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GOP baseball shooting: Steve Scalise in 'critical' condition, gunman dead

Steve Scalise, members of Capitol police force were shot during practice of a baseball game

Agencies  |  New York 

Steve Scalise
Steve Scalise

US Congressman Steve Scalise, who went into surgery after being shot in the hip while practising with the congressional Republican baseball team on Wednesday in Alexandria, Virginia, is in critical condition.

Scalise and members of the Capitol police force were shot during Republicans' early-morning practice ahead of a charity baseball game, reports CNN.

The alleged gunman, who according to President was neutralised, has been identified as by Federal law enforcement officials as James Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville, Illinois.

At least five people including Scalise were hospitalised following the attack.

Scalise was in critical condition after surgery, according to So Young Pak, spokeswoman for MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Scalise is out of his first surgery, according to a Scalise aide. However, it is not clear if he will have a second surgery.

A congressional staffer, Zach Barth, was also injured. Matt Mika, a lobbyist for Tyson Foods who sometimes practices with the team, was also identified as one of the victims. As of Wednesday afternoon, Mika was in surgery and in critical condition, according to a statement from his family.

House Speaker Paul Ryan also identified two members of the Capitol Police who were injured, Krystal Griner and David Bailey.

The lawmakers who were present at the scene of the attack, described a chaotic sight, with many members of the congressional GOP baseball team huddled in a dugout while Capitol police engaged in a shoot-out with Hodgkinson.

"Authorities are continuing to investigate the crime, and the assailant has now died from his injuries. The FBI is leading the investigation, and will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available," US President told reporters at a hurriedly convened brief media interaction at the White House.

"Congressman Steve Scalise, a member of House leadership, was shot and badly wounded and is now in stable condition at the hospital, along with two very courageous Capitol Police officers. At least two others were also wounded," Trump said.

The president stressed that 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".

"Congressman Scalise is a friend and a very good friend. He's a patriot and he's a fighter. He will recover from this assault. And Steve, I want you to know that you have the prayers not only of the entire city behind you, but of an entire nation and, frankly, the entire world," Trump said.

"America is praying for you and America is praying for all of the victims of this terrible shooting," he said while calling for unity.

Law enforcement officers investigate the scene of a shooting near a baseball field in Alexandria (Photo: AP/PTI)
Law enforcement officers investigate the scene of a near a baseball field in Alexandria (Photo: AP/PTI)
The targeting Congressmen has shocked many in the US, where an intense debate is raging on gun control after a series of incidents in the past few years.

Aides of Scalise, who is the House Majority Whip, in which capacity he is the third-ranking member of the ruling Republican Party, said the congressman was stable.

He was first elected to Congress in 2008, after serving as a member of the Louisiana state legislature for more than a decade. Scalise served as majority whip for roughly three years.

A second Congressman Roger Williams was also injured, but it was unclear if he was shot or injured in some other way.

"Five people were transported medically from the scene," Alexandria police chief Michael Brown told reporters.

"This morning, at a practice for the Congressional Baseball Game, Whip Scalise was shot in the hip. He was transported to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where he is currently undergoing surgery. He is in stable condition," his office said in a statement.

"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 US Capitol Police, first responders, and colleagues," the statement said.

The FBI has taken the lead in investigating the case. 

"Everyone on that field is a public servant -- our courageous police, our congressional aides who work so tirelessly behind the scenes with enormous devotion, and our dedicated members of Congress who represent our people," Trump said.

"We may have our differences, but we do well, in times like these, to remember that everyone who serves in our nation's capital is here because, above all, they love our country," he said.

"We can all agree that we are blessed to be Americans, that our children deserve to grow up in a nation of safety and peace, and that we are strongest when we are unified and when we work together for the common good," Trump said.

According to law enforcement officials, the appeared to be a deliberate attempt.

Media reports said that the shooter apparently volunteered for the presidential campaign of Senator

"I have just been informed that the alleged shooter at the Republican is someone who apparently volunteered on my presidential campaign," Sanders said in a statement.

"I am sickened by this despicable act. 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," Sanders said in a statement.

Speaking on the Senate Floor, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said he is "absolutely shaken" by the news of a early this morning at the baseball field in Alexandria where many of his friends and colleagues were practising for the annual congressional baseball game -- an event that brings them together each year.

"It's been reported that Representative Scalise, the House Whip, was shot during the attack, as were two brave members of the Capitol Police force and others, including a staffer. Let us pray that they -- and any others who were injured -- are able to recover quickly," he said.

Trump, in his address, said, "Shortly after 7 am this morning, a gunman opened fire on members of Congress and their staffs as they were practising for tomorrow's annual charity baseball game."

The president said he and the First Lady are grateful for their heroism and praying for the swift recovery of all victims.

According to a senator, nearly 50 shots rang out during the exchange of fire between the gunman and the lawmakers' security detail.

About 25 senators and congressmen were practising for more-than-a-century-old Congressional Baseball Game scheduled for June 15 at Nationals Park when the took place.

The CNN quoting congressional and law enforcement sources said the appears to be a "deliberate attack" and lasted for about 10 minutes.

Congressman Ron DeSantis, who left the scene just before the began, said a man had asked him if it was Republicans or Democrats practising as he walked to his car.

"About three minutes later, at around 7:15 am the began."

Earlier today, Trump, in a statement, said he was closely monitoring the developments in "The vice president (Mike Pence) and I are aware of the incident in 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.

According to a White House official, Trump has spoken to Scalise's wife, the Speaker of the House, and other leaders of the Senate.

Senator Rand Paul described the scene as "sort of a killing field". "Without the Capitol Hill police it would have been a massacre," he told Fox News.

Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi called the a "despicable and cowardly attack."

"We are profoundly grateful for the heroism of the Capitol Police, whose bravery under fire undoubtedly saved countless lives. On days like today, there are no Democrats or Republicans, only Americans united in our hopes and prayers for the wounded," she said.

Senator Dick Durbin said, "We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the Capitol Police who put their lives on the line this morning and each and every day to keep members, staff, and visitors safe."

Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi called it a horrible, senseless violence.
"I was not at the scene today, but my thoughts and prayers are with Congressman Scalise, the Capitol Police officers and others who were shot, and their families," he said.

Hodgkinson, the gunman, owns a home inspection business in the state of Illinois, according to the authorities. His home inspection license expired in November 2016 and was not renewed, a Washington Post report quoted state records as saying.

Hodgkinson was charged in April 2006 with battery and aiding damage to a motor vehicle, according to online records in St Clair County, Illinois. The charges were dismissed, records show.

First Published: Thu, June 15 2017. 08:40 IST