Rep. Trent Kelly, who represents Mississippi’s first congressional district, appeared to be the first target of a shooter at a Republican lawmakers’ baseball team practice Wednesday morning in Alexandria, Va..
Kelly, who plays third base on the team, tweeted, “I am safe. We continue to pray for my colleagues and their families.”
Bullets shot from a rifle struck four people at the suburban Washington ballfield, including Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana. Scalise was fielding balls on second base when he was shot in the hip. He dragged himself off the infield leaving a trail of blood as colleagues rushed to his assistance, witnesses said. After undergoing surgery, Scalise is reported to be in critical condition at a Washington hospital. A former congressional aide and two Capitol Police officers also were injured.
Kelly told The Daily Journal that he was the closest person on the field to the gunman when the shots were fired.
“I was the closest guy to the shooter … and I am thankful and grateful for the grace of God or I wouldn’t be here right now,” Kelly said. “It’s important now to let people know that we’re not going to be intimidated by cowards … we’re going to stand tall and do the people’s work.”
The gunman, identified as James T. Hodgkinson of Belleville, Ill., was wounded and taken into custody after the gunfight with Capitol Police officers who were in Scalise’s security detail. Hodgkinson later died of his injuries, President Donald Trump announced.
“I’ve seen warriors and know what warriors look like and they (Capitol Police) were them,” said Kelly, a veteran of military combat in Iraq. “Without their actions many, many more people would have been killed or wounded,” Kelly told The Daily Journal.
Hodgkinson, a 66-year-old home inspector, had several minor run-ins with the law in recent years and belonged to a Facebook group called “Terminate the Republican Party,” according to the Associated Press.
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, the AP says. Sanders denounced the violence “in the strongest possible terms.”
Texas Rep. Joe Barton told reporters the shooting lasted 5-10 minutes, with dozens or more of shots fired, according to the Associated Press.
U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo, who represents the Mississippi’s fourth congressional district, is a team member, but he was not at the practice.
U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper is not on the team.
The team was preparing for the annual congressional baseball match that pits Republicans against Democrats. The contest, which raises money for charity, was scheduled for Thursday evening at Nationals Park in Washington.