Dems, Republicans unite to honor shooting victims at charity ballgame

Capitol Police officer David Bailey, who was injured in the attack, threw out the first pitch Thursday night.
By Doug G. Ware and Andrew V. Pestano  |  Updated June 16, 2017 at 5:45 AM
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June 15 (UPI) -- Congressional Democrats and Republicans teamed up at Washington, D.C.'s major league baseball park Thursday night for two reasons -- to carry on a 108-year-old tradition and to honor wounded Rep. Steve Scalise.

Lawmakers gathered at Nationals Park to play their annual charity baseball game -- a relatively low-profile event that was thrust into headlines Wednesday when a gunman opened fire at a Republican team practice.

Representatives on both teams decided to go forward with the game, which got underway at 7 p.m. Thursday, as a measure of resilience and tribute.

Scalise, R-La., was shot in the attack Wednesday morning at a baseball park in the D.C. suburb of Alexandria, Va. Four others were also shot, and suspect James T. Hodgkinson was killed by police.

The House majority whip, Scalise underwent his third surgery on Thursday and remains in critical condition at a Washington hospital, officials said. A food industry lobbyist who was also shot is also being treated for serious injuries.

Republican and Democratic team members set aside partisan politics Thursday night to play the game, and said they are competing as one -- Team Scalise. Before the game, all players bowed their heads for a moment of silence and prayer to honor Scalise.

Capitol Police officer David Bailey, who was injured in the attack, threw out the first pitch Thursday night.

On Thursday, the FBI said both of Hodgkinson's firearms -- a 9 mm handgun and 7.62 mm Chinese-made assault rifle -- were purchased legally. Agents continue to try and track Hodgkinson's movements in recent weeks. Wednesday, they said the Illinois resident had been living out of his car in the D.C. area since March.

"ATF has conducted traces on these weapons and has determined that both were purchased by the shooter from federal firearms licensees," the bureau said in a statement. "We continue to seek information on any encounters the public may have had with him in his home state of Illinois or in Alexandria."

Hodgkinson, 66, was described in reports as a left-wing advocate who was distraught over the election and leadership of President Donald Trump. Last year, he volunteered for Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign.

The FBI said it is also examining a number of social media postings purportedly made by Hodgkinson that criticized Trump.

Hospital officials said a bullet fractured Scalise's bones and damaged internal organs.

"Scalise sustained a single rifle shot to the left hip. The bullet traveled across his pelvis, fracturing bones, injuring internal organs and causing severe bleeding," a hospital statement said. "He underwent immediate surgery, and an additional procedure to stop bleeding. He has received multiple units of blood transfusion."

Sources familiar with Scalise's condition said the third surgery is routine for gunshot victims.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Thursday urged prayers for Scalise and the other victims of the shooting.

"The events of yesterday were devastating, and we know it will take time to heal. But for now, the members of the congressional baseball team have made the decision to go forward with tonight's game, which will be played for charity," he said. "I know we'll be thinking about each of them as they take the field tonight."

Trump made an unannounced visit -- with first lady Melania Trump and White House physician Ronny Jackson -- to the hospital late Wednesday after Scalise's first surgery. They brought bouquets of flowers for the recovering victims.

"He entered the room, spoke with Scalise's family, and sat by his bedside with Mrs. Trump," White House spokesman Sean Spicer said.

During his visit, Trump also met with Capitol Police special agent Crystal Griner, who was shot while returning gunfire during the attack. The hospital lists Griner in good condition.

"Just left hospital. Rep. Steve Scalise, one of the truly great people, is in very tough shape -- but he is a real fighter. Pray for Steve!" Trump wrote on Twitter.

Hodgkinson belonged to multiple anti-Republican political groups and was upset about Trump's election victory, brother Michael Hodgkinson said.

"I know he wasn't happy with the way things were going, the election results and stuff," he told The New York Times.

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