanged fire with the gunman, Special Agents David Bailey and Crystal Greiner. The other victims have been identified as Zachary Barth - he's a staffer for Texas Congressman Roger Williams - and Matt Mika, a government relations director at Tyson Foods. The charity baseball game the Republicans were practicing for - that will go on as scheduled tomorrow night. Geoff Bennett, NPR News, Alexandria, Va. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.