A gunman opened fire Wednesday morning on a baseball practice at a park in Alexandria, Virginia, involving Republican members of Congress, injuring several people including at least one lawmaker, Steve Scalise, the majority whip, according to police and a congressman.
The wounded also included at least one Capitol Police officer and the suspected shooter, according to one law enforcement official and witness accounts. Alexandria Police Chief Michael Brown said two of his officers engaged in “gunfire and return fire.”
A police spokeswoman confirmed the suspected shooter had been shot and was taken to a hospital. Brown said five people have been taken to local hospitals, but the specific injuries were not immediately known.
Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., tweeted that a “shooter attacked a GOP baseball practice. Rifle. 50+ shots fired. 5 hit including Steve Scalise. I am not shot.” He estimated 50 to 100 shots were fired during batting practice.
Brooks told CNN that he heard a loud “bam” behind third base during a practice for an upcoming game against Democrats.
“I see a rifle, and I see a little bit of a body and then I hear another bam and I realize there’s still an active shooter. At the same time, I hear Steve Scalise over at second base scream – he was shot,” he said.
Brooks said he ran to the first-base side and hid behind a batting cage as gunfire continued. He said Scalise crawled out of the outfield leaving a trail of blood, and that he was given liquids and pressure was put on a chest wound.
Scalise, 51, a representative from Louisiana, is the third-highest ranking House Republican and has a round-the-clock Capitol Police detail.
Scalise, who has been in Congress since 2008, represents a district that includes some New Orleans suburbs and bayou parishes. Before entering Congress, he was a lawmaker in Louisiana for eight years. Scalise and his wife, Jennifer, have two children and live in Jefferson, La.
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., told The Washington Post that Capitol Police officers walked into the congressional gym around 7:30 a.m. Wednesday and told members about the shooting and said Scalise had been shot.
In Washington, heavily armed Capitol Police cleared the East Plaza in front of the Capitol. Tourists and visitors were redirected and only staff were being allowed.
President Donald Trump issued this statement: “The vice president and I are aware of the shooting incident in Virginia and are monitoring developments closely. 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.”
Trump later tweeted: “Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, a true friend and patriot, was badly injured but will fully recover. Our thoughts and prayers are with him.”
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., told reporters that Scalise was awake after the shooting.
“He was coherent the whole time,” Flake said. He added that a female member of the Capitol Police security detail was airlifted out and a staffer was taken by ambulance to the hospital.
Flake said that it took almost 10 minutes to take down the shooter. Eventually, when the Capitol Police secured the area, Flake grabbed Scalise’s phone and called his wife to tell her what happened.
The gathering in the park in the 400 block of East Monroe Avenue was the final practice before Thursday night’s scheduled game between Republicans and Democrats at Nationals Park. The park is near the Potomac Yard shopping center on Route 1 and Old Town Alexandria. It has two well-groomed baseball fields, one big and one smaller. It is adjacent to a YMCA and across the street from a CVS and an Aldi grocery store.
Katie Fillus of Alexandria had just gotten out of her car to walk her dogs in the park nearby when she said she heard “very, very loud popping sounds.”
“And I knew a baseball team was practicing, and everybody started screaming, ‘Hit the ground! Hit the ground!’ ”
She said she lay flat in the field as the gunshots grew louder – “like he was walking across the field toward all of us, the gunman, and I was screaming: ‘Can someone help me? I have my dogs and I can’t get behind anything.’ ”
Fillus said a police agent pulled out a gun and tried to shoot back. She was screaming, ” ‘Drop your weapon!’ And he shot her and she fell on the ground.
“She fell on the ground in front of us, and we were all just trying to lay as flat we could. And I belly crawled, dragging through the mud. I got to the car and I ducked under the car and I laid as close as I could under the car to hide from the person. Then the police seemed to come.”
Susanne Stratton, a 28-year-old Alexandria resident, was playing with her dog in the dog park next to the baseball field when the shooting began.
“We heard people yelling to get down. We saw people running, some into the dog park, some jumping over the fence,” she said. She said the people in the dog park immediately got down on the ground and pushed their dogs down, as well.
She said there was a burst of shots, then a brief pause, then more shots – she estimated about 20. “It must have been a semiautomatic,” she said.
Reba Winstead, 43, who lives on street adjacent to ballpark, said she heard about 30 shots fired in bursts and saw two people running down her street in exercise clothes.
“One of the bullets whizzed down our street. That’s when I jumped inside, when I heard the whiz,” she said. “It’s just scary, because you don’t hear shots fired in Alexandria very often.”
Charles Halloran, who lives in Del Ray about a block from the park, arrived at a YMCA at 7:30 a.m. next to the baseball field, to discover the scene unfolding.
“Bullet holes in the glass and people were shaking,” Halloran, a former congressional staffer, said in a telephone interview from inside the YMCA. Bullets went through the YMCA’s building and across the building into the pool.
Reports of violence are extremely rare in Del Ray, a quiet, upscale neighborhood known for its shops and art and craftsman-style homes.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., was at the gym on Capitol Hill when he was informed of the shooting, according to two GOP lawmakers who saw him there. They said he immediately stopped his workout and headed out, guided by his own Capitol Police detail, which is always at his side. The lawmakers spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the speaker’s movements.
As Ryan left – and Capitol Police briefly told members about the shooting – the gym quickly quieted and members packed up their belongings to also head to their offices, the lawmakers said.
“Nobody knew what the hell was going on,” one of the Republicans said. “People just left.”
There was one notable departure from the normal level of protection inside the building: Three uniformed officers stood watch outside the first-floor office of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.