But Scalise 'a great fighter,' says U.S. president of critically wounded House majority whip
Republican congressman Steve Scalise is in a fight "more difficult than first thought" as he recovers from a gunshot wound, U.S. President Donald Trump said after visiting him at a Washington, D.C., hospital on Thursday.
The House majority whip was critically wounded Wednesday morning after a man with a rifle opened fire on Republican politicians as they practised for a charity baseball game in Alexandria, Va.
"It's been more difficult than people even thought at the time," Trump said after leaving MedStar Washington Hospital Center. "It's been ... he's in some trouble. He's a great fighter and he's going to be OK, we hope.
U.S. President Donald Trump, right, shakes hands with Steve Scalise in the East Room of the White House on March 7, 2017. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
"I visited Steve and his family at the hospital last night, and I reassured them that the entire country is pulling for them, praying for them, and that we are here for them every single step of the way."
The gunman was shot by Capitol Police officers who were in Scalise's security detail and later died of his injuries. He was identified as James T. Hodgkinson, a 66-year-old home inspector from Illinois who had several minor run-ins with the law in recent years and belonged to a Facebook group called "Terminate the Republican Party." He had been living out of his van in the Alexandria area in recent months, the FBI said.
Scalise had surgery on Wednesday after being shot in the hip, his office said in a statement. (Alex Brandon/The Associated Press)
Scalise's office released a statement indicating he was shot in the hip and underwent surgery.
Hospital officials said Scalise suffered injuries to internal organs and fractured bones during the shooting. They said he was given "multiple units" of blood and will require additional operations.
Four others were also wounded in the shooting, including two Capitol Police officers, a congressional staffer and a lobbyist.
The officers and the congressional aide, Zach Barth, have been released from hospitals. But a congressional aide-turned-lobbyist, Matt Mika, was shot multiple times and critically injured, and he remained hospitalized Thursday.
After Scalise was hit, Mo Brooks, an Alabama Republican, said the congressman "crawled into the outfield, leaving a trail of blood."
"We started giving him the liquids, I put pressure on his wound in his hip," Brooks said.
The gunman had a rifle and "a lot of ammo," said Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, who was at the practice.
Texas congressman Joe Barton, still in his baseball uniform, told reporters that Scalise's security detail — assigned because he is the majority whip — Capitol Hill police and then Alexandria police returned fire in a battle that lasted as long as 10 minutes and included dozens of shots.
Lawmakers took cover in the dugout. Barton said his son, Jack, got under an SUV.
Texas congressman Mike Conaway described what sounded like an explosion, then lawmakers scattering off the field as police roamed in search of the gunman and engaged him.
"The guy's down to a handgun, he dropped his rifle, they shoot him, I go over there, they put him in handcuffs," Conaway said, adding that if the shooter had "gotten inside the fence, where a bunch of guys were holed up in the dugout, it would have been like shooting fish in a barrel."
Congressman Jeff Duncan of South Carolina said he had just left the practice and encountered the apparent gunman in the parking lot before the shooting. The man calmly asked which party's lawmakers were practicing and Duncan told him they were the Republicans. The man thanked him.
The wounded Capitol Police officers were identified as David Bailey, who was treated for a minor injury, and Crystal Griner, who was shot in the ankle. Also wounded was former congressional aide Matt Mika, who now works for Tyson Foods in its Washington office.
Mika's family said the lobbyist was shot multiple times and was in critical condition following surgery.
Trump visited Griner and Bailey at the same D.C. hospital and later told reporters, "they ran right into the fire."
"They ran right into those guns and the bullets and they saved a lot of lives. America salutes both of their courage. They have great, great courage; we all salute them," Trump said.
"Finally, our heartfelt prayers go out to Matt Mika, who was badly wounded in the assault. To Matt's family, anything you need. We are here for you. Hopefully Matt will be OK."
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