Hero Capi­tol Po­lice of­fi­cers with guns pre­vent ‘blood­bath’

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEPHEN DINAN AND SETH MCLAUGHLIN

The ri­fle shots came from the fence over the third base line, shat­ter­ing the June morn­ing, wound­ing one con­gress­man and sev­eral staffers, and ter­ri­fy­ing the two dozen law­mak­ers and staffers who were also on the field.

Then came gun­shots from the other side of the field. Three U.S. Capi­tol Po­lice of­fi­cers, who were at the field as part of their duty to pro­tect a se­nior Repub­li­can law­maker, were re­turn­ing fire. They turned the mur­der­ous as­sault by a left-wing fa­natic into a rag­ing gun­bat­tle that kept the man off bal­ance and out­side the ball­field fence, giv­ing law­mak­ers and staffers a chance to run for their lives.

The agents then kept the gun­man from get­ting a bead into the con­crete dugout where more than a dozen law­mak­ers and staffers were hud­dled.

“If he’d got­ten in the fence, there would have been a blood­bath,” said Rep. Joe Bar­ton, a Texas Repub­li­can and man­ager of the team, which was prac­tic­ing for the an­nual Con­gres­sional Base­ball Game on Thurs­day.

In a day full of very hu­man mo­ments and emo­tions, the agents who were part of Rep. Steve Scalise’s se­cu­rity de­tail were hailed as ab­so­lute he­roes, tak­ing on a man with a ri­fle while armed only with hand­guns and avert­ing what those on

the field said would have been a cer­tain mas­sacre.

“The thin blue line held to­day,” said Rep. Roger Wil­liams, a coach on the team who in­jured his an­kle div­ing to the floor of the dugout to get out of the line of fire.

It was, law­mak­ers said, a clas­sic ex­am­ple of good peo­ple with guns stop­ping a bad man with a gun.

“We were sit­ting ducks. We had noth­ing to fight back with but bats, if it came to that,” Mr. Wil­liams told re­porters. He said there could have been as many as 25 deaths had the armed of­fi­cers not been present.

The of­fi­cers were iden­ti­fied as Spe­cial Agents David Bai­ley, Crys­tal Griner and Henry Cabr­era. Agent Griner was shot in the an­kle, and Agent Bai­ley was treated for what author­i­ties called a mi­nor in­jury.

The gun­man shot Mr. Scalise and two oth­ers: a staffer for Mr. Wil­liams, who was hit in the leg, and a lob­by­ist and for­mer Repub­li­can staffer who vol­un­teers with the base­ball team and who was shot mul­ti­ple times, in­clud­ing in the chest.

Law­mak­ers de­scribed the help­less­ness of their sit­u­a­tion and the over­pow­er­ing sense of re­lief when they re­al­ized the Capi­tol Po­lice were in the fight.

“I am on the ground, and the only thing I can think of is, ‘He is go­ing to kill ev­ery one of us be­cause we can’t move, and all he is go­ing to do is hit one [of us] af­ter the other,’” said Rep. Mike Bishop of Michi­gan.

“I am think­ing in my head, ‘Should I turn my body and not get my head shot?’ That is what is go­ing through my head, and then all of a sud­den these guys came into the en­trance­way and be­gan to fire, and we all got a chance, a re­prieve, to get up and go,” Mr. Bishop said.

Sev­eral of the law­mak­ers said they en­coun­tered the gun­man just be­fore he opened fire, as they were leav­ing the sta­dium.

“He asked me if this team was a Repub­li­can or Demo­crat team prac­tic­ing,” Rep. Jeff Dun­can told re­porters. “I re­sponded that it was the Repub­li­can team prac­tic­ing and he pro­ceeded to shoot Repub­li­cans. Take that for what it is.”

That bol­stered the con­clu­sion that the man, who had a his­tory of an­tiRepub­li­can rant­ings on­line and who was ap­par­ently a vol­un­teer for Sen. Bernard Sanders’ left-wing pres­i­den­tial cam­paign last year, had in­tended to harm Repub­li­cans.

“I know what he asked me, I know how I an­swered, I know what hap­pened and I am go­ing to take it that he was tar­get­ing Repub­li­cans this morn­ing by shoot­ing at the Repub­li­can base­ball team,” Mr. Dun­can said.

When the shoot­ing started, Rep. Trent Kelly of Mis­sis­sippi, play­ing on the third base side of the field, was fac­ing the gun­man and was the first tar­get, law­mak­ers said.

The Iraq War vet­eran zigzagged and some­how es­caped in­jury, leav­ing Mr. Scalise the next tar­get near sec­ond base, along with the aide and the lob­by­ist.

Law­mak­ers said they were for­tu­nate that they usu­ally con­gre­gated on the first base line, and the gate on the third base side was locked. That forced the gun­man, whom the FBI iden­ti­fied as James T. Hodgkin­son, to walk around the perime­ter, where the po­lice were able to en­gage him.

“That was locked,” said Rep. Michael K. Con­away, Texas Repub­li­can. “Had our Capi­tol Hill guys not been there, Scalise not been there, he would have had free rein and it would have been a much uglier cir­cum­stance. Ob­vi­ously, hav­ing Scalise’s two guys there saved the day.”

One group, Amer­i­cans for Lim­ited Gov­ern­ment, said the shoot­ing should spur Con­gress to make it eas­ier to carry firearms. They de­manded a na­tion­wide con­cealed carry law that would let some­one per­mit­ted to carry in one state also carry else­where in the U.S.

Rick Man­ning, pres­i­dent of Amer­i­cans for Lim­ited Gov­ern­ment, said av­er­age Amer­i­cans should have the same chance that mem­bers of Con­gress had be­cause of Mr. Scalise’s po­lice pro­tec­tion.

“While it is par­tic­u­larly heinous that this was an at­tack on the very in­sti­tu­tion of gov­ern­ment, it would be no less tragic if it had been against ev­ery­day cit­i­zens,” he said. “Those cit­i­zens need to have the choice guar­an­teed to them by the Con­sti­tu­tion to have the means to pro­tect them­selves. Con­gress needs to act now to pass na­tional con­cealed carry leg­is­la­tion.”

Vir­ginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, speak­ing at a press con­fer­ence hours af­ter the at­tack, said it wasn’t the time to de­bate gun con­trol — then launched into a call for fur­ther re­stric­tions.

“There are too many guns on the street,” he said.

Lib­eral ac­tivist groups like­wise called for more ci­vil­ity in pol­i­tics, then de­manded ac­tion on their gun con­trol pri­or­i­ties.

But Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, a Ten­nessee Repub­li­can who was at the field, said the Sec­ond Amend­ment isn’t the prob­lem — and may even be the so­lu­tion.

“Put it this way: If we had had more weapons there, we could have sub­dued that shooter more quickly,” he said. “Thank God that the Capi­tol Po­lice were there and were armed, be­cause oth­er­wise we’d have had a sit­u­a­tion where there’d been a lot more dam­age.”

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