ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CBSNewYork) — An early-morning practice for a charity baseball game turned into a violent nightmare Wednesday.
As CBS2’s Brian Conybeare reported, a gunman opened fire during a practice for an annual charity baseball game in Alexandria, Virginia. The deranged man was apparently determined to target Republican lawmakers.
Four people were wounded by gunfire – including House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana), CBS2’s Jessica Layton reported. Two more suffered secondary injuries.
MedStar Washington Hospital Center said Scalise was in critical condition following surgery.
The shooting suspect, identified by as James T. Hodgkinson, 66, of downstate Belleville, Illinois, died following a shootout with Capitol Police.
Alexandria police said they received a call about an active shooter at Simpson Park shortly after 7 a.m.
“Today I experienced the carnage of actual gunshots being fired first hand,” said Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tennessee). “It was horrific.”
“The next thing I heard was. ‘Run, he’s got a gun!’” said Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Illinois).
U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-South Carolina) described what happened just before the violence.
“I did have an interaction with someone in the parking lot who asked me if the team practicing was a Democrat or Republican team. I told him they were Republicans. He said, ‘K, thanks,’” Duncan said.
As Duncan got in his car and left the baseball field, it is believed that Hodgkinson grabbed an assault rifle and headed to the diamond, where the Republican congressmen were practicing for the game scheduled for Thursday.
“I remember thinking, I said, ‘Why would anybody bring a rifle here at 6 o’clock in the morning?’” said witness Marty LaVor.
Scalise was hit, and was then carried off by stretcher to a waiting medevac.
LaVor, who has photographed the annual practices for 30 years, was there again Wednesday morning when the dozens of shots rang out — shocking the neighborhood. A bullet hole could be seen in a window of the nearby YMCA.
“I started to get up, and somebody in the dugout said get down and he started, he continued shooting, and the Capitol Police only had handguns when in pursuit of him,” LaVor said. “We could hear the sound from his and the sound from theirs, of the clips being empty.”
Witnesses reported hearing at least 50 gunshots. Scalise had been near second base, and then crawled bleeding to the outfield.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) was there.
“I got Steve Scalise’s phone and called his wife,” Flake said. “I just didn’t want her to wake up and hear the news.”
Capitol Police Officers David Bailey and Krystal Griner were wounded in the exchange with the gunman. Griner was shot, while Bailey suffered a secondary injury.
“The injuries do not appear to be life threatening at this point,” Capitol Hill Police Chief Matthew Verderosa said. “They’re in good condition.”
Also shot in the attack were Matt Mika, a former congressional staffer who works as a lobbyist for Tyson Foods, and Zachary Barth, a staffer for Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas).
Mika was shot in the chest, CBS News reported.
Williams also required medical attention for a sprained ankle, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) said during a joint news conference with Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pennsylvania).
Barton and Doyle are the managers of the Congressional baseball teams. Barton said his two sons were at the Republicans’ practice Wednesday morning and had “25 dads” looking out for them.
Barton said the shooting lasted between five and 10 minutes.
“There were dozens if not hundreds of shots fired, it was scary,” he said. “He was a middle aged man — blue jeans and blue shirt. He had a rifle and I think he had an automatic pistol.”
President Donald Trump said America is praying for all the victims, including the congressman.
“Congressman Scalise is a friend, and a very good friend, he’s a patriot and he’s a fighter,” Trump later said. “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. America is praying for you and America is praying for all of the victims of this terrible shooting.”
Trump said on Twitter that Scalise “was badly injured but will fully recover.” Late Wednesday, Trump made a surprise visit to hospital where Scalise was being treated.
Trump also praised Capitol Police for their response.
“Many lives would have been lost if not for the heroic actions of the two Capitol Police officers who took down the gunman despite sustaining gunshot wounds during a very, very brutal assault,” Trump said.
Scalise’s office also released a statement.
“Prior to entering surgery, the Whip was in good spirits and spoke to his wife by phone,” Scalise’s office said. “He is grateful for the brave actions of U.S. Capitol Police, first responders, and colleagues.”
Alexandria police Chief Michael L. Brown said this was an isolated incident and there is no additional threat.
“I want to reassure the community that this city is indeed safe,” Brown said.
Meanwhile, the FBI found gunman Hodgkinson’s vehicle and is examining the contents of his electronic devices.
FBI Washington Field Office Special Agent-in-Charge Timothy Slater said Hodgkinson had been living out of his vehicle on East Monroe Street in Alexandria.
“Law enforcement has reason to believe that the shooter has been in the Alexandria, Virginia area since Mach of this year,” Slater said.
The FBI was asking anyone who might have encountered Hodgkinson to report their interactions with him – in Virginia, in his downstate Illinois hometown, or in his travels.
Anyone with information was asked to call the FBI tip line at (800) call FBI and selection option 1, or to go to tips.fbi.gov.
A law enforcement source told CBS News’ Pat Milton it appears the suspect was increasingly frustrated over the political direction of the country. At this point, there is no indication he was inspired by a terrorist group or terrorist ideology.
CBS News has learned there were anti-Trump postings on Hodgkinson’s Facebook page, suggesting that perhaps the shooting was politically motivated, CBS News’ Jeff Pegues reported. Two posts from March read “Trump is a traitor, he has destroyed our democracy,” and “It’s time to destroy Trump and co.”
Hodgkinson also volunteered on Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign.
Regarding that fact, Sanders said, ““I have just been informed that the alleged shooter at the Republican baseball practice this morning is someone who apparently volunteered on my presidential campaign,” Sanders said Wednesday. “I am sickened by this despicable act, and let me be as clear as I can be, violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms.”
Trump called for unity, saying we are strongest when “we work together for the common good.”
“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,” Trump said. “We can all agree that we are blessed to be Americans, that our children deserve to grow up in a nation of safety and peace, and that we are strongest when we are unified and when we work together for the common good.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) echoed Trump’s message.
“We are united in our shock, we are united in our anguish. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us,” Ryan said. “For all the noise and all the fury, we are one family… I ask each of you to join me to resolve to come together to lift each other up and to show the country, to show the world, that we are one House, the people’s House, united in our humanity. It is that humanity which will win the day and it always will.”
“For this person to take this action was so cowardly,” House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California) said of Rep. Scalise. “It seems particularly sad that at a time when people want us to come together… that this assault would be made. But we cannot let that be a victory for the assailant or anyone who would think that way… We will use this occasion as one that brings us together and not separates us further.”
Dyan Lee, who regularly walks her dog by the ballfield, says what happened at Simpson Field Wednesday morning is a horrible example of just how divided the country has become.
“We need to come together and mend our differences,” Lee said.
“What we have to remember is this, that the American people (are great people and we have great values,” Fleischmann added.
A law enforcement source said it appears the suspect Hodgkinson was increasingly frustrated over the political direction of the country and they’re looking at his social media and his internet use to try and identify his exact motivation. At this point there is no indication that this shooting was inspired by a Terrorist group or terrorist ideology.
Late Wednesday night, police and the FBI could be seen going in and out of Hodgkinson’s rural Illinois home, where he had lived with his wife.
Back in Alexandria, members of a church gathered on a middle school lawn to pray for the victims and reflect on a rampage that has both shaken and unified Capitol Hill.
Republicans were practicing for the annual baseball game against Democrats that has been held since 1909.
When Democratic members of Congress practicing at a different field miles away heard of the shooting, they immediately stopped and said a prayer together.
All House votes were canceled for the day Wednesday.
The bipartisan baseball game will go on Thursday as planned.