Return to Transcripts main page
Congressman, Aide, Capitol Officers Shot in Attack; GOP Congressman Scalise, 4 others Shot in VA. Third-ranking Republican in House, Steve Scalise, Wounded. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired June 14, 2017 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: -- what happened. Where were you when the first shot -- you heard that first shot?
REP. CHUCK FLEISCHMANN (R), TENNESSEE (via telephone): Yes, sir. Well, we had actually - we're close to the conclusion of our practice. We practice every day. The Republicans and Democrats both have a baseball team. I play on the Republican team. This is my seventh year.
So, I was walking from left field down the third base side and said hello to my good friend Trent Kelly who was at third base. And like we always do, we were talking. And then, I walked towards home plate and I heard a single large pop.
And I'm not a ballistics expert but I said to myself, gosh, that sounds like a gun shot. But I didn't think of anything. And then, there was a pause and then there was just a barrage of gunshots and I was with one of our coaches Larry Hardy who was a former baseball -- major league baseball manager. These folks come out and they help us practice.
We hit the ground behind home plate and I looked at him and I said, there's an active shooter and people were running so we were afraid that we were going to get shot. So, we ran and we jumped into the dugout. And we got into the dugout and bullets were flying and unfortunately, some people were hit and were bleeding. A lot of us, like myself were bleeding because of where we got bloodied trying to run for cover, but just a harrowing scene.
It seem like it took forever to actually subdue the shooter. Fortunately, the Capitol Police were there, but apparently, they only had pistols. So, we were -- literally crying for help and help did finally arrive and just a terrible, terrible time.
Our whip was shot, Steve Scalise was shot. One of our staffers who helps volunteer was shot in the chest. It was just a horrible, horrible scene. I have never been personally fired at before and it was just horrible, sir.
BLITZER: Congressman Fleischmann, the reason there were Capitol Hill Police there, we're told, is because Steve Scalise is the majority whip and he's always accompanied by a protective detail, is that right?
FLEISCHMANN: That is absolutely correct, sir.
The speaker, the leader and the whip on the Republican side have 24/7 security with the Capitol Police. No one else does, but for the fact that they were there, it could have been a lot worse. As a matter of fact, when the gun fire -- by the time we made it into the dugout -- and there were children there, too. This is what's so sad about it.
Children who come out to watch their parents play and their relatives play, we were all huddled in the dugout. Others were trying to run for cover, but there was a real fear when the shots were continuing on, Wolf, that this gunman was going to come in the dugout. We would have been sitting ducks.
BLITZER: If the Capitol Hill Police detail had not been there, there would have been no police, no security and this shooter with the rifle. It could have been so much worse, right?
FLEISCHMANN: Absolutely, absolutely. And the fear factor was horrific because by the time I got into the dugout, I saw several other members bleeding. I saw one gentleman who had been shot in the leg. There was blood all over. It was just -- it was horrible, but we did not know when it was going to end and it's my understanding that the Capitol Police only had pistols at that time.
So, the calls for help went out to get assistance and I understand local police finally did arrive. But it just seemed forever because I actually stayed pinned to the wall on the inside of the dugout because I figured that was the safest place and we were all kind of huddled in there. But as anybody would get up, we would tell them please, please get down because we didn't know exactly where all of the shots were firing from and whether or not there was more than one shooter.
It turned out to be one shooter, but I had to walk right past him when I walked past third base from left field. He just decided not to shoot me, so, I was very fortunate.
BLITZER: We're told there's going to be a briefing from members of Congress at around 11:15 a.m., maybe a little bit more than an hour or so from now, Congressman Fleischmann. We are also told that there's going to be a police briefing, Alexandria Police, Capitol Hill Police, they're going to be briefing us fairly soon, as well.
Two of the shooting victims, we're told, Congressman, they're being treated right now for gunshot wounds at the George Washington University Hospital here in Washington, D.C. They are both, we are told, in surgery. Have you been told anything at all about a possible motive from this shooter, Congressman?
FLEISCHMANN: Nothing at all. And as I say, it came as a complete surprise.
[10:05:01] Both -- we go out every day when we're in session. Both teams do and we practice. It's one of the nicest things we do. The game that was actually set for tomorrow, I don't know if it's going to be canceled or not. It's an annual game. It's gone over 100 years. It's very fraternal.
But this was a routine day which turned into a nightmare because of this shooter. But don't know a motive. And again, at first, when I heard that first pop rang out, I thought it was a gun. I didn't know it was a gun, but within a matter of 30 seconds it was a barrage of bullets flying everywhere.
And many of my colleagues, I talked with one, Trent Kelly who was running in afterwards. The shooter just missed him. I mean, so as horrible as this has been, it could have been a lot worse, but for the fact that the Capitol Police were armed and were able to return fire.
BLITZER: It's hard to deal if somebody has a rifle, maybe a high- powered rifle as opposed to pistols. There were two representatives, two members of the Capitol Police there, part of the protective detail for Congressman Scalise. They were there and they had to deal with this until Alexandria Police and other police showed up.
How long did it take, do you know, Congressman, for the backup to show up?
FLEISCHMANN: It seemed like an eternity. In reality it was probably only a few minutes. But I remember talking with my members and the people in the dugout when we finally jumped into the dugout and got out of the field and out of the direct line of fire, that when are they going to stop this guy because he kept firing and firing and firing.
And he had to have some type of an automatic rifle because it was a barrage of bullets. There was no question about that and we really feared that he was going to be coming in the dugout and no one was armed in the dugout. We were just with our baseball gear and the like.
So, it seemed like an eternity. But there was, we heard return fire his way. And then, of course, the backup came and apparently they subdued the shooter.
BLITZER: You have no idea about possible motive of the shooter. We have been told that law enforcement has tentatively identified the shooter who is now in a local hospital. But you have no idea what possible motive, what could have possibly motivated the shooter to open fire on this Republican baseball team?
FLEISCHMANN: None whatsoever. And it is -- our practices are very active, very lively, they're fraternal, staffers come out and help, ex-major leaguers come out and help. It's really an annual ritual that we go through and it's one of the things that has brought I think Republicans and Democrats together for years is the congressional baseball game.
BLITZER: Yes, certainly have. --
FLEISCHMANN: I mean, if you're a ballplayer we know who the ballplayers are on both sides. It's always very fraternal. This is a tragedy and sadly, I think this is going to change the way that we're going to have to practice in the future. And this is my seventh year on the team, but we have always felt safe up until today and today was just shocking and horrific.
BLITZER: Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama, he spoke with them. He pointed out that this game which has been -- Washington, D.C. tradition. The game was supposed to take place tomorrow at Washington Nationals Park. You guys, because of the game you raise, what, about $600,000 for very, very important and worthy charitable causes, right?
FLEISCHMANN: Absolutely. For years, this game has grown into a wonderful, charitable event for Washington, D.C. Children, a lot of great causes. This year was a record year, $600,000 raised. It's very fraternal. We get about 15,000 people come to the game.
A couple of years ago, President Obama actually attended the game. And I remember, I stole a couple of bases, he looked down at me and he goes, you're still good. And I said, thank you, Mr. President, that's something I'll be able to tell my grandchildren. But it has always been really something that really, both sides in Washington come together.
But to have this happen on a baseball field, Wolf, I've loved baseball since I've been a kid. I grew up a strong New York Met fan. I remember 1969 like it was yesterday and I've always loved baseball and I've always felt safe on a baseball field. And now, I don't know if I'll ever feel safe on a baseball field again.
BLITZER: Yes. It's a sad, sad situation. You're a New York Mets fan from Tennessee. How does that happen?
FLEISCHMANN: It happened a long, long time ago 1969, Miracle Mets. I was 7 years old.
[10:10:00] And they won it all. It was one of the greatest sports moments in history for me as a 7-year-old kid.
BLITZER: Is there any indication, any word you're getting, Congressman, whether this game will take place tomorrow at Washington Nationals Park?
FLEISCHMANN: We spoke with the speaker of the house briefly on a conference call on the bus when the Capitol Police were taking us back to the Hill. He assured us of his prayers, of his support. He indicated that he would be getting with Leader Pelosi and they would be making those decisions in the ensuing hours.
Under the circumstances, though, I just don't see how the game could go on. I worry about the security, but that decision will be made. If they do make the decision to play, of course, I will play for my beloved University of Tennessee.
But right now, our thoughts and prayers have got to be with those people who have been shot and who have been severely injured. I saw one of our managers, Roger Williams. I think his ankle was broken. As I said, there was such chaos in the ensuing moments. You just don't realize until you're under attack with live bullets, what's going on and people were just scattering and just sheer and utter chaos. BLITZER: I will point out that they do have good security at Washington Nationals Park, metal detectors for all of the fans coming in. They can get a big crowd and you're absolutely right. They will get a big crowd.
I don't know if the game is going to be rescheduled, but once it's -- if it's not taking place tomorrow, once it's rescheduled, Congressman, I'm sure there will be a huge, huge crowd that will show up and the $600,000 that you hoped to raise, I'm sure that number will go up significantly, as well. Unfortunately, it's all the result of a horrendous, horrendous shooting.
Congressman Fleischmann of Tennessee thanks so much for joining us and good luck.
FLEISCHMANN: Wolf, thank you. Wish you the best.
BLITZER: I wish you the best as well. Wish everyone the best who was injured and everybody is shaken by this horrendous situation.
I want to update our viewers right now. We are following the breaking news after a gunman opened fire at a congressional baseball game outside the nation's capital in Alexandria, Virginia. Among those shot the third ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, Congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana, at least two Capitol Police officers and a congressional aide were also wounded.
Sources now tell CNN, "The shooting was a deliberate attack." That's a quote, "A deliberate attack." The gunman is in custody, has been taken to a D.C. hospital. Police believe they know the attacker's identity. They have not yet released a name.
Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama, he was on deck when the shooter opened fire. He was getting ready for some hitting practice. He explained what he saw.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MO BROOKS (R), SHOOTING WITNESS: It was long enough for me to see the shooter discharge the first half dozen or so shots. Figured out that I was in clear sight if he shifted his view a little bit to the right, I would be the next closest to him. I dived around the batting cage (INAUDIBLE) - him with my bat in hand. I lie there for some period of time. I would -- it seemed like a long time, but it might have been 30, 60 seconds, maybe two minutes. Keep in mind that when you're in this kind of circumstance, judging time is very, very difficult. During (INAUDIBLE) -- when you get in sight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We got some technical problems there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROOKS: They come around the third-base dugout and he's got about a 10 or 15-foot clear line of sight and people are lying on the ground behind a plastic shield which, of course, is not much of a shield at all and ran from there, sprinted into the dugout. I don't remember if we collectively made the decision to seek better cover in first-base dugout or if one of us got up, then we all got up.
Enough time to get to the first-base dugout and still, I'm hearing no return fire. I'm in the dugout. I see the staffer who has got a leg wound. I take off my belt, myself and another gentleman and I don't know who and the staffer, we applied as a tourniquet.
Then, I'm lying face first along with some others - face first to the ground, breathing dugout dust, when to my right I'm at the far end of the dugout now. I'm on the first baseline and I start hearing (INAUDIBLE) -- with the pistol and I'm going oh, my goodness is he one of our guys or is it a double shooter situation? It took a second to figure out he was one of our guys and he was firing back now at the shooter and it was one of the best sights -- one of the best sights I've seen in my life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[10:15:10] BLITZER: All right. Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama. An eyewitness, he's on the Republican roster, the 2017 roster for the Republican baseball team.
We are told, by the way, that the majority whip, Steve Scalise was shot in the hip, he's described as being in stable condition, in good spirits, we are also told. He's being treated at a local D.C. hospital. He's undergoing surgery, we are told, right now.
President Trump expressed his condolences, his support just a short while ago tweeting this. "Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, a true friend and patriot, was badly injured but will fully recover. Our thoughts and prayers are with him."
We are told, by the way, that the president just canceled an event that he had at the Labor Department later today. He will be making a statement before cameras at the White House at some point. So we will, of course, stand by to hear from the president. He's being briefed on this very, very disturbing situation.
Let's go to Marty LaVor. He's an eyewitness to the shooting. Marty, thanks for joining us. Where were you and what did you see?
MARTY LAVOR, EYEWITNESS: I was standing along the first baseline, using a long lens photographing members as they were in the batting cage. I looked over and I saw a man behind third base, outside of the fence. And I saw this long weapon and I assume it's a rifle with a clip. And what went through my mind was, why would anybody have a rifle shooting birds outside of a baseball practice and then we heard the shot and members and all the staff ran for the dugout.
We -- I landed on top of the Congressman and the shooting stopped because the clip was finished and then I started to get up and somebody in the dugout literally saved my life because they said stay down. And then, they said get closer to the wall. Well, it turned out that was the best advice because I've been told that there is a hole in the cinder block in the back of the dugout.
So again, I saw the shooter, white male and then what happened after that, while we were lying on the ground we heard a different set of gun fire because you tell the different sounds. That was the Capitol Police and they only had pistols, I believe and it was the Capitol Police that saved us all. If it wasn't for the Capitol Police, I would assume that everybody would have been killed this morning.
BLITZER: Did you get any indication what kind of rifle this individual had?
LAVOR: I'm not a shooter, so I don't know. All I know is long and black and that's as much as I can give you. I don't know anything other than that.
BLITZER: We are told, Marty, that the entire incident occurred over a ten-minute period. I know to you, you were there, you were fearing, this was a life-threatening moment for you. Did it seem like ten minutes?
LAVOR: No. There is no accounting for time in that situation, number one. And number two, the firing started and you could hear enough of a clip being finished. Then, we started hearing the other fire and so it was always sporadic and when we thought it was done, then it would start again and it was the Capitol Police that really made the difference.
BLITZER: The Capitol Hill Police, the two Capitol Hill Police officers who were there, part of the detail protecting Steve Scalise, the majority whip. Do you know how long it took for backup to show up from Alexandria Police, for example?
LAVOR: I have no indication of time. You know, in a situation like that, you're not looking at your watch, you're just staying down close to the wall and it was surreal. It couldn't be happening. This was a practice for a charity baseball game. And so, it was it was totally unexpected.
[10:20:05] I've been photographing these games for over 30 years and I do the Republicans and the Democrats. And it's camaraderie. And so, this incident was totally out of context and everybody was totally unprepared for it. Again, I just thank the Capitol Police.
BLITZER: Marty, are you OK?
LAVOR: Yes. Yes. Yes. I landed on a Congressman when I went into the dugout and I have no idea who it was, but he cushioned my fall. But yes, I'm OK.
BLITZER: Marty LaVor, thank you so much. Good luck to you.
This is a shocking moment, indeed. Let's go to the scene right now. Art Roderick is joining us. He's our CNN law enforcement analyst. He's a former assistant director of the U.S. Marshals Office. So, tell us what you're seeing right now, Art, and what are you hearing? ART RODERICK, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, first of all, this is right in my neighborhood. I live less than a half mile from here and the area is basically a residential area, right in the edge of the Del Ray area in Alexandria, Virginia. And there is a grocery store, there's a drugstore, there's a YMCA, there's a dog park and there's also a soccer field that's used by little kids all the time and it sits right off route 1. So this is a very quiet area, mainly residential.
But I'm hearing from law enforcement sources that when this game started this morning, not only did they have the protection detail here from the Capitol Police, but as a courtesy usually and this occurs in most locations, when there is a protection detail going on, the local PD had, I believe, two officers here at the scene at the time that the shooting went down.
What I'm hearing is that the shooter had an M1 rifle which is a 30- caliber weapon, semiautomatic. Its range is up to 300 yards with iron sights. So, it's a pretty devastating weapon and it's a very high- powered weapon. So, what I'm hearing from witnesses is this staccato- type firing coming from that weapon and then, a reload of the magazine and that makes a lot of sense to me. --
BLITZER: How many rounds in the magazine?
RODERICK: Well, without actually looking at the weapon, you have anywhere from 20 to 30 rounds and generally some magazines. There are smaller ones that carry ten. So, it is either 10, 20 or 30-round capacity in that type of weapon.
It looks like they've also possibly located the vehicle which was only about ten yards from that third-base dugout, his vehicle that he came out of right when he started shooting. So, there was short distance between his vehicle where he had some cover at a period of time and where he started shooting from that third-base dugout.
BLITZER: Yes. I think we've seen that vehicle, I believe. And maybe we can show our viewers. I believe it was a white van, is that what you're hearing yourself, Art?
RODERICK: That's what I'm hearing. It's the white van that's parked right along the third-baseline with the front portion of the vehicle facing the dugout, so the front portion of the vehicle, so if you're sitting in that car as a driver you would be overlooking the third baseline.
BLITZER: Art, stand by for a moment because joining us on the phone right now is Ben Childers, he's an eyewitness who helped shelter three Congressmen during the shooting. Tell us where you were, Ben, and what you saw.
BENJAMIN CHILDERS, WITNESSED SHOOTING (via telephone): So, I was just on my balcony which kind of looks over toward the street and over toward the baseball field. We heard the shots -- those shots woke my wife up. We called 911 and reported the active shooter situation.
Once we called that in, we noticed that there were three men, you know, running this way, away from the shooter. And we were able to get them inside our apartment building, so that way they could you know, shelter in place and they were able to call their family and to call their -- and then they're trying to call their staff to let them know they were OK --
BLITZER: These were three members of Congress, part of this Republican baseball team, right?
CHILDERS: Correct. Yes.
BLITZER: And how did they seem to you? Were they shaken? I assume they were.
CHILDERS: Absolutely. Yes. I mean, they - you know, that's when they mentioned that you know Congressman Scalise had been shot. And so, yes, they were pretty shaken up. One of the guys didn't seem that Congressman Scalise had been shot. So, that kind of hit him pretty hard when he got told that here in the apartment.
And yes, we were able to just kind of - like you know, give them a safe place for a couple of minutes and then, once the shooting had died down and stopped, they were able to head back over there to be with their colleagues.
[10:25:02] BLITZER: So basically, it's a very close walking distance from where you live to this baseball field, right?
CHILDERS: I mean, it's about you know, 300 or 400 yards, maybe 200 yards.
BLITZER: Tell us about the neighborhood. This is a very quiet, peaceful, upscale neighborhood. This is not a rough area.
CHILDERS: That would be correct. I mean, it's definitely kind of up and coming neighborhood. I mean, we live in an apartment building that's about two years old. And there are a lot of like brand-new town homes and things like that in this area. So, it's just a reminder for most people to you know kind of stay vigilant, keep your eyes open. You never know when something can happen.
BLITZER: Yes, that's a rare situation indeed, but fortunately, you're OK and these three members of Congress. Did they give you their names? Do you know who they were?
CHILDERS: I do. But I don't think that's very appropriate to share.
BLITZER: All right. That's fine. You don't have to. But fortunately, they're OK, right?
CHILDERS: Yes. Yes. Besides being shaken up, I think they're just OK.
BLITZER: All right. Good. Ben Childers -- thank you. Thank you so much. Thanks for the good work you did helping these three members of the House of Representatives.
Let's go to Capitol Hill right now. Our senior Washington correspondent Brianna Keilar is on the scene. Brianna, you're getting more reaction from members and staffers. What are you learning?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. Because some people who were there at the practice are starting to arrive on Capitol Hill. We're actually waiting to speak with Congressman Rodney Davis of Illinois. He was on the team. He was at bat when the shooting happened. He has a harrowing account. He's still clearly very shaken up by what happened.
But I also spoke to Congressman Bill Johnson from Ohio. He was at the practice but he had left before the shooting happened. You've been hearing, Wolf, that this was a practice where everyone comes pretty much at the same time for the beginning of it, but some people might stay for batting practice or additional fielding. And Bill Johnson had left about five minutes before the shooting happened. He, right now or as of the last few minutes was talking to Capitol Police here in the Capitol and filing a report of something he saw that at the time he didn't think much of, but obviously, in retrospect, raised a lot of concerns for him.
He said that as he was leaving the parking lot, he saw a white male who was in his words, lethargically getting in and out of a van. He said he had something that appeared to be like a burlap sack. He doesn't know in retrospect that this had anything to do with it, but certainly, something of concern for him when he found out obviously what had happened as he was making his way from Alexandria into Washington, into work here at the Capitol.
But this is -- you know, this is something that has just stunned Congressmen and the community here on Capitol Hill and it happened, such a short time ago. People are still very much shaken up. We are seeing the schedule being affected here. We know that all House of Representatives votes have been canceled. The House is in recess until noon.
These members are going to be getting a briefing this morning. We think it's going to be shortly before noon. So they'll be getting some of the latest information and a lot of them, of course, have concerns about what this means going forward and why this happened, Wolf.
BLITZER: And they were supposed to be having this big baseball game at Washington Nationals Park tomorrow to raise money for kids, a charitable game and thousands of fans show up for this game. We don't know, at least at this point, Brianna, if that game has been postponed.
KEILAR: No, we don't know. I think the expectation, talking to members of Congress, is that may not happen, but we don't know that. The other thing to consider is something like Nationals Stadium, obviously, there is a -- it can be a very secure facility, right? But at the same time this is supposed to happen tomorrow.
Obviously, the team is very shaken up. We're going to see if maybe it's going to be rescheduled for a later date, I think, talking to some of these members of Congress. They're going to feel a need to still have the game, but it just seems you know, Wolf, it just seems a little difficult to have it tomorrow, obviously. So, we're still waiting for official word on that.
BLITZER: And this is an annual event, very popular, this men's baseball game between Democratic lawmakers versus Republican lawmakers. This is the men's baseball game. But Brianna, you've participated for years in the women's congressional media baseball game. Talk about that for a second.
KEILAR: So, these two games together are sort of rites of summer, as I have said. The game for the women is next week. I have played for several years. I've been a captain on the team. I'm not playing because I injured my foot, so I was going to warm the bench but certainly support my team.
The women do not field -- obviously, there aren't as many women in Congress. So, there is a bipartisan team of women and they actually play against journalists, unlike in the men's game where it's Republicans versus Democrats. But you have the men's team tomorrow night and the women's - the men's game tomorrow night and the women's game next week and this is just part of the thing that says, it is summer in Washington D.C. because even though you have these teams with dozens of player, there are so many people who come out.