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Congressman, Aide, Capitol Officers Shot In Attack. Aired 9- 9:30a ET
Aired June 14, 2017 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:00] MATTHEW VERDEROSA, DEPUTY CHIEF OF POLICE, UNITED STATES CAPITOL POLICE: -- request for assistance and the 911 call. I appreciate their rapid response. And certainly, it saved lives.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was there one shooter?
VERDEROSA: At this point, we're going to gather the investigators together and look at what we have, and put this incident together. Again, it's very early on, and there's a lot of witnesses to be interviewed. Once we have more information, we will certainly pass on whatever information we can to make sure that you have the information you need for your work.
VERDEROSA: Thank you very much. I'm going to turn it back over to the Alexandria Chief.
MICHAEL BROWN, CHIEF OF POLICE, ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA: Thank you, Chief. We're not going to --
BROWN: We're not going to answer any questions at this point because, as the Chief pointed out, this is an active ongoing investigation. We call the crime --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. So the police chiefs giving some information. Just as important, the information they're not giving. They didn't want to release the identities or locations of the five people who've been transported with injuries. There may be concern about a continuing threat. This is an active crime scene for them.
There was one shooter engaged by Capitol Police and, according to the Alexandria Police Chief, local police. Within three minutes, he said, they engaged the shooter. The shooter was hit. He, too, has been transported to the hospital, we're told, by authorities.
CNN is going to have continuing coverage of this shooting in Alexandria, Virginia at a GOP or Republican baseball practice early this morning. We do know that the House GOP Whip, Steve Scalise, was hit in the hip. He was treated there. We were told his injuries are not -- not -- life threatening. So let's go to Wolf Blitzer for continuing coverage of this situation.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're following breaking news here in the nation's capital in Washington, D.C., and nearby Alexandria, Virginia. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Washington.
A gunman opens fire during a congressional baseball practice at a YMCA field in Alexandria, Virginia. That's right outside of Washington, D.C. According to both congressional and law enforcement sources, the shooting appears to be deliberate. We're told the shooter is in custody and is being taken to a local D.C. hospital right now.
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise had been shot. At least two Capitol Hill police officers were also hit. We know at least one congressional aide staffer was also shot.
The President tweeted these just moments ago, "Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, a true friend and patriot, was badly injured but will fully recover. Our thoughts and prayers are with him."
That is from the President of the United States. Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama was on the scene. He is joining us on the phone right now.
Congressman, first of all, how are you?
REP. MO BROOKS (R), ALABAMA (via phone): Well, I'm a little bit shaken up. The adrenaline is starting to calm down a little bit. The emotional aspect of it is still there. It's something I'll never forget. I mean, how can you?
BLITZER: It's an awful, awful situation. So, Congressman, for our viewers here in the United States and around the world who are just tuning in, tell us what you and your fellow Republican lawmakers were doing at that YMCA field and what happened.
BROOKS (via phone): Well, it's the Eugene Simpson Stadium, which is the home of the Titans, the same high school team from "Remember the Titans," if you recall that football movie. That's where practice. Maybe the YMCA has an ownership interest, I'm not sure. I haven't seen anything about it being YMCA.
But we were practicing for the congressional baseball game, which is tomorrow night. Democrats and Republicans play in Washington Nationals' baseball stadium. Ten to 15,000 people show up, and it generates $600,000 for local charities, so it's a charity ball game. It's a pretty big deal in Congress. Presidents will show up on occasion.
And, so, I left my condo about 5:30 in the morning, rode my bike across the Potomac, passed Reagan National Airport to the ball field in Alexandria, and we were doing batting practice. I'm on the third base side of home plate, and I hear this, bam! And I look over towards the third base dugout and on the other side of it -- it's a cinder block dugout -- I see what appears to be a rifle and then a quick succession of shots.
I see the shooter. He's probably about 80, 90 feet away from me because I'm on the third base side of home plate. And I figured out, you know, if I can see him, he can see me. I immediately ran around home base to the other side of the batting cage. It has a big four- foot high blue plastic barrier around the batting cage, hid behind it as there was a long succession of shots.
[09:05:02] And then, at the very beginning, I hear Steve Scalise say something loudly. I don't know if it was a scream or a cry for help or I'm shot or something, but he is on the ground in between first and second base. He was fielding balls at second base. And I'm lying on the ground with two or three other folks behind this plastic near home plate.
And I'm thinking, well, you know, a bullet would go through that, but he can't see me. But then again he might come around the third base dugout, around home plate, and have a clean shot at us, and we'd be lying on the ground, easy targets, 10 or 15 feet away. In fact, that's what he ended up doing.
But because of that risk, the two or three of us that were lying belly down on the ground, we made a decision, individually or collectively, I can't remember. But we all got up and we sprinted over to the first base dugout it's about a foot or two drop into the ground, so you at least have some cover. But we had nothing but baseball bats to fight back against a rifle with.
Some of the people are jumping in. I remember Jeff Flake was sitting right next to me. Stafford comes in. He's got a bullet hole in the calf of his leg. He says he's fine, but, you know, he didn't look too fine to me.
So I pulled off my belt, and myself and another gentleman used the belt as a tourniquet. But I don't remember who was next to me. It was such a blur. It might have been Jeff Flake, it might have been somebody else.
And as, you know, the tourniquet is put on to stop the flow of the blood, we're lying face down as best we can be, breathing dugout dust. And then we hear loud gunfire -- bam, bam, bam -- in addition to the gunfire that's coming from the rifle, which is almost nonstop.
And I look up and, fortunately, it was one of our guys shooting back with a pistol. A guy with a rifle about 100, 120 feet away. That caused that man, the shooter -- it probably caused him to take cover.
But it was rather startling, as you can imagine, to look up and there is a pistol being fired about five feet from your head. And the joy I felt, knowing it was one of our guys. I'll never forget that guy. He also got shot somewhere in the process defending congressmen.
Eventually, the shooter came around the third base dugout like I had feared he might and he got behind home plate. And I think that's where our guys, our security detail -- both of whom were shot by now -- took him down. And somewhere in that process, we hear the cries of, "Shooter down, shooter down," or something to that effect.
Steve Scalise, in the meantime, he has dragged himself to the outfield grass from the infield dirt. And if you go out there, there's a long stretch of blood. And I think Jeff Flake might have been the first one out of the dugout to run to Steve Scalise, first or second. I followed seconds thereafter.
Eventually, Congressman Brad Wenstrup, who was a physician, came out there. Someone brought some liquids, Gatorade or water, for Steve. He was getting thirsty, as you can imagine, with blood loss.
I forget who was first applying the pressure to the wound, but when Brad Wenstrup got there, he was cutting the leggings of Steve Scalise to get directly to the wound. I think I might have mentioned this, but in case I didn't, Brad is a doctor from Cincinnati. You know, it was great having him there because he knew exactly what to do. He asked me to apply pressure to the wound, and I did that while he was working on the pants.
And at some point, the Capitol Security guy who had already been shot, who helped take down the shooter, came limping over to us in the outfield, totally ignoring his own wound to check on the person he was primarily responsible for, as he's basically a part of the House leadership team. Number three in command of the House of Representatives of United States Congress.
And you know, we insisted that he go back and get tended to because he was bleeding, but he was doing his job. And I'm going to tell you, those two security details, those two Capitol Police officers, they showed incredible bravery. To be in a gunfight, pistols against a rifle, from 90 to 120 feet distance. As you know, that kind of distance heavily favors the rifle.
[09:10:15] One of our security detail, from what I understand, was shot in the chest. After everything was secure, a helicopter landed near where Steve Scalise was on the ground. And one of the two, I don't know if it was Steve Scalise or the Capitol Police officer, was air lifted out, whichever one was most critical.
At this time, the shooter's on the ground. I don't know his condition. And, you know, I'm still at the ball field.
Shortly, I asked the detectives if I can get to my wallet and my backpack and stuff that I need to vote on the House floor later today. Hopefully, they'll let me get through, but right now, we have this yellow tape. But that's my way to get back to the Capitol.
BLITZER: Well, Congressman, I know that this has been an awful, awful situation. I understand that there was security there. There's a protective detail from the Capitol Police because Steve Scalise is a leader. He's the Majority Whip in the House of Representatives. Otherwise, I've been told, there wouldn't have been any police there. Is that right?
BROOKS (via phone): Oh, well, if we didn't have that security detail, we would have been at the mercy of the shooter, and he had a lot of ammo. In my judgment, he shot at least 50 times. I don't know how many times that the Capitol Police shot back. It was substantial, once they were in position where they could engage him.
Yes, 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 against a rifle. Those aren't good odds.
BLITZER: When you say a rifle, do you have any idea what kind of weapon it was?
BROOKS (via phone): No. I was about 80 or 90 feet, roughly speaking. I was on the third base side of home plate swinging baseball bats, warming up, because I was about to take batting practice.
When I first the first bam and I looked around, I saw the barrel right next to the chain-link fence. It might have poked through it a little bit. It might have been right behind it. But he was shooting through the holes of the chain-link fence at us.
And then I saw the full gun and I saw him. But he was about, you know, 70, 80, 90 feet away. And I, quite frankly, wasn't focusing on the type of rifle that it was. I recognized that if I could see him, he could see me. And all he had to do was shift my direction about 20 or 30 degrees, and I was a sitting duck.
BLITZER: And there were two police officers from the Capitol Hill Police detail there with the Majority Whip, Congressman Steve Scalise. Is that right?
BROOKS (via phone): I don't know if they were there for the protection of the entire congressional delegation. We also get this kind of protection because we are in a high-risk occupation. There are bad guys out there that want to get us.
But certainly, it is not for the whole of us. They were there because of Steve Scalise because he's third in command in the House of Representatives. He's one of the senior leaders of United States government. So I don't know exactly --
BLITZER: And he's the congressman from Louisiana.
BROOKS (via phone): -- who made the decision that they should come, if it was part of Steve Scalise's detail and if they were doing double duty for all of us. And we would have security anyway, but for them, we would not have had a chance.
BLITZER: Well, I'm just wondering, how many police officers were there protecting you?
BROOKS (via phone): I only know of two. It's possible there was a third one that I did not see, but I am only familiar with two officers who were here. Keep in mind, I don't ride in the Capitol Hill Police vehicles to and from the Capitol. I think Steve Scalise does as a part of his security detail. I ride my bicycle about nine miles over the Potomac and south of
Reagan National Airport to get to the ball field, and then I ride my bike back. You know, normally, it's a beautiful day and a great exercise. Today, it's going to be a lot more somber.
BLITZER: And we're just told, Congressman, that the Capitol Police have deployed what they're describing as a robust police presence throughout the area of the U.S. Capitol, clearly for protective purposes, to just be on the side of caution right now.
The shooter, we're told, who is in a local D.C. hospital, he was shot by Capitol Hill Police who were there on the scene. Do you have any idea about motive? Were there any statements made? Can you describe what you heard and what you saw as far as the shooter is concerned?
[09:14:53] BROOKS (via phone): I never heard the shooter utter a word, certainly nothing before the shots were fired. Once the shots were fired, I did not hear him say anything. But as you can imagine, bedlam broke loose. There was a lot of screaming, a lot of hollering. People yelling, "shooter, shooter, active shooter. In the dugout when we were lying on the ground there were a couple of folks who had their cell phones with them who were screaming into the cell phones that we were under attack. We had no defense other than the two law enforcement officers who were there.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: That was it. We know -- I'm looking at the roster of the 2017 Republican baseball team and you guys, as you point out, were supposed to play I assume. I don't know if that game is going to take place over at Washington National Park tomorrow. But I count 34 Republican members of the House of Representatives and Senate as part of your team. Do you know how many showed up for the practice this morning?
BROOKS: If I had to guess, and I'm not one of the coaches, Joe Barton and Roger Williams of Texas, they are both congressmen. They are the two coaches. My judgment would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 to 30 were here at the beginning of practice.
But a lot of people start to leave after they have had the batting practice segment of it. We typically do, at least today, we did outfield first and I'm an outfielder fielding and normally I stay in the outfield the whole time during batting practice in which case I would have been in left field in clear range without any place to hide.
But for some reason today I left the outfield a little bit early and about the time I got to home plate is when the shooting erupted. But for the grace of God or good fortune, I'd be in the hospital with Steve Scalise right now.
BLITZER: Have you been told, Congressman, about his condition, Congressman Steve Scalise?
BROOKS: Well, there were about four or five of us that ran out there to tend to him. He seemed to be conscious the whole time, of course, he was in pain. There was a trail of blood from where he was shot in the dirt infield to the grass infield where he had crawled to.
And when I say crawl, I mean, he never got -- I don't think there was ever any distance between the grass and himself, the dirt and himself. He was pulling himself along the ground. He wanted liquids, which is often what happens when you have a loss of blood. You're thirsty.
And so someone ran back to the dugout and got him some things to drink. That was going on while I took over. Whoever was helping with the compressions on the wound left for some reason, maybe to go get the water, I don't know the reasoning, I mean, what happened.
But at that point, that's when Brad Winstrom was there. He was helping and if I recall, correctly, he asked me to put pressure on the wound with a cloth. He had been doing it. I think that's when he started cutting through the pants to try to get to the leg wound, get a better view of it and decide what he as a physician could do.
So we were very fortunate to have a physician on the team and of course, those two capitol police officers, the bravery they displayed, pistols against a rifle from 90 to 100 to 120 feet, that's not good odds and they both took bullets trying to protect our lives.
BLITZER: All right. Congressman, thank you so much for updating all of us. Fortunately you're OK. I know that Brad Winstrom is a physician and Senator Rand Paul was there as well. He's a physician as well. So at least two medical personnel were on the scene. But it was a dangerous situation.
Fortunately those Capitol Hill police officers were there and could deal with this. Hopefully everyone will be OK. Let's hope that Congressman Steve Scalise and the others that were shot and injured are going to be OK. Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama, thanks very much. Good luck to you and we'll stay in very close touch.
BROOKS: Thank you for your awesome prayers, Wolf. A lot of people who are wounded need it right now.
BLITZER: Yes, we certainly send all of our prayers to all of you, all of the members of this Republican baseball team. Has anybody said anything about whether this actual game at Washington Nationals Park tomorrow will go forward or is that still right now pretty much up in the air?
BROOKS: There was some discussion during the period of time in which we were herded together and surrounded by law enforcement officers on the chance that there was a second shooter, that was probably about the time that the helicopter was carrying off one of the two most injured people, and there was discussion about it. I don't know. It really hasn't been foremost on my mind. I do know there was a discussion. I don't think there was a decision made.
[09:25:07]Probably that decision will be made later today. It is a real shame. It raises $600,000 this year. It's what we've raised charity, for Washington, D.C. charities to help folks who are needy. It is a great bipartisan event. Democrats and Republicans get together. We have a good time together and for this to happen as a part of that is just shocking. Unbelievable.
BLITZER: It is totally awful. And we are told just now, Congressman, a staffer, a staff assistant, an aide to Congressman Roger Williams, a man you know from Texas, that staffer has been shot among those. He's now been identified as among those.
BROOKS: Was he the one who was shot in the calf?
BLITZER: I don't know where he was shot, but we are just being told that he is among those who were shot.
BROOKS: He still had my belt on him, around his leg when he was being carted off by the medics. I hope it was put to good use. It seemed to be.
BLITZER: Yes. We're told he was shot. He is receiving medical attention, we are told right now, but once again we don't know his condition. Hopefully he will be fine. I know the baseball practice that Republican members of the House and Senate -- it was beginning very early at 6:30 a.m. That's normally when you practice before the business of the day gets underway up on Capitol Hill, right?
BROOKS: Yes, sir. I leave my condo near the Navy Yard at about 5:30 in the morning and bike the eight or nine miles to the ball field and then we start warming up around 6:15 or so and start sending fly balls and infield practice around 6:30. Normally lasts until about 7:15 to 7:30 and then we rush back to the capitol, take our showers and start the workday.
BLITZER: Is it usual and I know you have to run, Congressman, a quick question, you practice at the Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria, Virginia. Are there usually spectators who show up and watch you guys practice, or is this pretty much closed?
BROOKS: There were people who live in the neighborhood that might be walking their dogs or doing something like that. We have a good rapport with them. We'll say hello to them. We say hello to them, but they've been nice. We've been nice and then this happens.
BLITZER: Yes. Awful situation. All right. Congressman Mo Brooks, good luck to you. I know you got to go.
BROOKS: I am being told to go further away from the ball field by law enforcement now.
BLITZER: Congressman, thankfully you're OK. We will stay in close touch with you.
BROOKS: All right, take care to those that are injured.
BLITZER: Certainly totally agree. Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords tweeted a little while ago, "My heart is with my former colleagues and their families and staff and U.S. capitol police, public servants and heroes today and every day."
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr is on the scene for us. Barbara, tell us what you are seeing right now and what's the latest information you are getting?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. We're actually 10 minutes south of the Pentagon. If you look over my shoulder, you will still see a very active police presence there about a block or two down is where this baseball field is.
We are behind police lines at this point. Just a short time ago, Chief Michael Brown of the Alexandria police came out to brief reporters to bring everyone up to date on the law enforcement situation.
He said that they got the first call of this emergency at 7:09 this morning and that they were able to be on the scene within a few minutes. The indications are that both the security detail from Capitol Hill and Alexandria Police were able to return fire against the gunman who is now we are told in custody.
The chief is indicating that this now is still very much an active crime scene, but assuring people that the neighborhood is safe, that there is no concern about additional gunmen here at this time. He didn't use those exact words, but he did make the point that they consider the neighborhood safe now.
Five people transported to the hospital and now a very active crime scene. We saw federal agents a short time ago from the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau show up. We know that FBI is working this. City police, state officials, Capitol Hill police because, of course, an attack against members of U.S. Congress is a federal law enforcement issue.
So this will be a very lengthy one can assume investigation. They say that they have many witnesses obviously to interview about this to put all the pieces together about what exactly happened. The chief of Capitol Hill police also coming to brief reporters. But not offering details about the condition of the victims.
[09:25:01]That's certainly a privacy issue for them and their families and not giving them any details about the attacker. They are not releasing any information at this point, but they did say, and this was about 25 minutes ago, that they would be back to further brief the news media and the public in about an hour and a half -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The Alexandria Police Department on the scene and the Capitol Hill Police Department, they are there as well. As you point, they will be briefing all of us within about an hour or so. Barbara Starr, I want to get back to you shortly, so standby.
We are also getting a lot of reaction from members of Congress, the leadership. As I pointed out earlier, a tweet that Paul Ryan, speaker of the House just put out this morning.
"The hearts of the whole House are with Representative Steve Scalise, the brave Capitol Police staff and all those who were in harm's way." As we heard from Representative Mo Brooks maybe 25 or 30 members of the Republican baseball team. Their roster has about 34 members in the House and the Senate. They were getting ready for a big game against the Democrats tomorrow in Washington Nationals Park. They were practicing early this morning as they had been doing batting practice, field practice and all of a sudden a shooter shows up and starts firing from a rifle.
Joining us on the line -- joining us right now is David Woodruff, a local resident who was running in the area when the shooting took place. Tell us where you were and what you saw.
DAVID WOODRUFF, SHOOTING WITNESS: Good morning, Wolf. I live about a mile and a half west of there and I was up for a usual Wednesday morning run when I happened to look over at Simpson Field and noticed there were a group of folks playing baseball, which I thought was out of the ordinary being that early in the morning.
But didn't think that much of it, took about 15 more steps and at that point I heard 12, 14 or so gunshots ring out. Clearly they were gunshots going one after another. I'm not sure if it was an automatic weapon or not, but got about another 10 or 15 steps in and heard some more shots.
And at that point, I was down the street a little bit here east of Monroe and was able to duck into a parking garage where I was able to call 911. I spent about 10 or 15 minutes there until the situation seemed as though it was getting under control. More and more Alexandria PD coming in, Capitol Hill police coming in.
Came out and I saw immediately two members of the Congress that I know and I worked with from time to time and it was at that point I put two and two together and realized this was the congressional baseball game practice that was going on. A grave situation took an even more serious turn.
BLITZER: All of a sudden in addition to the Capitol Hill police who were there on the scene, I'm told, because Representative Steve Scalise is the majority whip, the number three Republican in the House of Representatives, he is automatically protected. He has protective detail from Capitol Hill police with him. Fortunately they were there and could deal with this shooter. Based on everything you saw and heard, one shooter, right?
WOODRUFF: Yes. That appears to be the case. Again, I'm talking to a few of the members here and talking to some of the other members from what I heard, it sounded like a one shooter and it sounds like there was one person involved here.
It was pretty remarkable how quick the police were able to get on the scene. U.S. Capitol police, their helicopter here in and out twice to help evacuate two of the first victims and had to have been within 10 or 15 minutes of this incident being over.
BLITZER: Did you have a chance, David, to speak with any members?
WOODRUFF: You know, I did. I talked to two members of Congress that I know. They were clearly shaken up and distraught. We talked very briefly. I asked them if they needed anything. They said they were fine, but clearly this was a terrible day for both of them.
BLITZER: Describe the neighborhood. This is Alexandria, Virginia, Northern Virginia, right outside of Washington, D.C. as Barbara star said, just fairly close to the Pentagon. Describe the area where this shooting took place. A residential area?
WOODRUFF: Yes, very much. You know, I have lived here for over a decade now. It is a great, quiet area. Really if you dropped in here, you would never know you are only seven or eight miles as the crow miles to the U.S. capitol. I was actually out here last evening with my son, who is playing in the Alexandria Little League championship game.
It's a great place for folks often who come to Washington or work on Capitol Hill and then start a family, to move to a place like Delray here in Alexandria. So to have something like this happen here in Alexandria, something that was clearly planned out, clearly thought in advance is really, really shocking.
BLITZER: Yes. This was not like a rough neighborhood or anything like that. Very, very quiet residential, peaceful area in Alexandria, Virginia where a lot of government workers from Capitol Hill and elsewhere reside. So in your ten years you have lived in this area, have you ever heard or seen of a shooting along these lines?
WOODRUFF: No. This is really remarkable. This is really a terrible day for Alexandria. This is definitely out of the ordinary for folk here in Delray, Alexandria.
BLITZER: Yes, David Woodruff, thank you very much for your eyewitness account --