Police officers honored for heroism during Va. ballpark shooting

By Ricky Zipp, Medill News Service  |  Nov. 9, 2017 at 4:20 PM
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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Five police officers were awarded the U.S. Capitol Police Medal of Honor on Thursday for their actions when a gunman opened fire on Republican members of Congress practicing for a baseball game in Alexandria, Va.

At a Capitol Hill ceremony, U.S. Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa presented the medals to Capitol Police Special Agents David Bailey and Crystal Griner, who were injured in the June 14 shooting, and Alexandria Police Department officers Nicole Battaglia, Alexander Jensen and Kevin Jobe.

"So many lives would be taken that day if it weren't for these five people," House Speaker Paul Ryan told the crowd, which included top Republican and Democratic congressional leaders.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., who was critically injured in the attack, received a standing ovation when he was presented with a U.S. Capitol Police Medal of Merit.

"When the shots went out, it wasn't long before they jumped in and did things that nobody could describe," Scalise said of the officers. "These five men and women prevented what would have been a mass execution."

Scalise was hospitalized for six weeks, the first eight days in an intensive care unit. On Sept. 28, Scalise returned to work to a standing ovation in the House of Representatives.

"We are all so pleased to be here with Rep. Steve Scalise," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Thursday. "To see him healthy and walking is to see our prayers answered."

The shooting took place at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park. The congressmen were practicing for the annual congressional baseball game, which pits GOP members of Congress against their Democratic colleagues, the next day.

The game is an annual charity event that has taken place for the last 56 years. The game went on as scheduled, raising over $1.5 million.

The shooter, James Hodgkinson of Belleville, Ill., opened fire on those at the practice, using a hunting rifle and handgun. The attack lasted for six minutes before Hodgkinson was shot by police, later dying from his wounds. He shot four people. Bailey was injured but not shot.

"Our purpose today is to honor the bravery of the officers who recently met the call of duty under the most horrific of circumstances," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who recalled a 1998 shooting on Capitol Hill that killed Capitol Police officers John Gibson and Jacob Chestnut.

Texas Republican Reps. Joe Barton and Roger Williams accepted a Medal of Merit on behalf of the Republican baseball team. Congressional staffer Zachary Barth and lobbyist Matthew Mika, who were wounded in the incident, each received a Medal of Merit.

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