Shooter targets Congressional baseball practice in Virginia, six hospitalized

Friday, June 16, 2017

On Wednesday, at least six people — United States House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, Representative Roger Williams, congressional staffer Zach Barth, lobbyist Matt Mike, and two Capitol police officers, Crystal Griner and special agent David Bailey, were hospitalized after shots were fired on a ball field in Alexandria, Virginia during practice for a charity baseball game. The alleged perpetrator, a 66-year-old Illinois man, was shot by police and later died in a hospital.

Senator Jeff Flake recounts the incident.
Video: VOA.

According to Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks, the shooter was in the dugout behind third base. Team members saw Scalise crawl away from second base after he was shot. According to Senator Jeff Flake, Scalise's security team fired upon the shooter. Flake and Congressman Brad Wenstrup, a physician, went to Scalise and attempted to staunch the bleeding until help could arrive. Scalise was still in critical condition yesterday, who was admitted to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, though some of the other injured had been released.

"Nobody would have survived without the Capitol Hill police," Kentucky Senator Rand Paul told CNN. "It would have been a massacre without them."

Senator Bernie Sanders' reaction to news that gunman was a volunteer for his 2016 campaign.
Video: VOA.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation identified the shooter as James T. Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois. Hodgkinson, who worked as a home inspector until earlier this year, had made posts on the Internet condemning the Republican tax plan, attended at least one 99% rally in 2012. He had campaigned for Democrat Bernie Sanders in last year's U.S. presidential race, Sanders said; Sanders condemned Hodgkinson's actions, saying he was "sickened by this despicable act."

A 7.62 mm SKS rifle and a nine mm pistol were obtained from the scene. According​ to the FBI, the shooter acquired the arms legally.

Hodgkinson has written many letters to a local newspaper News-Democrat with comments such as "This country is in need of a major change in more ways than one, but let's start with the federal income tax rates" in 2008 and "We need to vote all Republicans out of office" in 2011. The day before the shooting, Hodgkinson had had a brief but intense in-person outburst in which he said that President Trump messed up the U.S. "more than anyone in the history of this country."

In 2006, Hodgkinson was arrested after allegedly punching a woman in the face and attempting to choke someone. He also fired a shotgun as part of that incident. The charges were later dismissed. In March, police responded to reports of a gunshot at Hodgkinson's home and found him holding a hunting rifle. After ascertaining that he had a license for said firearm, they left him with a warning.

Scalise, a Congressperson from Louisiana is the third-highest ranking Republican in the U.S. Congress.

The Congressional Baseball Game, played between Democrats and Republicans, is a tradition for the U.S. Congress. It was played yesterday evening as scheduled, and both teams wore hats from Louisiana State University to honor Scalise. The event raised more than US$1 million for Congressional Sports for Charity. It is about twice the previous year's figure, spokeswoman Meredith Raimondi said. The Democrats won the game, and the ball used in the game was presented to officer David Bailey, who had been released from the hospital after being injured by the shooter.