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Congressman shot during exhibition baseball practice

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In this March 8, 2017 file photo, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of La. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. Scalise was shot Wednesday, at a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Va., congressional officials say. (AP Photo)

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, a member of the House Republican leadership, was shot Wednesday along with several others during a GOP baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia.

Scalise, known for his love of baseball and the late-night meals he often serves his colleagues in his office near the Capitol’s ornate Statuary Hall, was shot in the hip and critically wounded. The Louisiana Republican was transported to a Washington hospital where he underwent surgery. He was in stable condition Wednesday.
“Prior to entering surgery, the whip was in good spirits and spoke to his wife by phone. He is grateful for the brave actions of U.S. Capitol Police, first responders and colleagues,” his office said in a statement.
Police in Alexandria, Virginia, said five people were taken to area hospitals, including the rifle-wielding attacker who died after being shot by police in an exchange of gunfire.
U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce says the gunshots started to ring out as he left the batting cage during an early morning congressional baseball practice.
Pearce, R-Hobbs, says the gunman fired dozens of shots. He says people were trying to help the wounded by dragging them off the field while not knowing the shooter’s exact location.
The gunman, identified as James T. Hodgkinson, is an Illinois man who had several minor run-ins with the law in recent years and belonged to a Facebook group called “Terminate the Republican Party.” He was also a former volunteer for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.
Pearce recounted Wednesday’s shooting in a video posted on his Facebook page that shows him sitting at his desk on Capitol Hill. Pearce says it was a traumatic and tragic morning.
Democratic members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation also spoke out after the shooting.
“It is shocking and troubling news that our colleagues were under attack this morning,” said U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich. “Truly sick that someone would turn a firearm on our nation’s leaders. Our thoughts will be with Congressman Scalise, the Capitol Police and everyone grappling with this appalling attack.”
U.S. Sen. Tom Udall said he and his wife are praying for the victims.
“Jill and I are praying for Congressman Scalise, my colleagues, their staff, and the heroic Capitol Police officers affected by today’s tragic shooting,” Udall said. “I want to extend my deepest thanks to the brave first responders on the scene, and I join the entire Congress and country in wishing a speedy recovery for all those injured in this horrific event.”
Scalise, 51, was first elected to the House in 2008 and served as chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a group of conservatives, before becoming whip in the leadership shuffle that followed the surprise defeat of then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a Republican primary.
In his whip campaign, he boasted about his conservative credentials and pointed out that he’d be the only GOP leader from the South, which had a major role in giving Republicans their largest House majority in decades.
Scalise distributed commemorative baseball bats to fellow members when he ran for a leadership post in 2014. The Louisiana conservative was elected majority whip, the job of chief vote counter for the GOP leadership team.
Scalise has forged a close relationship with President Donald Trump, working together on the House health care bill and a pending effort to overhaul the tax code. Trump said in a tweet Wednesday that Scalise is “a true friend and patriot,” adding that he “was badly injured but will fully recover. Our thoughts and prayers are with him.”
As the No. 3 House Republican, Scalise has a security detail assigned to him at all times. Lawmakers who were at the practice said the shootings could have been much worse if the security detail was not there.
Scalise represents a district that includes some New Orleans suburbs and bayou parishes. Before entering Congress, he was a lawmaker in Louisiana for eight years.
Matt Rudiger, a 45-year-old salesman who was at a Metairie, Louisiana, coffee shop near Scalise’s district office, said the shooting “really hit close to home” because he and Scalise both graduated from Archbishop Rummel High School in Metairie.
“We’re all brothers. I feel like it happened to one of us,” Rudiger said.
Paul Taylor Sr., who was at the same coffee shop, said the shooting makes him worried that politicians are becoming targets of gunmen.
“They’re getting into shooting down more well-known people now — more important people to the political system,” Taylor said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.