From CCJN STAFF and JTA Reports
WASHINGTON — Louisiana 1st District Congressman and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, remains in critical condition, but according to his hospital, is showing signs of improvement. Scalise, the third-ranked Republican in the U. S. House of Representatives was shot Wednesday morning in Alexandria, VA. during practice for yesterday’s annual charity Congressional Baseball Game between Democrats and Republicans.
Dr. Jack Sava, director of trauma at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, said the team working with Scalise is “encouraged” by his progress, but still have him listed as in “critical condition.”. Sava called Scalise’s injury a “trans-pelvic gunshot wound,” describing how a bullet entered his body near his left hip and traveled toward his right hip, causing “substantial damage to bones, organs and blood vessels.”
“We have controlled the internal bleeding and his vital signs have stabilized,” Sava said during a news conference at which he issued the latest reports from MedStar Washington Hospital Center, a level 1 trauma center. Earlier Sava acknowledged that the Congressman has undergone three surgeries since the shooting for injuries resulting from that single bullet wound to his left hip.
According to an earlier hospital report: “Congressman Steve Scalise sustained a single rifle shot to the left hip. The bullet traveled across his pelvis, fracturing bones, injuring internal organs and causing severe bleeding. He underwent immediate surgery, and an additional procedure to stop [the] bleeding. He has received multiple units of blood transfusion. His condition is critical, and he will require additional operations. We will provide periodic updates.”
Scalise’s condition was initially reported as “stable”; however it was upgraded to “critical” after doctors and surgeons examined the wound and determined the extent of the injuries. Sava noted Scalise was awake in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, but was in shock by the time he was transported to the hospital. The GOP leader was “as critical as you can be” when he arrived at the hospital, Sava said.
Sava also gave an update on Capitol Police Special Agent Crystal Griner, who sustained a gunshot wound to the ankle during the shooting. Griner was in good condition “and in good spirits,” Sava said.
Elected to Congress in 2008, Scalise, 51, represents a district that includes the North Shore and a wide swath of southern Louisiana between St. Bernard and Terrebonne parishes. He has served as the House Majority Whip since 2014.
The shooting took place at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, across the Potomac River from Washington. The assailant, armed with a rifle, had positioned himself behind a chain-link fence on the third base side of the field.
According to reports from where the shooting took place, Scalise had just finished taking batting practice and was standing near second base when the lone gunman opened fire at 7:09 a.m. As he was struck, Scalise fell down and managed to crawl from the infield to the outfield grass where he lay prone until the shooting stopped several minutes later.
Witnesses said that the gunman, later identified as 66-year-old James T. Hodgkinson of Belleville, IL, began to charge onto the field toward where Scalise was lying and was shot down by Capitol Police officers on the scene. Both Capitol Police officers, David Bailey and Crystal Griner were wounded in the melee, but were released by the hospital after being treated. Hodgkinson died from his injuries at the scene.
According to reports, others who were also shot were a lobbyist, Matt Mika, and and aid to Rep. Roger Williams (R- TX), Zack Barth. Mika also remains in critical condition.
After the shooting stopped, Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona and Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama rushed onto the field and came to Scalise’s aid, bringing him water and trying to stem the bleeding from Scalise’s wound. Scalise remained conscious and was airlifted to the hospital by helicopter, arriving roughly an hour after the incident. Flake reportedly called Scalise’s wife Jennifer and told her what happened.
Later that afternoon, Jennifer and the couple’s two young children, flew up to Washington from Louisiana to be with him.
While in the hospital, Scalise was visited by President Donald Trump and his wife Melania, bearing two large bouquets of white flowers. The couple stayed with Scalise for about 15 minutes, chatting with him and his doctors, and the president immediately tweeted the following statement: “Steve Scalise, one of the truly great people, is in very tough shape – but he is a real fighter. Pray for Steve!”
Later, in a speech from the White House, Trump elaborated: “Congressman Scalise is a friend, and a very good friend. He’s a patriot and he’s a fighter. He will recover from this assault. And Steve, I want you to know that you have the prayers not only of the entire city behind you, but 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.”
Early reports said that Hodgkinson was a supporter of 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and had posted many virulent online attacks against Trump and other Republicans.
Sanders in a statement said that he was praying for the recovery of Scalise. “Our prayers go out for a full recovery of Rep. Scalise, the congressional aides and police officers who were injured,” said Sanders. “We’ve got to stop the violence.”
Later, after learning that Hodgkinson had apparently backed his candidacy, Sanders added to his statement.
“I am sickened by this despicable act,” he said. “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. Real change can only come about through nonviolent action, and anything else runs against our most deeply held American values.”
Sanders immediately condemned the shooting incident, saying “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.”
Wednesday morning’s attack was the first shooting of a member of Congress since January 2011, when then-Arizona Representative Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords, who is Jewish, was seriously wounded in an assassination attempt at a gathering of constituents in Tucson. Six people were killed, but Giffords, who was struck in the head, had her health and stamina compromised. She eventually resigned from Congress.
“My heart is with my former colleagues, their families & staff, and the US Capitol Police – public servants and heroes today and every day,” Giffords, who has since become a leading advocate for gun ownership reform, said on Twitter.
The Congressional Baseball Game, a tradition since 1908 that pits Republican senators and congressmen against those of the Democratic party, went ahead yesterday as scheduled at Washington Nationals Stadium. Three charities customarily benefit from the event but, in the wake of the shooting, it was decided that a portion of the monies collected will go toward the victims’ medical expenses.
Scalise has played in the game every year since his election to Congress. During previous games he has been photographed wearing the jerseys of the baseball teams of LSU and the University of Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns.
Yesterday’s game was played at Washington Nationals Stadium with New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, his sister and former Senator Mary Landrieu and at least one upcoming mayoral candidate in the stadium. Injured Capitol Police Officer David Bailey made an appearance on the field using crutches to navigate, threw out the ceremonial first pitch and received an ovation from the crowd.
Those who were meant to play against Scalise at Thursday’s game honored him throughout the evening as the Democrats defeated the Republicans 11-2. Rep. Michael Doyle (D-PA.), the coach for the Democrats, gave the game trophy to Republican coach Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX.) to put in Scalise’s office until he gets better.