Lawmakers recall the attack: ‘I felt like I was back in Iraq’

Greg Nash

A horrifying scene unfolded early Wednesday in Alexandria, Va., when a gunman opened fire at a baseball field where Republican lawmakers and their staffers were practicing. 

Police officers shot the gunman, who was identified as James T. Hodgkinson of Illinois; he later died from his injuries. 

Here’s how the attack unfolded just after 7 a.m., in the words of the Republican lawmakers who were there:

“When I heard that first pop rang out, I thought it was a gun. … Within a matter of 30 seconds there was a barrage of bullets flying everywhere.” – Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (Tenn.)

“First shot came from somewhere behind the third-base dugout and second shot came shortly thereafter. And by that time we knew it was something real, so people started scrambling.” – Rep. Jack Bergman (Mich.)

“I was at bat. I was hitting. I heard a loud bang. It felt like somebody … dropped a big piece of metal. The next thing I heard was ‘everybody run, he’s got a gun.’ And we immediately ran and got into the dugout.” – Rep. Rodney Davis (Ill.) 

“[The gunman] was, you know, an average white male. Probably five-foot-ten, looked like he was preparing to start his workday. It seems to me he was wearing some kind of white — it may have been like a white coverall that painters wear.” – Rep. Bill Johnson (Ohio)

“We didn’t know if there were other shooters that had us surrounded and would come into the dugout, so we didn’t know whether to run or not.” – Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.)

“Fortunately, the Capitol Police were there, but apparently they only had pistols. So we were really literally crying for help.” – Fleischmann

“We were like sitting ducks. We had no place to run. When you’re inside, see — fortunately, I was outside the ball field and the batting cage. Everybody else was inside the fence, in the dugout. So you’ve got a wide-open field. It’s a killing field.” – Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.)

“I was standing at home plate and [the gunman] was in the third-base line. He had a rifle that was clearly meant for the job of taking people out, multiple casualties, and he had several rounds and magazines that he kept unloading and reloading.” – Rep. Mike Bishop (Mich.)

“The two or three of us that were lying belly-down on the ground, we made a decision, but we all got up, and we sprinted toward the third-base dugout so we’d at least have some cover.” – Rep. Mo Brooks (Ala.) 

“As soon as we found out we had a friendly [officer] behind us, then we stayed [put], tried to keep down” – Flake

“[The shooter] was coming around the fence line and he was looking for all of us who had found cover in different spots. But if we didn’t have return fire right there, he would have come up to each one of us and shot us point-blank.” – Bishop 

“More gunshots went off. Steve Scalise [La.] was shot.” – Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas)

“In the field I see Rep. Scalise is shot, but moving, and he’s trying to drag himself through the dirt out into the outfield.” – Paul

“We had a staffer down. [Lobbyist] Matt Mika was shot. And one of Roger Williams’s staffers was shot at, [and] a bunch of folks in the dugout. I’m out behind the fence and I’m trying to help the Capitol Police, engage, or spot the guy because he’s moving back and forth. They don’t necessarily see where he’s at,” – Conaway

“Eventually it seems that the shooter shot both of our security detail people. … The shooter starts coming around home plate to where we are … and my understanding is that is where our security detail … took him down.” – Brooks 

“Both of those [Capitol Police] officers start engaging. One of them then gets shot in the ankle and goes down. And then soon thereafter, Alexandria Police shows up and they begin to engage the guy. He’s down to a pistol at that point in time and they shot him.” – Conaway

“I felt like I was back in Iraq,” Rep. Brad Wenstrup (Ohio), a former U.S. Army surgeon who attended to Scalise’s wound. 

“I think we’re lucky because Scalise was there because this was his security detail. Without them, it would have been a massacre. There would have been no stopping this guy.” – Paul 

“I don’t know if I will ever feel safe on a baseball field ever again.” – Fleischmann 

Tags Chuck Fleischmann Jeff Flake Mo Brooks Rand Paul Roger Williams

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