ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The single rifle round that pierced House Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s left hip crossed his pelvis, fractured bones and injured internal organs causing severe bleeding, leaving him in critical condition Wednesday night.
The update from his office was the most detailed report of injuries Scalise suffered when he and four others were shot during an ambush-style attack earlier in the morning at a baseball field where a team of Republican lawmakers practiced ahead of an annual game against Democratic counterparts.
James T. Hodgkinson, the 66-year-old Illinois man identified as the gunman, died a short time later while in custody, President Trump announced during a somber 2-minute address from the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House.
The nighttime update from Scalise’s office said he was in shock when he was airlifted from Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in a leafy suburb of Washington D.C.
Once at the hospital, he underwent immediate surgery and a second procedure to stop bleeding.
He had received multiple units of blood and will required additional operations, his office said.
On Wednesday night, the president and first lady Melania Trump paid Scalise surprise a visit, bringing him two bouquets of white flowers.
Just left hospital. Rep. Steve Scalise, one of the truly great people, is in very tough shape - but he is a real fighter. Pray for Steve!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2017
Afterward, he tweeted that Scalise is “in very tough shape – but he is a real fighter.”
U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minnesota, one of Scalise’s roommate, told Minneapolis TV station WTSP he also visited the hospital Wednesday afternoon and Scalise was unconscious at that time.
U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, told CNN the horrific and prolonged attack began about 6:00 a.m. Central during a practice for an annual charity game between House and Senate GOP and Democrats, a tradition since 1909.
Republican congressional leaders said Scalise was on second base when the gunfire erupted and had to crawl away to escape the gunman.
"He was pulling himself along the ground," Brooks said, adding that Scalise was never able to stand up after he was struck in his hip.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R- Arizona, told reporters he grabbed Scalise's cellphone in the chaotic moments after the shots ended to call his wife to tell her the news before she heard it anywhere else.
An autopsy found Hodgkinson, who was among five shot at the ball field, died of multiple gunshot wounds to his torso.
While it remains unknown if Scalise was an intended target, Brooks said the shooting didn't appear random.
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"It sure as heck wasn't an accident," he said on CNN minutes after Scalise was airlifted from the ballpark. "He knew who we were and … he was going after elected officials."
Gov. John Bel Edwards said the shooting appeared to be an "outrageous, cowardly attack on one of our own."
MOTIVE REMAINS ELUSIVE
Tim Slater, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office, declined to immediately identify a motive in the shooting.
Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-South Carolina, told reporters he spoke with a man he believes was Hodgkins who'd asked if the team on the field was made up of Democrats or Republicans.
“I told him they were Republicans. He said, ‘Okay, thanks,’ turned around,” Duncan told The Washington Post.
U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, said that if reports that the shooting were political in nature, "we've sunk to a new low."
"It's too early to tell if they were targeted or not," Slater told reporters gathered outside the ballpark late Wednesday morning. "We are exploring all angles."
Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, who was wounded after the shooting, said Zack Barth, one of his legislative correspondents, was also one of those injured by gunfire. He said Barth was being treated and was expected to make a “full recovery.”
Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa said Sepcial Agent David Bailey was shot but in good condition with injuries that were not life-threatening.
Matt Mika, a lobbyist for Tyson Foods, was also hospitalized after being shot.
Slater said Capitol Police Special Agent Crystal Griner and Williams, the Texas representative, received "secondary injuries" at the scene and were treated at hospitals.
Capitol police officers, who are with Scalise 24 hours a day due to his position as third-ranking Republican in the house, are credited with helping to stop the gunman before he could do any other harm.
“Many lives would have been lost if not for the heroic actions of the two Capitol police officers who took down the gunman,” Trump said, “despite sustaining gunshot wounds during a very, very brutal assault.”
"What would have happened if Steve hadn't had his security staff out there?" Kennedy asked. "We had 20-30 congressmen out there. Without his detail, it would have been a turkey shoot."
GUNMAN SEETHING OVER TRUMP
While authorities worked to try to figure out why Hodgkinson opened fire on the practice, some of his background began to come into focus.
Slater said during an afternoon update that Hodgkinson had been in the Alexandria area since March and that investigators believe he was living in his van.
And the Belleville, Ill., man was apparently seething over Trump being in office and Republican politics and policies
His Facebook page includes a post that reads: “Trump is Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.”
He also once singled out Scalise, writing on his Facebook page in 2015, "Here's a Republican that should lose his job, but they gave him a raise.'' That message was accompanied by a cartoon depiction of Scalise.
Hodgkinson’s page also prominently featured pictures of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, who ran for president, and apparently volunteered for Sanders’ campaign. The Vermont senator said he was “sickened” by the shooting.
“Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms” Sanders said in a statement. “Real change can only come about through nonviolent action, and anything else runs against our most deeply held American values.”
EARLY RESPONSE KEY TO SURVIVAL
Scalise's office initially said the congressman was in stable condition at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, but the hospital on Wednesday afternoon said he was in critical condition after undergoing surgery.
Critical condition can mean a patient has unstable vital signs and could be unconscious, but Scalise's office has not provided additional details about his status.
"Prior to entering surgery, the Whip was in good spirits and spoke to his wife by phone," an early statement from Scalise's office read. "He is grateful for the brave actions of U.S. Capitol Police, first responders, and colleagues."
Jefferson Parish coroner Dr. Gerry Cvitanovich, a former emergency room surgeon and a friend of Scalise and his family, said it’s not uncommon for someone who suffered an injury such as Scalise’s to have some complications, the most common of which is related to bleeding after a gunshot.
“I would have been shocked had he not been put in the ICU given the injury that was described,” Cvitanovich said.
Video taken in the immediate aftermath of the shooting showed first responders working at a rapid clip to airlift Scalise to a Washington, D.C., hospital.
That early action by Capitol police and paramedics to stabilize Scalise on the field gave him the best chance for survival.
“They scooped him and went,” he said. “After the shooting, everything went as well as it could go.”
Scalise’s office said he was struck in the hip, but until there are more details released about his specific injuries, it’s hard to discuss any prognosis for his future, Cvitanovich said. “It’s hard to tell now knowing what his injuries are.”
PARISHONERS OFFER PRAYERS
Scalise, a graduate of Archbishop Rummel High School who lives in Metairie, represents Louisiana's 1st Congressional District, which includes most of the north shore, parts of Orleans and Jefferson parishes, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes, as well as parts of the bayou parishes of Terrebonne and Lafourche.
The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office blocked the road leading to Scalise's home. Among those at the house were Sheriff Newell Normand, who said he was there to coordinate with the family "as it relates to what their plans may or may not be."
He also decried the shooting. "I think we've lost our minds. We've getting cuckoo crazy -- if we aren't there already -- where you can't go to a ballpark and participate and practice for an event that has been around for many years."
Scalise’s family later left their Old Jefferson home carrying luggage, The New Orleans Advocate reported. Deputies who had blocked off the street also drove away.
Parishioners who attend St. Catherine of Sienna Roman Catholic Church with Scalise in Old Metairie said they were saddened to hear the news.
“Steve is a good guy. None of that should occur in our country,” Bryan Hughes said. “We gotta get back to common sense.”
Carol Jambon said Scalise’s children often play at a nearby playground, and Capitol police are always in tow.
“It’s a shame in this world you gotta have security to come watch your kids play,” Jambon said.
"To a colleague, co-worker, and national leader for Jefferson Parish, I am praying for you and aides," Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni said in a prepared statement. "I wish a speedy recovery and my hearts are with you and the families involved."
‘WE HAVE TO PUT ASIDE OUR DIFFERENCES'
"We have to all be clear: an attack on any public official, staff member ... first responder, is an attack on democracy, and on all Americans. It is an attack on our country, and it's unacceptable,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who served in the Legislature with Scalise for a decade. “Now more than ever we have to put aside our differences in unite against cowardly violence."
Scalise has been a U.S. representative since May 2008 and chairs the House Republican Study Committee. He is married and has two children and served as a state representative and senator before being elected to Congress.
Trump described Scalise as a “patriot and a fighter.”
“Steve, I want you to know that you have the prayers … of an entire nation, and frankly the entire world. America is praying for you and America is praying for all of the victims of this terrible shooting.”
The Congressional Baseball Game was scheduled to go on as planned Thursday night at Nationals Park in Washington.
Lawmakers were said to be preparing to wear purple-and-gold LSU caps and T-shirts in honor of Scalise, an LSU graduate.
WWL-TV reporters Katie Moore, Paul Murphy, Osama Ayyad and Katie Steiner contributed to this story.
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