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THE SITUATION ROOM
Congressman Who Witnessed Shooting Speaks Out; GOP Congressman, Four Others Wounded in Baseball Field Attack; FBI Investigating Shooter's Anti-Trump Social Media Rants. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired June 14, 2017 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WILLIAMS: We've been playing this game, and I've been in it now for six years, I guess, and we practice every morning at 6 to 8. Every morning. We have fun. No problems.
[17:00:13] And I thought the story that Jeff Duncan told, which I'm sure you all have heard it already, was very interesting. About having this fellow come up to him. Jeff was leaving early. He said, "Are those Republicans or Democrats?"
And Duncan said, "Republicans," and he began shooting.
So -- but I do think that should be addressed by law enforcement if we're going to have a big group of -- big group of elected officials, how do we want to handle that from a security standpoint?
Thank you very much and God bless you. Thanks.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Texas Congressman Roger Williams, who was hurt while at that baseball practice this morning. Much more coming up. We're following the breaking news.
Congressional attack. A gunman targets the Republican congressional baseball team on a practice field, wounding a top House Republican and four other people before being fatally shot by police. Lawmakers praised the security detail, saying officers prevented a massacre.
Angry gunman. We're learning more about the shooter, who had past encounters with the law and posted anti-Trump rants on social media. Could anyone have seen this coming?
Heightened security. Congressional votes and hearings are postponed as security is stepped up on Capitol Hill after the shooting. The team managers vow that tomorrow's baseball game between Republicans and Democrats will go ahead as planned.
And calls for unity. President Trump calls on Americans to unite and work together, and there are stirring appeals for harmony from congressional leaders, with House Speaker Paul Ryan saying, quote, "An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us."
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news. BLITZER: Breaking news. Shots rang out early this morning on a baseball field in a quiet Washington suburb as members of the Republican congressional baseball team practiced for their annual charity game against Democrats.
The third ranking House Republican, Congressman Steve Scalise and four other people were wounded, including a staffer, a lobbyist and two Capitol police officers. Witnesses say the heavily armed gunman asked whether those on the field were Republicans or Democrats before he opened fire.
Scalise was hit as he stood near second base, and while lawmakers scrambled for cover, Scalise's Capitol Hill police detail fired back at the gunman. Lawmakers credit them with preventing a massacre before local police arrived.
The gunman was fatally wounded. He's identified at James Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois. His social media postings are filled with horrendous anti-Trump rants, and Senator Bernie Sanders says he learned the shooter had volunteered on his presidential campaign. Sanders called the shooting a despicable act.
President Trump issued a call for unity saying, quote, "We can all agree that we are blessed to be Americans," and adding, "We are strongest when we're united and when we work together for the common good."
That echoed by the House speaker, Paul Ryan, and the minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, who both made very emotional appeals for harmony.
I'll talk to a witness and a survivor, Republican Congressman Mike Bishop of Michigan. He was there on field. And our correspondents, specialists and guests, they're standing by with full coverage of the day's top stories.
We have more information coming in right now on the shocking attack. I want to quickly go over to CNN's Brian Starr -- Brian Todd, I should say. He's over at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.
Brian, what are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight Congressman Steve Scalise, the third ranking House Republican, is fighting for his life here at Washington Hospital Center, as is at least one other victim at another hospital. Witnesses are telling us that if Congressman Scalise had not had Capitol Hill police officers with him in his security detail, there would have been a massacre on that field.
TODD (voice-over): The gunfire, captured on cell-phone video by an eyewitness, seemingly came out of nowhere...
(GUNFIRE) TODD: ... aimed at members of Congress and their staffs.
REP. MO BROOKS (R), ALABAMA: I hear the big "blam," and I thought it was a car backfiring at first until I see the rifle barrel, and a white male taking careful aim at congressmen, staffers, whoever he could get ahold of.
TODD: Witnesses say the gunman, identified by police as 66-year-old James Hodgkinson appeared to be laying in wait with a long gun behind the dugout at this Alexandria, Virginia, YMCA baseball field. On the field, Republican representatives practicing for tomorrow's annual bipartisan congressional baseball game.
[17:05:13] REP. CHUCK FLEISCHMANN (R), TENNESSEE: Within a few seconds, all of a sudden, there were multiple gunshots being fired.
TODD: It was just after 7 a.m., and Congressman Rodney Davis was at bat.
REP. RODNEY DAVIS (R), ILLINOIS: Somebody on the field yelling, "Run. He's got a gun." I ran into the dugout like most people on the field
TODD: Steve Scalise, the majority whip and the third ranking House Republican, was the first victim. He was in the infield.
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: He dragged himself, after he was shot, from near second base about 10 or 15 yards into the field, just to be, I think, a little further away from the gunman. But he was laying motionless out there. And so I wanted to get to him, but there were still shots going overhead from both sides. And so finally when we heard the -- that the shooter was down, I just ran low out to Steve and started putting pressure on the wound.
TODD: A Republican staffer, now identified at Zack Barth, was also hit, but he managed to find cover in a dugout.
BROOKS: He was gutsy. He was saying it wasn't bad at all. But there was a hole in his leg.
REP. JOE BARTON (R), TEXAS: The shooter was not on the field and never got on the field. He stayed behind the third-base dugout and came around behind home plate, got behind the utility shed, and then darted out in front of the utility shed, and that's when he got shot.
TODD: Two Capitol police officers, assigned as a protective detail to Scalise because of his leadership position, returned fire.
BARTON: I saw at least two of them go towards the shooter. They were putting their lives directly in the line of fire.
FLAKE: Two of his detail were shot, one African-American gentleman in the -- shot in the leg, and I believe he's the one that brought the shooter down. He ran around for quite a while with a leg wound, returning fire.
TODD: Tonight, witnesses are crediting the officers with saving lives.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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.
TODD: A total of five victims were hospitalized, including Congressman Scalise, lobbyist Matt Mika, staffer Zack Barth and Capitol Police officers Crystal Griner and David Bailey.
DAVIS: As I watched my friend and my fellow member, Steve Scalise, lay motionless on the field, wondering if he was going to be OK, that is a picture I will never forget.
TODD: The hail of gunfire evident in bullet holes as far away as the YMCA building, as well as cars parked on the other side. And tonight, as investigators try to find a motive, two members of Congress, Ron DeSantis and Jeff Duncan, are pointing to a conversation they had with the shooter earlier this morning in a parking lot.
REP. JEFF DUNCAN (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: He asked me if this team was the Republican or Democrat team practicing. I responded that it was the Republican team practicing, and he proceeded to shoot Republicans. You take that for what it's worth.
TODD: And an update: just moments ago, I corresponded with a hospital official here at Washington Hospital Center who told me that Congressman Scalise remains in critical condition tonight following surgery. An aide to Scalise says it's unclear if he's going to have another surgery.
We've also just learned the identity of a second victim here being treated here at Washington Hospital Center. That is Capitol Hill Police Officer Crystal Griner. She is in good condition.
And tonight, Wolf, Officer Griner and two other officers who returned fire and engaged that shooter, are coming in for some very heavy praise, because this could have been so much worse, had they not been there.
BLITZER: Yes, they certainly deserve all that heroic praise, all that praise indeed. Brian Todd, we'll check back with you.
We're also getting new details on the gunman, who posted very inflammatory rants on social media and had run-ins with the law in the past. Let's go to our congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly, who's been looking into this for us. What are you learning, Phil?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, disdain on social media, distraught over the election. It was no secret that the alleged shooter had hatred for Republicans. But this morning, that hatred, for James Hodgkinson, went to a whole new stunning level.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MATTINGLY (voice-over): Tonight investigators are digging into the past of this 66-year-old man, James Hodgkinson. Combing through a trove of social media posts that paint the picture of a politically- active individual, infuriated with Donald Trump and the Republican Party.
In publicly viewable posts on Facebook, he calling Republicans stupid, wrote that the party hated Americans and is "full of smoke and mirrors" and said President Trump has, quote, "destroyed our democracy. It's time to destroy Trump and Co."
He also liked a political cartoon, suggested Congressman Steve Scalise should be fired, and three years of impassioned letters to the editor of his local paper, including one that concluded, "I've never said, 'Life sucks,' only the policies of Republicans."
Hodgkinson's Facebook photo, an image of Uncle Sam transposed with the face of Senator Bernie Sanders.
[17:10:05] Sanders, the former Democratic presidential candidate, taking to the Senate floor Wednesday to acknowledge Hodgkinson may have volunteered for his campaign, and condemn his actions.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: I am sickened by this despicable act, and let me be as clear as I can be. Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society, and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms.
MATTINGLY: Hodgkinson started his own home inspection company in 1994, only to quit the job on New Year's Eve of last year, according to a Facebook post. He was fired as an independent contractor from the St. Clair County Intergovernmental Grants Department for, quote, "unacceptable behavior," according to St. Clair County board chairman Mark Kern. While Kern wouldn't elaborate on that behavior itself, he noted that Hodgkinson returned in 2012 to ask for reinstatement. It would not have been granted, Kern said.
A public record search revealed several run-ins with the law, including a 2006 arrest on a charge of battery causing bodily harm. A police report described Hodkinson as allegedly punching a friend of his daughter's in the face, firing off a gun, then dragging his daughter from a house by her hair and prying her out of the cut by cutting her seat belt with a pocket knife. The charge was later dismissed.
An ATF spokesman tells CNN they are now tracking two guns -- a rifle and a handgun -- as part of the investigation, one in which the FBI has now taken the lead.
TIMOTHY SLATER, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Once it was confirmed that we had a member of Congress that was involved in the incident, we have taken the lead. However, this is a joint command, and this is a joint investigation with our state and local partners to include who's been at the microphone already and our partners from ATF, and Alexandria County and Alexandria the City and Capitol Police, as well.
MATTINGLY: All while back home, a stunned friend tried to defend a heinous act.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to let people know that he wasn't evil, that he was, I guess, tired of some of the politics that are going on.
MATTINGLY: And Wolf, law enforcement sources now telling us that Hodgkinson had been in the area, this area for a number of weeks and also learning that he had contacted his local congressman's office as many as ten times to register complaints about specific policies. That congressman, a Republican, Mike Boss, said that there were no red flags in these communications, pretty standard for what they heard.
But this, the Facebook postings, all of the activities of this individual over the last couple weeks, money, perhaps even years, all subject to that law enforcement search right now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Phil, because clearly, he was evil, and on March 22, as you point out, he posted this on Facebook: "Trump is a traitor. Trump has destroyed our democracy. It's time to destroy Trump and company." And then he said, "Republicans are the Taliban of the USA."
When you say on a Facebook post it's time to destroy Trump and company, that's a threat against the president of the United States, and that's a crime. Do we know if he was actually investigated by the Secret Service or other law enforcement?
MATTINGLY: Wolf, the interesting element here is, according to the Secret Service, he had not come onto their radar screen. They have a lot to look into, especially with social media, the threats that they get registered in the hundreds, thousands, perhaps millions given any day, week or month. We know right now he was not on their radar, but clearly, this is one of those issues, as they dig back through those social media postings, as they dig back through his history in general, that they are paying very close attention to, trying to figure out if something was missed throughout this process and if anything can be learned from this going forward.
BLITZER: Yes, you threaten the president of the United States with death, that is clearly a crime.
Phil Mattingly up on Capitol Hill. Thank you very much.
President Trump responded to the shooting at the GOP baseball practice with a very strong appeal for national unity.
Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. Jim, fill us in on the president's reaction.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's been a quiet day over here at the White House. President Trump has been checking in on Congressman Steve Scalise's condition throughout the day. He and Vice President Pence cancelled their scheduled events for the day to keep tabs on the victims of the mass shooting in Alexandria.
And we heard from a very different President Trump earlier today. The president did not engage in any kind of divisive rhetoric. After the shooting, he sounded a unifying theme, reminding Americans that people serving the nation here in Washington are doing so because they love their country. Here's more of what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Congressman Scalise is a friend and a very good friend. He's a patriot, and he's a fighter. He will recover from this assault.
And, Steve, I want you to know that you have the prayers not only of the entire city behind you but of an entire nation and, frankly, the entire world. America is praying for you, and America is praying for all of the victims of this terrible shooting.
[17:15:22] We may have our differences, but we do well, in times like these, to remember that everyone who serves in our nation's capital is here because, above all, they love our country.
We can all agree that we are blessed to be Americans, that our children deserve to grow up in a nation of safety and peace, and that we are strongest when we are unified and when we work together for the common good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now, some of the president's surrogates, like former House speaker Newt Gingrich, have been blaming hostile rhetoric on the left for today's shooting, but the president is not listening to those voices. He did not echo those remarks in his comments earlier today. There was some talk of the president perhaps attending tomorrow night's congressional baseball game that is still on the schedule, but the White House says that is not happening, Wolf, because of security concerns -- Wolf.
Jim Acosta, thanks very much.
I want to show our viewers now some of the very dramatic, very chilling video captured by an eyewitness just as the shooting unfolded. Watch this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put the gun down! Put the gun down!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put the gun down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know where he's at? Do you know where he's at?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's behind home plate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you call 911/
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I assume people have been calling 911 already.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, is that guy OK out there? The guy -- has that guy been shot? Is he OK? Has -- is anybody talking to him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, behind the bunker.
BLITZER: Pretty shocking when you hear all those gunshots.
Joining us now, Republican Congressman Mike Bishop of Michigan. He was at the Republican baseball practice this morning when that gunman opened fire.
Congressman, I know you were actually standing at home plate when you heard that first shot. I want to hear your story, get your reaction. You're an eyewitness to what happened. I want to take a quick break. We'll resume our special coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM right after this.
[17:24:00] BLITZER: Our breaking news: a gunman opened fire on a Republican congressional baseball practice today, wounding the No. 3 House Republican, Congressman Steve Scalise, along with a congressional staffer, a lobbyist and two Capitol police officers.
The gunman was fatally wounded by police. Dramatic video was captured by an eyewitness just as the shooting unfolded. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: As we stand by for an FBI news conference, we're back with Republican Congressman Mike Bishop of Michigan. He was at the baseball practice today when that gunman opened fire. Congressman, first of all, how are you?
REP. MIKE BISHOP (R), MICHIGAN: I'm fine. I'm actually uninjured and, fortunately for me, because of the police officers there today, we walked away.
BLITZER: Is that the first time you've actually seen and heard that video of those gunshots? We only played some of them. We didn't play all of them.
BISHOP: Well, I can't see from this vantage point. I'm only looking into a camera, but that's the first time I've heard it. And it's consistent with my memory.
Other than the fact that those bullets that were fired my way I can still hear in my head zinging past me and hitting the chain link fence behind me with a ting, ting, ting, ting, a memory sound that I will never forget.
BLITZER: You were at home plate when you heard that first shot. Tell me what your reaction is and what you did.
BISHOP: Well, we were all stunned. The first -- it sounded like a pipe bomb or something went off; and all of us kind of had an immediate reaction to it, but no one thought that it was a gun.
I was looking right down at the third baseman, Trent Kelly, and then when the second one went off and I realized it was a gun and the third baseman came running at me and yelling, "Shooter" and I saw and looked over to the third base line on the other side of the chain-link fence, and there he was, very methodical in his way. He was looking at the gun, picked it up, aimed, fired. Put it down, looked for his next target, aimed, fired. It was -- and he seemed to have an endless amount of ammunition, and he was determined to get every one of us. We all felt as though -- I felt as though I was being hunted at that point.
BLITZER: So what did you do to take shelter?
BISHOP: Well, there was no shelter. We were inside a cage. This field was set up so that you had a backstop all the way around. There was one way in, one way out. And he had positioned himself on the opposite side of the field so that he had a direct line of sight right at the entrance, so you couldn't get up and run. If you did, the moment you got up, you were shot at.
So we had to hunker down for the moment with no shelter around us, and the only reason why we had that moment to get up and get out of there was because of those two Capitol Hill police officers that came running in and began to return fire, and that moment, that brief moment of cover gave us the opportunity to seek shelter.
BLITZER: He had a rifle with a lot of ammunition. They only had hand guns, right?
BISHOP: That's right. And these police officers had no -- I don't think had any chance of hitting them from that vantage point. Their weapon is not made for that kind distance his is, and all they were trying to do is give us cover so that we could run.
BLITZER: You say you felt like you were being hunted. Describe, if you can, a little bit more the shooter's demeanor, because you say he was very methodical.
BISHOP: He seemed like -- he just appeared as a hunter to me. I looked over at him, and just the way in which he was very casually, as though he had no -- he had no instinct at all about what he was doing. It was just a matter of fact. He was loading, aiming and firing, indiscriminately at people. And you could see him looking for a target as he -- as he kind of measured the field with his eyes, and -- and he fired at whomever he saw move. It appeared to me that that's what he was doing.
And when Steve Scalise, our whip was hit out in second base, the instinct is to run and try to help him, but we couldn't get to him, because every time we tried to move, we were -- we were shot at.
BLITZER: How long did it take, congressman, to subdue him?
BISHOP: It seemed like an eternity, but my sense is that it went on for -- the shooting went on for eight, ten minutes, about that.
BLITZER: Yes. We heard the video. We heard the gunshots. They were coming in on that video, and it goes on and on and on. And some of the gunshots clearly were return fire from the police officers, but at some point Alexandria Police showed up as backup, right, and they were also very helpful.
BISHOP: They were, but I can't underscore enough how important the Capitol police were. They were there within seconds, and had they not been there, I would not be standing here today. I'm sure of that fact. And they came in without any regard for their own life and their own safety and began to return fire. The Alexandria Police did respond quickly, but if we had waited for them to be there, none of us would be around to talk about this.
BLITZER: Did you see the shooter go down?
BISHOP: I did from a distance. He -- he was behind the -- the utility shack that was near the baseball field. I didn't actually see him go down, because he was behind it, but we were all behind, you know, another shack trying to seek shelter, and it all happened right in front of us.
These -- these two -- these two Capitol Hill -- Capitol Police officers are warriors. I've never seen anything like it before. Both of them had wounds, and they were still firing.
BLITZER: And if they had not been there, as some of your Republican colleagues have said, including to me, there would have been a massacre. All of you potentially could have been endangered and could have been shot. Here's something that's intriguing. Steve Scalise, the majority whip,
the No. 3 Republican in the House, he was shot. Did it appear to you as if this shooter was actually aiming...
BLITZER: ... potentially could have been endangered and could have been shot.
[17:30:04] Here's something that's intriguing. Steve Scalise, the majority whip, the No. 3 Republican in the House, he was shot. Did it appear to you as if this shooter was actually aiming at him or anyone specific?
BISHOP: No. Like I said, I may be wrong, but from my vantage point it looked as though he was -- he was kind of shifting and looking for a target, and it was very indiscriminate in the way he chose his target. I don't think that he was aiming in any one particular person or hunting any one particular person. He was after all of us.
BLITZER: He was clearly after Republicans. If you look at his Facebook posts, he clearly said at one point "Republicans are the Taliban of the USA."
I asked the question about Steve Scalise, because in another Facebook post back in 2015 he wrote this. He said about Steve Scalise: "He's a Republican that should lose his job, but they gave him a raise." So clearly, he had some grievance against Steve Scalise, the Republican majority whip, but you didn't -- you don't believe he was deliberately targeting him?
BISHOP: It would be pure speculation on my part. I think this man is obviously mentally deranged. He had no regard for humanity. I -- what I was watching was a person, a robot firing a weapon without regard for anything, any life, nothing.
BLITZER: Was he wearing body armor? Do you know if he was wearing body armor, and did you see him reload?
BISHOP: I did not see him reload, although I know he did, because he fired endlessly. I did not see whether or not he had body armor on, although I was wondering that, because it seemed like it took forever for them to take him down. And I know that they shot multiple times at him, clear shots. Who knows if he had any on or not? I'm not sure.
BLITZER: So what do you do now, Congressman? You're going to go back to your district in Michigan. I assume you'll have town halls; you'll meet with folks there. Are you beefing up your own personal security?
BISHOP: Well, this just happened. We don't know exactly how to handle this. But our job is a public job. We -- we take this job because we like people. We like working with people. So I like being at the grocery store and having someone come up to me and talk to me about an issue that they're concerned about, people calling me. BLITZER: All right. Congressman, I'm going to interrupt you for a
moment but stand by. The FBI is about to have a news conference. The FBI special agent in charge, Tim Slater. I want our viewers to listen in.
TIM SLATER, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Good afternoon. Hello again. My name is Timothy Slater. I'm the special agent in charge of the FBI's Washington field office, and I'm here to provide an investigative update on the shooting that occurred this morning.
I would like to thank the Alexandria Police Department, the U.S. Capitol Police and medical response teams who responded to the scene this morning for their quick and decisive actions, actually saving livings. I remind you that this is an active investigation, and details continue to unfold.
I stressed this earlier and I'm going to underscore it now, that the FBI is not going to talk about the character or nature in which we are investigating this case, other than to say we continue to work this as an active investigation and an ongoing matter.
There has been some confusion about the injuries involved. Our statement sent out earlier today, this afternoon actually, identified the number of victims and their injuries. Let me just review that quickly for you.
Five individuals were shot: a congressman, a United States Capitol Police officer, a congressional staffer, a lobbyist and the subject. An additional two individuals, a congressman and a Capitol Police officer, attained secondary injuries at the scene and were transported to local hospitals and treated.
As for the subject -- and this is the only time that I'll be referring to him by his name. This afternoon we released a statement noting that the subject name was James Hodgkinson, 66 years of age of Belleville, Illinois. He succumbed to his injuries at the hospital, and the D.C. medical examiner has issued the cause of death as multiple gunshot wounds to the torso.
[17:35:05] The FBI has issued a "seeking information" poster identifying the shooter, and it can be found at www.FBI.gov. While the subject is deceased, we continue to actively investigate the shooter's motives, acquaintances and whereabouts that led to today's incident.
We will continue to have presence as we process a scene here in Alexandria, and FBI agents are searching the shooter's home, his residence in Belleville, Illinois. The subject's vehicle was located on scene and has been swept by Alexandria P.D. and the ATF, and we will be processing with our FBI evidence recovery team, as well.
Obviously, we are looking to glean what we can from the contents regarding his electrical devices that he owns.
Law enforcement has reason to believe that the shooter has been in Alexandria, Virginia, area since March of this year. The FBI has issued again, seeking information poster that is located on our website, asking the public to come forward with information on the shooter.
To the local Alexandria community, we believe that the shooter has been living out of his vehicle in the vicinity of East Monroe Street, therefore, asking you to report any interactions that you may have had with him.
Likewise, the subject traveled from his residence in Illinois, and we are asking and speaking with individuals who know him personally or who have -- or who have may encountered him on his travels. If you have information, please call the FBI 24-hour tip line at 1-800-CALL- FBI and select option one or visit tips.FBI.gov. So, again, the FBI's 24-hour hotline at 1-800-CALL-FBI and select option one or visit tips.FBI.gov. All tips will remain confidential. No amount of information is too small to report.
Law enforcement will remain on scene until processing of the scene has been completed. We ask that the local community for your patience and your cooperation as we complete this task. Further updates will be shared via written statements unless law enforcement collectively stand behind me and advises otherwise.
I'll open it up for a few questions in just a second, but I want to turn it over to Chief Brown from Alexandria P.D. for a couple comments.
CHIEF MIKE BROWN, ALEXANDRIA POLICE DEPARTMENT: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. It's Mike Brown, B-R-O-W-N, chief of the Alexandria Police department.
I just wanted to get back and give a status as to what we're doing in this community to try and reassure the community in terms of the safety and the security of our residents. Right now, we are canvassing the immediate area out here, doing door-to-door with our colleagues from the sheriff's department and the fire department, so that we can reassure people in the community that we believe this incident today is over, although the investigation will continue in this area for a while.
We're also working with some of our other departments in this city, for example, with the Department of Community and Health Services, to make services that are generally available for these kinds of situations, available to our communities over the next couple of days.
We care very much about our residents and the people that come to visit us in this city, and we're doing everything we can to reassure them that this is a safe community and that your government and your public safety personnel care deeply about it.
That said, you'll see a lot of law enforcement and fire personnel working this area, trying to reassure them of such. So I thank you for that, and as a part of the department, we will continue to work with the FBI as they move forward on their investigation.
Thank you very much. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Special Agent Slater, did he have a vendetta
SLATER: I have no comment on that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know whose shots brought him down?
SLATER: It was a multiple local law enforcement response, so I do not know at this time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was it both the Capitol Police and the Alexandria who responded and shot him?
SLATER: I'm not going to comment on exactly who it was. It was multiple local agencies.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you at least talk about the weapons? Can you give us a little idea of what you're trying to run down on the weapons?
SLATER: The only comment I'll make about weapons is one handgun and one rifle.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you trying to learn about them?
SLATER: Where they came from, who bought them. The -- how he acquired them. All the logical investigative leads.
[17:40:05] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: St. Clair County officers interacted with him in March in Illinois. Was it shortly after that that he came here, because you say he's been here since March?
SLATER: We believe he has been here since March, so I'm not going to comment on the specifics of that. Ma'am.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was the Capitol Police officer shot in the original round of gunfire?
SLATER: I'm not exactly sure on that, ma'am. Don't have a comment on that. Sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there anything about his -- for people who may have seen him, is there anything that what he may have been doing in a couple of months that may help jog people's recollection, where they may have seen him?
SLATER: No. That's what we're really asking the public to help us with, because we're just not sure at this time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you spoken to his wife?
SLATER: I'm not going to comment on that. It's a part of the active investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was he on the radar with authorities in Illinois? SLATER: So I'm not going to comment on that either. So really, we're
exploring all angles, and we're not going to be limited by -- we'll let the facts take us where it goes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Witnesses say he was handcuffed. Was he still speaking and conscious when he was taken away?
SLATER: I can't comment on that. I'm not sure. Ma'am.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did he stop anywhere between Illinois and here?
SLATER: That I'm not aware of. No, ma'am.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know if he was working in the area?
SLATER: It appears that he was not working.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
SLATER: I'm not going to comment on the victims. What I have about the victims is what I've already provided.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
SLATER: I believe -- yes, I'm not sure about that. I'll get back with you on that. We'll put it in the next. Sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quickly, you said he's been staying in the vehicle. Can you describe the vehicle and did it have Illinois plates?
SLATER: So the only comment I'll make is a white cargo van.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can the Capitol Police talk to us about their officers and particularly those who were injured and returned fire?
DEPUTY CHIEF FRED ROGERS, CAPITOL POLICE: Hello, Deputy Chief Fred Rogers, U.S. Capitol Police, representing Chief Matt Verderosa. We did put out a statement out today, and the chief wants to commend Special Agent Crystal Griner, David Bailey and Henry Cabrera for their heroic and appropriate response, protecting members of Congress today.
He's grateful for Special Agent Griner, who is in good condition at the hospital, having been shot in the ankle. And Special Agent Bailey was treated and released, having sustained a minor injury during the incident.
United States Capitol Police is dedicated to the mission of protecting the United States Capitol, members of Congress and staff and the visiting public, and today we saw how our officers' extensive training was put into action.
We'd also like to thank our partner agencies, the FBI, ATF, U.S. Park Police, Virginia State Police and especially the Alexandria Police for their work in helping us to respond and mitigate this incident. We continue to provide a robust and visible presence at the Capitol complex and to monitor national and world events to provide a level of security that's appropriate for the U.S. Congress.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you describe Officer Griner's response after being shot and continuing to work to get the suspect?
ROGERS: That's part of the ongoing investigation, and I won't comment on it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Understanding the mission of the Capitol Police, the agents who were with Congressman Scalise, give us a sense. Is that a protective detail? What's their mission? Are they always with protectees? How does that work?
ROGERS: Their particular assignment today was to protect the congressman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was he the only one who had protective detail? Was he the only one who had protective detail today?
ROGERS: Today's date we had Capitol Police officers assigned to monitor this event.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chief Brown, there's video and there's audio recordings of the gunfire and gun battle, and it would appear to have been ferocious. By a layman's count dozens and dozens of shots fired and people screaming, "Get down." Can you describe what was -- what your officers and what the Capitol officers were facing when they came in?
BROWN: I won't go into the specifics of the investigation, but I've heard the video and I've talked with some of my officers at least, and -- or some of them, and quite frankly, it was not only chaotic, but there was -- it was a combat situation, and that's something that law enforcement is trained to do. Our officers are trained to do.
I'm very proud of the officers at APD and the officers from the Capitol Police, who stood their ground and did their job. More will come out of this when the facts are known and the investigation is complete, but I couldn't be more proud of the Alexandria Police officers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were up against somebody with a semiautomatic weapon, and they were returning fire, engaging to begin with, anyway, with handguns?
BROWN: As I mentioned earlier, they did engage in a fire fight. I won't get into the details of that, because that's also part of the investigation. We, like every other agency, rely on doing a shooting investigation any time we have a discharge of weapons, and we are doing that right now. And to get ahead of that would not be fair for the officers and not fair for the agency. We'll deal in the facts when they can become apparent.
But our officers are doing fine. They've -- were taken good care of them. We're very concerned about them. I'm personally concerned about them, but they did a great job today, and I'm very proud of them. Thanks. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were they on the scene before the shooting, or is
it when they responded to the 911 call?
[17:45:00] MICHAEL BROWN, CHIEF OF POLICE, ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA: -- but our officers are doing fine. We're taking good care of them. We're very concerned about them. I'm personally concerned about them, but they did a great job today and I'm very proud of them. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were they already on the scene before the shooting, or is it when they responded to the 911 call, then (inaudible)?
BROWN: We received a call of shots fired, as I mentioned this morning, at 7:09 in the morning. Within three minutes, we had all three units here. Some of the units were here earlier, and they were engaged upon their arrival. And I won't go into any greater detail on that because of the investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chief, did your officers have any encounters with Mr. Hodgkinson in the months that he has been here until today?
BROWN: I can't speak to that right now because that's part of the investigation, and I don't want to get ahead of the investigation. The FBI has the lead. We're working with the FBI. And at some point in time, we'll be able to give that you information when it's available. OK? Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even before the (inaudible)?
TIM SLATER, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: I'm not sure of that. We'll have to get back to you on that one. Sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Slater, was there any indication he had discussed this with anyone else or if anyone else was involved in this in any way?
SLATER: No, that's part of the investigation, so I'm not going to comment on that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have anyone else in custody?
SLATER: We have nobody else in custody.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any information on the guns, sir? Did he have both of those guns on him?
SLATER: I'm not going to comment about the guns, other than one handgun and one rifle.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Attributed to him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he have the handgun on him or was it in the car?
SLATER: I'm not going to comment on the guns.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Special Agent, the entire conversation about this shooting today is centered on how it could be prevented. Some people have said, if we had more Capitol Police (inaudible) congressmen could be protected. If liberals talk differently about President Trump, it could be prevented. Do you expect your investigation will give us any answers to that question that's everybody asking?
SLATER: No. I just ask that you let us run the investigation and we'll let the facts lie where they may.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What can we expect out of the investigation? We know that you all concluded that he was the shooter. What else will the final report provide to us? What do you hope to answer?
SLATER: So we hope to answer motive and why he was here and why he did what he did.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you give us a comment on the (inaudible)?
SLATER: I have no information about that. We'll let the Capitol Police -- no? No information on that, at the moment.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So how would you handle (inaudible)?
SLATER: I have no comment on it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do you think he chose this game? Is there any information yet what made (inaudible)?
SLATER: What do you mean?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did he choose today? Why did he --
SLATER: Oh. I have no indication of why, why today at all. No, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Or this place?
SLATER: Or this place.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are the security presence at National Park more?
SLATER: I can't speak to the security at the National Park, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Might this be a question of opportunity? He was living basically on the street today. The politicians came to him, essentially. And might it simply be that this was an opportunity where his previously expressed anger on social media lucked out?
SLATER: We, we'll figure that out as the investigation unfolds.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Just one more question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any indication at all that he knew that this practice was going on here or whether this was a random attack?
SLATER: We have no invasion that he knew this was going on, no, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you're not actively seeking any other suspects as of now?
SLATER: No, we're asking for the community's help and we'll run it out where it leads, where it goes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But as of now, you're not asking the community, hey, be on the lookout for anybody else. You're not searching for anybody else?
SLATER: Not at the moment, but we don't know where this will lead. OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
SLATER: Fair enough. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
SLATER: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Tim Slater, the FBI Special Agent in Charge, together with representatives from the Alexandria Police force, the police chief, Michael Brown there, as well as from the U.S. Capitol Police. The FBI now in charge of this overall investigation because representatives of the federal government, namely Steve Scalise, the number three Republican, the Majority Whip in the House of Representatives, among those shot in this incident.
Let's get some analysis. You know, Tom Fuentes, you're a former FBI Assistant Director. Lots of legitimate questions for the FBI and the others, limited number of answers because this investigation is only just getting under way.
TOM FUENTES, FORMER ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: That's right, and they don't want to taint the information that's coming in or people calling in and giving statements because they heard it on television and not what's developed during the investigation. So I think the Special Agent in Charge was very restrained in putting out information as he should be.
BLITZER: You know, Phil Mudd, there were warnings out there -- apparently, they were ignored -- by his Facebook posts, Hodgkinson, the shooter.
In March, he posted, "Trump is a traitor. Trump has destroyed our democracy. It's time to destroy Trump and company." In February, he posted, "Republicans are the Taliban of the USA."
Were there missed moments there?
[17:50:01] PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Well, that's the first stage of this investigation. There's at least five things including what you indicated, Wolf, that I'm looking for within 24, 48, 72 hours and potentially going out weeks.
The first is, you mentioned motivation. I'm looking at electronic devices mentioned by the FBI in that briefing. Do we have a laptop? Do I know what his Google searches were to indicate whether he was looking at propaganda?
I want to know from his cell phone who he talked to, texted, or e- mailed, especially within the past couple days. I want toxicology tests to determine whether he was taking drugs or alcohol. I want travel data to determine where he was moving around in Alexandria.
I live about three quarter of a mile from this incident. I want to know where he was in previous days to determine whether he was talking to anybody in local neighborhood. I want know pattern of acquisition of things like ammunition. Was there a change in pattern?
Wolf, there is at least 10, 15 questions, one of which is motivation. I don't think we're going to find we missed anything because the tracks are too general in America. There's a thousand people every minute posting negative things about politics, but that stuff is rolling fast and furious right now.
BLITZER: But it's one thing, Tom Fuentes, to post negative things about politics. It's another thing to threaten the President of the United States. That's a crime, and the Secret Service always investigates that. When he posted, "It's time to destroy Trump and company," that clearly is a threat.
FUENTES: Well, it is, but the Secret Service has to find out about it. So depending on who saw that post and how much it went out, we don't know if the Secret Service actually became aware of it and whether he was just one of hundreds that put that kind of stuff out every single day.
BLITZER: Brianna, you were up on Capitol Hill all day today. I take it security -- and you used to cover the Congress -- is intensifying.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It seemed to be a little bit -- Capitol Hill is always very secure, I think we can agree on that. But what I saw was just a concern for members of Congress. You could read it on the faces of those on Capitol Hill. Their bigger concern though, Wolf, is once they leave the Capitol. I
mean, the Capitol is a building that can be sealed off, that you can have protections for coming and going. The bigger issue is when these members of Congress go to not just a baseball practice, but if they go to a town hall meeting. You know, if they're out in their districts, what kind of security measures do they need to take?
I spoke today with a member of Congress who said, already, he is not doing town halls. He is a former sheriff, and he said it is because he's had security concerns. And so instead, he does tele town halls. You see, that actually restricts their exposure to their constituents, but they're starting to feel, even before this, that there's a need for that.
BLITZER: Gloria, how does this fit in to the rather toxic political environment that we are seeing right now?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Honestly, it doesn't fit in at all. There should be no faction in American politics that wants to shoot its opponents, period.
And so, yes, we have a coarse environment, sure. Maybe people, as many members of Congress have talked about today, need to tone it down, and maybe we need to sort of take a look at ourselves and look at our political discourse and all the rest of it. I get that. I agree with it.
People are traumatized by this. I've listened to member after member today talking about this with tears in their eyes because they disagree with people. They don't want to kill them. I mean, that's what is so hurtful and awful about this.
And so, you know, we can talk about the coarseness of our discourse but it's discourse. That's the difference here. And I know we went through this after the Gabby Gifford shooting. And I know, you know, we talked about it a lot after Newtown, and then you can dissolve into discussions about gun control and the rest of it.
But I do think that what's, you know, troubling everybody and what makes everybody here feel so helpless in a way is that, where are we where people in politics want to do violence to their opponents?
KEILAR: You can't extrapolate with any certainty from this that even the discourse in Washington is what caused this. But I do think that, talking to members of Congress on Capitol Hill today, they have a concern about that. And you can't extrapolate with certainty that it did not.
So I think it becomes something on the minds of both Democrats and Republicans as they go through the process of making their arguments, that there are people out there who are very angry. And are they going to try to assuage concerns? Are they going to try to come up with solutions? Are they going to try to exploit anger? I think these are questions that they're just thinking about a lot more right now.
BLITZER: Yes. This investigation, as the FBI Agent in Charge says, is only just beginning. We'll get answers as to motivation.
It's clear though that this individual, Mr. James Hodgkinson, 66 years old of Bellville, Illinois, hated, hated, Republicans. That is clear. And he asked two people who were there, two members who were there, are these Republicans or Democrats? They said Republicans, and we know what happened after that.
[17:55:10] All right. Let's take a quick break. We'll resume all of our special coverage right after this.
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Brutal and deliberate. Republican members of Congress targeted by a gunman with a partisan grudge turning a baseball practice into a scene of bullets and bloodshed.
[17:59:57] Tonight, a top House Republican leader is in critical condition, others are hospitalized, and the nation's capital is in shock.
Frustrated and furious. We're learning more tonight about the shooter, his arrest record, and his rants against President Trump and Republicans.