ALEXANDRIA, Va. —
The group, they said, was just finishing up its morning workout and beginning batting practice when the shots rang out.
“I thought it was a car backfiring at first, until I saw the rifle barrel and a white male taking careful aim at congressmen, staffers, whoever he could get a hold of,” Brooks recalled in an interview Wednesday morning.
“I heard a scream from [Louisiana Representative] Steve Scalise . . . There was a lot of bedlam. There were people yelling ‘active shooter, active shooter.’ I think Steve Scalise was yelling, ‘I was hit!’” he added.
Much of the group then ran to the dugout for cover.
Inside, it was chaos. Some of the dozen or so people there flung themselves face down in the dirt, others were screaming into cellphones about an active shooter on the loose. Huddled lawmakers and their staffers worked frantically to identify who was hurt.
Out on the field, a congressional staffer was hit in the calf, and they watched as he ran toward the dugout for help. Brooks ripped off his belt and someone grabbed it to use as a tourniquet.
That’s when Flake looked up and saw a child running towards them.
“[Texas Representative] Joe Barton’s boy, I think he’s 10, came into the dugout. And we wanted to make sure he was under the bench and as far away from the gunfire” as possible, Flake told reporters assembled near the field after the incident Wednesday morning.
The child was safe, but Scalise was still out by second base, shot in the hip and trying desperately to get away.
“He’d dragged himself off of the infield into the outfield,” Flake said. “There was a trail of blood where he went. I wanted to get to him. But there was gunfire overhead and I couldn’t.”
Meanwhile, more shots exploded across the field as the congressional security detail took on the shooter. Brooks said it appeared the Capitol Police were trying to pin down the assailant behind the third-base dugout.
When at last they heard someone yell “shooter is down,” Flake said he ran out to Scalise and rushed to put pressure on his wound.
“Somebody came out later and had a shirt,” he said. “And Brad from Ohio was a doctor and cut away the uniform and got some gauze, somebody had some. As soon as we took the pressure off — more bleeding.” He was referring to Representative Brad Wenstrup, an Ohio Republican who is also a doctor and an Army Reserve officer.
“He wanted some water and was obviously in a great deal of pain,” Flake recalled.
At last the paramedics arrived.
“As soon as we got him into the ambulance I got his phone and called his wife. Just to be sure she didn’t hear from the news. Fortunately she had not,” he said.
Brooks later added that the morning practice routine is well-known in and around Alexandria.
“The neighborhood knows that this is where the Republican congressmen and senators practice for the congressional baseball games. We’ve been doing it ever since I’ve been in the United States Congress,” he said.
Local residents often stop by to check it out.
“They’ll be walking their dogs or getting an early morning walk. We chat with them, have a pleasant time,” he said. “I don’t know where this gentleman came from — I shouldn’t him a gentleman, where the shooter came from.”
Brooks called it “just unconscionable” for someone to attack congressmen in that setting.
“You’re helpless,” he said. “You have a baseball bat; they have a rifle.”