A man unleashed a barrage of gunfire Wednesday at a park in Alexandria, Va., as Republican members of Congress held a morning baseball practice, wounding five people, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (La.).
President Trump said the gunman — identified by multiple law enforcement officials as James T. Hodgkinson III, 66, from Illinois — died after a shootout with police officers, two of whom were wounded in the gun battle.
Scalise remained in critical condition as of Wednesday afternoon, according to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where he and another victim were being treated.
The wounded also include a congressional aide, lobbyist and the two Capitol Police officers.
As people offered prayers for the victims, a profile began to emerge of Hodgkinson, a onetime home inspector. A Facebook page believed to be his includes pictures of 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and rhetoric against President Trump, including a post that reads: “Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.”
In remarks made from the White House shortly before noon, Trump called for unity and commended the injured officers.
“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,” Trump said.
Trump said he spoke with Scalise’s wife and offered his full support to the congressman’s family. He called Scalise a friend, patriot and fighter, and thanked the first responders who aided victims on the field.
“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,” Trump said.
The incident unfolded shortly after 7 a.m. during the final practice before Thursday night’s scheduled charity game between Republicans and Democrats at Nationals Park. Players and bystanders described a horrific and prolonged attack in which wounded police officers returned fire, and Scalise, felled by a bullet to his hip, crawled across the field to get out of harm’s way.
Scalise’s office said the congressman underwent surgery at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, in the District.
Zach Barth, a legislative correspondent for Rep. Roger Williams (R-Tex.), was shot but is expected to make a full recovery.
Matt Mika, a lobbyist for Tyson Foods, was taken to a hospital in unknown condition, a company spokesman said.
Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa said his two wounded officers are in good condition and do not have life-threatening injuries. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) identified the officers as special agents David Bailey and Crystal Griner.
The FBI is now leading the investigation. Verderosa said that “it’s going to take a while to sort through all the details,” and Tim Slater of the FBI said that it is “too early to tell whether anyone was targeted. . . . It’s really raw now. We’re exploring all angles.”
But Hodgkinson’s political statements were immediately examined as a possible motive.
Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) told reporters that he spoke briefly with a man he thinks was the shooter, and that he “asked me if the team practicing was a Democrat or Republican team.” Duncan added, “I told him they were Republicans. He said, ‘Okay, thanks,’ turned around.”
Sanders (Vt.) said Hodgkinson volunteered on his presidential campaign and denounced the shooter’s actions.
“I am sickened by this despicable act,” he said in a statement delivered on the Senate floor.
Robert Becker, who served as the Iowa director of Sanders’s presidential campaign, said that Hodgkinson had no formal role on the campaign and that he couldn’t find anyone who remembered him. “We had approximately 100 paid organizers on staff,” Becker said. “He was not one of them.”
Becker said that before the caucuses, about 10,000 people volunteered for Sanders at various times.
“No one seems to remember this guy,” he said.
Those who frequent the area around the baseball field in Alexandria said Hodgkinson had recently become a fixture in neighborhood, reporting that he was living out of a gym bag and was often seen at the local YMCA using a laptop or staring out a window in the lobby.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said it is conducting emergency traces on one rifle and one handgun.
SOURCE: Peter Hermann, Paul Kane and Amber Phillips
The Washington Post