Washington in shock at shooting of Republican Steve Scalise

Attacker dies in hospital of injuries sustained in gun fight with Capitol Hill police officers

US president Donald Trump has confirmed that the suspected gunman who opened fire on a group of congressmen practising baseball in a park just outside Washington DC, has died from injuries he received during the shooting. Video: Reuters

 

Washington was left reeling on Wednesday after a lone gunman attacked a group of congressmen practising baseball in a park just outside DC, injuring five people including House majority whip Steve Scalise.

The attacker died in hospital of injuries sustained in a gun fight with two Capitol Hill police officers who were accompanying Mr Scalise.

The suspect was named as 66 year-old James Hodgkinson III from Illinois.

Social media records show he was a critic of President Donald Trump, and had volunteered for Democratic nominee Bernie Sanders during last year’s presidential primary campaign. Mr Sanders said in a statement that he condemned the shooting “in the strongest possible terms”.

“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,” the Democratic senator said.

The two police officers, a congressional aide and a lobbyist were also hospitalised after the incident, which unfolded shortly after 7am in the suburban area of Del Ray in Alexandria, Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington DC.

Mr Scalise, the third-highest ranking Republican in Congress who hails from Louisiana, remained in a critical condition in Medstar Washington Hospital centre after surgery on Wednesday. Witnesses said he was shot in the hip and remained motionless on the ground as the shooting continued. He then dragged himself away from the gunman once the shooter was disabled.

Charity baseball game

The congressmen were practising for the annual charity baseball game between Republicans and Democrats that is due to take place on Thursday night at the Washington Nationals’ baseball park in Washington. The game is expected to go ahead.

Ron DeSantis, a Republican congressman who had left the practice session 10 minutes before the shooting rampage began along with Congressman Jeff Duncan, said a man believed to be the suspect approached them and asked whether the players on the field were Republicans and Democrats.

Congressmen who witnessed the incident described how the gunman fired “50 to 60 shots” before being shot at by the two capitol police officers, including one female officer.

Emergency services were at the scene “within three minutes” after receiving the first emergency phone call shortly after 7am on Wednesday.

Senator Rand Paul, one of the politicians present, said the presence of the police officers had saved their lives. “No one would have survived without the Capitol Hill police” he said. “No one had a weapon. It would have been a massacre without them.”

Focus is now turning to the background of the shooter, James Hodgkinson III, who lived in Belleville, Illinois with his wife, but is believed to have been in the Alexandria area for six weeks.

Illinois congressman Mike Bost said Mr Hodgkinson had contacted his office approximately 10 times between June 2016 and last month via email and phone. One communication read: “If you vote this way, we’ll remember you.”

Mr Bost said that while it was evident his constituent “did not agree” with many of his positions, “it was like any other constituent who calls and complains,” he said, adding “not any of the single things in the communications were a red flag”.

A recent Facebook post by him stated: “Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.”