Lone gunman shoots US congressman at baseball practice

US Representative Roger Williams breaks down at a news conference as he recounts the shooting where he was injured and his staffer was shot.
Above: Congressman Steve Scalise was shot in the hip but was reportedly in stable condition prior to surgery. Left: A man being treated by first responders after the shooting in Alexandria, Virginia, yesterday.
Above: Congressman Steve Scalise was shot in the hip but was reportedly in stable condition prior to surgery.
Above: Congressman Steve Scalise was shot in the hip but was reportedly in stable condition prior to surgery. Left: A man being treated by first responders after the shooting in Alexandria, Virginia, yesterday.
A man being treated by first responders after the shooting in Alexandria, Virginia, yesterday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

A lone gunman opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon at Republican congressmen at a baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, early yesterday morning, wounding at least four people, including a senior congressman.

A total of five people were taken to hospital. It was not clear if the gunman, described by some at the scene as a white male, who was shot and later died, was among them. The suspect was later identified as James T. Hodgkinson, 66, from Belleville, Illinois.

He was from a number of anti-Republican groups, including one called "Terminate the Republican Party", and posted an angry tweet about President Donald Trump on Facebook two days ago, the Belleville News-Democrat reported.

The gunman apparently moved around the field and, using a dugout as cover, fired at the congressmen and their security personnel.

House of Representatives Majority Whip Steve Scalise, 51, from Louisiana, was shot in the hip but was reportedly in stable condition prior to surgery.

Some 25 Republican congressmen and senators were at the practice for an annual DemocraticRepublican baseball game today, which raises hundred of thousands of dollars for charity.

At least 50 shots were fired. "The gunfire just seemed to never stop," Representative Mo Brooks told CNN minutes after the shooting. "He knew who we were, he was going after elected officials. I am absolutely sure he was using a rifle."

The gunman was eventually wounded by return fire from Mr Scalise's security police, as well as a few local police officers.

In a televised statement, Mr Trump called for unity, and added that Mr Scalise was "badly injured" but in stable condition.

Senator Rand Paul, who was at the baseball practice, told Fox News: "Without the Capitol Hill police returning fire, it would have been a massacre. We are lucky Scalise was there because it was his security detail. We were like sitting ducks, we had no place to run."

Mr Brooks said he saw Mr Scalise dragging himself off the field, leaving a trail of blood. "I heard Steve Scalise scream," he said. "I heard the bang, I saw the rifle behind the third base dugout. He continued to fire. Steve was on the ground, I didn't know how bad he was hit."

Representative Duncan Hunter said the suspect asked him before the shooting, whether Republicans or Democrats were practising.

Ohio Representative Brad Wenstrup said: "Everyone hit the ground and tried to crawl out of the line of fire. Steve Scalise was down, he crawled for a little bit and then he lay still."

Representative Mike Bishop of Michigan told a Detroit radio station the gunman "had a rifle that was clearly meant for the job of taking people out, multiple casualties, and he had several rounds and magazines that he kept unloading and reloading".

There were bullet holes in car windows and buildings around the baseball field on the outskirts of Washington.

The incident took place in a nation deeply polarised politically, including over issues such as gun control. Mr Trump was supported by the pro-gun National Rifle Association, and his administration favours less gun control. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, said after the incident that gun violence claims 93 American lives a day.

The shooting triggered bitter arguments on social media, but many activists said it would have little effect beyond possibly tightened security for elected politicians.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2017, with the headline 'Lone gunman shoots US congressman at baseball practice'. Print Edition | Subscribe