Anger At Trump Led This Man To Shoot Up Congressmen
14 Jun, 2017
A man who had posted angry messages against President Donald Trump and other Republicans on social media opened fire on Republican lawmakers practicing for a charity baseball game on Wednesday, wounding a senior U.S. House member and three other people.
The gunman, identified by police as 66-year-old James Hodgkinson from the St. Louis suburb of Belleville, Illinois, fired repeatedly at the men playing on a baseball field in suburban Alexandria, Virginia, near Washington. Hodgkinson was wounded in a gunfight with Capitol Hill police who were at the scene, and police said he later died.
Steve Scalise, the No. 3 Republican in the House of Representatives, was shot in the hip. He was tended to by fellow lawmakers including Representative Brad Wenstrup, who is a physician, before being transported to a hospital, where he was listed in critical condition.
Congressmen at the ballpark described hearing loud noises like the sound of firecrackers and 15 to 20 people lying on the ground and realizing they had only baseball bats to defend themselves against bullets.
“When he started shooting, he was shooting to kill people. And thank God he wasn’t a very good shot,” said Representative Joe Barton, the Republican team’s manager.
Also wounded were a congressional aide and one former aide who now works as a lobbyist, officials said. One Capitol Hill police officer suffered a gunshot wound and another officer twisted an ankle and was released from a hospital, police said.
“It was not only chaotic but it was a combat situation,” Alexandria Police Chief Mike Brown told reporters.
While police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it was too early to determine whether it was a deliberate political attack, the shooting intensified concerns about the sharp divide and bitter rhetoric in U.S. politics.
FBI special agent Tim Slater declined to comment on whether the gunman had a vendetta against Republicans.
“We continue to actively investigate the shooter’s motives, acquaintances and whereabouts that led to today’s incidents,” Slater told reporters. No one else was in custody, he said.
The gunman was believed to have been in the Alexandria area since March, Slater said. Investigators believe that the suspect had been living out of his vehicle.
Hodgkinson had raged against Trump on social media and was a member of anti-Republican groups on Facebook including, “The Road to Hell Is Paved With Republicans,” “Terminate The Republican Party,” and “Donald Trump is not my President,” a search of his Facebook profile showed.
The charity ballgame between a Republican team and a Democratic team will go ahead as scheduled on Thursday at Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals Major League Baseball team.
Trump announced the gunman’s death and called Scalise, a 51-year-old Louisiana congressman, a good friend. “He’s a patriot and he’s a fighter. He will recover from this assault,” Trump said.
The president also called for unity. “We are strongest when we are unified and when we work together for the common good,” he said.
In a show of bipartisanship, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said on the floor of the House: “An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.” The House’s top Democrat, Nancy Pelosi, echoed Ryan’s message.
The shooting happened shortly after 7 a.m. There were 20 House members and two senators present, and the shooting lasted about 10 minutes, said Barton.
Two lawmakers who were at the scene, Representatives Ron DeSantis and Jeff Duncan, indicated there might have been a political motive in the attack.
Duncan said that as he left the field, the man who would later open fire approached him in the parking lot. “He asked me who was practicing this morning, Republicans or Democrats, and I said: ‘That’s the Republicans practicing,'” Duncan told reporters. DeSantis gave a similar account.
Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who sought the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, said he had been told that Hodgkinson had served as a volunteer with his campaign.
“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,” Sanders said.
Ryan, the House speaker, is reviewing rules on how rank-and-file lawmakers can increase their personal security, according to several lawmakers.
“Members get threats on a regular basis and have trouble determining which are real,” House Democratic whip Steny Hoyer told reporters.
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