South Carolina U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan said he “almost started shaking,” upon realizing he likely spoke with a man who opened fire at a congressional Republican baseball practice Wednesday morning.
Duncan revealed he and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-FL, had taken batting practice with the team before leaving early. On their way out, Duncan said a man asked if it was the Republican or Democratic team gathered on the Alexandria, Virginia field. Duncan told the man they were Republicans and left around 7:02 a.m. Capitol Police said the first 911 call came around 7:09 p.m.
“My first thought was that I almost started shaking, because I thought this guy could have targeted me first,” he told reporters in a conference call Wednesday afternoon. “If he had had a pistol concealed and pulled it out, he could have started with me.”
Duncan ‘I almost started shaking’ (3:07)
Capitol Police said the gunman, later identified by the FBI as 66-year-old James Hodgkinson, shot five people. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was shot on the field. He is listed in critical condition following surgery Wednesday. Four others were also injured, including a Tyson Foods lobbyist, two officers and a House staffer. A Capitol Police detail which had accompanied Scalise to the park returned fire, fatally injuring Hodgkinson.
Duncan said he’s confident the man he saw on the third-base side of the field and the gunman are one and the same. “It was just putting two-and-two together, him asking me that and then an act of violence happening,” the congressman said. “I made a strong assumption. I described the guy to the police and I described him to a ‘T.’ When I saw his (Hodgkinson’s) picture, I knew exactly that was him.”
He said he was thankful that God or a guardian angel protected him and his good fortune at leaving minutes before the shooting began. “I wasn’t at shortstop any more. I wasn’t the guy that the bullet may have hit when he was shooting.”
Duncan said he learned about the shooting after later getting a call from a former colleague asking what had happened. After getting the call, Duncan said he called teammate U.S. Rep. Trent Kelly, R-MS, at the park. After hearing from Kelly and a police detective, Duncan said realized the man was likely the shooter and agreed to make a statement to police.
Hodgkinson was a Belleville, Illinois native. A Facebook page believed to be his indicates ardent support for former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and strong feelings against President Donald Trump. While the page refers to Trump as a “traitor,” it does not contain any violent language or threats. Sanders said on the Senate floor Wednesday he was “sickened” to learn Hodgkinson may have volunteered to help his campaign. The Belleville News-Democrat reported Hodgkinson also had a series of previous run-ins with police for charges such as resisting a peace officer and damaging a motor vehicle. He had a previous domestic violence charge which was later dropped.
The annual congressional baseball game is played at RFK Stadium in Washington as a fundraiser between the Republican and Democratic caucuses in the House and Senate. Leaders indicated they will continue plans to play the game despite the attack.