Vice President Mike Pence visited the hospital Thursday where House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was reported in critical condition after he and four others were wounded in a shooting at a congressional baseball practice outside the nation’s capital.
Pence wrote on Twitter that he and his wife Karen "thanked docs & staff," and he asked people to keep Scalise and "all involved & their loved ones in your prayers."
Scalise, the third-highest ranked House Republican, was shot in the hip Wednesday. The bullet tore through his pelvis, fracturing bones, injuring internal organs and causing severe bleeding, MedStar Washington Hospital Center said Wednesday night. The 51-year-old underwent emergency surgery and received multiple units of blood, the hospital said, adding that he’ll need additional operations.
President Donald Trump and his wife Melania visited the hospital Wednesday night. They spoke with Scalise’s wife and sat at the gravely injured Louisiana lawmaker’s bedside. Press Secretary Sean Spicer described it as a somber scene.
“Just left hospital. Rep. Steve Scalise, one of the truly great people, is in very tough shape -- but he is a real fighter. Pray for Steve!” Trump said on Twitter.
A congressional staffer, two Capitol Police officers and a lobbyist were also wounded in the early morning attack at a ballpark in Alexandria, Virginia. The gunman was identified as 66-year-old James T. Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois. He died later from injuries sustained in a shootout with police.
Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama, who witnessed the shooting, told Bloomberg TV that he heard a “loud explosion” and saw a middle-aged man with a rifle as he looked down the third-base line. He and other lawmakers sought cover on the ground behind the batting cage and later in the dugout as more shots were fired. Brooks said he heard Scalise scream.
“While this was going on, the gunfire is coming nonstop from the rifle,” said Brooks, who said Scalise left a “trail of blood.” Brooks said members of Scalise’s security detail fired back with pistols at the shooter.
“There could have easily been 25 deaths” if not for the police officers’ quick response, Representative Roger Williams of Texas told reporters later in the day, wearing a medical boot and using crutches because of an ankle injury he suffered in the melee.
Timothy Slater, an FBI special agent in charge of the Washington field office, told reporters that authorities are trying to determine Hodgkinson’s motive and why he was in the area. The gunman had apparently been in the Alexandria area since March and was living out of his van near the baseball field, Slater said. On social media, Hodgkinson had previously posted messages expressing disdain for Republicans.
The House Republican baseball team has been practicing for weeks in early mornings at the Alexandria site for Thursday’s annual congressional baseball game against Democratic lawmakers’ team. Leaders decided the game will go on as scheduled at Nationals Park in Washington, home of the city’s professional baseball team.
The congressional game is one of Washington’s greatest shows of bipartisanship and camaraderie, and preparation by both teams is serious. Much partisan pride is at stake in the charity game that dates to 1919. The GOP team had been particularly upbeat, having finally won the contest last year after a long losing streak.
Scalise has been an avid participant in the game since arriving in Congress in 2008. As majority whip, he is the chief vote counter in the Republican conference.
--With assistance from Terrence Dopp Toluse Olorunnipa and Anna Edgerton
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