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Suspect Dies After Shooting At GOP Baseball Practice In Virginia

Jun 14, 2017

 

A gunman opened fire during an early morning baseball practice for Republican members of Congress on Wednesday, reportedly firing dozens of shots at a field in Alexandria, Va. At least five people were wounded, including Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana.

The shooting suspect has been identified as James T. Hodgkinson of Belleville, Ill., two federal law enforcement sources confirm to NPR's Carrie Johnson. In an address from the White House, President Trump said, "the assailant has now died from his injuries."

Hodgkinson was 66 years old, according to multiple sources online. He was taken into custody at the scene of the shooting. He was a member of several online groups that took stances against Republicans and the president, the Belleville News-Democrat reports.

Police initially tweeted that the suspect was among five people transported to the hospital, though Alexandria Police Chief Michael Brown later refused to confirm that. Members of the U.S. Capitol Police were also wounded.

The shooting occurred around 7 a.m. ET in the Del Ray area of Alexandria, just south of Washington, D.C., and about 8 miles from Capitol Hill. A helicopter arrived to medevac at least one victim.

The FBI is taking over the investigation, Brown said in a midmorning update, because the attack involved violence against a federal officer.

The FBI is "exploring all angles" in the case, Special Agent in Charge Tim Slater said, responding to a question about whether the attack was an act of terrorism. He also said it was too early to divulge information about the suspect, from his identity to where he lives. Slater did not provide details about the suspect's condition.

U.S. Capitol Police Chief Matthew R. Verderosa said his officers who were wounded "are in good condition" and should recover quickly. He later added that they had "acted heroically today."

In the wake of the shooting, the House of Representatives canceled legislative business for the day, and security was increased around the White House. A public event that had been scheduled for President Trump at the Labor Department on Wednesday afternoon was canceled.

Scalise was shot in the hip; his office says the lawmaker was in stable condition and undergoing surgery at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

"Prior to entering surgery, the Whip was in good spirits and spoke to his wife by phone," Scalise's office said in a statement. "He is grateful for the brave actions of U.S. Capitol Police, first responders, and colleagues."

Trump said in a tweet that Scalise "was badly injured but will fully recover," adding, "Our thoughts and prayers are with him."

The shooter opened fire at a baseball field at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park, across the parking lot from Alexandria's YMCA. Gunshots hit the YMCA's windows, and the building was shut down and the block cordoned off, NPR's Tom Bowman reports from the scene.

After receiving a call of shots fired at 7:09 a.m., officers were on the scene within three minutes, Chief Brown said. He added that at least two officers fired at the gunman.

Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, who was at the practice, told CNN that the gunman was holding what he described as a semi-automatic rifle in the area behind third base and that Scalise had been near second base. He told CNN that he tried to help Scalise, saying, "We used my belt to help put a tourniquet around his leg."

Brooks also told the network that he watched as "a Capitol security guy who had already been shot, who had helped take down the shooter, came limping over to us in the outfield, totally ignoring his own wounds to check on the person he was primarily responsible for — Steve Scalise being a part of the House leadership team."

Two Capitol Police officers showed "incredible bravery," Brooks said, describing how they used their pistols to engage in a gunbattle with a man armed with a rifle, from a distance of 90 to 120 feet.

NPR's Scott Detrow reports that a staff member of Rep. Roger Williams' office was wounded. Earlier reports had said Williams was also shot, but his office says the Texas congressman was not hurt in the attack.

Rep. Steve Pearce of New Mexico, who was at the practice but unharmed, tweeted prayers for the victims.

A local resident who posted a video of the scene after the shooting said, "There were probably about 80 to 100 shots fired over there."

That resident, Benjamin Childers, added, "We had three members of Congress [who] took shelter in our apartment."

Trump has issued a statement:

"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 shooting occurred one day before the Republican team was scheduled to play in the annual Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park. Pitting members of one party against another, the contest supports charities ranging from the Boys and Girls Clubs to the Washington Literacy Center.

Members of the Democratic Party's team were practicing elsewhere Wednesday morning; after the attack, they tweeted a photo of themselves taking a moment to think of their colleagues.

The violence disrupted what had been a quiet start to the day in Del Ray, hitting an area where many residents go to work out in the mornings and grab a coffee from a shop around the corner from the YMCA.

As NPR's Jessica Taylor reports from the neighborhood: "This is people going about their normal mornings, probably not even knowing that there were members of Congress that were practicing a few blocks down the road here. And it just went from really sort of a calm, peaceful morning to utter chaos in here."

This is a developing story. Some things that get reported by the media will later turn out to be wrong. We will focus on reports from police officials and other authorities, credible news outlets and reporters who are at the scene. We will update as the situation develops.