Tennessee politicians safe after congressman shot in VA - WSMV Channel 4

Tennessee politicians safe after congressman shot at baseball field in VA

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

After undergoing surgery, Congressman Steve Scalise (R-La.) is in critical condition after being shot at a baseball field in Alexandria, Va., on Wednesday morning while practicing for a Congressional baseball game on Thursday.

NBC News is reporting the congressman was in "high spirits" before undergoing surgery.

President Donald Trump announced the suspect, 66-year-old James Hodgkinson, died from his injuries after being shot during the incident.

Scalise and other politicians were practicing for the Congressional Baseball Game, which was scheduled for Thursday.

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, a Republican who represents the Chattanooga area, was on the baseball field when the gunman started shooting.

"I heard a pop," Fleischmann told CNN. "I did not recognize that as a gun shot at that time so I didn't do anything. I stood there and within a few seconds all of a sudden there were multiple gunshots being fired.

Fleischmann, who was not injured, jumped into the dugout when he heard gunshots. Several children who were watching the practice also took shelter in the dugout.

"We were sitting ducks in that dugout," Fleischmann said. "When I got to that dugout I realized there was blood all over the place. It was not a good place to be. There was a child in the dugout," he added.

Back at the Capitol the word spread as lawmakers who were at the practice rushed back, some gathered at the gym. "They basically expressed that it came out of nowhere and certainly there was confusion a lot of shots being fired and people were just trying to take cover where they could," said Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-TN.

Members of Congress were called into briefing where they were told to be vigilant.

"It was a lot of reiterating what we've done in the past," said DesJarlais who was came into officer after Arizona Congressman Gabby Giffords was shot in at a community event in her district. "If we are going to be in certain areas just getting in contact with our local law enforcement when we know there is going to be a large gathering, have their presence there if possible," DesJarlais said.

"Police briefers today asked us to report anything that's unusual that happens, a phone call, an email or other contact so that will reduce to a minimum the copy cats that may be out there," said Rep. Jim Cooper, D-TN.

Both lawmakers say a sense of unity and support prevailed over divisive politics.

"When we were addressed on the floor at noon today, a lot of members who typically sit on one side of the aisle or the other were all just intermingled, and there was a definite show of unity on the House floor today. That shows that we can rise above our differences and come together," DesJarlais said.

"I think this should lead to a decrease in partisanship because we are all in this together," Cooper said. "Any public servant who is threatened should be concerned about another public servant. If one of us is hurt or threatened then we are all threatened."

Cooper used the moment to reiterate that the work of the federal government must continue.

"Today they've canceled all votes," Cooper said. "I'm not sure that that was necessary. I hope we can get back tomorrow. We let the shooters win if they can stop government. We've got to keep things and we've got to keep improving America not allowing the shooter to win," he added.

He also spoke about the need for policy reform.

"Many of our average citizens feel threatened at home and Congress has not responded in ways where they felt like they're getting help. There are challenges here. We have a second amendment which guarantees constitutionally our right to keep and bare arms, but any constitutional amendment has appropriate safeguards to go with it." Cooper said there should be a way to make everyone safer under the constitution, not only public officials.

Channel 4 asked Cooper if he was implying guns laws need to be tightened. 

"That's one way to approach it," Cooper replied. "Mental health laws are another. All these shooters in my opinion are crazy. No sensible person would do anything like this. These people have to be out of their minds. It's sad when they take out their anger on other people," he added.

He went to express gratitude for Capitol Police for taking down the gunman.

"Capitol police deserve incredible praise today because their presence really prevented it from being a massacre on the ball field," Cooper said.

NBC News has confirmed the following politicians were at the baseball field: Rep. Gary Palmer, R-AL; Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-OH; Sen. Jeff Flake, R-AZ; Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY; Rep. Mo Brooks, R-AL; Rep. Roger Williams, R-TX; Rep. Mark Walker, R-NC; Rep. Mike Conaway, R-TX; Rep. Joe Barton, R-TX; Rep. Mike Bishop, R-MI; and Rep. Rodney Davis, R-IA.

Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-FL, was at the practice and left before the shooting happened but saw the incident from afar. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-SC, left practice before the shooting.

Channel 4 has reached out to the following politicians to check on their status:

  • Sen. Lamar Alexander was not at the ballpark. He is not part of the baseball team.
  • Rep. Diane Black was not at the ball field. She has been to games before as a fan and was planning on attending the game on Thursday.
  • Rep. Marsha Blackburn was not at the baseball field. She is not part of the baseball team.
  • Sen. Bob Corker was not at the baseball field. He is not a member of the baseball team.
  • Rep. Scott DesJarlais was not at the field and is safe. He is not a member of the team.
  • Rep. Jim Cooper was in his office at the time of the shooting. He and his staff are OK. He issued this statement: "This is horrible. Violence is never the answer. Grateful for the Capitol Police and wishing everyone a speedy recovery."
  • Rep. Phil Roe was not at the practice and does not play on the baseball team.

Here is a list of politicians that have shared their reactions to the shooting on social media:

Sen. Lamar Alexander:

This was a shocking attack on members of Congress, their staff, and on U.S. Capitol police. I pray for the health of everyone who was injured. We are especially grateful for the exceptional bravery of the U.S. Capitol police and first responders."

Rep. Diane Black:

I’m heartbroken by today’s tragic events. Steve Scalise is a great friend and tremendous colleague. My prayers are with him and all of the victims. I’m grateful for the heroism of the Capitol Police officers who stopped this shooter and saved countless lives.

Rep. Phil Roe: 

This morning’s shooting was a senseless and shocking act, and my thoughts and prayers are with everyone who was at practice this morning, especially my friend Steve Scalise, all who were injured and their families. I am incredibly thankful for the brave actions of the Capitol Police officers and first responders at the scene.

Rep. John Duncan:

I am very saddened by today’s shooting that occurred during practice for the Congressional Baseball Game for charity. This is a tragedy which I hope does not happen again. 

At this point, I do not know the extent of the injuries to all those who were shot. I certainly hope that they have a speedy recovery, and all the victims have my sympathy, and best wishes.

Rep. Steve Cohen:

My thoughts go out to House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, the Capitol Police officers, the staff and all those affected by this morning’s horrific shooting at the Congressional baseball practice in Virginia. I hope the victims all make a quick and full recovery. I've feared violence directed at a Member of Congress ever since Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot at an event in 2011. There’s been too much violence, too much hate, and too much anger.

Chairwoman Mary Mancini and Chairman Scott Golden of the Tennessee Democratic and Republican Parties also released a joint statement:

"Today’s attack on United States members of Congress, their staff and all in attendance was horrific. Violence can never be tolerated in a civil society. The Tennessee Democratic Party and the Tennessee Republican Party condemn this and any act of violence for any motivation. We are thankful for the courage of the Capitol Police, whose presence and quick actions saved countless lives. Our thoughts and prayers are with Congressman Scalise, the other victims and their families."

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