In what is being called a “deliberate attack,” a White male gunman was arrested, but later died Wednesday morning in Alexandria, Virginia, after shooting Republican House Rep. Steve Scalise, a congressional staffer and member of the congressional police force in a wild gun battle, according to CNN.
Scalise, 51, the No. 3 House Republican leader who was elected in 2008 to the House of Representatives, was in stable condition and undergoing surgery at a nearby hospital. The injuries were not believed to be life-threatening, notes The Associated Press. The condition of the others who were shot was unknown.
The suspected gunman, James T. Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville, Illinois, died after initially surviving the shooting, Donald Trump said in a news conference carried by CNN. The cable news network reports that investigators have uncovered anti-Trump rhetoric on Hodgkinson’s social media accounts. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, took to the Senate floor to condemn the shooting and announce that the suspect was an apparent volunteer for his presidential campaign.
The gunman reportedly approached Republican lawmakers before practice to ask their political party affiliations, the report says. The shooting, which sent shock waves around the nation, occurred about 7 a.m. at a popular park and baseball complex, where lawmakers and others were gathered for a morning practice for a charity game. The members were in batting practice when shots rang out, prompting everyone to duck and run for cover.
“I was on deck about to hit batting practice on the third base side of home plate, and I hear a loud ‘bam,'” Republican Rep. Mo Brooks, of Charleston, South Carolina, who was at the game, told CNN. “I look around, and behind third base and the third base dugout, I see a rifle. And I see a little bit of a body. I hear another ‘bam’ and I realize, there’s an active shooter.”
Before the shooting witnesses tell CNN they saw an older White man carrying a burlap sack and walking lethargically from a van, which was parked near the park. Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who was at the practice, also noted that the gunman was equipped with a lot of ammunition.
Before holding his mid-morning news conference, Trump released a statement, saying, he was “deeply saddened by this tragedy” and was monitoring developments.
While a motive has not been released, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have blamed the shooting on the negative political rhetoric. One lawmaker lamented about the nation’s unchecked mental health crisis, but so far no one has mentioned so-called thugs with guns (oh, the shooter doesn’t fit the stereotype), or lax gun control laws. What are your thoughts? Sound off in comments.