US House Majority whip Scalise in 'critical condition' after shooting

US House Majority whip Scalise in 'critical condition' after shooting
By Natalie Huet

The Republican lawmaker was shot during a congressional baseball practice on Wednesday. The bullet pierced his hip, injured organs and caused severe bleeding.

US House Majority Whip Steve Scalise remains in critical condition and will require additional surgery after a bullet pierced his hip, injured organs and caused severe bleeding, the hospital where he is being treated said in a statement on Wednesday (June 14) night.

President Donald Trump and his wife Melania visited the hospital in the evening, and brought flowers for the Scalise family. Trump said Scalise was in “very tough shape” but fighting to recover from Wednesday’s shooting during a baseball practice.

The shooting took place on Wednesday morning in Alexandria, Virginia, as the Republican baseball team practiced ahead of an annual charity match. A congressional aide, a lobbyist and a police officer were also wounded. The gunman died in a shoot-out with Capitol Hill police who were at the scene.

The attacker has been identified in US media as James T Hodgkinson, a 66-year-old home inspector from the St. Louis suburb of Belleville, Illinois who raged against Trump on social media and volunteered on Sanders’ presidential campaign.

“I am sickened by this despicable act. 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,” Sanders said on the Senate floor.

Calls for unity

Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it was too early to say whether it was a deliberate political attack, and whether the gunman had a vendetta against Republicans.

“We continue to actively investigate the shooter’s motives, acquaintances and whereabouts that led to today’s incidents,” FBI special agent Tim Slater told reporters. No one else was in custody, he said.

Trump, who announced the gunman’s death, has called for unity. “We are strongest when we are unified and when we work together for the common good,” he said.

In a show of bipartisanship, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said on the floor of the House: “An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.” The House’s top Democrat, Nancy Pelosi, echoed that message.

Massacre averted

Texas Rep. Roger Williams, a coach for the House Republican baseball team who escaped the gunfire with little more than a sprained ankle, choked back tears as he thanked the two Capitol Police officers for saving his life and others.

“There could have easily been 25 deaths or more today. I think we had about 25 team players and about 15 staff. But officers Griner and Bailey prevented that and my family and I will be forever grateful. The thin blue line held today,” he said.

The shooting comes at a time of bitter divide in US politics, and has revived debate about gun control in the country. Scalise has been a strong opponent of gun control measures.

Wednesday’s attack was the first shooting of a member of Congress since January 2011, when Democratic Representative Gabby Giffords was seriously wounded in an assassination attempt at a gathering of constituents in Tucson, Arizona. Six people were killed. Giffords resigned from Congress and became an activist for gun restrictions.

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