Government

NM Rep. Pearce witnessed shooting, dove for cover

Reaction from O'Rourke, Hurd

Congressman Steve Pearce witnesses...

EL PASO, Texas - Republican Congressman Steve Pearce of New Mexico had just left the batting cage when shots rang out from the third-base dugout during a congressional baseball practice Wednesday in Alexandria, Va.

A man with a file with "a lot of ammo," wounded House GOP Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and several others as congressmen, including Pearce, and aides dove for cover.

"I was in the batting cage on the field and noticed a guy standing at the third base dugout, at the end of the third base," Pearce told ABC-7. " He was just kind of a bystander; we see those all the time. As I finished hitting and walked to the first base dugout, the first shot rang out.

Pearce also spoke about the shooting and the baseball game on his Facebook page.

Pearce said the gunman appeared to be shooting at the third baseman, Rep. Trent Kelly of Mississippi.

"Trent started running," Pearce said. "He knew immediately. He's (a veteran) and immediately knew what was going on."

The alleged gunman, who has been identified as an Illinois man named James. T. Hodgkinson, fought a gun battle with police before he, too, was shot and later died.

"Went out to take a look at Steve Scalise to see if he was going to be fine," Pearce said. "One of the baseball players used his belt to put a tourniquet around his leg. The members were trying to comfort the other two staffers. Then the ambulance showed up and carried away the seriously injured. Then everyone was on the scene was was being interviewed about what they had seen."

In all, five people were taken to area hospitals, including the suspect, Alexandria police said. Scalise, 51, the No. 3 House Republican leader first elected to the House in 2008, was in stable condition and undergoing surgery.

Pearce said he spotted the gunman in the third-base dugout, adding that it's not unusual to have casual bystanders stop and watch the practice.

Pearce said one one of his teammates spoke to the alleged gunman before.

"So one of the players left early. He said on his way out that this man had asked him if this was Republicans or Democrats. He seemed to know that it was practice for the Congressional Baseball Game," Pearce said. "Our guy told him it was Republicans and the shooting started probably three or four minutes later. ... Thirty rounds were fired by the gunman, the return fire probably half that."

The shocking event left the Capitol horrified and stunned. The House canceled proceedings for the day.

Rep. Will Hurd, who represents a large portion of west Texas including the eastern portions of El Paso County, tweeted, "Devastated to hear about this morning's shooting. Praying for @SteveScalise, the officers, and staff injured."

Democrat Beto O'Rourke of El Paso tweeted, "Praying for my colleagues and everyone impacted by this morning's tragic shooting."

The last time a lawmaker was shot was when Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona was hit in the head and grievously injured while meeting with constituents at a supermarket parking lot in 2011. Following the Giffords shooting, lawmakers have held fewer open town halls and have been advised to increase security at such events.
 


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