Gunman killed after opening fire on U.S. congressmen

Gunman killed after opening fire on U.S. congressmen
June 14 18:09 2017

A gunman who sprayed bullets at Republican lawmakers during baseball practice in a Washington DC suburb has died, US President Donald Trump said.

The attacker, identified as Illinois native James T Hodgkinson, was taken to hospital and died from his injuries.

House of Representatives Majority Whip Steve Scalise was one of five injured in the early morning attack at a park in Alexandria, Virginia.

Two police officers suffered non-life threatening wounds as they fired back.

“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,” Mr Trump said, describing the attack as a “very, very brutal assault”.

“We are strongest when we are unified and when we work together for the common good.”

He also called Mr Scalise, who is recovering from surgery, a “very good friend”, a “patriot and a fighter”.

The lawmakers were practising for the annual congressional ballgame that organisers vowed would go ahead as planned on Thursday at Nationals Park, home of Major League Baseball team the Washington Nationals.

Alexandria police said the FBI was taking over the investigation into the shooting, which began shortly after 07:00 (11:00 GMT) on Wednesday morning at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park.

Media captionCongressman shot: ‘He laid out there for 10 minutes alone’

‘Killing field’

Mr Scalise, who was shot in the hip, was said to be in “good spirits” before he was taken in for surgery.

He was “doing well” after his operation, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said.

Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, said someone had used a belt as a tourniquet on Mr Scalise at the baseball field.

What we know about the Virginia shooting suspect

  • James T Hodgkinson is a 66-year-old man from Belleville, Illinois, a small city just across the Mississippi River from the city of St Louis, Missouri
  • Mr Hodgkinson’s wife told ABC News he moved to Virginia two months ago
  • His Facebook account shows anti-Republican and anti-Trump rhetoric
  • He was a volunteer on the campaign of former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders

South Carolina congressman Jeff Duncan said the suspect had asked him whether Republicans or Democrats were practising before shots rang out.

Texas congressman Roger Williams’ office said one of his staff, legislative correspondent Zack Barth, was wounded in the attack.

Tyson Foods confirmed that one of its lobbyists, Matt Mika, was also among those injured and the company was “awaiting word on his condition”.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul told Fox News: “I do believe without the Capitol Hill police it would have been a massacre.

“We had no defence at all. The field was basically a killing field.”

He said they were lucky that Mr Scalise was present because he has a security detail owing to his congressional seniority.

Mo Brooks, an Alabama Republican, told CNN he was on third base during the baseball game when he saw Mr Scalise, who was on second base, shot.

He said Mr Scalise had a bullet hole in his leg, but was saying: “I’m OK, I’m OK.”

Mr Brooks said everyone on the field scattered as 50 to 100 shots were fired.

He said a gunfight had ensued between the shooter and the congressmen’s police security detail, who were armed with pistols.

Police have identified the two injured officers as Krystal Griner and David Bailey.

Mr Brooks said the gunman was armed with a rifle and was “blasting away” from behind the dugout, using it for protection.

The congressman, who said he took refuge behind a batting cage, described the attacker as a middle-aged white male, “a little on the chubby side”.

Mr Brooks said congressmen Chuck Fleischmann, of Tennessee, Ron DeSantis, of Florida, and Jeff Duncan, of South Carolina, were among 15-25 lawmakers at the game.

Asked by a CNN host if the attack was deliberate, Mr Brooks replied: “Well, it sure as heck wasn’t an accident!

“He was going after elected officials, congressmen.”

Mr Brooks continued: “The only weapon I had was a baseball bat and that’s not the kind of fight you want to engage in.”

Media captionTrump condemns ‘brutal’ baseball shooting

Ohio congressman Brad Wenstrup, who served in Iraq as a combat surgeon from 2005-06, provided medical care at the scene.

He told CNN the shooter eventually resorted to a pistol, having apparently used up all his rifle ammunition.

‘A lot of ammo’

Arizona Senator Jeff Flake told reporters he was at bat during the shooting and the victims were “sitting ducks”.

He said the attack had lasted for at least 10 minutes, adding: “He had a lot of ammo.”

Mr Flake added: “There are two of his [Mr Scalise’s security] detail were shot, one African-American gentleman shot in the leg and I believe he’s the one that brought the shooter down.

“He ran around for quite a while with a leg wound, returning fire.”

Who is Steve Scalise?

  • House Majority Whip, the number three Republican in Congress, responsible for vote gathering
  • Elected to Congress in 2008 having previously served in the Louisiana state legislature
  • He apologised for speaking to a white supremacist group during a campaign event in 2002
  • Former leader of the ultraconservative Republican Study Group, which clashed frequently with party leadership
  • He married his wife Jennifer in 2005 and they have two young children. They live in Jefferson, Louisiana

Alexandria Police Chief Michael Brown said his officers had responded and engaged the shooter within three minutes.

The last member of Congress to be targeted by a gunman was Democrat Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head as she met constituents in Tucson, Arizona, in January 2011. She survived, but six others died in that incident.

Ms Giffords‏ tweeted on Wednesday: “My heart is with my former colleagues, their families & staff, and the US Capitol Police- public servants and heroes today and every day.”

The top Republican in the House of Representatives, Speaker Paul Ryan, was applauded on the chamber floor as he said: “We are united… an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.”

One eyewitness was outraged that the gunman should have targeted a game known as the nation’s pastime.

Noah Nathan told NBC News: “Baseball is America’s game! You don’t mess with baseball.”

[BBC]