The shooting that wounded Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and several others on Wednesday morning during a baseball practice of Republican members of Congress in Alexandria, Virginia, may have been a deliberate, premeditated act of political violence, according to early eyewitness reports.
Four victims were injured at the Simpson Baseball Field, including Republican Majority Whip Scalise, who was shot in the hip, along with two members of the Capitol Police. The gunman was also reportedly injured and taken to the hospital.
Several of the eyewitnesses, most of whom were Republican members of Congress, said that the gunman had asked whether the people on the field were Democrats or Republicans before opening fire with a rifle.
Republican Study Committee Chair Mark Walker (R-NC) reportedly sent a text message to the Washington Examiner‘s Philip Wegmann: “Shaken but OK. Gunman was there to kill as many Republican members as possible. Grateful to Capitol Hill police … All we can say right now.”
Other sources similarly reported that the gunman asked about the party affiliation of the players on the field: “Are those Republicans or Democrats out there practicing?” he asked, according to one report. One congressman told CNN: “There’s no question that he knew who we were.”
If those reports are confirmed, the shooting would be one of the worst acts of political violence in the United States in decades. Though Democrats and the media rushed to blame the Tea Party for the mass shooting that nearly killed then-Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) in Tucson in 2011, the perpetrator was mentally disturbed and did not have political motivations.
Regardless of whether the gunman intended to kill Republicans specifically, if he asked about political affiliations before the attack, that would likely be enough to classify the event as an act of domestic terrorism.
Those present praised Capitol Police for their response. They were there as part of Scalise’s security detail, which he is assigned as a member of congressional leadership.
Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) tweeted Wednesday morning: “The inflammatory, hateful language has to stop.”
The suspect’s motives have yet to be confirmed by authorities.
The annual congressional baseball game, a charity event, is scheduled for Thursday.