Three Capitol Police officers’ quick thinking and fast shooting saved members of Congress from a gunman early Wednesday morning at their baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia.
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) was wounded in the attack and listed in critical condition a day later at the hospital.
But Rep. Mike Bishop (R-Mich.) told WWJ Radio in Detroit that the heroic response foiled a massacre.
“The only reason why any of us walked out of this thing, by the grace of God, one of the folks here had a weapon to fire back and give us a moment to find cover,” Bishop said.
Scalise, along with various Republican colleagues, are members of a baseball team that was practicing Wednesday morning at a park on East Monroe Avenue for an upcoming charity game.
Bishop said they all were “sitting ducks” when a gunman approached and sprayed the field with rifle fire.
“We were inside the backstop,” he added, “and if we didn’t have that cover by a brave person who stood up and took a shot themselves, we would not have gotten out of there and every one of us would have been hit—every single one of us.”
Special Agents David Bailey and Henry Cabrera also returned fire, Chief Verdosa said. Alexandria police officers joined the fray, according to a joint press release from police and the FBI.
Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, was at the practice with his 10-year-old son. He said that he was “very grateful” for the officers’ protection.
“The thin blue line held today,” said an emotional U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, the team’s coach, at a news conference. “My family and I will be forever grateful.”
Williams, a standout ballplayer at TCU during the 1960s, is the coach of the GOP’s ball team. He came to the press conference on crutches.
The gunman, James Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville, Illinois, was mortally wounded and died at the hospital. He reportedly made far left-wing rants on social media before the shooting.
Post-shooting media coverage swirled with commentary about how political rancor from last year’s presidential election may have fueled the rampage.
Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), also a member of the ball team and a survivor of the shooting, called for civility.
“The over-the-top, hateful rhetoric that has consumed politics, on both sides, has to stop,” Davis said. “We can have thoughtful debate on the issues, and at times disagree, but we cannot forget that we are all represented by the same flag and the freedom it represents.’’
“Thank God for the Capitol Hill police,” said Matt Kilgo, a program lawyer for U.S. Law Shield of Georgia.
“You could tell there was going to be some backlash,” Kilgo said in a Facebook interview with Sam Malone of U.S. Law Shield LIVE. “(But) anything that puts firearms and our Second Amendment rights in proper perspective in the media I think is a good thing.”
“I’m glad it went the way it did and they were able to save as many lives as they did.”
—By Bill Miller, U.S. Law Shield contributor