Congressman Injured In Baseball Shooting: ‘We Were Sitting Ducks’

Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, who injured his ankle during a shooting at a congressional baseball game, leaves a news conference on crutches, assisted by his aide J. Spencer Freebairn, left, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, June 14, 2017.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

After hobbling with crutches onto a podium in the Capitol, Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX) gave reporters his account of Wednesday’s shooting at a practice for the GOP’s congressional baseball team.

“We were sitting ducks,” Williams said. “You had 40 people on a baseball field at seven o’clock in the morning. He just decided to shoot.”

Williams injured his ankle while diving into the dugout on the practice field, where he was joined by one of his his aides, Zack Barth, who had been shot.

“We landed in each other’s arms. He held me, I held him,” Williams said.

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), a Tyson Foods lobbyist and two Capitol Police officers were also shot before the assailant was taken down. All five victims of the shooting survived, while the man identified as the shooter, James T. Hodgkinson, died from injuries sustained in the shoot-out with law enforcement.

According to Williams’ account, he was on third base hitting ground balls with Reps. Trent Kelly (R-MS) and Ron DeSantis (R-FL) before the shots rang out and had just rounded the first base side to hit Scalise ground balls when the firing began.

“I heard the first shot, and wasn’t sure, I thought it was maybe the back firing of a car. But then the second and the third and everybody yelled, ‘He’s got a gun, run for cover.’

Williams ran towards the first base dugout, which he estimated was about seven feet deep in the ground, and dove into it like a “swimming pool with no water.”

His staffer, Barth, was also running into the dugout, having been shot in the leg, and once in the dugout, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) used his belt has a tourniquet on Barth’s leg, Williams said.

“Zach is probably 23 or 24. All the time he was bleeding and we were under fire, he was texting letting people know we were under fire and that we needed help,” Williams said.

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN) called 911, Williams said, while the lawmakers also sought to take care one of the sons of Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), who was at the practice and with the Republicans in the dug out.

“There were a lot of heroes today, among my friends,” Williams said.

Williams said that he heard that the Alexandra police arrived after a few minutes, but in the moment it felt like the shooting went on for “forever.”

Williams said he has not had an opportunity to personally thank the Capitol Police officers who were present and helped to take down Hodgkinson, but Williams said he plans to in the future.

“They saved all of us out there, there is no question about it,” Williams said. “We had no arms, all we had were bats.”

The shooting has prompted a discussion of whether security protocols for lawmakers needs to be changed. The Capitol Police were only present at Wednesday’s early morning practice because of Scalise, who gets a security detail because he is a member of congressional leadership. Williams said that “we probably ought to take a look at” what kinds of security measure are taken when groups of congressmen are gathering together.

Williams declined to weigh in on the politics of the shooter, whose social media pages showed him to be critical of Republicans and a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) in the 2016 presidential campaign.

“I don’t know this person, evidently he had an issue. I don’t think it was a Democratic or a Republican issue, he just had an issue,” Williams said. He added that the tone of general political rhetoric “could be turned down a little bit.”

Williams praised the decision to hold the congressional baseball game Thursday night, as planned, against the Democrats’ team.

“I’ll be the one coaching third on crutches,” Williams said.