Ranking GOP Rep. Steve Scalise among those wounded in shooting at congressional baseball practice

ALEXANDRIA, Va., June 14 (Reuters) - A gunman opened fire on Wednesday on Republican U.S. lawmakers practicing near Washington for a charity baseball game, wounding senior Republican leader Steve Scalise and several others before being fatally shot by police.

The shooter fired repeatedly with a rifle at the baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, before being wounded in a gunfight with Capitol Hill police who were at the scene, lawmakers said.

Scalise, No. 3 in the House of Representatives Republican leadership, was shot in the hip. He was tended to by fellow lawmakers including Brad Wenstrup, an Ohio congressman who is a physician, before being transported to a hospital.

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A police officer mans a shooting scene after a gunman opened fire on Republican members of Congress during a baseball practice near Washington in Alexandria, Virginia, June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Police survey a shooting scene after a gunman opened fire on Republican members of Congress during a baseball practice near Washington in Alexandria, Virginia, June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Police investigate a shooting scene after a gunman opened fire on Republican members of Congress during a baseball practice near Washington in Alexandria, Virginia, June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) talks to reporters after a gunman opened fire on Republican members of Congress during a baseball practice near Washington in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
People walk away from the Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. The third highest ranked U.S. House Republican and at least four others were injured Wednesday morning in a shooting at a congressional baseball practice field the Alexandria neighborhood witnesses said. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A police officer stands next to a vehicle with a damaged window near the Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. The third highest ranked U.S. House Republican and at least four others were injured Wednesday morning in a shooting at a congressional baseball practice field the Alexandria neighborhood witnesses said. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A police officer stands guard near the Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. The third highest ranked U.S. House Republican and at least four others were injured Wednesday morning in a shooting at a congressional baseball practice field the Alexandria neighborhood witnesses said. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
People stand past crime scene tape near the Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. The third highest ranked U.S. House Republican and at least four others were injured Wednesday morning in a shooting at a congressional baseball practice field the Alexandria neighborhood witnesses said. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Police tape is viewed near the crime scene of an early morning shooting in Alexandria, Virginia, June 14, 2017. At least five people people including a top Republican congressman were wounded in a Washington suburb early Wednesday morning when a shooting erupted as they practiced for an annual baseball game between lawmakers. Senior congressman Steve Scalise was shot in the hip, according to fellow Republican lawmaker Mo Brooks who told CNN at least two law enforcement officers and one congressional staffer were also shot in the incident in Alexandria, Virginia. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - JUNE 14: Investigators gather at Eugene Simpson Field, the site where a gunman opened fire June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia. Multiple injuries were reported from the instance, the site where a congressional baseball team was holding an early morning practice, including House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) who was reportedly shot in the hip. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - JUNE 14: Members the FBI survey the damages possibly caused by gun shots on a wall at the site of this morning's shooting at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia. U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) was among five wounded in the attack, including the suspected gunman, as Republican congressional members practiced for a charity baseball game. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - JUNE 14: A member of the FBI Evidence Response Team collects evidence at a vehicle whose window is broken at the site of this morning's shooting at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia. U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) was among five wounded in the attack, including the suspected gunman, as Republican congressional members practiced for a charity baseball game. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - JUNE 14: Members of the FBI Evidence Response Team collect evidence at the site of this morning's shooting at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia. U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) was among five wounded in the attack, including the suspected gunman, as Republican congressional members practiced for a charity baseball game. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US Representative Chuck Fleischmann, Republican of Tennessee, speaks to the media about a shooting incident during a Congressional baseball practice in Virginia after returning to the US Capitol in Washington, DC, June 14, 2017. Several people including a top Republican congressman were wounded in a Washington suburb early Wednesday morning when a gunman opened fire as they practiced for an annual baseball game between lawmakers. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, gets on an elevator as he heads to a vote at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, June 14, 2017, following a report that the shooter in the attack targeting Congressmen in nearby Virginia was a Sanders supporter. Several people including a top Republican congressman were wounded in a Washington suburb early Wednesday morning when a gunman opened fire as they practiced for an annual baseball game between lawmakers. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US Speaker of the House Paul Ryan walks to his office after making a statement on the House floor at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, June 14, 2017, following a shooting incident targeting Congressmen in nearby Virginia. Several people including a top Republican congressman were wounded in a Washington suburb early Wednesday morning when a gunman opened fire as they practiced for an annual baseball game between lawmakers. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - JUNE 14: A marker is placed next to a piece of evidence at the scene of this morning's shooting at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia. U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) was among five wounded in the attack, including the suspected gunman, as Republican congressional members practiced for a charity baseball game. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - JUNE 14: Investigators search for evidence at the scene of this morning's shooting at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia. U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) was among five wounded in the attack, including the suspected gunman, as Republican congressional members practiced for a charity baseball game. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 14: The Peace Monument at the U.S. Capitol is shown, on June 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. This morning House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) three others were shot by a gunman during Congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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Also wounded were one current congressional staffer and one former staffer. Two Capitol Hill police officers were hospitalized after the incident but it was not clear if both were wounded by gunfire.

The gunman, identified by a senior U.S. official as James Hodgkinson from the St. Louis suburb of Belleville, Illinois, died of his injuries. Media reports said Hodgkinson, 66, owned a home inspection business.

His social media presence indicated he was strongly opposed to Republicans, including President Donald Trump. Police and the FBI said it was too early to determine a motive in the shooting or whether the attack was an attempted political assassination.

Trump announced the gunman's death and called Scalise, a 51-year-old Louisiana congressman, a good friend. Speaking at the White House, Trump said Scalise was "badly injured" but in stable condition and would recover.

"He's a patriot and he's a fighter. He will recover from this assault," Trump said.

Trump, who has been in office since January, also called for unity at a time of sharp political divides in America, saying, "We are strongest when we are unified and when we work together for the common good."

Hodgkinson had raged against Trump on social media and was a member of many anti-Republican groups on Facebook including "The Road to Hell Is Paved With Republicans," "Terminate The Republican Party," and "Donald Trump is not my President," a search of what appeared to be his profile showed.

Some 25 to 30 Republican members of the House and Senate had gathered for an early morning practice a day before the annual charity congressional baseball game pitting Republicans against Democrats, said Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama. The game is scheduled to be played at Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals Major League baseball team.

Two lawmakers who were at the scene, Representatives Ron DeSantis and Jeff Duncan, indicated there might have been a political motive in the attack.

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@VP @SteveScalise Dear Scalise. Glad you're alive, but I really hope it hurts. #NRA
Does being shot in the hip affect your stance on gun rights? #scalise
ahh yes. definitely blame this shooting on...the Congresswoman who was shot in the head https://t.co/PsupLsw6uG
So Rep. Steve Scalise, who once spoke at a white supremacist event sponsored by David Duke (google it) was SHOT today in Alexandria.
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Duncan said that as he left the field the man who would later open fire approached him in the parking lot. "He asked me who was practicing this morning, Republicans or Democrats, and I said. 'That's the Republicans practicing," Duncan told reporters.

DeSantis gave a similar account.

Brooks said the shooter said nothing during the rampage.

The shooting took place at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, which is across the Potomac River from Washington.

'HEROISM' OF POLICE

Brooks told CNN that during batting practice he heard a "bam" and then a quick succession of shots and saw the gunman shooting through the holes in a chain link fence.

When Scalise was shot he went down on the infield between first and second base, then dragged himself into the grassy outfield as the incident unfolded, leaving a trail of blood, Brooks said.

Two Capitol police officers who were at the scene to provide security for the lawmakers engaged the gunman with pistols, Brooks said, adding both the officers were wounded.

"But for the Capitol police and the heroism they showed, it could very well have been a large-scale massacre. All we would have had would have been baseball bats versus a rifle. Those aren't good odds," Brooks said.

Brooks estimated that there were 50 to 100 shots fired.

The shooting was certain to raise again the contentious issue of gun violence in the United States.

At a news conference near the scene of the shooting, Virginia's Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe, urged gun control measures. "This is not what today is about, but there are too many guns on the street," McAuliffe said, citing a statistic that 93 Americans are killed with guns daily.

Scalise has been a strong opponent of gun control measures and has earned an "A+" rating from the National Rifle Association - the influential lobby for expanding gun ownership rights. He has co-sponsored legislation to weaken gun control laws in the District of Columbia.

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U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise speaks to reporters about the appointment of a Special Counsel in the Russia investigations on his way to a vote on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Zach Gibson
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) speaks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol, hours before an expected vote to repeal Obamacare in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 4, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) leaves the office of Speaker Paul Ryan ahead of a crucial vote on the Affordable Care Act at the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, U.S. March 23, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Jared Kushner, senior White House adviser, right, and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana, smile during a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump, not pictured, and House and Senate leadership in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, June 6, 2017. Trump is bringing lawmakers to the White House in hopes of kick-starting his legislative agenda while Washington focuses on the latest twists and turns in the Russia investigation. Photographer: Olivier Douliery/Pool via Bloomberg
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) speaks about the American Health Care Act, the Republican replacement to Obamacare, at the Republican National Committee in Washington, U.S., March 8, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 17: House Majority Whip. Steve Scalise (R-LA) speaks to the media on May 17, 2017 in Washington, DC. Today the Justice Department announced that former FBI director Robert Mueller will be a special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, Majority Whip and (R-La. 1st District),, speaks at President Trump's press conference with members of the GOP, on the passage of legislation to roll back the Affordable Care Act, in the Rose Garden of the White House, On Thursday, May 4, 2017. (Photo by Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 4: House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., leads a group of Republican members of Congress to the House floor for the votes on repeal and replace of Obamacare on Thursday, May 4, 2017. The members met with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus in Scalise's office before the vote. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks with House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) as they arrive for a conference meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 26, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) (L-R), U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence, Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA) speak to reporters during a joint news conference following a House Republican party conference meeting in Washington, U.S. September 13, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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Wednesday's incident was the first shooting of a member of the U.S. Congress since January 2011, when Democratic Representative Gabby Giffords was seriously wounded in an assassination attempt at a gathering of her constituents in Tucson, Arizona.

She survived, but six people were killed. Giffords resigned from Congress and became an activist for gun restrictions.

(Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell, Richard Cowan, Patricia Zengerle, Julia Edwards Ainsley, Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey in Washington and Gina Cherelus in New York; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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