Senior US congressman Steve Scalise shot at in Virginia, shooter had worked on Sanders campaign
A lone gunman opened fire Wednesday morning on a team of US Republican lawmakers practicing for an upcoming baseball game in a suburban city just outside the Capital wounding a member of the party’s leadership team in the House of Representatives and at least four other people.
Steve Scalise, the majority whip in the House who was in a fielding position, was hit in the hip area and witnesses and fellow lawmakers described him dragging himself out of the field to safety some 15 or 20 yards away as the shooter kept firing, before he received some kind of medical help.
Lawmakers who were present on the field have said at least two congressional aides and two members of the Capitol Hill security police were also wounded in the attack. Local authorities said five people were “medically transported”, but didn’t say if the alleged shooter was among them.
The assailant, who was brought down in an exchange of fire with law enforcement officers, has been identified as James T Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville, Illinois. And Democratic senator Bernie Sanders said on the floor of the senate the man had volunteered on his presidential campaign and that he felt “sickened by this despicable act”.
The shooter’s death was announced by President Donald Trump who in a statement from the White House appealed for unity: “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.”
There were news reports, not confirmed yet by authorities, that investigators had found anti-Trump social postings by Hodgkinson. A Republican lawmaker who had let the filed shortly before the shooting has said shooter, whom he recognized later from pictures, had spoken to him and asked if the politicians there were Republicans or Democrats.
But Agent Tim Slater of the FBI, which had taken lead role in the investigation, told reporters it was too early to say if the attack was politically motivated or that it was an assassination attempt or an act of terrorism. He added he was not aware of reports the shooter had asked bout the political affiliation of the lawmakers on the field.
Senator Rand Paul, who was among those practicing with the team, told CNN that the if “would have been a massacre” if not for the presence of the Capitol Hill security officers detailed to Scalise’s security as he is line of succession to the White House if the president was unable to complete the term for one reason or the other, but way down the list. They, and local officers, had shot back at the shooter.
There were close to 15-20 members of the House and two senators, all Republicans, on the field, in Alexandria, a suburban city in Virginia, a state abutting Washington DC. They were practicing for an upcoming baseball match for charity against Democrats on Thursday.
Jeff Flake, a Republican senator who was the first to reach Scalise as he lay on the ground, told reporters, “I ran low to Steve and started applying pressure on wound” to stop the bleeding. The wounded congressman had lost blood, he said, and was thirsty and asked for water, but he was coherent all the time.
This was the second shooting of a serving lawmaker in recent years. Democratic member of the House of Representatives Gabrielle Giffords was shot multiple times in an assassination attempt in January 2011, in which six people died and 12 were injured. She survived, but has not recovered fully yet.
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