Illinois' Davis was in batter's box when congressional shooting happened

Illinois congressman Rodney Davis was in the batter's box on a YMCA ballfield in Virginia early Wednesday when shots rang out from the third-base side of the field.

First, there was a bang. Then, screams for fellow Republican members - who had been practicing for an upcoming charity match - to run.

Davis heeded that advice, taking cover in the first-base-side dugout amid more gunfire as House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana crumpled onto the field after he was struck in the hip.

Later that morning, Davis and other survivors were at the Capitol, still in their T-shirts and ball caps, praying for Scalise, two Capitol police officers, a congressional staffer and a former staffer who were shot in the attack on GOP lawmakers.

"There's such a hatefulness in what we see in American politics and politics discussion right now," Davis, of downstate Taylorville, said in a CNN interview. "We can disagree on who to govern. But I think Republicans and Democrats need to use this day today to stand together and say stop. Let's work together."

Scalise, the third-highest ranking Republican in the chamber, was in critical condition after surgery Wednesday. Matt Mika, a lobbyist for Tyson Foods and a former congressional aide, was also in critical condition. Special Agents David Bailey and Crystal Griner of the U.S. Capitol Police, as well as GOP staffer Zachary Barth, were expected to recover fully.

Suburban Republican U.S. Reps. Peter Roskam of Wheaton and Randy Hultgren of Plano were not at the practice. The Illinois delegation's other two players - Darin LaHood of Peoria and John Shimkus of Collinsville, Scalise's roommate in Washington - weren't at the field at the time, staff members said.

Officials identified the shooter as 66-year-old James T. Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois. He was shot himself and later died.

U.S. Rep. Mike Bost of Murphysboro, whose district includes Belleville, said the gunman had contacted his office 10 times "beginning in June 2016 and continuing through May of this year."

"While he continually expressed his opposition to the Republican agenda in Congress, the correspondence never appeared threatening or raised concerns that anger would turn to physical action," Bost said. "Had we any indication that Mr. Hodgkinson posed a threat to anyone's safety, we would have taken the appropriate steps to alert U.S. Capitol Police immediately."

Shimkus said his "prayers are with my good friend and D.C. roommate, Steve Scalise, as well as the Capitol police officers, members, staff and all those affected by today's shooting. While we don't yet fully know the motive behind this shameful act of evil, there is no doubt the heroism of the Capitol police saved lives this morning. I am deeply thankful for their bravery, and I hope for speedy recoveries for all those wounded in this cowardly assault."

President Donald Trump released a statement that he is "deeply saddened by this tragedy."

The practice was for the charity congressional baseball game between Democrats and Republicans, a tradition since 1909. The game is still scheduled to go forward Thursday as planned, officials said.

Hultgren spokesman Jameson Cunningham, a Wheaton native who lives in Alexandria, drove the few minutes to the ballfield after hearing news of the shooting. He called the event "unbelievable," noting "this is the quaintest, safest neighborhood you can imagine. It's like downtown Wheaton."

Other members of the state's delegation were quick to release statements wishing the victims a speedy recovery and commending the bravery of the Capitol police.

"They fired back. They made sure there were not any casualties," said Davis, who ran from the dugout during the shooting and was taken in, along with two others, by a resident who waved them inside his apartment.

"I called my wife and my children immediately when I got hold of a phone, because my phone's still hanging on a bag at the crime scene," Davis said in a Fox News video, his voice wavering for a moment as he spoke from the Capitol.

"I told them, 'I love you, and dad's OK.'"

• Daily Herald staff writers Jake Griffin and Chacour Koop and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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