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Saturday 17 March 2018

US politician shot at baseball practice in critical condition after surgery

Police and emergency personnel near the scene where House majority whip Steve Scalise was shot (Cliff Owen/AP)
Police and emergency personnel near the scene where House majority whip Steve Scalise was shot (Cliff Owen/AP)
A police officer stands watch behind police tape on a field in Alexandria, Virginia (Cliff Owen/AP)
Majority Whip Steve Scalise has been shot (Alex Brandon/AP)

The US congressman shot during a baseball practice is in critical condition following surgery, the hospital treating him said.

MedStar Washington said in a tweet on Wednesday afternoon that Representative Steve Scalise "was critically injured and remains in critical condition".

It provided no further details about him.

Mr Scalise was among several people wounded when a rifle-wielding attacker fired on Republican lawmakers on a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, outside Washington.

The attacker was shot and later died.

The hospital said another victim of the shooting is in good condition.

It did not identify the victim.

Mr Scalise dragged himself off the infield leaving a trail of blood as colleagues rushed to his assistance.

The shooter 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".

Shortly after the shooting, Bernie Sanders, the former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, said on the Senate floor that the shooter apparently was a volunteer for his campaign last year.

Mr Sanders said he denounced the violence "in the strongest possible terms".

Capitol Police officers who were in Mr Scalise's security detail wounded the shooter, who was taken into custody.

He later died of his injuries, President Donald Trump told the nation from the White House.

"Everyone on that field is a public servant," Mr Trump said. "Their sacrifice makes democracy possible."

Mr Scalise, 51, the No 3 House Republican leader first elected to the House in 2008, is known for his love of baseball and handed out commemorative bats when he secured the job of House whip several years ago.

Texas Representative Roger Williams, who coaches the GOP team, said that one of his aides, Zack Barth, was shot, but "is doing well and is expected to make a full recovery".

Two Capitol Police officers were also injured but were expected to recover, along with a former congressional aide who was in hospital.

Representative 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 practising and Mr Duncan told him they were the Republicans.

The man thanked him.

The gunman had a rifle and "a lot of ammo", said Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, who was at the practice.

The shocking event left the Capitol horrified and stunned.

The House cancelled proceedings for the day.

Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California both spoke on the floor issuing calls for unity.

"An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us," Mr Ryan said.

The shooting occurred at a popular park and baseball complex in Alexandria, where Republican lawmakers and others were gathered for a morning practice at about 7am.

They were in good spirits despite the heat and humidity as they prepared for the congressional baseball match that pits Republicans against Democrats.

The popular annual face-off, which raises money for charity, is scheduled for Thursday evening at Nationals Park across the Potomac River in Washington, and will go forward as planned.

The team was taking batting practice when gunshots rang out and chaos erupted.

Mr Scalise was fielding balls on second base when he was shot, according to lawmakers present, then dragged himself into the outfield to get away from the gunman.

FBI special agent in charge Tim Slater said it was "too early to say" whether it was an act of terrorism, or whether Mr Scalise was targeted.

Mr Ryan identified the wounded Capitol Police officers as David Bailey and Crystal Griner.

Also wounded was former congressional aide Matt Mika, who now works for Tysons Food in its Washington office.

His family said the lobbyist was shot multiple times and was in critical condition and in surgery.


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