One Congressman has been critically wounded in a mass shooting after a gunman opened fire on a group of GOP lawmakers and aides practicing for a charity baseball game in Alexandria, Virginia, early Wednesday.
House Whip Steve Scalise from Louisiana was shot in the hip and is in critical condition, MedStar Washington Hospital Center tweeted Wednesday afternoon.
Three other victims were wounded as well, including two Capitol Police agents and one congressional staffer, a federal law enforcement official told PEOPLE. The official added that another staffer may have been injured, but it is unclear how the injury occurred.
One of Rep. Roger Williams’ aides was injured in the attack and was being treated at a local hospital in the wake of the shooting, Williams announced in a statement.
Williams confirmed his aide, Zachary Barth’s, injury in a tweet, writing that Barth was shot but is expected to make a full recovery.
“I now can confirm that Zack Barth, who is a legislative correspondent in my office, was shot this morning at baseball practice,” he tweeted.
Barth too confirmed his injury in a Twitter post, writing, “I got shot this morning at the baseball fields but I am in the hospital and okay.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan sent well wishes to the injured, identifying the victims as Scalise, Barth, Matt Mika, Special Agent David Bailey and Special Agent Krystal Griner.
“We are united. We are united in our shock,” he said. “We are united in our anguish. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.”
The deceased gunman has been identified as 66-year-old James T. Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois.
Rep. Ron DeSantis, Florida Republican, said on CNN that he and Rep. Jeff Duncan were leaving practice early when a man approached their car.
“A gentleman walked up to us and wanted to know whether there were Republicans or Democrats practicing out there,” he said. “Congressman Duncan said it was Republicans and then [the man] immediately turned around and went towards the field.”
Asked about the tone of the suspect’s question, DeSantis added: “It had a little bias—not enough that I thought he was going to go commit acts of violence. But it was just a little abrasive. I kinda thought to myself, ‘That’s strange.’ But it was strange enough that as soon as the news hit, Jeff and I had the same thought.”
The gunman fired up to 50 times with a rifle before he was shot and wounded by Capitol Police, who were on hand, and Alexandria police officers who arrived within three minutes, Sen. Jeff Flake and Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks said.
“I think that with absolute certainty nobody would have survived without Capitol Police. Just incredibly brave,” Senator Rand Paul told CNN.
Some 25 GOP members of Congress were on a high school baseball field practicing for the Congressional Baseball Game, which is scheduled for Thursday night. A tradition since 1909, the charity game features Democratic House members playing Republican House members. The game is scheduled at Nationals Park.
Proceeds from ticket sales go to charity. The game’s website describes it as “the only annual partisan showdown beloved by all and enjoyed by thousands. Every year, with a few interruptions, Senate and House members of each party team up to settle scores and solidify friendships off the floor and on the field.”
A group of House Democrats gathered to pray for those injured in the shooting, according to Rep. Ruben Kihuen.
An Alexandria police spokeswoman confirmed to PEOPLE that officers had responded to a “multiple shooting,” but would not name any victims or confirm that a group of Congress members were attacked. The spokeswoman said victims had been transported to area hospitals.
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Brooks told CNN that gunman was behind the dugout when he opened fire. He said the suspect was shot by members of the congressional protective detail.
Scalese, after being hit, dragged himself across the field in an attempt to get to cover, Brooks said.
Brooks added that he saw Rep. Gary Palmer being treated at the scene.
As the third-highest ranking House Republican, Scalise has a round-the-clock Capitol Police detail.
Brooks told CNN that without the Capitol Police, “We would have been at the mercy of this shooter, and he had a lot of ammo.”
He added that without the police, “all we would have had was a baseball bat versus a rifle. Those aren’t very good odds.”
Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Jeff Flake and Rep. Chuck Fleischmann were present when the shots rang out and Paul told ABC that Capitol Hill police fired at the suspect.
Paul said he heard the shots from right field and hid behind a tree before running toward a fence. He recalled bullets hitting the ground around him, he said. Paul told ABC that he hopped a fence to escape.
A witness tweeted that at least three of the politicians had taken shelter in his home amid the attack.
Another man shared a photo of a cracked window with a bullet hole, writing, “Active shooter situation during this mornings trip to the Y. Terrifying. Am ok. Sheltered in place & under lockdown.”
“We are deeply saddened by this tragedy,” the statement read. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the members of Congress, their staffs, Capitol police, first responders, and all others affected.”
- REPORTING by CHRIS HARRIS