GOP lawmakers describe baseball field shooting: ‘I felt like I was back in Iraq but without my weapon’

A gunman opened fire Wednesday morning at a northern Virginia baseball field where Republican legislators were practicing for their annual charity game with Democratic staffers. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., and four others were injured before the shooter was subdued by police, including Scalise’s Capitol Police security detail.

Below are accounts from Congress members who spoke to the media in the wake of the attack.

Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., on CNN

“Well, right now we’re secure. We did hear about 6:15 or 6:30. If you are familiar with the movie ‘Remember the Titans,’ we practice on their baseball field. … So it is a pretty good time for all except for the fact that the Democrats have beaten us so much. But I was on deck about to hit, and I hear ‘bam.’

“And I look around, and behind third base, in the third-base dugout, I see a rifle. And I see a little bit of a body and then I hear another ‘bam’ and I realize there is an active shooter. At the same time I hear Steve Scalise over near second base scream. Steve was shot. He’s our majority whip. The gun was a semiautomatic. It continues to fire at different people. You can imagine all the people in the field scatter. I run around to the first-base side of home plate. We have a batting cage with plastic wrapped around it to stop foul balls. I was lying on the ground as gunfire continued. Heard a break in the gunfire and decided to take a chance. Ran from home plate to the first-base dugout for better cover. There were a number of congressmen and congressional staffers who help us lying on the ground. One of them was wounded in the leg. Took off my belt, and myself and another congressman applied a tourniquet to try to slow down the bleeding. In the meantime, towards the right-field side of the dugout there is gunfire about five or six, seven feet to my head.

People near the scene of a shooting at the Republican congressional baseball team practice in Alexandria, Va., on Wednesday. (Photo: Shawn Thew/EPA)

“I look up and there’s a guy with a gun blasting away. Fortunately, it was one of the good guys, one of our security detail who was shooting back. Of course it was pistol versus rifle along the third-base line just outside the chain link fence, and he was ordering us to stay down. Another security detail person was closer to home plate, probably — I couldn’t see him but probably on the home plate side of the dugout, using the dugout as cover as he’s firing back. And there must have been 50 shots fired. Hard to itemize them. Eventually they shot both of our security detail people. There were some congressmen on the phone screaming for reinforcements.

Related slideshow: Shooting at GOP baseball practice in Alexandria, Va. >>>

“Seemed like a long time, and we weren’t even hearing sirens from local police officers, which tells me they didn’t yet know what was going on. Eventually the shooter started circling around third base. … Of course I’m down on the ground and helping the guy who’s got a bullet hole in his leg, and the shooter starts coming around home plate towards where we are, outside the fence line, and my understanding is that’s where our security detail … took him down. At which point, once we got the all-clear that the shooter was down, we ran out to second base for Steve Scalise. We started giving him some liquids, putting — I put pressure on his wound in his hip, and a congressman from Ohio [Rep. Brad Wenstrup] fortunately is a physician. He started doing what you need to do to try to minimize the blood loss. 

“Shortly thereafter the police showed up. And a helicopter landed in center field and took away whomever the folks decided was the most wounded, most critical. I don’t know who that person was. At that time the police were causing all of us to gather outside the first-base line in the chain link fence in order to help assure if there was a second shooter that we would be better protected.” 

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., to reporters

“He had a lot of ammo, and I think he must have been secured behind the third-base dugout for a while, so it was hard to get to him. Initially he was right out in the open. Marty, our photographer, saw him raise the gun and he thought, ‘Why in the world is someone out here bird hunting at this time?’ We were doing batting practice. There are a number of members and staff fielding. Steve Scalise was on second base, playing second base, fielding balls, and all of a sudden we heard a, heard a very loud shot. Everybody thought, ‘Sounds like a gun.’

“And the gunman was over by the third-base dugout with a clear view of the field and everybody on it. And, then all of a sudden, a couple more shots, and we knew what it was. And I just remember seeing some gravel … as shots were coming near us. So we climbed into the dugout and tried to get our own people engaged. Some people are calling 911. It was at least 10 minutes because we were applying pressure to one of the staffers who was shot in the leg and we got a belt out, put that on.

“We could see Steve Scalise out in the field. He dragged himself after he was shot from near second base, about 10 or 15 yards into the field, a little further away from the gunman. But he was laying motionless out there. So I wanted to get to him, but there were still shots going overhead from both sides. And so finally, when we heard that the shooter was down, I just ran low, out to Steve, and started putting pressure on the wound. And we, for about 10 or 15 minutes, did that until the medics arrived.”

Baseball equipment scattered on the field where a shooting took place at the practice of the Republican congressional baseball team in Alexandria, Va. (Photo: Shawn Thew/EPA)

Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., on Fox News

“I actually left a little early, probably about a couple minutes before this all happened, and as I was getting into the car with one of my colleagues, Jeff Duncan, there was a guy that walked up to us that was asking whether there was Republicans or Democrats out there. It was just a little odd. And then he kind of walked toward the area where all this happened. And so we’ve told the police that.”

Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, on Fox News

“I felt like I was back in Iraq but without my weapon. I had just gone to the batting cages coming in from the field and heard the shot and everyone got down. And then I noticed that Steve was down playing second base, and everyone was trying to get off of the field. Steve was really unable. Security detail that fortunately was here because Steve Scalise was here began to respond. A few other people got hit.”

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., on MSNBC

“I was in the batting cage at the time, and the first shot was sort of an isolated shot. I grew up in the South and thought, ‘Well, someone just discharged a shotgun,’ which isn’t that unusual in the South. But then I thought, ‘We’re in the city, not in the country here.’

“But then after the first shot then there was a rapid succession of shots. Five or 10 shots. So I’m outside the perimeter, I’m on the right-field line at the batting cages outside the field, there’s about a 10-foot fence between me and the field, and in the field I see Rep. Scalise is shot but moving, and he’s trying to drag himself through the dirt out into the outfield. There are two staffers in right field only about 10 feet from me, but there’s about a 20-foot fence separating me from them, and they were laying down, but then I’m seeing the shots hitting the dirt around them and they’re trying to make a difficult decision: Do we lay here, stay low, and hope he doesn’t hit us, and this is the difficult decision, or does the shooter just advance and come closer and shoot you, so you have to make the decision at some point of whether to stay or run, and so one of the staffers scrambled up over the fence, it was probably a 15-, 20-foot fence, he did it in about two seconds — I don’t think I could have done that.

“So I’m on the outside of the fence, and he and I are hiding behind a tree, but the gunshots are landing in the dirt in the outfield and around us, and it takes a few minutes to determine you’re not sure where they’re coming from. My instinct was they were coming from the third-base line, and as more shots were fired we were pretty sure, but you’re kind of not sure which side of the tree to stand on because you’re not sure where the shots are coming from. But everybody seemed to be congregating away from the third-base line behind a small building, in the dugout. The people on the field unfortunately didn’t have much of a chance because nobody could get to them and they couldn’t get to us — it was a wide open field and there was no way to get to people like Scalise until the firing had stopped. At one point it appeared the gunman — I think he continued to reload; I probably heard 50, 60 shots. Finally, we heard the response from Capitol Hill Police. We’re actually very lucky they were there, they do a great job, these are brave men and women, and we were really lucky they were there.

“… Everybody probably would have died except for the fact Capitol Hill Police were there, and the only reason they were there is we had a member of leadership on our team. If Scalise hadn’t been on the team — and unfortunately he was hit, and I hope he does well — by him being there he probably saved everybody’s else life.”

Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., via his Facebook page

“I am safe. I was at the Congressional baseball practice, but left before the shooting to catch an earlier meeting. I believe I saw the shooter and am in the process of giving a statement to the police. Please pray for my colleagues, I am unsure of their condition.”

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