Six people, including the House majority whip, were injured after a gunman opened fire at congressional Republicans’ baseball practice in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. on Wednesday morning, bringing a somber mood to Capitol Hill.
Since news of the shooting first broke shortly before 8 a.m. E.T., the congressmen who were present have slowly filled in the harrowing details of the shooting in TV interviews while the House cancelled most events for the day. President Donald Trump himself solemnly addressed the shooting in a televised statement, where he announced that the suspected gunman had died of his injuries.
In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) texted reporters and called into CNN to share his account and confirm that Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), a member of GOP leadership, had been shot in the hip. Brooks’ account kicked off a chaotic few hours of members of Congress sharing the details they recalled from the baseball field and speculating about a motive. Rep. Rob DeSantis (R-FL) told MSNBC that a man came up to him in a parking lot near the baseball field and asked whether it was a practice for Republicans or Democrats prior to the shooting. Later in the morning, after seeing photos of the reported suspect, DeSantis said he believes the man he spoke with indeed was the gunman.
Law enforcement initially held off on discussing the status of the gunman with the media, with Trump breaking the news shortly after 11:30 a.m. in his statement that the suspect had died. The FBI later confirmed news reports that law enforcement officials had identified the suspect as James T. Hodgkinson.
Republican members of Congress and their staffers had been practicing for an annual charity baseball game at the field in Alexandria, Virginia at the time of the shooting. The FBI special agent in charge of the investigation into the shooting, Tim Slater, said in a Wednesday morning press conference that it was too early to tell whether the members were targeted.
Capitol Police officers who were present engaged in gunfire with the suspect, and Alexandria police quickly responded to the scene, Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa told reporters.
Five people were transported from the scene with gunshot wounds, including a congressman, a Capitol Police officer, a congressional staffer, a lobbyist and the suspected gunman, who died at the hospital, according to a statement from the FBI. Another congressman and Capitol Police officer also were transported for minor injuries, according to the statement.
Scalise’s office, the House majority whip, confirmed that he was shot in the hip and was in stable condition. Rep. Roger Williams’ (R-TX) office confirmed a staffer to that congressman, Zack Barth, also was injured in the shooting.
According to the FBI statement, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was tracing two weapons, a rifle and a handgun, in the wake of the shooting.
Several congressional GOPers were present at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park, located near a YMCA in Alexandria, where they have held regular practices ahead of a charity baseball game scheduled for Thursday evening. The event, held annually at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., is a jovial, bipartisan event in which Democrats and Republicans compete to raise funds for several charities. Democrats were practicing elsewhere on Wednesday morning.
Shortly after the shooting, members who were present for the baseball practice began calling into news networks to describe what they saw. Brooks, the Alabama congressman, called into CNN from the scene and said that the gunman appeared to have a semiautomatic weapon. He said that members dropped to the ground when the gunman opened fire and several also ducked into the first base dugout. Brooks told CNN that one congressional staffer was wounded in the leg, and that he used his own belt to help make a tourniquet. Brooks estimated that about 50 shots were fired.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who was also at the practice, called into MSNBC and said that Capitol Police were at the practice because Scalise, a member of House leadership, was there. Paul said that “everybody probably would have died” had the Capitol Police not been there.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) described the scene to reporters on camera after the incident. He said that two Capitol Police officers fired back at the shooter. Flake said that there was a lot of yelling and that he was unsure whether the shooter said anything.
Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) described the shooting to MSNBC after he returned to Capitol Hill on Wednesday morning. He said that Scalise’s security detail fired back and shot the gunman, adding that they “saved a lot of lives.” He said that the shooting lasted 5-10 minutes.
Members on both sides of the aisle condemned the attack and expressed their sorrow that the shooting left Scalise, a staffer, and law enforcement officers injured.
“This morning, the U.S. Congress suffered a despicable and cowardly attack. My thoughts and prayers are with Whip Steve Scalise and the others wounded, Capitol Police and staff, and their families,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in a statement.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) pushed for unity, telling members of the House that
an attack on one of us in an attack on all of us.”
As some members recounted the shooting to reporters on Capitol Hill, they were visibly emotional, sometimes tearing up as they discussed the bipartisan nature of the annual baseball game played by members of Congress.
This post has been updated.