GOP Baseball Practice Shooting: President Trump Says Suspect Has Died

Jun 14, 2017
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And now we're hearing reports President Trump is about to approach the podium.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: A gunman opened fire on members of Congress and their staffs as they were practicing for tomorrow's annual charity baseball game. Authorities are continuing to investigate the crime. And the assailant has now died from his injuries. The FBI is leading the investigation and will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available.

Congressman Steve Scalise, a member of House leadership, was shot and badly wounded and is now in stable condition at the hospital along with two very courageous Capitol Police officers. At least two others were also wounded. Many lives would have been lost if not for the heroic actions of the two Capitol Police officers who took down the gunman despite sustaining gunshot wounds during a very, very brutal assault. Melania and I are grateful for their heroism and praying for the swift recovery of all victims.

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.

I spoke with Steve's wife, Jennifer. And I pledged to her our full and absolute support, anything she needs. We're with her and with the entire Scalise family. I have also spoken with Chief Matthew Verderosa - he's doing a fantastic job - of the Capitol Police to express our sympathies for his wounded officers and to express my admiration for their courage. Our brave Capitol Police perform a challenging job with incredible skill. And their sacrifice makes democracy possible.

We also commend the brave first responders from Alexandria Police, Fire and Rescue who rushed to the scene. Everyone on that field is a public servant - our courageous police, our congressional aides who work so tirelessly behind the scenes with enormous devotion, and our dedicated members of Congress, who represent our people. We may have our differences, but we do well in times like these to remember that everyone who serves in our nation's capital is here because, above all, they love our country.

We can all agree that we are blessed to be Americans, that our children deserve to grow up in a nation of safety and peace and that we are strongest when we are unified and when we work together for the common good. Please take a moment today to cherish those you love. And always remember those who serve and keep us safe. God bless them all. God bless you. And God bless America. Thank you.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

President Trump with a flag pin on his lapel, blue tie today, in front of a portrait of George Washington - making a statement about today's shooting, saying that America is praying for all the victims in what he described as a nation of safety and peace. He also gave us a little bit of news there. I believe the president was the first we've heard say that the assailant has now died from his injuries. And by the assailant, we mean, of course, the gunman who opened fire on a baseball diamond earlier today.

MARTIN: The president also said we are stronger when we are unified and when we work for the common good. Again, making news there that the assailant in this attack has died. He says that Steve Scalise, the No. 3 in the House, is now stable. And two Capitol Police officers who were also shot are in stable condition.

INSKEEP: Let's bring Tamara Keith - NPR's Tamara Keith back into the conversation because the president also referred to the Capitol Police here.

And Tamara, maybe we should just describe who they are, what they do and what their role was in this incident, why they were even there.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Yeah, so the Capitol Police were there because Steve Scalise was there. Steve Scalise is the No. 3 in the House of Representatives. And as a result of his leadership position, he has a protective detail. The Capitol Police are the police officers that protect members of Congress. And they are both there at the Capitol screening people as they come in, checking for weapons or any other things.

INSKEEP: They're the people at the metal detectors.

KEITH: They're the people at the metal detectors, but they also are part of protective details, you know, wearing suits and, you know, driving with and being with members of Congress who are in leadership and require more protection.

INSKEEP: Not all 535 members have the security detail...

KEITH: In fact, most do not have a security detail. Most go through their daily lives, meet with members of the public, go to baseball practice without protection.

INSKEEP: And it was mentioned by Senator Jeff Flake, when we spoke with him earlier this morning - Senator Flake one of those who was present - that it was almost by happenstance that Capitol Police were there because Steve Scalise was the only member of leadership who had his own detail. And he might not have been at practice that day. As it happened, he was at practice that day. And therefore, there was someone to fire back.

KEITH: Right. Another senator, Rand Paul, said in an interview - not with us, but with another outlet - that it would have been a massacre without the Capitol Police being there. And simply because Steve Scalise went to practice today, they were there. Otherwise, there are 20 members of Congress on an open field with not a lot of cover.

INSKEEP: And let's reach out now to Alexandria, Va., where we have on the line one of the residents who witnessed this shooting this morning. Her name is Reba Winsted (ph). And she's on the phone. Welcome. Welcome to our coverage.

REBA WINSTED: You're welcome. Thank you.

INSKEEP: Thank you for taking the time to share what you know. Where were you this morning a little after 7 o'clock?

WINSTED: I live about four doors down from the backside of the YMCA. And so I was standing on my front porch. And when I heard the unmistakable sound of gunfire, about 10 to 12 volleys - or shots fired. And then there was a pause. And I told my husband, that sounds like gunfire. And then the shots started up again.

I went inside to grab the phone. I was on the phone with 911 dispatcher. And she asked, is that a - shots I hear in the background? And I said, yes, this is still an active shooter situation. Then I heard a bullet whiz past me. That's another very unmistakable sound. And so she told me to get inside, get anyone around me inside and call them back if there was any change in the situation because they had so many other calls.

There were people fleeing the scene in exercise clothes because everyone's going to work out at the park, doing running or the bike path or going to the YMCA. So there were a lot of people in the neighborhood in the vicinity. It's very busy in the morning there.

INSKEEP: Thank you for noting the bullet whizzing past you. It's just a reminder that gunshots travel, and with so many fired in a residential area, it is rather remarkable that there weren't more people shot, that there weren't people who were hit by stray bullets off of that baseball diamond, which is by the YMCA.

WINSTED: Well, one of my friends was actually inside the YMCA. And they said that some bullets went through the exterior glass and then through the pool glass and were in the pool. And she was stuck in the YMCA for a few hours while they were clearing that scene. And so it was terrifying for the people there. But I understand that since this was the congressional group that was playing there - at first I thought it was the Alexandria Aces, which is a collegiate team that plays here during the summer. That actually would have been more scary because then it truly is a random shooter just randomly shooting people. But knowing that it's politically motivated, that's a different kind of scary. It's not random violence, but it's certainly no way for politics to happen in our community or in anywhere.

INSKEEP: Certainly.

WINSTED: We have a political system. We have things in place. And it's - the communication is breaking down. Reporters aren't being allowed access. People aren't being allowed access to their elected officials because the senators and the congressmen aren't answering their phones. They aren't going to town halls.

INSKEEP: Right.

WINSTED: And that gets a lot of people frustrated.

INSKEEP: Reba Winsted, I've got to stop you there. Thank you very much for taking the time to talk with us. We should note, we don't know the motive of the shooter, who is now described as dead by the president of the United States - although, because of the victims, we'll be asking about the political motivations or if there were political motivations. Thank you very much.

MARTIN: Congressman Jack Bergman was there this morning. He's a Republican of Michigan. He was at the baseball practice in Alexandria today. And he joins us now on the line. Congressman, thanks so much for being with us.

JACK BERGMAN: Good morning, thanks.

MARTIN: How are you doing?

BERGMAN: I'm doing - you know what? I - by God's grace, I'm still here. Now it's part of my mission to make sure all those who were there with me this morning, that we make sure that they have processed what happened so that they can move forward.

MARTIN: Can you recount for us, as best you are able, what happened from your vantage point?

BERGMAN: Well, I was next in line, standing next to the batting cage, standing right by home plate. And the first shot rang out, and it was kind of a - you know, a surprise. But then, a couple of seconds later, the second shot rang out. And, you know, I was - I was a Marine for 40 years, so I know the sound of gunfire. And it was - people started scrambling. Somebody yelled, shooter. And I - I basically turned to assess my situation, figured out the shooter was somewhere behind the third-base dugout. And I scrambled behind first-base dugout to see what was going to happen next. And then the shooter started to move. We could never see him. I couldn't see him. Maybe others did. I couldn't see him from my vantage point - moved down the third-base line towards home plate - again now, outside the chain-link fence, not on the field. That would have been a whole, totally different scenario. And then, since he was moving down, a couple of us who were behind the first-base dugout scrambled into the dugout in case he came behind the backstop and opened fire from that angle. But at that point, shortly after we got into the dugout, is when the Capitol Police had located him - because they, at first, had to locate where he was and to determine that there was only one shooter (unintelligible) several shooters so that they didn't potentially walk into an ambush.

MARTIN: Yeah.

BERGMAN: And they - and they engaged him, at that point, and then took him down.

MARTIN: Could you - were you able to discern who had been hurt and how badly?

BERGMAN: Well, I couldn't until I popped my head up out of the dugout. And then I knew that Scalise was on the field because I heard somebody yell that. And there were others already out there. I ran out to right behind second base. He was on the - on the grass. And Dr. Wenstrup, one of our congressmen, and Senator Flake were administering to him. I just spent a couple seconds there, helped to remove his belt because they were getting ready to apply a tourniquet. And then I went on to check other wounded. And that's what I did.

MARTIN: We know that the Capitol Police responded. Could you - could you tell how many shots were fired?

BERGMAN: No, but as - I was listening to your earlier caller. And she described it accurately in that there were a few shots.

MARTIN: Yeah.

BERGMAN: You know, maybe 10, 12. And then it was silent. The only thing I can figure is that he was maneuvering. And then - then the shots started again, when he started engaging again. And the Capitol Police engaged him. So it was kind of two...

MARTIN: Engaged - Congressman, thank you so much for sharing your perspective this morning. We appreciate it. Congressman Jack Bergman of Michigan.

BERGMAN: Thank you.

INSKEEP: And we'll just mention again, President Trump has made some news saying that the shooter has now died of his injuries suffered after he shot a number of people outside Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.