Rep. Steve Scalise back on field at annual Congressional Baseball Game 1 year after shooting
ALEXANDRIA, Va. - On the first pitch of the game, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise fielded a ground ball and threw out the runner as he returned to the field at Nationals Park for the Congressional Baseball Game. The incredible moment comes exactly one year after the lawmaker suffered life-threatening injuries when he was shot during a baseball practice for the Republican team in Virginia.
One year ago, shots rang out over a baseball field in Alexandria as Republican lawmakers practiced for the annual congressional baseball game, bringing Capitol Hill and the nation to a standstill.
The gunman, 66-year-old James T. Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois, was armed with a black SKS-style assault rifle and 9mm Smith & Wesson semi-automatic pistol as he took aim Republicans practicing for the game that raises money for charity.
The shooting left House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., Matthew Mika, a lobbyist and former Republican staffer, Zachary W. Barth, a legislative correspondent for Rep. Roger Williams, R-Tx., and U.S. Capitol Police Special Agent Crystal Griner injured. All four have since recovered and are out of the hospital.
Officials said Hodgkinson, who was killed during the shooting, was a former volunteer on Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and belonged to a Facebook group called "Terminate the Republican Party."
The FBI said they believed Hodgkinson, who had several minor run-ins with the law in recent years, had been living in his car near the area of East Monroe Street in Alexandria for nearly four months and had been frequenting the nearby YMCA.
As we reflect on the terrifying incident, here’s everything we know that happened that day, according to a report released by the Commonwealth’s Attorney for the city of Alexandria:
Hodgkinson is seen at the Monroe Avenue YMCA.
6:23 a.m. and 6:35 a.m.
Hodgkinson entered a storage area of the YMCA twice. It is believed he was entering the area to retrieve the weapons he was storing there. Officials said Hodgkinson legally purchased and owned the guns.
Hodgkinson returned to the YMCA parking lot and parked his van next to the third-base line of Simpson Field. It was here that officials believe he observed the practice and loaded his firearms.
Hodgkinson approached two members of the baseball team who were practicing as they were near their vehicle in the Monroe Avenue parking lot near the third-base line of Simpson field. Hodgkinson asked if it was the Republican or Democratic team practicing. When they said Republican, Hodgkinson said, “OK, thanks,” and walked away.
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At this point, Hodgkinson went back to the van and retrieved his rifle, which was loaded with 40 rounds of 39mm ammunition in a “banana-style” magazine. He also carried another 40-round magazine on his body. Hodgkinson grabbed his pistol which was loaded with eight rounds of 9mm ammunition and placed it in a holster on his waistband. He also carried another magazine for the pistol on his body that contained another six rounds of ammunition.
Hodgkinson approached the chain-link fence surrounding Simpson Field from the third-base line as 20 to 25 people were practicing. He approached a gate near the third-base dugout that by chance was padlocked on this day, which is believed to have saved many lives. Hodgkinson was reportedly calm and did not say anything as he pointed the barrel of the rifle through the chain-link fence and began opening fire toward the field of play were the Republican lawmakers practicing.
Many players on the field did not immediately realize what was happening and were looking around for the source of the sound. Multiple players began shouting that there was a shooter. Some players dropped to the ground, some ran for an exit along the first-base line and others dove into dugouts for shelter.
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Special agents Griner and David Bailey of the U.S. Capitol Police were sitting in a black SUV in the parking lot facing the first-base line of the baseball field when the shooting began. They were assigned to protect Scalise since he is a member of the House leadership. Griner and Bailey, both dressed in plain clothes and armed with .40 caliber Glock semi-automatic pistols, quickly realized what was happening and began scanning the field for the shooter.
When the shooting started, Mika was standing near first base, Scalise was near second base and Barth was in center field. Scalise was the first person to be shot as he was hit in the hip. Mika was the second player to be struck as he was hit in the chest. Barth ran toward the first-base dugout and dropped to the ground near the first-base line to take cover and was struck in the leg.
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Scalise dragged himself away from the infield in a trail of blood. Barth was able to run into the first-base dugout where he took shelter. Mika was dragged off the field and pulled behind the SUV of Griner and Bailey near the first-base line in the parking lot. Griner used the front-passenger door as a shield as she tended to Mika until medics could arrive.
As Scalise attempted to drag himself off the field, Bailey sprinted to help him but began taking fire from Hodgkinson as he entered the field. Bailey returned fire, shooting 10 times. This forced Hodgkinson to retreat to a second position and engage with Griner and Bailey, taking the focus away from the players. In all, officials said Hodgkinson fired 33 rounds from his first position. As Hodkinson moved to his second position, Bailey ran back to the SUV where Griner was to retrieve more ammunition.
The first 911 calls began to flood the Alexandria Department of Emergency Communications. Officials said calls were received between 7:09 a.m. and 7:12 a.m. At first, only five Alexandria officers were dispatched, but after more calls came were received, dispatchers launched all available officers. Hodgkinson ducked behind the third-base dugout and walked behind the wooden press-box behind home plate. He eventually positioned himself next to a blue storage building behind home plate.
As Hodgkinson made his way closer to the first-base line, he came into view of Griner. Hodgkinson began firing at Griner and Bailey from about 30 yards away. Griner returned fire as Bailey grabbed ammunition from inside the SUV. Bailey then reloaded his weapon and began firing again at Hodgkinson. During this exchange, Griner’s left leg was exposed and was shot by Hodgkinson in the left ankle. Griner, unable to stand, continued to shoot toward Hodgkinson from under the vehicle but did not have a clear line of view of Hodgkinson. Griner then turned her attention to treating Mika as Bailey continued to return fire.
In total, Griner and Bailey fired 25 rounds from behind the SUV. Officials said their goal was to “pin down” Hodgkinson and to take his attention away from the players fleeing the field.
Alexandria Police Officer Kevin Jobe became the first Alexandria officer at the scene. Jobe parked and approached from East Monroe Avenue by foot near Griner and Bailey. Jobe saw the shooting scene and realized two Alexander officers, Nicole Battaglia and Alexander Jensen, were approaching from the west and would become easy targets of Hodgkinson. He radioed to warn them.
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Jensen and Battaglia immediately stopped after hearing the call over the radio, parked their vehicles and began moving to help Griner and Bailey. As Battaglia moved closer, Hodgkinson began firing at her and she took cover behind a Lexus. Jensen grabbed the rifle from his vehicle and fired a round at Hodgkinson, but it did not strike him. Jensen drew Hodgkinson’s attention, and when Hodgkinson turned in his direction, Jensen took cover behind his vehicle. Knowing Hodgkinson would turn his attention back to Griner and Bailey, Jensen repositioned himself behind his cruiser and fired again, this time striking Hodgkinson in the right hip.
After being struck, Hodgkinson transitioned to his pistol, came out from behind the blue storage building and started firing at Bailey and Jobe. Bailey, Jobe and Jensen returned fire. One round from Bailey struck Hodgkinson in the chest. This forced Hodgkinson’s body to rotate and when Jensen fired for a third time from his behind his cruiser, it struck Hodgkinson in the left hip.
Hodgkinson dropped his pistol and fell to the ground. Jobe and Battaglia approached Hodgkinson and Jobe placed him in handcuffs.
Jobe announced over his radio that the Hodgkinson was in custody. Emergency crews arrived at the scene and began rendering aid to the victims. Hodgkinson was rushed to George Washington University Hospital where he died.
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In all, officials said Hodgkinson fired 33 rounds from his rifle near the third-base line, 29 rounds from his rifle from the blue storage building and eight rounds from his pistol for a total of 70 shots fired. Between Hodgkinson, Griner, Bailey, Jobe and Jensen, a combined 110 shell casings were recovered from the scene, according to officials.
- Aftermath of the Shooting -
It was the first time a lawmaker had been shot since 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 shooting, lawmakers rallied together to pray and comfort each other, also announcing that they would still play the Congressional Baseball game, which has been played since 1909.
Scalise underwent several surgeries following complications from his injury and he returned to the House floor to a standing ovation about three months after the shooting. President Donald Trump called Scalise, "one of the toughest people ever to serve in this House, a guy who took a bullet, almost died, and was back to work three-and-a-half months later, the legend from Louisiana, Congressman Steve Scalise."
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It was recently revealed that Scalise has a memoir coming out this fall. The 304-page book is called "Back in the Game," according to listings on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com and the website for the publisher, Center Street. The release date is Nov. 13. "Back in the Game" is billed as a "tight, inspirational narrative" about the June 2017 shooting, those who helped save the congressman's life and his religious faith. Scalise practiced this year and is expected to start at second base Thursday evening. He has been mentioned as a possible successor to House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is not seeking re-election.
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Mika, Barth and Griner were eventually released from the hospital after recovering from their injuries. Following the shooting, Griner, Bailey, and the Alexandria first responders who rushed to the scene were honored for their heroic actions that day. The brave officers received recognition from the White House, Congress, local officials and their departments.
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The shooting brought a call from Congress to provide lawmakers with more security detail but did not bring about any gun control reform or legislation. Since the Congressional baseball practice shooting, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history (Las Vegas, Oct. 1) and the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history (Parkland, Florida, Feb. 14) have occurred.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.