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Gunman Opens Fire on Congressmen at GOP Baseball Practice; Interview with Congressman Mo Brooks who Witnessed Shooting; Rep. Steve Scalise Among People Hit. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired June 14, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Congressman, do you know about anything about this baseball game?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: Well, we have an annual baseball game between Democrats and Republicans, and it raises money for charity. I don't know if this was a practice in connection with that or the team was merely practicing for a different charity baseball game. But it is one of the few things that we do here that really improves the comradery and the collegiality between the parties. So that may very well have been connected.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Congressman, we're going to let you go because we do have an eye witness, one of your colleagues on the phone. Thank you very much.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: We have congressman from Alabama Mo Brooks. He is at the baseball practice. He was there when the shooting broke out. He is on the phone with us now. Congressman, can you hear me?
REP. MO BROOKS, (R) ALABAMA: Yes, sir. Forgive my voice for cracking a little bit. But the emotion is still high.
CUOMO: It is totally understandable. Are you OK? What do you know about the situation there?
BROOKS: Well right now we're secure. We get hear about 6:15 or 6:30. If you are familiar with the movie "Remember the Titans," we practice on their baseball field, 6:15, 6:30. Tomorrow night is supposed to be the game. Hopefully we will still have it, but I don't know. It raises about $600,000 for charity and we play it in the Washington Nationals baseball stadium. Frequently the president will come. So it is a pretty good time for all except for the fact that the Democrats have beaten us so much.
But I was on deck about to hit batting practice on the third base side of home plate, and I hear "bam." And I look around, and behind third base in the third base dugout, which is cinderblock, I see a rifle. And I see a little bit of a body and then I hear another "bam," and I realize there is an active shooter. At the same time I hear Steve Scalise over near second base scream. He was shot. He's our majority whip.
The gun was a semiautomatic. It continues to fire at different people. You can imagine all the people in the field scatter. I run around to the first base side of home plate. We have a batting cage with plastic wrapped around it to stop foul balls. I hide behind the plastic. That plastic is not real good. And I was lying on the ground with two or three others as gunfire continued. I heard a break in the gunfire and decided to take a chance, ran from home plate to the first base dugout which is also cinderblock and two about two or three feet so you can have better cover.
There were a number of congressmen and congressional staffers who help us lying on the ground. One of them was wounded in the leg. Took off my belt and myself and another congressman, I don't remember who, applied a tourniquet to try to slow down the bleeding.
In the meantime, towards the right field side of the dugout, and there is gunfire about five or six, seven feet to my head. I look up and there's a guy with a gun blasting away. Fortunately it was one of the good guys, one of our security detail who was shooting back. Of course it was pistol versus rifle, our pistols versus the shooter's rifle along the third base line just outside the chain link fence, and he was ordering us to stay down.
Another security detail person was closer to home plate, probably -- I couldn't see him but probably on the home plate side of the dugout outside the fence line, using the dug out as cover as he's firing back. And there must have been 50 to 100 shots fired. Hard to itemize them. Eventually it seems that the shooter shot both of our security detail people.
There were some congressmen on phones screaming for reinforcements. It seemed like a long time and we weren't even hearing sirens from local police officers which tells me they probably did not yet know what was going on. Eventually the shooter started circling around third base. This is my understanding. Of course I'm down on the ground and helping the guy who's got a bullet hole in his leg, and the shooter starts coming around home plate towards where we are, outside the fence line. And my understanding is that's where our security detail, maybe some of the ones who were wounded still defending us, took him down.
At which point, once we got the all clear that the shooter was down, we ran out to second base for Steve Scalise. He had crawled into the outfield bleeding a trail of blood.
[08:05:06] We started giving him some liquids, putting -- I put pressure on his wound in his hip, and Brad Wenstrup, a congressman from Ohio, Cincinnati, fortunately a physician, he started doing what you need to do to try to minimize the blood loss. Shortly thereafter more of the police showed up. It seemed like forever but it probably was shorter than what it seems. And a helicopter landed in centerfield and took away whomever the folks decided was the most wounded, most critical. I don't know who that person was. At that time the police were causing all of us to gather outside the first baseline in the chain link fence and cording off the area in order to help assure if there was a second shooter that we would be better protected.
CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, Congressman. We can't believe what you've just lived through and what you and your colleagues have just lived through and that you have been able to tell us all of these details. Do you have any sense of how many people were wounded?
BROOKS: I think at least five. One congressman, Steve Scalise at second base, one staffer. I wish I knew his name, but I don't, the one that was wounded in the leg at the bottom of the first base dugout that we used my belt to help put a tourniquet around his leg, two law enforcement officers. One was shot in the leg. To his credit after the shooter was taken down he went into the right field where Steve Scalise was lying on the ground to help tend to him.
And the other law enforcement officer, capital police or Secret Service, I don't know which it is, he was lying next to the security vehicle. And I'm looking at it now, and it appears that one of the tires had been shot out. That gives you an idea of what the shooter was doing as he was trying to take out our security detail before he could get to the rest of us.
CUOMO: Congressman, you don't know the name of the staffer, but it is amazing that you were able in that moment of crisis to give him what mattered most, which was the help, the tourniquet. So smart thinking for you under that kind of stress. You said that the whip, Congressman Scalise left. Was he able to move under his own power? Do you know where he was hit? Do you know these things?
BROOKS: No, he was not able to move on his own power. He was dragging his body from the second base infield to the outfield to get away from the shooter while all this firing was going on. So here we're seeing our colleague as we're under fire. He's lying on the ground. But there is not a whole lot you can do. So the situation is under control.
So that was for us emotionally distressing to know the position he was in. But he was shot in the hip. I think it was not a life threatening wound, but I am not a physician. I don't know how deep into the hip area the bullet went. There was no exit wound that I could see. And again, I was pointing it out to Steve. Brad Wenstrup and I was applying pressure to the wound to try to help some the bleeding. But there was a blood trail about 10 to 15 yards long from where he was shot to where he crawled into right field.
CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. Congressman, you said the gunman was taken down. Do you know if the gunman was killed?
BROOKS: Well, no, I do not know if he was killed. But I'll tell you, I don't have any kind thought right now about the shooter, so it's probably best that I leave it at that.
CUOMO: The authorities have said that he is in custody. That's early information.
Let's talk about how're going with all this, congressman. It is amazing you have been able to recount the events as they were going on and you gave aid to two difficult people you have told us about so far. How are you feeling about everything right now? How is everybody else there? BROOKS: Well, it's hard to contain the emotions. My adrenaline is
raging. And of course it's never easy to take when you see people around you getting shot and you don't have a weapon yourself so you are not in a position where you can help defend. So you are pretty helpless. It's not a good situation to be in.
You know, I don't know what took our security detail as long as it took them to start exchanging fire. Probably they were as shocked as we were. And it seemed like a long time, but it may have just been seconds, might have been 10 or 15, 20 seconds. But the bravely that they displayed, pistols against a rifle is not a fair fight.
[08:10:10] CUOMO: You're absolutely right about that, especially if the man had time, or we're assuming it's a man. I'm going to ask you about that in a second.
BROOKS: Our security detail, let me emphasize, I don't know their names.
CUOMO: Right, I got you.
BROOKS: But they did tremendous bravery in the face of that.
CUOMO: We're looking at some of the first images there from the YMCS's glass being shattered. Obviously this was a long-range weapon so it was able to put rounds into the surrounding structures and people as you are telling us right now. Were you able to see the gunmen? Do you know whether it was just one gunman?
BROOKS: I saw I'm on the third base side of home plate swinging the baseball bat because I was next up, when I saw the first shot, I saw the rifle, I did see -- you know, first I didn't know what the bang was. Then I looked over there, and then see the point of the rifle gun, and I got a glimpse of the shooter, which meant he also could see me if he looked in my direction. At that point I ran around home plate and hid behind the plastic batting cage. Plastic won't stop a bullet, but he can't see you quite as well. And there were probably 10, 20, 30 shots fired while two or three of us are lying on the ground seeking cover behind the batting cage that surrounds home plate.
CUOMO: Congressman, let's just -- Congressman, let's just remind people.
BROOKS: -- the first base dugout, and we were blessed with good fortune.
CUOMO: Congressman, let's just remind people what you are talking about in case they are joining us right now. News is spreading of this tragedy. So we just want to get people up to speed. Right now we're talking to Congressman Mo Brooks from Alabama. He survived a shooting at a GOP baseball team practice. They are getting ready for a charity game that's scheduled for tomorrow night. A long gun was used by a gunman who appeared in one of the dugouts, started firing at the players.
BROOKS: He was not in the dugout. He was behind the dugout using it as protection.
CUOMO: He was behind the dugout using it as protection. This was in Alexandria, Virginia. There was a security detail there.
Congressman Brooks is telling us people were hit. Some of the security was hit. Some staffer was hit, and the majority whip, Steve Scalise of Louisiana, was hit. The congressman is giving us a very dramatic accounting of what happened and how Steve Scalise was dragging himself away from the gunman. People were scattered. Congressman Brooks helped a staffer apply a tourniquet, went to help Steve Scalise with another member of Congress who was a doctor who was trying to deal with the wounds. Help did come. Fire was exchanged. The gunman we are told by police was taken into custody. We're now talking with the congressman about how many gunmen. He saw one rifle and he saw one gunman moving. Did you get any type of description of the gunman, congressman?
BROOKS: He appeared to be a white male. Keep in mind I saw him for maybe a second or two, perhaps just a fraction of a second, and then I decided I was not in the best position being one of the closest people to him, although the vision does discouraged a little bit by the third base dugout. He appeared to be a white male, if I had to guess, middle-aged. A little bit on the -- he wasn't skinny, but he did not appear to be obese either, a little on the chubby side.
CAMEROTA: Congressman, I know you described seeing a helicopter finally you all called for help, and finally there were first responders and a helicopter landed. And do you know if it was Steve Scalise who was airlifted out?
BROOKS: I don't know. Two of the injuries appeared serious. Steve Scalise was prone the whole time. But it was a hip one. Normally those are not as bad as hitting an intern organ. And then there was one of our security detail that was lying on the ground next to the vehicle, security detail vehicle. And he had a towel over his head and he was immobile as he was being treated. So it would have been one of those two. Hopefully those two had priority over the shooter, at least that's the way I would have done it. I'd have made the shooter last.
CAMEROTA: Congressman, can you tell us about this scene? How many of you were there for this practice ballgame this morning?
BROOKS: We have 30 or so on the Republican team. At the time of the shooting I would guess somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 to 25, but it is hard to tell because it is early in the morning and we do have work early in the morning, and sometimes after people have gotten their at bats in during batting practice, they then leave rather than continue to field or try to get a second round of batting practice.
So some of the congressmen had started to leave but we still had, I would think, 15-20 at an absolute minimum, maybe as high as 20-25. And of course we had another dozen or so staff members who help with our team. These younger guys, they can throw pitches that are strikes with speed. So they are very good to have. And then we had the security detail.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: So we're showing video right now, Congressman,, of the chopper coming there to the field. You, of course, have been telling us how you and the others managed to live through this under very difficult circumstances.
You made so many smart moves under pressure, obviously going to that batting cage. Sure, it was just plastic, you were saying, that was around it, but it was better than nothing.
You made your way to the dugout where there were other staffers there.
You are saying you're not sure how long this took but you're saying you heard at least dozens of rounds before the security detail was able to exchange fire, is that right?
BROOKS: I would think 10 or 20 rounds from the rifle before I heard anything coming from our side, the first base side. But keep in mind, you know, I could miss some of those shots. I don't know how long it took the security detail to engage.
And I'm sure they were as astonished as we were. There's -- it takes a while for the realization to hit. Then you got to figure out who the shooter is, where he is and how you are going to respond when you have got pistols and he's got a rifle.
But they exhibited, once they started engaging, they exhibited great, great courage. I must confess the first shot that I heard was after it had already gotten past the batting cage, in -- sometime it passes us lying on the ground.
I figured out this was not really a good place to be if that shooter goes around the third base dugout toward home plate on the outside of the fence because then you have a clean shot at us lying on the ground.
So that's when I ran into the dugout, helped apply a tourniquet with my belt to one of our staffers, who was shot in the leg. And then about 5 feet from my head, I hear another shot. I did not know if it was a second shooter until I saw that it was one of our security detail. And that's when I looked up.
And so that's how long it took for me to first notice one of our side shooting back. But I would suspect that they reacted a lot more quickly than that, as you can imagine. My attention was not necessarily focused on them.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Congressman, we're looking at live pictures right now from WJLA of the scene, the aftermath there. You can see yellow police tape and people beginning to crowd around, trying to figure out what happened.
You have, Congressman, remarkable recall of all the details and what happened and you have a good description of the gunman, who we believe is in custody. You say that you believe he was a middle-aged white man, heavy-set.
Was he saying anything?
You were close enough, chillingly, to be able to get a look at him and to watch him firing his gun.
Was he saying anything?
BROOKS: No. He was not saying anything. And I probably -- well, I was on the third base side of home plate -- saw him fire three or four, five, six times before I figured out that I needed to be a whole lot smarter under these circumstances and standing there watching him was not a good idea.
And that's when I ran around the batting cage, where at least I was obscured by the blue plastic that goes up about four feet high to stop foul balls from hitting other people around the batting cage.
CUOMO: It was the right move at the right time, Congressman.
BROOKS: -- wasn't a good idea.
CUOMO: It was the right move at the right time, though, Congressman. You kept moving, Congressman Brooks. You got to where you needed to be. You were able to help others.
Just for people who are coming in right now and understanding this story, this is a GOP baseball team.
What other names are involved here?
Who do you know was there?
We know there was a lot of staffers and some of them you know, some of them you don't.
But who do you know that was there?
BROOKS: Well, Congressman Ron DeSantis of Florida, he was fielding balls at third base and he came in to hit. If he had still been at third base, he likely would have been the first target of the gunman because he would have been within about 20 to 30 feet of where the gunman was shooting through the fence.
We had Chuck Fleischman, he was around the batting cage with me; Senator Rand Paul, Senator Jeff Flake, they were both in and around home plate. Jeff might have gone to left center field to shag some fly balls that we hit out there during the batting practice.
At second base, of course, was Steve Scalise, where he was shot. Please forgive me for not being able to remember all the names of all the congressmen right now but I'm a little bit shook up.
Brad Wenstrup of Ohio was someplace; I don't know where but I know he was there because after the shooter --
BROOKS: -- was down and we ran out to see Steve Scalise at second base, Brad Wenstrup is a physician and we deferred to his judgment on what to do. As I said, I held a cloth over the wound to stop the bleeding as Brad was getting some kind of scissors device to cut through the pants to try to have better access to Steve Scalise's wound in his hip.
CAMEROTA: And, Congressman, it's -- from what you witnessed, is your belief that at least five people were hit?
BROOKS: Yes. Steve Scalise was hit, I saw that. A staffer was hit. That's the one that I put along with another congressman, put a -- I don't remember the -- who -- which congressman it was.
But we put a belt on him, a tourniquet around his wound that was -- the staffer's wound that was in the calf. Then there was the security detail, who, after the shooter was down, although the security detail was wounded in the leg, he came out to try to make sure that Steve Scalise was OK because that was his job, his responsibility.
We tried to shoo him off but he showed his dedication that he was going to check with the person he was responsible for taking care of because, again, Steve Scalise is the majority whip. That puts him in the line of command. So he gets the security detail to help protect him.
And then the -- from what I understand, the other -- at least one other security detail person was hit because he was lying on the ground next to the flat tire of the security vehicle. Apparently the tire had been shot. And then there was the shooter. So that adds up to five.
Now there is a lot of other blood with other people but a lot of that was people scrambling to try to get to a safe place. They might fall. They might hit concrete. They might dive down onto concrete, so there would be bruises, scrapes, things of that nature. But I only know of five people who were hit by bullets.
CUOMO: Congressman, Congressman Jeff Duncan was there as well, right?
BROOKS: Jeff Duncan was at practice today, yes.
CUOMO: And he is saying that he may have had, according to reports, he may have had a conversation with the shooter before all this happened obviously. We're talking about 6:00, 6:30 in the morning.
Did you recognize the man from earlier when you saw him?
Or was it all happening too fast for you?
BROOKS: No, I did not notice the man until such time as he had a gun and was shooting from behind the chain link fence behind third base and to the left field side of the third base dugout. And you know, I only saw him for a brief period of time, it might have
a half a second, a second, two seconds, however long a time it took me to figure out that it was really dumb for me to stand where I was standing. That's how long I saw him, shooting at my comrades on the field.
CAMEROTA: Congressman, we are getting some new reporting from our reporter, Dana Bash. She says according to both congressional and law enforcement sources, the Alexandria shooting appears to be, quote, "a deliberate attack."
Do you feel as though --
BROOKS: Well, it sure as heck wasn't an accident.
CUOMO: Right, right. I mean, obviously the guy showed up with a long gun and now there is reporting that maybe he was there, lingering before, targeting this practice. Again, Congressman Duncan is saying that he had a conversation with the shooter before. He's going to give a report to police.
And that's obviously -- more than obvious to you that this guy was there to try to hurt and kill people, as many as he could. Luckily for you and others, you took action to avoid him and the good guys got in there as soon as they could.
Now right now, you are still there, right, Congressman?
I mean what is going on right now?
BROOKS: We have yellow tape that's surrounding us on a concrete basketball field next to the baseball field -- or basketball court. And we are surrounded by law enforcement officers. And many of us are calling different folks back home to share insight with what's happening and try to assure, particularly family, that we're safe.
And that was the very first thing I did.
CAMEROTA: Of course
BROOKS: And I've had to do it before. But the first thing you do is you send a text to your entire family, where you have got that one text stream with all the names, and you say, look, shooter; I'm safe, just that when the news hits, your family will have some assurance that you are OK.
CAMEROTA: Of course. And we pray that all of the people who were hit are going to be able to send that very same message to their families as soon as they can.
I think that what Dana Bash was referring to -- obviously it's a deliberate attack when somebody shows up with a gun. I that think the point is is that they -- whether or not he knew you were lawmakers. BROOKS: Well, he's -- people know this is the Republican baseball team practicing. You can tell. You can recognize many of us. You can see our security detail. We're doing it at a very odd time. It is --
BROOKS: -- pretty well known at the neighborhood who those folks are over on the baseball field and where we practice.
And there is probably also publicity about it on Capitol Hill. It's on all of our calendars. The staffers of all the congressmen, though, so it is not a secret that we're practicing over here and the Democrats are practicing at a different place. And I'm not going to divulge where that is --
BROOKS: -- these circumstances. But --
CUOMO: You know, you raise a good point, Congressman.
BROOKS: -- he knew who we were and what he was intending to do.
CUOMO: And Congressman Jeff Duncan --
BROOKS: -- and I'm a former prosecutor in Tuscaloosa and Huntsville and, yes, he was going after elected officials, congressmen.
BUONO: -- Congressman Jeff Duncan said that he had some kind of conversation with him before. And again, that adds to your understanding that the guy was there and he knew whom he was dealing with on that field at that time.
Congressman, we are very grateful for having you on right now but I want to make sure that it is in your best interest.
Are you being told by authorities now that the situation is secure?
Are they keeping you there because they're worried about moving you guys right now?
Is there any continuing threat they're worried about?
BROOKS: I don't know why they're keeping us all here. Quite frankly, initially it was to take statements from us. But we would not be standing around if it wasn't secure.
I'm confident that law enforcement would not allow us to be bunched together, where we would be such easy targets. And my best guess, they've cordoned off most of the area with the yellow tape, "Crime scene. Do not cross."
For instance, I ride my bike about eight or nine miles from Capitol Hill to the baseball field and now I even can't get to my bike.
CUOMO: All right, good.
BROOKS: -- my glove, all that stuff is cordoned off and -- you know, until the investigation is complete.
Do me a favor, though, Congressman.
BROOKS: -- next door.
CUOMO: We know that you're safe there but let's go light on details about where you guys are right now and how you are being kept safe, just in case, just in case. Just let's be light on details about that.
But are the people who survived, are they getting help?
This is a hard thing, to make it through, as you were saying, even as a seasoned prosecutor. Obviously your adrenaline is just spiking.
But people are getting help that they need there?
BROOKS: I see one person being tended. It appears to be Congressman Gary Homer of Alabama, a good friend of mine from the Birmingham area. And he's got medical assistance.
But it appears -- you know, we're kind of old. So if I had to guess, with him, I'd say it's probably a hurt knee or a pulled hamstring or something like that from us scattering very, very quickly, faster than we normally run.
Our bodies aren't used to doing that.
BROOKS: I only know of the five people who were shot. So that's the only one I can see attended. The people who were shot have all been removed from the scene as best I can ascertain.
CAMEROTA: And, Congressman, you were telling us about the emergency response. Obviously things moved in sort of slow motion for you after it happened. Who knows if it was 15 seconds or five minutes, I mean, the way you've described it.
But people started calling obviously for help and backup on their phones because you had security detail and we know that there were at least -- there was two law enforcement officers, we understand, Capitol police, who were shot and injured.
But to give us your sense of then how quickly things happened and how -- what the response was, how many units were able to show up to help people.
BROOKS: Well, it seemed like forever that we had no help. It seemed like about, I would say, a minimum of two minutes, maybe as much as five minutes before we started hearing sirens. We had people in the first base dugout who were screaming into their
telephones that we were under attack and to send help immediately. And I think that was because of the concern that our security detail may be outgunned.
Again, it is pistols versus rifle. And it seemed to take forever for local law enforcement officials to figure out that we were under attack and to get reinforcements in time to be of assistance.
CUOMO: Well, thank God you guys were acting for yourselves. But your sense of time is a little bit --
BROOKS: -- a different timeframe (ph).
CUOMO: -- right, your sense of time is going to be a little bit compressed, given what you are dealing with there. But I totally get your concern that it seemed like you guys were on your own for a while and outgunned, even though you had some Capitol police there, some security detail there.
You are saying they had handguns and you believe this was a long gun to be sure.
Were you able to take any kind of guess as to what kind of long gun?
BROOKS: No. I am absolutely certain that it was a rifle. It was not a shotgun. But I did not ever get -- thankfully, I did not ever get close enough to it to be able to identify the type of rifle that was being used. The only weapon I had was a baseball bat and that's not -- that's not a kind of fight you want to engage in.
CUOMO: Absolutely. And you were saying that, because of the repetitive fire, it seemed to you as though it were a semiautomatic, obviously making this even more dangerous.
And again, Congressman, we have you, Mo Brooks from --