A gunman opened fire on Republican members of congress during a baseball practice near Washington early on Wednesday, wounding several people including House of Representatives Majority Whip Steve Scalise, before being taken into custody, police and witnesses said.
In a dramatic blow-by-blow account, Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama told CNN the gunman was armed with a rifle and appeared to be a white middle-aged male, “a little bit on the chubby side”.
Brooks said he saw the man only for a second, and that he was shooting from a chain link fence behind the dugout near third base position on the field where the congressional group was holding a morning practice.
“There must have been 50 to 100 shots fired,” he told CNN. “I hear Steve Scalise over near second base scream. He was shot,” said Brooks, adding he helped apply a tourniquet with his belt to a congressional staffer who was shot in the leg.
The security detail for Scalise, the second-ranking member of the Republican leadership in the lower House of Representatives, returned fire when the shooting broke out, Brooks said.
Two law enforcement agents were among at least five wounded people, he said.
Witnesses told Al Jazeera the shootout lasted well over five minutes.
“Eyewitnesses say after the congressman was shot, he actually crawled to the outfield and that’s when there was gunfire going back and forth between the suspect and the capitol police officers here,” said Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from Alexandria.
“One man told us one of the police officers that was shot was on the ground and still returning gunfire against the suspect.”
Police confirmed that five people, including the suspect, had been transported to local hospitals.
APD Chief Michael Brown updated media. 5 transported to local hospitals, including suspect. We will not ID victims or suspect right now. http://pic.twitter.com/pPYlqEjACM
— Alexandria Police (@AlexandriaVAPD) June 14, 2017
Al Jazeera’s Shihab Rattansi, reporting from Washington DC, said the exact casualty figures are not yet been established.
“We know that Steve Scalise was shot in the hip, according to his aide; we know two capitol police officers were shot – one male, one female; we know at least one other person was shot – perhaps in the chest; and then there’s the gunman himself who was also shot,” he said.
“There may be more casualties.”
Rattansi said the congressman and the two police officers are reportedly in a stable condition, but there is no news on the other casualties.
It is clear whether lawmakers were targeted for their profession.
|Two capitol police officers returned fire at the shooter for well over five minutes, witnesses told Al Jazeera [Reuters]|
Scalise’s position as whip in the Republican-controlled House makes him one of the most senior figures in Congress. He is a representative from Louisiana.
US President Donald Trump, a Republican, said he and Vice President Mike Pence were aware of the shooting and are monitoring developments closely.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with the members of congress, their staffs, Capitol Police, first responders, and all others affected,” Trump said in a statement.
Al Jazeera’s Elizondo said the shooting had “rattled” Washington.
“There were many lawmakers here and people are keenly aware this could have been much worse,” he said.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies