Friday 21 July 2017

Gunman killed after shooting Republicans playing baseball

A US police officer escorts Republican members from the scene after a gunman opened fire during a baseball practice. Photo: Reuters
A US police officer escorts Republican members from the scene after a gunman opened fire during a baseball practice. Photo: Reuters

Sarah N Lynch

A gunman wielding a rifle opened fire on Republican US lawmakers practising near Washington for a charity baseball game yesterday, wounding senior Republican leader Steve Scalise and several others before being fatally shot by police.

The shooter, identified as a 66-year-old Illinois man who had vented at Republicans on social media, fired repeatedly at the baseball field in suburban Alexandria, Virginia. He was wounded in a gunfight with Capitol Hill police armed with pistols who were at the scene, lawmakers said.

Mr Scalise, No. 3 in the House of Representatives Republican leadership, was shot in the hip. He was tended to by fellow lawmakers including Brad Wenstrup, an Ohio congressman who is a physician, before being transported to a hospital.

Also wounded were one current congressional aide and one former aide who now works as a lobbyist, officials said. One Capitol Hill police officer also suffered a gunshot wound and another officer suffered a non-gunshot injury.

The gunman, identified by a senior US official as James Hodgkinson from the St Louis suburb of Belleville, Illinois, died of his injuries. Hodgkinson worked as a home inspector.

His social media presence indicated he was strongly opposed to Republicans, including US President Donald Trump. Police and the FBI said it was too early to determine a motive in the shooting or whether the attack was an attempted political assassination.

Suspect James Hodgkinson. Photo: AP
Suspect James Hodgkinson. Photo: AP

Mr Trump announced the gunman's death and called Mr Scalise, a 51-year-old Louisiana congressman, a good friend. Speaking at the White House, Mr Trump said Mr Scalise was "badly injured" but in stable condition and would recover.

"He's a patriot and he's a fighter. He will recover from this assault," Mr Trump said.

Mr Trump also called for unity at a time of sharp political divides in America, saying, "We are strongest when we are unified and when we work together for the common good."

In a show of bipartisan unity, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said in the House: "An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us."

Hodgkinson had raged against Mr Trump on social media and was a member of many anti-Republican groups on Facebook.

The shooting happened shortly after 7am, with lawmakers practicing their hitting and fielding a day before the annual charity congressional baseball game pitting Republicans against Democrats. There were 20 House members and two senators present, and the shooting lasted for about 10 minutes.

Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who sought the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, said he had been told that Hodgkinson had served as a volunteer with his campaign. "Let me be as clear as I can be: violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms," Mr Sanders said.

Meanwhile, a UPS driver armed with a handgun opened fire at a United Parcel Service Inc package-sorting centre in San Francisco yesterday, killing three people before fatally shooting himself as officers closed in. The victims and the gunman were all company drivers, according to UPS.

Irish Independent

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