Virginia shooting: Senator Rand Paul says attack 'would have been a massacre' without police bodyguards

'The Capitol Hill Police cannot get enough praise for really saving everyone's life out there,' Senator Paul says

Emily Shugerman
New York
@eshugerman
Wednesday 21 June 2017 16:52
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Senator Rand Paul tells of hearing Alexandria shooting

A shooting near Washington, DC that injured at least five would have been a “massacre” if not for the Capitol Police, a senator who witnessed the incident has claimed.

Republican Senator Rand Paul was participating in a routine congressional baseball team practise in a Washington, DC suburb when he heard a single, isolated shot.

The Senator, who was sitting in the batting cage, said he initially thought little of it. Over the next several minutes, however, Mr Paul said he saw and heard approximately 50 to 60 more shots fired across the field.

A lone gunman had descended on the practise, carrying what appeared to be a semi-automatic rifle.

Huddled in the batting cage, Mr Paul said he noticed Senate Majority Whip Steve Scalise had been shot. The senator said Mr Scalise, who had been playing second base, was “shot but moving” and "trying to drag himself through the dirt out into the outfield”.

Mr Scalise was later removed from the field and is in stable condition at George Washington University hospital.

Mr Paul said the majority whip’s presence was likely one of the reasons the rest of the team – which includes 25 Republican members of Congress and their aides – made it out alive.

“Everybody probably would have died except for the fact that the Capitol Hill police were there," Mr Paul told MSNBC, adding that the officers were there primarily to protect Mr Scalise.

“Unfortunately [Mr Scalise] was hit and I hope he does well, but also by him being there it probably saved everyone else’s lives,” Mr Rand said. “Because if you don’t have a leadership person there, there would have been no security there.”

Representative Mo Brooks echoed these comments, saying the members of Congress were “pretty helpless” in their position on the field.

"We had nothing but baseball bats to fight back against a rifle with," Mr Brooks said.

Special Agents Crystal Griner, David Bailey, and Henry Cabrera were the first to exchange gunfire with the shooter. Alexandria, Virginia police arrived three minutes after receiving reports of the shooting, a little after 7am.

Both Ms Griner and Mr Bailer were injured in the exchange. Witnesses say Ms Griner continued defending the scene even after she was shot in the leg.

“The United States Capitol Police will continue to provide a robust and visible presence across the Capitol Complex, and monitor national and world events to provide the level of security required to protect the U.S. Capitol and Members of Congress," Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa said in a statement.

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