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Top Republican wounded in shooting of US lawmakers; gunman dead


REUTERS

Top Republican wounded in shooting of US lawmakers; gunman dead

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ALEXANDRIA, Virginia – A gunman wielding a rifle opened fire on Wednesday on Republican US lawmakers practicing near Washington for a charity baseball game, 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. 

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, an official said.

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 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. 

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

Trump, who has been in office since January, 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 on the floor of the House, “An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.” The House’s top Democrat Nancy Pelosi echoed Ryan’s message.

The shooting happened shortly after 7 a.m., 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 about ten minutes, said Representative Joe Barton of Texas, the Republican team’s manager.

Barton said there were four Capitol Hill police officers there, and two Alexandria officers arrived within five minutes. 

The charity game will go ahead as scheduled at Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals Major League baseball team. 

Wednesday’s incident was the first shooting of a member of the U.S. Congress since January 2011, when Democratic Representative Gabby Giffords was seriously wounded in an assassination attempt at a gathering of her constituents in Tucson, Arizona.

She survived, but six people were killed. Giffords resigned from Congress and became an activist for gun restrictions. (Reuters)

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