U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, and an aide, Zack Barth, were practicing for a congressional charity baseball game in a Washington, D.C., suburb Wednesday when shots rang out by the dozens, witnesses said. The shooter’s bullets struck Barth, 24, and four others. Two, including a top House Republican, were critically wounded.
Williams wasn’t shot but injured his ankle diving into the dugout for cover, he said. Video from the scene broadcast on CNN showed Williams being taken from the field in a stretcher.
Barth, a University of Texas graduate and a Houston native, fell into the congressman’s arms in the dugout and had a tourniquet applied to his bleeding leg before he was rushed to the hospital, Williams recounted Wednesday.
“All the time (Barth) was bleeding and we were under fire — he was texting,” Williams said. “He was texting, letting people know we were under fire and needed help.”
The congressman said Vice President Mike Pence spoke to Barth after the incident and that “he’s on the road to recovery.”
Barth’s social media pages provide a portrait of an up-and-comer and sports fan, who graduated at the top of his class at UT and cut his teeth working on former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign.
“My prayers are with Zack and everyone hurt in this morning’s shooting,” Bush tweeted.
Barth’s Facebook page includes pictures of Houston’s sports franchises, of him at Baltimore’s Camden Yards ballpark in his Astros gear and of him with Longhorns quarterback Vince Young.
“I got shot this morning at the baseball fields but I am in the hospital and OK,” Barth posted on his page. “Thank you for the thoughts and prayers.”
The shooting unfolded just a day before the Republican congressional baseball team will face off against their Democratic colleagues in a game played for charity — a yearslong bipartisan tradition which will go on, both sides affirmed in the shooting’s aftermath.
Williams — a coach on the GOP team — was one of four Texas Republicans on the field in Alexandria, Va., for the Wednesday morning practice. Rep. Kevin Brady of The Woodlands left just moments before the gunfire erupted, his office said. Reps. Joe Barton of Ennis — whose two sons also were there — and Mike Conaway of Midland escaped unharmed.
“There were dozens, if not hundreds of shots,” said Barton, emotionally recounting the scene on Capitol Hill just hours later, still wearing his baseball jersey and standing next to his 10-year-old son, Jack. “It was very scary.”
Witnesses said a gunman fired a torrent of bullets at the ballfield around 7 a.m. Police identified the shooter as 66-year-old James Hodgkinson of Illinois, who was shot by Capitol Police officers and later died from his injuries.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who was practicing with the House members, described hearing “dozens and dozens and dozens of shots fired.”
At least one of those bullets apparently struck Barth in the leg while he was retrieving balls in the outfield, Williams recounted Wednesday afternoon at a news conference.
“When I got into the dugout, it wasn’t 10 seconds that Zack had come running in from the outfield and … we landed in each other’s arms,” Williams said, describing the chaotic scene. “He held me, I held him.”
“Jeff Flake took his belt off and made a tourniquet around Zack’s leg to stop the bleeding,” Williams added. “There was a lot of heroes today, among my friends.”
At least one other bullet struck House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 3 Republican in the House, in the hip. He was taken to a local hospital, where he remained in critical condition after surgery, the hospital said Wednesday afternoon.
Capitol Police officers who were in Scalise’s security detail shot and wounded Hodgkinson. Two officers, though, were among the wounded.
“I think the security detail saved a lot of lives because they attacked the shooter,” Barton said. “The heroes are the Capitol Hill police, the Alexandria police and Steve Scalise’s security detail.”