President Donald Trump announced that the gunman suspected of shooting Republican Congressman Stephen Scalise and several other federal representatives Wednesday outside Washington has died from injuries sustained in a shootout with law enforcement officers.
“The assailant has now died from his injuries,” the president told reporters at news conference at the White House just hours after Scalise was shot in Alexandria, Virginia, just south of Washington, while he and other Republican congressional lawmakers and aides were practicing for an annual charity baseball game.
The president confirmed that the 51-year-old lawmaker is in stable condition at a Washington hospital after being shot in the hip.
“He is a friend and he is a patriot who will recover,” Trump said.
Trump said the shootings are a reminder for all citizens to overcome the political polarization that has gripped Washington and the rest of the nation.
“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.”
The shooter has been identified as 66-year-old James T. Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois, according to government officials. The Washington Post reports Hodgkinson owned a home- inspection business and was charged in April 2006 with battery, a charge that was dismissed.
Two Facebook profiles allegedly belonging to Hodgkinson were filled with passionate and sometimes angry political posts critical of President Trump.
In addition to Scalise, two Capitol Police were wounded in Wednesday’s shooting, as were a congressional aide and a lobbyist.
Republican Congressman Jeff Duncan of South Carolina said he was leaving the practice early when he encountered the man he now believes was Hodgkinson.
“He asked me if the team practicing was Democrat or Republican,” Duncan said. “I told him,” and he said ‘thank you’ and left.”
Scalise is Majority Whip in the House of Representatives, a leadership position that ensures discipline and rallies votes within the majority Republican party. As the third highest ranking member in the House, Scalise is accompanied by Capitol Police at all times.
“Many lives would have been lost if not for the historic actions of the two Capitol Police officers who took down the gunman despite sustaining gunshot wounds during a very, very brutal assault,” President Trump said.
Fellow Republican Congressman Mo Brooks, who also was on the scene, told CNN the security detail “exhibited great, great courage” in returning fire at the gunman, who did not say anything before shooting.
Brooks said Scalise “was not able to move on his own power” and was “dragging his body from the second base infield to the outfield to get away from the shooter while all this firing was going on.”
Brooks said the gunman, standing behind a fence on the third base side of the field, “fired 10 or 20 shots” with a rifle “before I heard anything coming from our side,” where a security detail that had accompanied the House members to the field were positioned.
Brooks said the security detail “exhibited great, great courage” in returning fire at the gunman, who did not say anything before shooting.
When he heard the gunfire, Brooks said he “ran around the batting cage” to obscure himself from the gunman’s line of sight and was not hit.
Brooks said Scalise was near second base when Scalise was hit. A congressional aide was shot in the calf, Brooks said, and a congressman who is a doctor quickly applied a tourniquet to the aide to stanch the bleeding.
The physician is Republican Congressman Brad Wenstrup, a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, who served in Iraq in 2005-2006 as a combat surgeon.
Senator Flake saw shooting
Republican Senator Jeff Flake saw the incident unfold and said “at least 10 minutes” passed before the gunman was shot. Flake said one security officer who himself had been shot “ran around quite a while with a wound” while firing at the gunman.
The gunman “had a lot of ammo,” Flake said, and “initially he was right out in the open” continuing to fire from behind a dugout on the field.
Flake told VOA the gunfire forced people “to get down” while Scalise “was lying motionless on the field.” Flake added, “I wanted to get to him, but as long as there was gunfire overhead, we couldn’t.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has taken control of the investigation into the shootings, which occurred only about 11 kilometers from the White House.
The congressional baseball game that was scheduled for Thursday is a long-standing summer tradition in Washington, with teams of Republican and Democratic lawmakers competing on the ball field, even in present times, when fractious political debates are the norm.
VOA’s White House Bureau Chief Steve Herman and Victoria Macchi contributed to this report.