Four people were shot and wounded early Wednesday by an unidentified gunman who opened fire at around 7:09 am Wednesday at a GOP Congressional men’s baseball practice at the Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria, Virginia.
A jogger said he was passing the field when he heard the staccato sound of automatic gunfire. David Woodruff told media he ducked into a garage and called 911.
Another witness, Owen Britton, who actually saw the gunman, who was reportedly on the “third base side” as well as the shootout with police said the weapon looked like an AK-47-type assault weapon with a “curved magazine.” He said the attacker appeared to be “methodical” in his shooting, “crouching down behind cover” and then moving out behind a bleacher or a dugout to fire again.
Among those hit was Congressman Steve Scalise (R-LA), who was shot in the hip and is reported in stable condition after he was rushed to George Washington University Hospital. Scalise, 51, is the House Majority Whip in Congress. He was taken into surgery at around 10 am EDT.
A Congressional aide and two Capitol Police officers were also shot. The gunman was shot as well by police officers who responded to the scene, according to Alexandria Police Chief Michael Brown, and then taken into custody.
Republican Congressman Rodney Davis of Illinois said he was grateful for the armed plainclothes detail that was with Congressman Scalise, and who were able to engage the gunman. “This political rhetorical terrorism has got to stop. Political rhetoric has led to violence, and has got to stop. “I never thought I would go to a baseball practice for charity and have to dodge bullets,” he said. We have to bond together as Americans, not as Republicans and Democrats,” he added. “We have to govern together. We can have differences, we can disagree about policy,” but he said everyone must remember that differences should not lead to violence. He contended the divisiveness that tore apart the United States after last years election, and the rage that followed, finally led to the rage that drove a gunman to try and kill legislators on the baseball field.
Other lawmakers agreed. “What a sad day for the country,” Republican South Carolina Senator Tim Scott told Fox News. “We have to find a way to crawl our way out of this hole… We have to respond to this situation by coming together and not by pointing fingers.”
Within minutes President Donald Trump issued a statement, saying, “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.”
Trump also responded to the attack with a tweet expressing his concern and support for Scalise, calling him a “true friend and patriot.”
Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, a true friend and patriot, was badly injured but will fully recover. Our thoughts and prayers are with him.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 14, 2017
The team had nearly finished its session when the shooting began, according to U.S. Representative Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee, who told USA Today that he never saw the shooter; he heard him.
“I was close to the damn thing,” he said. “Some of our people have been hit. This is horrible. I got bloody running and jumping into the dugout.”
A total of 50 to 60 shots were heard during a span of about 10 to 15 minutes, according to various reports, including those quoting Congressional aides and lawmakers. Fox News quoted witnesses who said police spent some time arguing with the gunman, ordering him to put his weapon down, until finally someone “near the dugout” yelled to the officer, “Just shoot him!”
Shortly after, a shot rang out, then silence, and at last the crisis was ended.
“This is not an active scene,” Alexandria Police Chief said at a subsequent briefing. “Alexandria is safe.”