2017 Congressional baseball shooting
On June 14, 2017, in Alexandria, Virginia, Republican member of Congress and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana was shot while practicing for the annual Congressional Baseball Game for Charity, scheduled for the following day. Also shot were Crystal Griner, a Capitol Police officer assigned to protect Scalise; Zack Barth, a Congressional aide; and Matt Mika, a Tyson Foods lobbyist.
|2017 Congressional baseball shooting|
|Location||Alexandria, Virginia, U.S.|
|Date||June 14, 2017
7:09 a.m. EDT
|Weapons||SKS rifle and 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun|
|6 (4 by gunfire); 1 in critical condition|
A ten-minute shootout ensued between the shooter—James Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois, a left-wing activist—and officers from the Capitol and Alexandria Police. Officers shot Hodgkinson, who died from his wounds later that day at George Washington University Hospital. Scalise and Mika were taken to nearby hospitals, where they underwent surgery. Scalise is the first sitting member of Congress to have been shot since Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot in 2011.
The shooting took place on June 14, 2017, at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria, Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. There were 20 to 25 Republican congressmen who had gathered at the park to practice for the next day's Congressional Baseball Game for Charity, an annual, bipartisan event first held in 1909. Among those at the practice, aside from Scalise, were Senators Rand Paul and Jeff Flake, and Representatives Roger Williams (the team's coach), Chuck Fleischmann, Trent Kelly, Mo Brooks, Brad Wenstrup, Rodney Davis, Jeff Duncan, and Joe Barton (the team's manager).
At the practice and before the shooting, Representatives Ron DeSantis and Jimmy Duncan were approached by a man who asked whether Republicans or Democrats were practicing on the field. Duncan reportedly replied that it was the Republican team. DeSantis later told reporters that both he and Duncan believe that the man was "the same individual police have identified."
Three Capitol Police officers were present at the practice to protect Scalise, who, due to his House leadership position, has a full-time security detail assigned to protect him. They were posted behind the first-base dugout on that day.
The practice had been underway for about half an hour when James Hodgkinson began firing. According to the Capitol Police, he was armed with an SKS rifle and a 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun, both of which he had apparently purchased legally. It was unclear if Hodgkinson used the handgun during the shooting incident.
When Hodgkinson opened fire, two of the officers, David Bailey and Crystal Griner, rushed onto the field to protect the congressmen and the other civilians. Hodgkinson hid behind the third base dugout as the third Capitol Police officer, Henry Cabrera, took aim at him from behind the first base dugout.
At 7:09 am, the Alexandria Police received a 9-1-1 report of shots fired. Two police officers arrived within three minutes and also engaged Hodgkinson in a gunfight. Witnesses estimated between 50 and 100 shots were fired during the shootout, which lasted about 10 minutes before Hodgkinson was shot by two Alexandria Police and two Capitol Police officers.
Scalise, who was at second base when the shooting started, was shot in the hip and tried to drag himself off the field. While the shooting was still going on, Rep. Mo Brooks used his belt as a tourniquet to help stop bleeding for a staffer who had been shot in the calf. After the shooting ended, Brooks and Rep. Brad Wenstrup—a podiatrist who also served with the Army's 344th Combat Support Hospital—were able to assist Scalise.
Several witnesses said their lives were saved by the presence of the Capitol Police, who were there because of Scalise's position as the House Majority Whip. The Capitol Police immediately engaged Hodgkinson and kept him pinned down, preventing him from continuing to fire on the unarmed baseball players. Rep. Davis and Sen. Rand Paul separately said that if not for the presence of the officers, the incident "would have been a massacre." A tactical squad from the Capitol Police Containment and Emergency Response Team was erroneously directed to the residence of Nancy Pelosi in Georgetown, delaying their response time.
Scalise was shot in the hip and was evacuated by medical helicopter to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where he underwent surgery. The hospital reported that after the bullet struck his hip, it traveled across his pelvis – fracturing bones, injuring internal organs, and causing severe bleeding. His condition was initially listed as "critical". He received multiple blood transfusions and underwent several surgeries to repair internal damage and stop the bleeding. His condition was changed to "serious" on June 17. It further improved to "fair" on June 21, though he was readmitted to intensive care on July 5 due to concerns of infection.
Matt Mika, a Tyson Foods lobbyist, was shot multiple times in the chest and arm, injuring his lungs, sternum and ribs. He is a former baseball player and former legislative assistant for Congressmen Tim Walberg and Dave Camp, both Republicans from Michigan. Mika was taken to George Washington University Hospital where he underwent surgery for his injuries. He was in critical condition immediately following surgery. The day after the shooting, his condition was improved from critical to serious. On June 23 he was released from the hospital.
David Bailey and Crystal Griner, two of the Capitol Police officers assigned to protect Scalise, were both injured. Griner was shot in the ankle and was hospitalized in what was described as good condition. Bailey was treated and released after sustaining a minor injury not caused by gunfire.
Zack Barth, a legislative aide to Rep. Roger Williams of Texas, was shot in the calf. He was treated at the hospital and released. Williams, a former Minor League Baseball player and the coach of the Republican team, sprained his ankle while jumping into a dugout during the attack to avoid being shot. He was still using a crutch for support as of July 9.
Police identified the shooter as James Thomas Hodgkinson, aged 66, whose last permanent residence was in Belleville, Illinois. He was severely injured in the shootout and transported to George Washington University Hospital, where he died from his injuries.
The St. Clair County Sheriff said that deputies had been called to Hodgkinson's house about half a dozen times in the past 20 years. In 2006, Hodgkinson was accused of beating his foster daughter and charged with domestic battery, though the case was dismissed when the alleged victim refused to testify. Had Hodgkinson been convicted, he would have been unable to legally purchase firearms.
In March 2017, a neighbor called police to complain about Hodgkinson firing a rifle at trees in their residential neighborhood. The officers who responded checked Hodgkinson's gun permit, then advised him not to shoot in the area but did not conduct an arrest.
Hodgkinson owned a home inspection business that had an expired license at the time of the shooting. Investigators believe that he had been living in a van in Alexandria for about six weeks at the time of the shooting. Witnesses say he often parked the van near the ball field and nearby YMCA, and was a frequent visitor to the YMCA. According to Tim Slater of the FBI's Washington field office, Hodgkinson "was running out of money. He was not employed at the time of the event, and he was looking for some local employment. He was married for 30 years, and it appears that that marriage was not going so well. It was just a pattern of life where you could tell things were not going well."
Hodgkinson had participated in the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign during the 2016 United States presidential election, and was described by a fellow campaigner in Iowa as a "quiet guy, very mellow, very reserved."
Republican Congressman Mike Bost, who represents Hodgkinson's home district, said Hodgkinson had contacted his office ten times, but "never with any threats, only anger." He wrote 27 letters to the editor of the Belleville News-Democrat between March 2008 and September 2012 on various political and economic topics, many of which were anti-Republican.
On May 22, 2017, Hodgkinson wrote "Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It's Time to Destroy Trump & Co." above his repost of a Change.org petition demanding "the legal removal" of Trump and Vice President Mike Pence for "treason". He belonged to numerous politically-oriented Facebook groups, including those named "Terminate the Republican Party," "The Road To Hell Is Paved With Republicans," and "Donald Trump is not my President."
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which took over the investigation, said on June 14 that it was too early to ascribe a motive for the shootings. It put out a request for public assistance with "any information regarding Hodgkinson."
On June 16, 2017, USA Today reported, citing an anonymous source, that the Federal Bureau of Investigation found a list of names, including those of Republican Congressmen Mo Brooks, Jeff Duncan and Trent Franks, in Hodgkinson's pocket. On June 21, FBI agent Timothy Slater said the names of six congressmen were written on a piece of paper found in an Alexandria storage locker rented to Hodgkinson. He said it did not appear to be a hit list, and that its significance was unclear.
The attack drew a bipartisan response as many politicians immediately sent out notes expressing their anger over the shooting, recovery wishes for the injured and gratitude for the police. News of the shooting and injuries quickly reached the Democratic Congressional Baseball players, who were at their own practice at another location when the shooting occurred. They gathered together in the dugout to pray for the injured.
President Donald Trump issued a statement saying, "We are deeply saddened by this tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with the members of Congress, their staffs, Capitol Police, first responders, and all others affected." President Trump and his wife Melania visited Scalise and Griner in the hospital. While at the hospital, the Trumps spoke with Scalise's family and with Griner and her wife. On July 27, 2017, Trump awarded the Medal of Valor to five of the officers who were injured in the shooting.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R–WI) addressed the House of Representatives before their afternoon session and said, "An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us." Members of both parties rose in applause to his remarks.
Former Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D–AZ), who survived being shot in the head at a constituent event in 2011, sent a tweet that read "My heart is with my former colleagues, their families and staff, and the US Capitol Police—public servants and heroes today and every day."
"I have just been informed that the alleged shooter at the Republican baseball practice is someone who apparently volunteered on my presidential campaign. I am sickened by this despicable act. 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. Real change can only come about through nonviolent action, and anything else runs counter to our most deeply held American values."
Reactions to the shooting among political activists were split. Some liberals, like Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, called for stricter gun control laws, while some Republicans, like Chris Collins, blamed anti-Trump rhetoric. Other activists blamed growing national polarization for causing the shooting.
Effect on the 2017 Congressional Baseball GameEdit
|2017 Congressional Baseball Game, June 15, 2017, C-SPAN|
The annual game has usually attracted a crowd of about 10,000 people, but this year, more than 20,000 tickets were sold, bringing in more than $1 million for charity. David Bailey, one of the two Capitol Police officers injured in the shootout, threw out the first pitch. Relying on crutches because of his injury, he received a standing ovation from the crowd of 24,959 in Nationals Park. The Democratic team defeated the Republican team 11–2, but loaned the trophy to the Republicans until Scalise recovers.
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