Crime & Justice

Rifle-wielding gunman shoots congressman at GOP baseball practice

A member of the Alexandria Police stands guard near the scene where a man opened fire at a Congressional baseball practice on June 14, 2017.
A member of the Alexandria Police stands guard near the scene where a man opened fire at a Congressional baseball practice on June 14, 2017.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
A member of the Alexandria Police stands guard near the scene where a man opened fire at a Congressional baseball practice on June 14, 2017.
A photo of James T. Hodgkinson, the man identified as the gunman in an Alexandria, Virginia shooting on June 14, 2017, posted on his Facebook page.
A member of the Alexandria Police stands guard near the scene where a man opened fire at a Congressional baseball practice on June 14, 2017.
A broken window on a vehicle is seen outside the scene of a shooting that took place on June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia.
Win McNamee/Getty Images
A member of the Alexandria Police stands guard near the scene where a man opened fire at a Congressional baseball practice on June 14, 2017.
Investigators speak to witnesses of a shooting at a Congressional baseball practice on June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia.
Win McNamee/Getty Images
A member of the Alexandria Police stands guard near the scene where a man opened fire at a Congressional baseball practice on June 14, 2017.
Emergency personnel gather near the scene of a shooting that took place on June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
A member of the Alexandria Police stands guard near the scene where a man opened fire at a Congressional baseball practice on June 14, 2017.
A view of shoes left at a baseball field after a shooting at a congressional baseball practice on June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
A member of the Alexandria Police stands guard near the scene where a man opened fire at a Congressional baseball practice on June 14, 2017.
A black SUV with a hole on its windshield is seen outside the site of a shooting during a Congressional baseball practice on June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
A member of the Alexandria Police stands guard near the scene where a man opened fire at a Congressional baseball practice on June 14, 2017.
People gather after a shooting during a Congressional baseball practice on June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
A member of the Alexandria Police stands guard near the scene where a man opened fire at a Congressional baseball practice on June 14, 2017.
A Capitol Police Officer and police dog patrol the U.S. Capitol on June 14, 2017 after a shooting in Alexandria, Virginia.
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
A member of the Alexandria Police stands guard near the scene where a man opened fire at a Congressional baseball practice on June 14, 2017.
Law enforcement personnel gather near the scene of a shooting that took place on June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia.
Win McNamee/Getty Images
A member of the Alexandria Police stands guard near the scene where a man opened fire at a Congressional baseball practice on June 14, 2017.
Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX) is brought away by emergency medical service personnel after a shooting that took place on June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
A member of the Alexandria Police stands guard near the scene where a man opened fire at a Congressional baseball practice on June 14, 2017.
The scene of an early morning shooting at a Congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia on June 14, 2017.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
A member of the Alexandria Police stands guard near the scene where a man opened fire at a Congressional baseball practice on June 14, 2017.
Emergency personnel gather near the scene of a shooting that took place on June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia.
Win McNamee/Getty Images
A member of the Alexandria Police stands guard near the scene where a man opened fire at a Congressional baseball practice on June 14, 2017.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) briefs members of the mediaafter a shooting that took place on June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
A member of the Alexandria Police stands guard near the scene where a man opened fire at a Congressional baseball practice on June 14, 2017.
A member of the Alexandria Police and his canine patrol the scene of a shooting that took place on June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
A member of the Alexandria Police stands guard near the scene where a man opened fire at a Congressional baseball practice on June 14, 2017.
Police cordon off the scene of an early morning shooting in Alexandria, Virginia on June 14, 2017.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
A member of the Alexandria Police stands guard near the scene where a man opened fire at a Congressional baseball practice on June 14, 2017.
Michael Brown, Alexandria Chief of Police, briefs members of the press after a shooting at a congressional baseball practice on June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia.
Win McNamee/Getty Images
A member of the Alexandria Police stands guard near the scene where a man opened fire at a Congressional baseball practice on June 14, 2017.
The scene outside an early morning shooting at a Congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia on June 14, 2017.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
A member of the Alexandria Police stands guard near the scene where a man opened fire at a Congressional baseball practice on June 14, 2017.
Matthew Verderosa, Capitol Hill Chief of Police, briefs members of the press after a shooting at a congressional baseball practice on June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia.
Win McNamee/Getty Images
A member of the Alexandria Police stands guard near the scene where a man opened fire at a Congressional baseball practice on June 14, 2017.
A police officer stands guard in front of the U.S. Capitol Building on June 14, 2017 after a man opened fire at a Congressional baseball practice on June 14, 2017.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images


A rifle-wielding attacker opened fire on Republican lawmakers at a congressional baseball practice Wednesday, wounding five people including House majority whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana.

The shooting occurred in Alexandria, Virginia, shortly after 7 a.m.

The assailant, prepared with "a lot of ammo," fought a gun battle with police before he, too, was shot and later died, according to the Associated Press.

Scalise dragged himself off the infield, leaving a trail of blood as colleagues rushed to his assistance.

PBS Newshour has published video taken by an eyewitness. WARNING: This video contains disturbing footage. Language in the video has been edited.

Newshour shooting video

The shooter has been identified as 66-year-old James T. Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois. In remarks made shortly after 11:30 a.m. ET/8:30 a.m. PT, President Donald Trump announced the shooter "has now died."

Several California Democrats were practicing for the annual Congressional Baseball Game when they learned that a gunman opened fire at the Republican team's separate practice.

The Democrats expressed horror and solidarity with GOP colleagues in social media postings after the Wednesday morning attack.

Barragán of California's 44th District, which represents South Los Angeles and the L.A. Harbor area, was playing with the team when she heard the news.

"There was a lot of sadness, but also anger, that something like this could happen," she told KPCC.

Barragan said members of her team ended the practice and said a prayer as soon as they heard the news.

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued a statement on the shooting:

"My thoughts and prayers are with the civilians and officers wounded in today’s shooting in Alexandria. The senselessness of this burst of violence is only compounded by the fact that it struck as Majority Whip Steve Scalise and others were practicing for one of Washington’s great bipartisan traditions. We should all be grateful for the many acts of heroism and compassion that saved lives this morning — and mindful of how this tragedy underscores the urgency of ending the epidemic of gun violence in America."

The annual game dates back to 1909. The teams' rosters include eight California Democrats and one California Republican.

THE SHOOTER

Hodgkinson had a long history of lashing out at Republicans and once frightened a neighbor by firing a rifle into a field behind his Illinois house.

A picture has begun to emerge of an attacker with a mostly minor arrest record who worked as a home inspector and despised the Republican Party.

On Facebook, Hodgkinson was a member of a group called "Terminate the Republican Party," a fact that seemed to take on new meaning in light of an account from South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan, who said that as he was preparing to leave the baseball field, a man politely asked him whether it was a Democrat or Republican team before quietly walking off.

Until recently, Hodgkinson ran a home-inspection business out of his house. His Facebook page shows that he was a fan of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who last year made an unsuccessful presidential bid. Sanders acknowledged Wednesday that Hodgkinson had apparently been among many volunteers on his 2016 campaign.

Shortly after the shooting, Bernie Sanders, the former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, said on the Senate floor that the shooter apparently was a volunteer for his campaign last year. Sanders said he denounced the violence "in the strongest possible terms."

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.

A search of online newspapers show that Hodgkinson frequently wrote letters to his hometown newspaper, the Belleville News-Democrat, which published nearly two dozen letters between 2010 and 2012, many of which included complaints about the same theme: income inequality.

Hodgkinson, who lived in the community just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, compared the economic conditions of the time to those that preceded the Great Depression and excoriated Congress for not increasing the number of tax brackets and taking other tax reform measures.

On May 14, 2010, he wrote: "I don't envy the rich; I despise the way they have bought our politicians and twisted our laws to their benefit."

Less than a year later, on March 4, 2011, he wrote that Congress should rewrite tax codes to ease the tax burdens of the middle class.

"Let's get back to the good ol' days, when our representatives had a backbone and a conscience," he wrote.

Later that year, in October 2011, he applauded the Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York and Boston, writing that the demonstrators "are tired of our do-nothing Congress doing nothing while our country is going down the tubes."

Hodgkinson also had arrests in his background for a series of minor offenses and at least one more serious offense. Court records show that his legal trouble started in the 1990s with arrests for resisting police and drunken driving. His most serious problems came in 2006, when he was arrested on a battery charge.

In April 2006, he was arrested on two counts of battery — one for striking a man in the face with a wood shotgun stock and another for punching a woman with his fist, as well as a count of unlawful damage to a motor vehicle for cutting the passenger seatbelt of the woman's car with a knife. According to the court clerk, the charges were dismissed in November of that year.

He came to the attention of local law enforcement in March of last year. He was warned about shooting a rifle into a cornfield behind his house but no charges were filed.

Dale Walsh, 65, of Belleville, said he was a lifelong friend of Hodgkinson's. He said Hodgkinson spent most of his life building homes but in recent years turned to home inspections.

Walsh said Hodgkinson never talked politics with him and did not seem prone to violence. But he said he was a passionate person who occasionally got into fights.

"He was the type of person that if you challenged him, he wouldn't back off."

THE INVESTIGATION

Capitol Police say members of Scalise's security detail returned fire and wounded Hodgkinson, who was taken into custody.

"Everyone on that field is a public servant," Trump said. "Their sacrifice makes democracy possible."

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives says it is examining two weapons involved in the shooting at a congressional baseball practice.

The agency says it is working to quickly trace a rifle and a handgun to determine where they were purchased.

It was not immediately clear if the gunman fired both weapons during the attack. An ATF spokeswoman said a trace of the weapons would answer that question.

THE VICTIMS

Scalise, 51, the No. 3 House Republican leader first elected to the House in 2008, was in stable condition and undergoing surgery.

In all, five people were transported to the hospital, including the gunman, according to Alexandria Police Chief Michael Brown. A helicopter arrived to medevac at least one victim.

The wounded include two Capitol Police officers and Zack Barth, a staffer for Rep. Roger Williams of Texas. Williams, who was not injured in the incident, tweeted: "He is receiving medical attention but is doing well and is expected to make a full recovery."

Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa said during a news conference Wednesday that the officers wounded are in good condition their injuries are not considered life-threatening. 

Speaker Ryan identified the wounded Capitol Police officers as David Bailey and Crystal Griner.

Former congressional aide Matt Mika, who now works for Tysons Food in its Washington office, was also wounded. Mika was hospitalized and his condition is unclear.

George Washington University Hospital says one of the two patients it was treating following the shooting at a congressional baseball practice has died while the other remains in critical condition.

Hospital spokeswoman Susan Griffiths did not identify either patient.

Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama told CNN that the gunman placed himself behind the dugout and used it for protection while shooting. 

Brooks described the gunman as a middle-aged, white male who was "a little bit on the chubby side" but says he only saw him for a second. He said he believed two people were seriously injured.

THE AFTERMATH

The lawmakers were practicing for the Congressional Baseball Game for Charity, scheduled for Thursday night.

Scalise is known for his love of baseball. The team practices regularly at 6:30 a.m. at the field where the shooting occurred.

"We were doing batting practice," Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona told the Associated Press. "All of a sudden we heard a very loud shot. The gunman was over by the third base dugout with a clear view of the field."

He said the gunman had "a rifle of some sort ... a lot of ammo."

Rep. Mike Bishop of Michigan, said Scalise was at second base when he was shot.

"I was looking right at him," Bishop told Detroit radio station WWJ. "He was a sitting duck."

California Congressman Doug LaMalfa, who represents the 1st Congressional District in the northern tip of the state, is on the GOP baseball team but was not at the practice.

Trump praised the Capitol Police for doing "a challenging job with incredible skill." 

Trump went on to say:

"We may have our differences but we do well in times like these to remember that everyone who serves in our nation's Capitol is here because above all they love our country. 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. Please take a moment today to cherish those you love and always remember those who serve and keep us safe."​

The shocking event left the Capitol horrified and stunned. The House canceled proceedings for the day. 

Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California both spoke on the floor issuing calls for unity. "An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us," Ryan said.