Gunman dead; 5 injured people at GOP congressional baseball practice

James T. Hodgkinson of Belleville, IL

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump on Wednesday said the shooter who perpetrated the GOP congressional baseball practice attack is dead. The assailant has been identified as James T. Hodgkinson from Illinois.

The incident injured five people injured, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise.

"Authorities are continuing to investigate the crime and the assailant has now died from his injuries," Trump said from the White House.

Scalise, a congressional staffer and two law enforcement officials suffered gunshot wounds after the shooter opened fire on Republican members of Congress on the baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia.

"Steve Scalise is a friend and a very good friend. He's a patriot and he's a fighter. He will recover from this assault and, Steve, I want you to know that you have the prayers not only of the entire city behind you but of an entire nation and frankly the entire world," Trump said. "America is praying for you and America is praying for all of the victims of this shooting."

Scalise was in stable condition and undergoing surgery.

The shooter

The Illinois man who shot a Republican congressman and several other people while they practiced baseball outside the nation's capital had a number of run-ins with police in recent years, including arrests for battery, resisting arrest, and drunken driving.

James T. Hodgkinson, who was 66, was fatally shot by police. Court records show that his legal trouble started in the 1990s. His most serious problems apparently came in 2006, when he was arrested on the battery charge. Records indicate he has not been involved in any legal cases since 2011.

Hodgkinson's Facebook page indicates that, until recently, he ran a home-inspection business out of his home in Belleville, in the southwestern corner of the state, across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.

Event left the Capitol horrified

The shooting occurred at a popular park and baseball complex in Alexandria, Virginia, where Republican lawmakers and others were gathered for a morning practice about 7 a.m. They were in good spirits despite the heat and humidity as they prepared for the congressional baseball match that pits Republicans against Democrats. The popular annual face-off, which raises money for charity, was scheduled for Thursday evening at Nationals Park across the Potomac River in Washington.

The team was taking batting practice when gunshots rang out and chaos erupted.

Scalise was fielding balls on second base when he was shot, according to lawmakers present, then dragged himself into the outfield to get away from the gunman.

Rep. Mo Brooks, an Alabama Republican, said his colleague "crawled into the outfield, leaving a trail of blood."

"We started giving him the liquids, I put pressure on his wound in his hip," Brooks said.

Texas Rep. Joe Barton, still in his baseball uniform, told reporters a shooter came out to the practice and opened fire, shooting at Rep. Trent Kelly, R-Miss., who plays third base.

"He shot at Steve Scalise, our second baseman. He hit Steve Scalise," Barton said, "Scalise's security detail and the Capitol Hill police immediately returned fire, and Alexandria Police also immediately came and began to return fire. They shot the shooter. The security detail saved a lot of lives because they attacked the shooter."

Barton said the shooting lasted 5-10 minutes, and there were dozens if not hundreds of shots fired.

"It was scary," Barton said.

Lawmakers took cover in the dugout. Barton said his son, Jack, got under an SUV.

FBI special agent in charge Tim Slater said it was "too early to say" whether it was an act of terrorism, or whether Scalise was targeted.

After the gunfire stopped, Sen. Flake, of Arizona, said he ran onto the field and also tried to come to Scalise's aide. After medical personnel arrived, he said he retrieved Scalise's phone and made the first call to Scalise's wife to notify her of the shooting. He said he did so to ensure that Mrs. Scalise would not find out about the shooting through the media.

Flake estimated that more than 50 shots were fired.

Scalise, a popular and gregarious lawmaker, is known for his love of baseball and handed out commemorative baseball bats to fellow lawmakers when he secured the No. 3 job of House whip several years ago.

Falisa Peoples was just leaving the YMCA next to the ball field when she saw the shooter open fire.

"He was just very calm. He was just walking and shooting," she said of the man, whom she described as white and wearing a T-shirt and shorts. She said he was using a long gun and exchanging fire with law enforcement officers, one of whom yelled for her to get down.

In a brief interview in a Senate hallway, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, "I think everybody handled it well and things seem to be under control."

Other lawmakers were stunned in the aftermath of the event, which raised questions about the security of members of Congress. While the top lawmakers, including Scalise, have security details, others do not and regularly appear in public without protection. The last time a lawmaker was shot was when Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona was hit in the head and grievously injured while meeting with constituents at a supermarket parking lot in 2011.

Following the Giffords shooting, lawmakers have held fewer open town halls and have been advised to increase security at such events.