Top House GOP leader shot at congressional baseball practice

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In a photo from Tuesday, June 13, 2017, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., joined by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., far right, and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., comments on health care for veterans during a news conference at Republican National Committee Headquarters on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

A top House Republican, Steve Scalise of Louisiana, was shot by a rifle-wielding gunman Wednesday at a congressional baseball practice just outside of Washington. Several other people were also believed to have been hit, according to a lawmaker who witnessed the shooting.

Capitol Police said officers who were part of Scalise’s security detail returned fire and wounded the shooter, who was taken into custody.

In a televised statement from the White House, President Donald Trump said the assailant who shot Scalise had died. The assailant has been identified as James T. Hodgkinson.

The hospital treating Scalise said he is in critical condition following surgery.

Scalise, 51, the No. 3 House Republican leader first elected to the House in 2008, suffered injuries that were believed to be non life-threatening. It was not known the condition of the others who were shot.

Texas Rep. Roger Williams said a member of his staff was also shot at the baseball practice. That staff member is receiving medical attention, Williams said in a statement. Despite some early media reports, Williams was not hurt.

About two hours after the shooting, Scalise’s office released a statement that said Scalise was shot in the hip.

“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. We ask that you keep the Whip and others harmed in this incident in your thoughts and prayers.”

CGTN’s Jessica Stone reports.

President Donald Trump said he was “deeply saddened by this tragedy” and was monitoring developments.

The shooting occurred at a popular park and baseball complex in Alexandria, Virginia, where lawmakers and others were gathered for a morning practice about 7 a.m. The team was taking batting practice when a gunshot rang out and chaos erupted, lawmakers on the scene said.

Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Mich., said Scalise was standing on second base when he was shot.

“I was looking right at him,” Bishop told Detroit radio station WWJ. “He was a sitting duck.”

Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., told CNN Scalise was fielding balls on second base, when they suddenly heard a loud shot.

“The gunman was over by the third base dugout with a clear view of the field,” he said.

He said the congressman dragged himself 10-15 yards into the outfield to get further away from the gunman.

Rep. Mo Brooks, an Alabama Republican, said that Scalise “crawled into the outfield, leaving a trail of blood.”

Initial reports said that as many as 50 shots had been fired, but Flake said, “50 would be an understatement. He had a lot of ammo.”

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Texas Rep. Joe Barton said the shooting lasted 5-10 minutes, and dozens, if not hundreds of shots fired.

“It was scary,” Barton said.

Katie Filous was walking her two dogs near the field when she heard “a lot of shots, probably more than 20.” She said the shooting “went on for quite a while.”

Filous said she saw the shooter hit a uniformed law enforcement officer, who she said was later evacuated by helicopter. She said the officer had gotten out of a parked car, drawn a handgun and shouted something to the gunman, who then fired.

Once the gunman was down, Flake ran to Scalise and tended to him. He said he grabbed Scalise’s phone to call his wife.

“I just didn’t want her to wake up and learn the news,” Flake said.

“We started giving him the liquids, I put pressure on his wound in his hip,” Brooks said.

Brooks said two law enforcement officers were believed to be among the others shot.

U.S. President Donald Trump shortly after said he is “deeply saddened” by news of the shooting “tragedy.”

“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 in a statement released by the White House.

Rep. Williams, who is one of the coaches, said the Republican baseball team holds its practice every morning at 6:30 a.m. at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria, Virginia.

Scalise is the No. 3 House Republican leader. He was first elected to the House in 2008 after serving in the state legislature.

Story by The Associated Press