Alexandria Police and witness recount shooting at congressional baseball practice
A day after a shooting during a GOP baseball team practice, metro-east congressman continued to share their experiences related to Wednesday’s event.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville who was at bat when the shooting began, said the event is still a bit surreal during an interview with CNN.
“Every time I think about how lucky we are that we had those heroes out there to engage the madman,” Davis said. “…Those of us who were on that field had a common bond by practicing together, a few months out of the year, we will now be bonded together because of this tragedy, no matter what we do, no matter where we go. I don’t want anyone to ever experience what all of us did yesterday.”
Davis, sat along side with his wife, Shannon, as they shared the emotions they are feeling after the Wednesday’s shooting, and the actions by first responders including Capitol Police in neutralizing James T. Hodgksinson.
“I believe they’re the ones that saved them all. I believe they’re heroes for all of that,” Shannon Davis said while holding her husband’s hand. “I wouldn’t be able to thank them enough for their bravery and their service and they put themselves in harm’s way to protect everyone out there.”
Rodney Davis said he would be more cognizant of his surroundings and where he could run to in an emergency.
Davis added hateful rhetoric on both sides needs to be ratcheted down.
“We’re going to have to be the ones to make the extra effort to call out those who are on the fringes for who they are, so they know and feel the majority is with us, not with them and how they think,” Davis said.
Davis and U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, told Fox Newscasters early Thursday morning that Wednesday’s Congressional baseball shooting should serve as a wake-up call for the American people to unite and stop hateful rhetoric.
“You see some of the evidence about the shooter coming out and his politics — his politics were his religion,” Davis said of 66-year-old Hodgkinson of Belleville. “And that’s what we have to make sure that we, as Americans, say ‘enough is enough.’ If politics and policy differences are what divide us, there are ways to solve those ... do it at the ballot box.”
Davis, a Taylorville Republican, is on the 2017 Republican team roster and was at the practice Wednesday morning. The annual game, which raises funds for charities, was scheduled for Thursday evening. Davis, sporting a purple tie during the interview, said the game has not been canceled and the Republican team will be wearing Louisiana State University gear in honor of Scalise.
“It makes me more resolved to what I can — not only as a member of Congress but as an America first —to ratchet down this hateful rhetoric we’ve seen on all sides and ensure we take this lesson — this lesson that I saw yesterday — of an attack on innocent people and innocent civilians in a park and turn it in into something good,” Davis said.
“Let’s take this day and make yesterday’s attack a new beginning. And all work together — which is what we do a majority of the time out here.”
Law enforcement investigators released Hodgkinson’s identity shortly after the Wednesday morning shooting that sent House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, and three other people to the hospital.
“That’s a tragic scene I’ll never forget — of my friend laying on that field motionless,” Davis said. “And that’s why this hateful rhetoric has got to stop.”
Scalise was in critical condition Wednesday evening after undergoing surgery.
Hodgkinson died during gunfire exchanged with congressional security workers at the practice session in Alexandria, Va.
Bost, a Murphysboro Republican, echoed Davis’ sentiments. Bost said he had received phone calls and emails from Hodgkinson about various policies, but there was never any indication that the man was an extremist.
“He didn’t agree with us — he didn’t agree with me and my positions,” Bost said of Hodgkinson. “But nowhere was it one of those that ‘Oh my gosh, there’s a problem here.’”
Bost noted that the anti-Trump and other political messages found on Hodgkinson’s Facebook page are all too common in today’s political climate.
“We have protests going on right now — I wish it would stop because it does take those who are on the edge and maybe push them over,” Bost said. “But as far as I know — no, never ... there was never any conflict or anything like that (with Hodgkinson).”
Davis said Thursday morning that the Congressional Democrats held a dinner Wednesday night for all House and Senate members to attend. He was unable to attend, but said the gesture shows the camaraderie within Congress despite political differences.
“This has to stop, it really does because most of know where that line is — we understand that conflict is inevitable, combat is optional. And others don’t,” Bost said.
Hodgkinson belonged to several anti-Republican groups, including one called “Terminate the Republican Party.”
He wrote a number of letters to the editor of the Belleville News-Democrat.
In them, he often railed against Republicans and tax policies, and at least once advocated for legalization of marijuana.
News-Democrat reporters Kelsey Landis, George Pawlawczyk, Beth Hundsdorfer and Elizabeth Donald ontributed to this report. Please call the BND at 618-239-2642.
At a glance
Hodgkinson belonged to multiple anti-GOP groups on Facebook, including:
- “The Road to Hell is Paved with Republicans”
- “Donald Trump is not my President”
- “President Bernie Sanders”
- “Illinois Berners United to Resist Trump”
- “Boycott the Republican Party”
- “Expose Republican Fraud”
- “Terminate the Republican Party”