Congress isn’t exactly popular or highly productive these days, but as bullets rained down on the normally placid legislators practicing baseball on Wednesday, a few Republicans found their inner badass.
Early Wednesday morning, James Hodgkinson opened fire on a crowded softball field, where Republican Congressmen were practicing for the annual Congressional baseball game. Rep. Steve Scalise was wounded in the shooting along with several aides and two members of the Capitol police.
As his colleagues ran for cover, Scalise, who had been standing at second base, crawled off the softball field, leaving a trail of blood in his wake.
Rep. Brad Wenstrop, a GOP Congressman from Cincinnati, rushed to Scalise’s aid from where he and several other colleagues had taken cover in a dugout. An Iraq war veteran and military combat surgeon, Wenstrup sprang into action, enlisting Arizona Senator Jeff Flake as his battlefield nurse. Flake held his hands and cloth over Scalise’s wound to minimize blood loss while Wenstrup cut Scalise’s clothes away and stabilized the injured Congressman.
After Scalise’s security detail, two members of the Capitol Police named David Bailey and Crystal Griner, and their colleagues, had neutralized the shooter, Flake found Scalise’s phone and called his wife, so she wouldn’t hear about his injuries on the news.
One member of Scalise’s security detail was shot in the leg, but assisted in treating his boss. Although details are unclear, it’s believed Scalise’s wounded bodyguard was among those who shot back at Hodgkinson, wounding him.
Wenstrup later described the event on Twitter as “like being in Iraq again,” though unlike in his previous war zone experience, this time Wenstrup was unarmed.
Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama also remained cool, assisting another shooting victim, Congressional staffer Zachary Barth, who dove into the dugout where Brooks and some colleagues were sheltering. Brooks, using his belt as a tourniquet, to try to stem the flow of blood to Barth’s leg wound, as others kept the aide calm.
Rep. Barry Loudermilk, a Republican from Georgia (and an Air Force veteran), rushed to tend to Matt Mika, a lobbyist who had been helping to coach the GOP team, and who was hit twice in the chest. Loudermilk calmed and prayed with Mika as paramedics arrived to treat him.
Both Mo Brooks and Sen. Rand Paul, who was also present, extolled the bravery of those same Capitol Police officers who ended up in a firefight with Hodgkinson. “I think with absolute certainty nobody would have survived without Capitol police,” Paul told media, “The field was basically a killing field.”
Scalise, who is from Louisiana, was said to be in “good spirits” on his way to the hospital, where he underwent surgery on a bullet wound near his hip. He was in critical but stable condition as of Wednesday afternoon, but expected to make a full recovery. Mika remains in critical condition.