GOP Baseball Practice Shooting: Suspect Has Been Identified

Jun 14, 2017
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We're here with our White House correspondent, Tamara Keith, and other correspondents around the Washington region, as we await a statement from President Trump responding to today's shooting at a baseball diamond outside Washington, D.C., a baseball diamond on which something more than 20 senators and members of Congress - Republicans all - were practicing, holding a baseball practice, preparing for a congressional baseball game against Democrats, which is scheduled for tomorrow night. This is an event that unfolded in the early hours of the morning...

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Early hours - around 7 a.m. Eyewitnesses, people who were there, remember - recount hearing gunshots, one after the other, and then dozens and dozens. They say that they heard as many as 50 or more gunshots. Eventually, when the shooting had subsided, five people were taken to the hospital. We know that the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, Steve Scalise, was among them. He was shot in the hip. He went into surgery and is now out of surgery and in stable condition at this point.

INSKEEP: And we can now confirm - NPR can confirm the identity of the shooter. Two federal law enforcement sources now confirmed the identity of this man. He is identified as James T. Hodgkinson of Belleville, Ill. He's been described elsewhere as a man in his mid-60s. And we don't know very much about this individual other than that he's somewhat older. And that is the name that we have.

And of course, we know the behavior that police are describing this morning, that he appeared to know where he was going, went to this place where it was known that Republican members of Congress and senators were regularly practicing, that one shot was fired and then many, many more. And he continued shooting until shot himself by Capitol Police.

MARTIN: Officials held a press conference this morning and tried to fill in some of the gaps in the events that transpired. They said at this point, they believe this to be an isolated incident. They say the scene is secure. The community is secure. They also said it is too early to determine motive, too early to know whether or not this was a targeted attack.

INSKEEP: We want to mention that a lectern has been set up in the Diplomatic Room of the White House today. There's a portrait of George Washington on the wall over a fireplace. Back behind that podium - back behind that lectern, rather - a couple of flags back there, the presidential flag, the American flag. And we expect President Trump to be standing there in the next few moments.

Now, as we wait for the president, let's hear a few accounts of this morning. First, we're going to play a little bit of tape from our interview with Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona. He is among those who dove for shelter in the first-base dugout as the security detail for Congressman Steve Scalise fired back at the gunman.

JEFF FLAKE: We dove for the dugout - those of us who were on the field still. And Steve Scalise went down and dragged himself off of the infield into the outfield about 10 or 15 yards and was laying motionless out there. But there was gunfire going overhead, so I couldn't get out there. And another staff member with a leg wound, who was shot in the field, made it to the dugout and came in. And we put - got a belt and put pressure on his wound.

INSKEEP: Put pressure on his wound. Congressman Scalise had to wait out there in the outfield, apparently, until the shooter was finally stopped. And then Senator Flake and others raced out to him, put pressure on his wound. And we're told he's been in the hospital and is reportedly out of surgery at this time.

MARTIN: And NPR's Tamara Keith, White House correspondent, is in the studio with us, of course. We've heard from the president this morning, Tamara?

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Yeah. We have heard from the president this morning. The White House put out a statement. And also, he made a statement on Twitter saying, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, a true friend and patriot, was badly injured but will fully recover. Our thoughts and prayers are with him.

We know that the president and the vice president have been speaking with members of Congress, including some of those who were there. The president also spoke with Steve Scalise's wife and the chief of staff.

MARTIN: This really is a moment for this president. This is the first time he will have to come out and make remarks after a shooting like this. So this is - this is another kind of political test for him.

KEITH: Yeah. You know, presidents are often defined by things they can't control - events that they weren't planning for. You know, the president was supposed to be talking about workforce development today. Now he is talking about the shooting of the third-ranking congressmen in the House of Representatives.

And President Trump has shown that he can come out, and he can read from a teleprompter and say the words that need to be said. And he has made the phone calls. Where this goes from here, in terms of politics, is very much a different question.

INSKEEP: I'm glad you mentioned politics, Tamara Keith, because this is certainly a difficult moment for all the leaders of this country because it's a moment when you would like the country to come together. You would like the country to be on the same page. But there're already, it seems, a few very subtle signs of the partisan divisions that have torn the country. There is a partisan symbolism to this whole thing.

It was a Republican baseball team getting ready to play a Democratic baseball team, a little more light-spirited than partisanship often is. But it was Republicans who were targeted. We don't know what that means. We don't know precisely what was on the mind of the shooter, and we may not for some time, if ever. But there will be a cast to this because it was Republicans who were targeted, also because this was an incident involving firearms - high-powered firearms.

KEITH: Because this is another incident of gun violence, and we've seen in past incidents, it doesn't really matter who the victims are. People go into their corners. And already, you're hearing, well, at least there were good guys with guns there, which has long been a Republican talking point. And then you're hearing others on the Democratic side saying, this is why we need fewer guns, and we need fewer guns on the streets.

So already, that conversation is beginning as it has - you know, it began after Sandy Hook. It began after the Pulse Nightclub shooting. It's a conversation that, you know, might be stalled for a few hours, and then it begins again.

INSKEEP: And maybe it's our obligation as journalists just to point out that the underlying facts about which people may well be arguing in the days and weeks, months to come are not fully known at this time. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.