House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana was among at least five people shot after a gunman opened fire early Wednesday on a Congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia.
The Republican lawmaker was struck in the hip, and is in stable condition. WJLA reports that two Capitol Police officers, a lobbyist, and a congressional staffer were also wounded in the shooting.
At a press conference late Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump said that the suspect, James T. Hodgkinson, had been shot by Capitol Police officers at the scene and later died.
4:24 p.m.: Scalise has undergone a third surgery, exemplifying how damaging even nonfatal bullets can be.
When a round penetrates a body, the shock waves created by the kinetic energy pushes material, like tissue, far out from the path of the round, producing what’s known as a temporary cavity. That space quickly collapses around the “permanent cavity” bored by the projectile’s direct path.
Some muscle and organ tissue can bounce back readily from the shock waves created by the temporary cavity with little damage. Yet that same force can disrupt blood vessels or break bones at some distance from the projectile path, in the same way they can be disrupted by blunt trauma, medical experts say.
Higher caliber bullets also create wider permanent cavities by virtue of their wider projectile, especially if they are designed to expand on impact, as is the case with many handgun rounds. Ballistic gels tests, in which a gun is fired into a material meant to mimic the density of human tissue, clearly illustrate how a 9mm round creates much larger temporary and permanent cavities than a smaller .22.
When bullets make impact, they flatten out. Bigger bullets have a greater diameter — a .40 caliber, for example, is about a quarter of an inch wider than a .22. That small difference could determine whether someone lives or dies, says Joseph Sakran, a trauma surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
10:34 a.m.: Reports identify the type of firearms used in attack.
ABC News, citing multiple law enforcement sources, reports that Hodgkinson was armed with a 7.62mm SKS rifle and a 9mm Smith & Wesson pistol.
The SKS rifle was originally developed near the end of World War II in the Soviet Union, and is the basis for the AK-47. Due to the rifle’s age, it is considered a “Curio and Relic” item by the the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and is popular with gun collectors.
The gunman who fatally shot five Dallas police officers in July 2016 also used an SKS rifle.
10:30 a.m.: Two victims are still in critical condition.
Two victims of Wednesday’s shooting in Alexandria remain in critical condition Thursday morning. After sustaining a bullet wound to his left hip, Majority Whip Steve Scalise underwent surgery and received multiple blood transfusions. He will require additional operations, according to an update from the hospital where he was treated.
Matt Mika, a lobbyist for Tyson Foods, was shot twice in the chest and sustained the most serious injuries out of all the victims. In the hospital, he has been communicating with his family via handwritten notes, according to a CBS News reporter. Mika received two surgeries and reportedly has more ahead. It is not unusual for a gunshot patient to undergo multiple surgeries.
The three other gunshot victims — two Capitol police officers and a legislative aide — were released from the hospital yesterday.
4:48 p.m.: A gun politics expert is disturbed by the shooting, but doubts it will change much.
Though other high-profile shootings have resulted in more casualties, this one stuck out to Bob Spitzer, a professor of political science at the State University of New York-Cortland and author of the The Politics of Gun Control. “It’s disturbing not just because this was a mass shooting, but because it was aimed at elected officials,” Spitzer said. “When elected officials are targets, it undermines the political system.”
Reports that the suspect was a supporter of the socialist Senator Bernie Sanders surprised Spitzer because “the vast majority of modern political violence in the U.S. has been carried out by the far right. The right wing accepts the idea of arming people for political reasons. You don’t see similar motivation among the left wing, by and large.”
In past decades, attacks like this on political figures often precipitated reforms to gun laws. “The 1968 Gun Control Act only passed after the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Similar bills had been submitted to Congress throughout the 1960’s had gone nowhere until then,” Spitzer pointed out.
But these days, Spitzer believes Congressional Republicans’ fealty to the National Rifle Association means such a legislative change of heart is unlikely. “Some members of Congress may privately shift their feelings on the NRA and guns,” he said, “but publicly I don’t think the shooting will change their positions.”
3:15 p.m.: Two victims remain in critical condition.
A tweet from MedStar Washington Health Center, where Representative Steve Scalise is being treated, indicated that the congressman “was critically injured and remains in critical condition.” Scalise was shot in the hip and underwent surgery earlier today. His office reported earlier that his condition was stable.
Meanwhile, lobbyist Matt Mika — a former Michigan state lawmaker — remains in critical condition and his family is traveling to Washington, Politico’s Jake Sherman reported.
1:24 p.m.: Hodgkinson was not prohibited from gun ownership.
James T. Hodgkinson’s criminal record would have not have prohibited him from owning a gun, meaning he could have passed a background check to buy the weapons used in Wednesday’s assault.
ABC reported that Hodgkinson had no felony convictions, even one of which would have made it illegal for him to own guns under federal law.
Hodgkinson’s record does include some minor offenses and traffic violations. His most serious charges, according to ABC, were levied in 1993, when he was charged with driving under the influence, fleeing or attempting to elude police, and resisting or obstructing a peace officer. In 2006, he was charged with aiding and abetting damage to a motor vehicle and two counts of battery. The charges were all misdemeanors and were ultimately all dismissed. Only battery could have disqualified Hodgkinson from gun ownership under Illinois law.
The Belleville News-Democrat reported the details of the 2006 incident, in which Hodgkinson allegedly became violent with his teenage daughter, her friend, and her friend’s boyfriend. He allegedly pointed a shotgun at the boyfriend, as well.
12:45 p.m.: Names of the five shooting victims have been released.
In an address to Congress, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan named the victims of today’s shooting: Representative Steve Scalise, Congressional aide Zachary Barth, lobbyist Matt Mika, and Capitol Police officers David Bailey and Crystal Greiner.
“It is clear to me, based on eyewitness accounts, that without these two heroes, many lives would have been lost,” said Ryan about the wounded officers.
12:35 p.m.: A congressman from New York says he now plans to carry a gun whenever he’s out in public.
Representative Chris Collins, a Republican who represents suburban Buffalo, told a local news station that he’ll put his concealed-carry permit to use.
Before this morning’s attack on a Congressional baseball practice, Collins said he would keep a gun in his glove box “on occasion.”
Collins was one the first member of the House to endorse Donald Trump for president.
11:59 a.m.: President Trump praised the “heroism” of the Capitol Police officers in a speech from the White House.
They “took down the gunman despite sustaining gunshot wounds during a very, very brutal assault,” he said.
Trump said he had spoken with the Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa to express sympathies for the wounded officers. He also commended the first responders in Alexandria, as well as Congressional aides and members of Congress.
“We may have our differences, but we do well in times like these to remember that everyone who serves our nation’s capitol is here because above all they love democracy,” Trump said. “We can all agree that we are blessed to be Americans, that our children deserve to grow up in a nation of safety and peace, and that we are strongest when we are unified and when we work together for the common good.”
11:50 a.m.: The wounded congressman is out of surgery. Another victim’s injuries are more serious than originally reported.
Representative Scalise is in stable condition, the Washington Post confirmed.
The name of one of the other gunshot victims was released. Matt Mika, a lobbyist for Tyson Foods, is being treated at George Washington University Hospital. While early reports said Mika’s injuries were not life-threatening, former Michigan State Representative David Palsrok indicated that he may have been shot four or five times and is in critical condition.
11:33 a.m.: Alexandria police shared details about the 911 call at a press conference.
The first emergency call about an active shooter came in at 7:09 a.m. The gunman fired on Capitol Police officers, who returned fire. Those officers do not have life-threatening injuries, the Capitol Police chief said. A special agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigation — which will be taking over the investigation because the shooting involves an assault on a federal officer — said that it was “too early in the investigation to say” whether this morning’s shooting was an assassination attempt, or an act of domestic terrorism.
One participant in the baseball practice has no doubt that the shooting was targeted at the lawmakers on the field. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that no bullets were fired outside of that baseball field,” Representative Rodney Davis of Illinois told CNN.
11:29 a.m.: Scalise and Brooks are adamantly pro-gun.
Representative Scalise is a fierce defender of gun rights, and has an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association. He sits on the House’s Second Amendment Task Force, and he has sponsored or co-sponsored legislation that would ease restrictions on the sale of firearms and allow permit-holding gun owners to carry concealed weapons anywhere in the country.
Representative Brooks, who witnessed this morning’s shooting, is also an avid proponent of gun rights. He has a concealed-carry permit and has headlined events celebrating the Second Amendment. The shooting, he said today, has not changed his views on firearms. The gunman, Brooks explained, failed to exercise his Second Amendment “rights properly.”
11:20 a.m.: Two guns were recovered at the scene.
Mary Markos, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said the agency is tracing two firearms recovered at the scene — one rifle and one handgun. The ATF is prohibited from releasing details of firearms traces, including make, model, and who originally purchased or sold the weapon, to anyone except the law enforcement agency who requested the trace.
10:59 a.m.: At least five victims are being treated for gunshot injuries.
The victims shot at a baseball practice this morning sustained “various degrees of injuries,” Alexandria Fire Department officials told WJLA.
After being shot in the hip near second base, Majority Whip Steve Scalise reportedly crawled toward the outfield, trailing blood. Once the shooting stopped, several people ran over to apply pressure to his wound. The congressman is currently undergoing surgery at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, according to an update from his office posted on Twitter just before 10 a.m. His condition is stable, and he was able to speak to his wife on the phone, according to the update.
A Congressional staffer named Zack Barth was reportedly shot in the calf and transported to a nearby hospital via ambulance. He is a legislative correspondent for Representative Roger Williams of Texas.
Two members of the Capitol Police security detail were also hit, including one who was airlifted out.
Also shot was the gunman, identified as James Hodgkinson. His condition has not been made public.
10:57 a.m.: The shooter has been identified as James T. Hodgkinson.
Law enforcement officials tell the Washington Post that the shooter is James Hodgkinson, a 66-year-old from Belleville, Illinois, who owns a home inspection business. Records show that Hodgkinson was charged with battery and aiding damage to a motor vehicle in 2006. The charges were dismissed.
10:53 a.m.: It is illegal to carry a loaded assault weapon in a Virginia park.
Virginia’s gun regulations are more permissive than neighboring Maryland, but stricter than most other Southern states.
In July 2016, the state began to officially recognize all out-of-state concealed-carry permits. That same month, state police began offering background check services at gun shows for sellers who wished to conduct a review of people buying firearms — even if the vendor was unlicensed by the federal government and was under no legal obligation to conduct a check.
In 2011, Virginia repealed a law that limited residents to one handgun purchase per month.
In the wake of the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting, the deadliest in American history before the 2016 Orlando mass shooting, the state augmented its background check system. The state bans people from buying guns if they have been acquitted of a criminal charge for reason of insanity, are under a protective order, or have been convicted of two or more misdemeanor drug offenses in the previous 36 months.
Virginia imposes few restrictions on assault weapons like the gun witnesses say the suspect used this morning. The state defines an assault weapon as a center-fired rifle equipped with a magazine that can hold more than 20 rounds, a folding stock, or a barrel that can be fitted with a silencer. As in the vast majority of states, Virginians who own assault weapons do not have to register those guns. It is illegal to carry a loaded assault weapon on Virginia streets, in parks, and in public buildings.
The state also permits residents to own magazines of unlimited size. Large-capacity magazines allow shooters to fire dozens of rounds without reloading. In the 2011 Tucson, Arizona, shooting that wounded Representative Gabrielle Giffords, the gunman, Jared Loughner, used a semiautomatic pistol with an extended 33-round magazine. Loughner was not stopped until he ran out of ammunition and attempted to reload, at which point a bystander tackled him.
10:48 a.m.: Members of Congress are returning to the Capitol still in their baseball uniforms.
Tweets from reporters on the Hill show congressmen heading to their offices still in practice gear.
10:37 a.m.: The wounded congressman crawled into the outfield, leaving a trail of blood.
When the shooting started, everyone on the field scattered, according to Representative Mo Brooks, an Alabama Republican who was at the practice. Brooks said he ran to a plastic-wrapped batting cage near home plate for cover. Lying on the ground, he heard at least 50 shots from a semiautomatic weapon.
A few blocks away, Gaver Nichols was mowing his lawn when he heard rapid fire, a pause, and what might have been return fire. When Brooks heard the break in gunfire, he took a gamble, rose from the batting cage floor and ran for the dugout. He dove into it headfirst, he told CNN.
After Scalise was shot in the hip, he dragged his body from second base to the outfield, leaving a 15-foot trail of blood, according to Brooks.
10:33 a.m.: The most recent shooting in the D.C. suburb was May 13.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been seven incidents of gun violence in Alexandria so far this year. The Washington, D.C., suburb last experienced a shooting on May 13, when three people were shot at a hotel near I-495 just after 2 a.m. One of the victims, a 28-year-old man, died.
The neighborhood where the shooting took place is considered particularly safe.
“Reports of violence are extremely rare in Del Ray, a quiet, upscale neighborhood known for its shops and art and craftsman-style homes.”
9:59 a.m.: All House business has been cancelled for the day.
Among the cancelled events is a House committee hearing on a bill that would loosen the regulations on suppressors. The House Natural Resource Committee had been set to debate the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act, which would remove suppressors — also known as silencers — from a list of items regulated by the 1934 National Firearms Act. Parish Braden, communications director for the committee, said members of the Natural Resources Committee had been present at the baseball practice. He said that, in response to the shooting, House leadership had directed that all hearings be postponed and no votes are expected in the House today.
Suppressor purchases currently require an application to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the payment of a $200 tax, and completion of a background check — a process that can last up to a year. The SHARE Act would also weaken the requirements for transporting a firearm across state lines and make it easier to purchase armor-piercing bullets.
9:05 a.m.: Congressman among five shot at Virginia park
Members of Congress and their aides had gathered to practice for a charity baseball game when a gunman fired between 50 and 100 shots, according to Representative Mo Brooks, who witnessed the shooting. Brooks characterized the shooter’s weapon as a semi-automatic rifle.
Scalise, the third-highest ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, has an increased security detail. Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona told CNN that Capitol Police officers assigned to protect Scalise quickly returned fire. “50 [shots] would be an understatement, I’m quite sure,” he said. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky hailed their response. “It would have been a massacre without them,” he said.
President Donald Trump issued a statement saying that he and Vice President Mike Pence are “deeply saddened by this tragedy.”
Scalise is the first sitting member of Congress to be shot since Gabby Giffords in 2011. The former Arizona congresswoman was critically wounded when a gunman targeted a constituent meeting in a supermarket in Tucson. Six people were killed in the attack.
This is a developing story. Follow The Trace on Twitter for the latest updates.