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GOP Congressman Scalise, Three Others Shot In Virginia; VA Gunman Identified As James Hodgkinson From Illinois. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired June 14, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: -- Bolduan and Brianna Keilar starts right now.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. We are continuing this breaking news coverage coming out of our nation's capital. Brianna Keilar is kind enough to be joining me live in our nation's capital where a gunman opened fire this morning at a Republican congressman at a charity baseball practice just outside Washington, D.C.
House majority whip, the number three Republican in the House, Steve Scalise, Zack Barth, who is an aide to Texas Congressman Roger Williams and also two Capitol police officers were all wounded in the attack.
The shooter also wounded and in police custody at an area hospital right now. There are so many questions about who the gunman is and why he did this.
Also, we are hearing stories of heroism and bravery on the part of Capitol police and the first responders who showed up on the scene in what is obviously would have been a chaotic and terrifying unfolding situation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL), WITNESSED SHOOTING (via telephone): We were doing batting practice and I'm on the third base side of home plate and I hear this bang, and I look over toward the third base dugout and on the other side of it is the cinder block dugout and I see what appears to be a rifle and a quick succession of shots.
REP. CHUCK FLEISCHMANN (R), WITNESSED SHOOTING (via telephone): At first when I first heard the first pop ring out I thought it was a gun. I didn't know it was a gun, but within a matter of 30 seconds it was a barrage of bullets flying everywhere.
NOAH MARATHON, WITNESS: As you can hear them going by, you can hear them skimming off the gravel and hitting the fence and after a couple of shots I realize there are trash cans right there and let me get behind them and then just laying on the ground. SENATOR RAND PAUL (R), SHOOTING WITNESS: Having no self-defense and
no way to get to somebody. The field was basically a killing field if you were to run out there while the shooter was still shooting he would have shot anybody.
SENATOR JEFF FLAKE (R), WITNESSED SHOOTING: Steve was laying out and he was playing second base field. I got Steve Scalise's phone and called his wife and I didn't want her to wake up and hear the news and not know what was going on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Just tragic to hear that.
Let's go right over to CNN's Barbara Starr who is live from the shooting scene. Barbara, what is the very latest that you're hearing right there?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. We just had another briefing from law enforcement including the FBI for the first time this morning. The Alexandria police chief running through the current law enforcement situation.
Five people transported to hospitals. They are specifically not saying whether one of those five was the shooter. They are able to tell us from the Capitol Hill police chief that the two congressional security officers appear to be not in life-threatening condition.
We know that the congressman also appears who was shot in the hip, not to be in life-threatening condition at this point, but they're not really commenting on this because of family privacy issues.
So the issue is the shooter. We asked, I asked the FBI agent in charge, Agent Slater if they were beginning to focus in on an identity of the shooter. He said yes, but they are not ready to identify him yet publicly.
The big question, of course, did he act alone? Every indication we're getting from law enforcement at this point is he most likely did, even Governor McAuliffe said they had no broader threat and they had no knowledge of a threat directed in this area, but not completely ruling it out.
I think it's important to say that the FBI made the point, they always look at all avenues so this is a very active investigation because it involved a potential federal crime of shooting a member of Congress, it will be led by the FBI with other federal agencies and local law enforcement in support of them.
I want to take a minute and just explain to people this neighborhood where this incident occurred this morning because it's part, I think, of the shock that people in this area feel.
This is a neighborhood just about 10 minutes south of the Pentagon and about 30 minutes south of Capitol Hill. A beautiful, old neighborhood in Washington. People have lived here for years. The homes are very lovely, small children and people were out walking their dogs this morning.
This is a neighborhood where people are out and about all the time. There are restaurants, bars, cafes and there's the YMCA baseball diamond just a couple of blocks down the road here where this all unfolded.
I think it really adds to the shock of what has happened here and people are asking could it be a partisan attack and everyone we're talking to is very much staying away from that scenario. Nobody wants to embrace that idea.
[11:05:03]They are really making the point this was a baseball practice session for a bipartisan game on Capitol Hill that is supposed to be raising money for charity. Back to you.
BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Barbara, I think that during that briefing you asked a very key question. They did not have many answers on a lot of questions and saying it was just too early to say.
It was a very key question if you can't say so much. How can you say for sure that the community is safe and the Alexandria police chief, though, saying every indication that they have is that this is an isolated incident.
That's the very latest we have Barbara Starr standing by on the shooting scene for all the latest updates that we'll be getting from there.
I want to go to the capitol to make sure everyone is also aware that we're standing by to hear from President Trump himself. We are being told he will be making a statement from the White House in just about 25 minutes from now.
We'll bring you that statement, of course, when the president makes his remarks in the aftermath of this horrible, scary, tragic situation playing out in Alexandria, Virginia, this morning.
Let me go right now to the capitol where Brianna Keilar is standing by with much more from there -- Brianna.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: So much shock here, Kate, and a lot of hugs being exchanged by members of Congress and actually a number of them have come back from where they were practicing. We've spoken to some of them. They are still very shaken up.
They did not see the shooter, but obviously, they saw Steve Scalise -- Steve Scalise injured. They saw some of the other folks who were there because this isn't an event where it's just members of Congress. A lot of times, even the children of these members might attend if they are going to be up early enough for this.
So a lot of shock here as folks try to figure out exactly what happened. To that point as we try to piece some of these things together, I want to bring in Rene Marsh. She has been looking at the time line here. There have been different discussions about how much time passed, obviously. These folks were under a lot of stress as this happened and the minutes or the seconds actually sort of felt like minutes to them.
So Rene, take us through that so we can tell our viewers exactly what happened here.
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Right, Brianna. So we're giving you the bird's-eye view of the events that have unfolded in Alexandria. So the Delray neighborhood that we're talking about where this all happened is right in the Alexandria, Virginia, neighborhood which is about eight miles from where you are right now at the U.S. capitol.
We know that the events and the gun shots broke out right here at the Eugene Simpson Stadium. As you can see, it is a residential area. You have homes here. This is the YMCA that Barbara was talking about, even a coffee shop and a day care center in this area.
Remember, this happened around 7:00 in the morning so people are out and about doing their daily activities and so we want to zoom in on the time line of events based on all of the members of Congress who were there and spoke to us.
Namely Representative Mo Brooks who told us he was up for bat right here near the home base and that's where he heard a loud sound and a loud bang as he describe. He said it came right from this area, the dugout, right behind the third-base dugout.
At that point, he said people scattered and he moved right to the right of the home plate. He was getting protection from the batting cage and there is netting in this area. He said at a certain point there was a pause in the shooting and that's when he ran for cover right around here.
This is the dugout behind the first base. This is where multiple people were hiding out because the walls are made of cinder block, a lot more secure. It sits a lot lower so everyone kind of huddled into this dugout space right behind first base.
And then according to Representative Brooks, he says that he started to hear some more gunshots. These gunshots were coming from the right side of the dugout, but this time, Brianna, that was Capitol Hill police returning fire at the gunmen.
So that is the information that we have as far as where people were. We do want to point out that Representative Scalise was standing right here around second base. That makes a lot of sense, he was in the direct line of the gunman behind the third base dugout.
KEILAR: All right, Rene, thank you so much for explaining that to us. I want to bring in our Shimon Prokupecz. We have some breaking news. Shimon, I understand you have some new details about the shooter. What can you tell us? SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: That's right, Brianna. We've learned the identity of the shooter, believed to be the shooter. His name is James Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois. He's 66. Police were able to fairly quickly identify him because it appears that he left his vehicle. He somehow may have driven a van to the scene and off of that van police were able to identify him. Again, his name is James Hodgkinson. He is from Belleville, Illinois. He's 66.
[11:10:05]Police and the FBI are now in the process of sort of scrubbing his social media and going through various information to try and learn more about him and perhaps learn a motive. We are told he is at G.W. here in Washington, D.C. and he's in critical condition so it's not even clear if he's going to survive from being shot.
That's still something that we are told is unclear so police have not really been able to talk to him or to learn any more from him, but again, it's a pretty important part of this investigation that they've now been able to identify him -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Shimon, that they thought there was a van that he was in?
PROKUPECZ: Yes, and it appears that our producers on the scene have located a van that we believe belongs to him. It also has an Illinois license plate. So we believe that van is linked to him and police and the FBI are now in the process of trying to get a search warrant and we expect them to go out to an Illinois location where he may have lived. Go ahead, Brianna.
KEILAR: Shimon, I know you are not there, but you've spoken to producers on the ground. I wonder if the van was there in the parking lot because we heard from Congressman Bill Johnson who left five minutes before the shooting. He was at the practice and he left before it happened.
He later recalled that he passed a van where he said that there was a man in his words, lethargically getting in and out of a van and that he had something that looked like a burlap sack. This was information that he was so alarmed by. He actually went to Capitol police here and reported it to them just a short time ago. Do you know where that van was?
PROKUPECZ: Yes. We believe it was in the parking lot and obviously don't know if that's the van that you're talking about or if that was the person that you are talking about, but we believe in that area maybe in the parking lot of the YMCA, I believe. But again, we don't have definitive confirmation that in fact that is the van. We've been told that police were looking at a van believed to belong to the shooter.
KEILAR: All right, Shimon Prokupecz, thank you so much. OK, there you have it, the identification that Shimon has ascertained there, James Hodgkinson, a man from Illinois. Obviously he's working the details to try to get us more information.
BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Much more to know now. Brianna, thank you so much. Joining me right now on the phone is the governor of Virginia, Governor Terry McAuliffe. Governor, thank you so much for jumping on the line.
GOVERNOR TERRY MCAULIFFE (D), VIRGINIA (via telephone): Thank you. I wish it were under better circumstances.
BOLDUAN: I can't agree with you more on that, Governor. We are just -- and I don't know if you had a chance to hear it, Governor. We now know the identification -- law enforcement has I.D.'d the shooter as James Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois. Do you have any clue how this man ended up in Virginia?
MCAULIFFE: No, we don't. I just left the press conference that we had, had a briefing from the FBI and all of the law enforcement personnel so nobody at this stage, the investigation has just started, but I will say this, thanks to the heroic efforts of the Capitol police.
Today we could have lost more citizens today, but the law enforcement and the Alexandria Police, state police and everybody came together and were able to contain the situation, but we have some real heroes today who acted very quickly, or else we could have a lot more serious injuries and other people affected than actually did occur.
BOLDUAN: That's absolutely right. What could you say about what happened this morning, Governor?
MCAULIFFE: Listen, this is another sad situation. We've got to find out about this individual. Your job as governor is to keep your community safe and that's your number one job, and I have said and we have got to do a better job. This gentleman who started shooting at a ball field where people were having practice for a charity event.
Obviously, this man should never have been in possession of a firearm and we as a nation and all of us need to come together in a bipartisan way with the horrible gun violence we have, 93 individuals a day have been killed in America. I, unfortunately, had to give the eulogy for a great Virginia state trooper who lost his life on the streets of Richmond. We have to get serious about this issue.
BOLDUAN: I do want to ask you, though, we can hold the conversation about gun control debate for just another moment. I have to ask you about the immediate breaking news we're dealing with. There was a big question of if the members of Congress were targeted. One of the members of Congress who was there, Congressman Rodney David. This what he said, "I don't think it's a coincidence that no shots were fired outside that field." Do you think they were targeted?
MCAULIFFE: We don't know. I just left. I just had a private briefing with the investigators and the FBI. I just left the command center. We just don't know at this point.
[11:15:06]We don't want to speculate at this point. We just don't know why that individual was at that ballpark and why he started firing, this is what we're trying to figure out as you reported a few minutes ago. They are scrubbing the social media trying to find out some more ideas about this individual. What would possess an individual to go into a ballpark early in the morning and just open fire at innocent citizens?
We have to get them out of it and we don't know why and we don't know the motive and that's why this investigation has just started and we're going to get to the bottom of it. The community is safe now. We've all been involved and we've been walking around the community and we have to continue to work together and stop this horrible violence that we have.
BOLDUAN: Governor, you have very long day ahead of you now. Thank you so much for jumping in and giving us the time. I really appreciate it.
MCAULIFFE: Thank you. Bye-bye.
BOLDUAN: All right, let me go back to the capitol right now and bring in Congressman Hakeem Jeffries. He's a Democratic member of the Congress. He is actually a Democratic member of the congressional baseball game. Democrats were practicing this morning, as well. Congressman, thank you so much. Can I just have your thoughts on what happened this morning?
REPRESENTATIVE HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D), CURRENTLY PLAYS FOR DEMOCRATIC BASEBALL TEAM: First of all, my thoughts and prayers are with Representative Scalise and the other victims who were impacted by this terrible tragedy. We're all pulling for Representative Scalise as he comes through surgery and hopeful for a speedy recovery.
Thankful, of course, for the members of the Capitol Police who happened to be there to protect Representative Scalise and other members of Congress. Had they not been there this could have been an even worse tragedy and so this is a tough day on Capitol Hill. A tough day for America, but we're all pulling together.
BOLDUAN: I did see on social media that the members -- the Democrats were practicing at a different field this morning when they got word. There was a lockdown and an evacuation of the Democrats' baseball practice. Were you there this morning?
JEFFRIES: I was. I was actually in left field. We were taking batting practice and balls were being hit to various members of Congress. We were all excited for this charity game that was going to take place tomorrow.
And in the middle of practice, Coach Mike Doyle, who is our manager, a representative from Pennsylvania called us all in to the pitcher's mound which seemed strange, but I ran in from left field. We all gathered there.
And he indicated to us that there had just been a shooting at the Republican baseball practice and he had no further details, but we were concerned that some members had been hit. So we then gathered in the dugout, prayed, first thing we did led by Coach Doyle for our friends and our colleagues on the Republican side of the aisle who were at that practice. And then members of the Capitol Police began to show up, urge us to shelter in place until they could secure the premises because it was very unclear at that point whether this would be a situation where multiple members of Congress at different places were going to be under attack.
BOLDUAN: Of course. And there is also going to be a briefing coming up starting right now for House members on exactly what happened this morning. You guys practice almost every morning and maybe definitely every morning. Did you ever feel unsafe?
JEFFRIES: Never felt unsafe. We get up and go to practice at 7:00 a.m. It's usually between 12 to 15 of us on the Democratic side of the aisle, senators and members of the house, men women. We've got two women that actually play with us and it's a great time together. A great moment of camaraderie.
We do this for a charity event tomorrow that raises half a million dollars for local boys and girls clubs and things of that nature and I never felt unsafe. But in retrospect, when you think about the fact that both on the Republican side and on the Democratic side.
We got members of Congress who gather on the same venue every morning with little to no security and that in a highly toxic environment that we unfortunately exist in right now in America, that there are vulnerabilities that we'll have to evaluate.
BOLDUAN: Congressman, of course, police right now, FBI leading the investigation. They say it's too early to say if it was deliberate. Too early to say if they were targeted and too early to say that it was a political motivation, but do you think that it was those things?
JEFFRIES: Yes, you know, it's too early to say as you mentioned. I'm headed into a briefing for members of Congress where we'll get more information and the FBI are involved at this point along with the Capitol Police and they'll get to the bottom of what happened and we'll all have to evaluate led by Leader Pelosi and Speaker Ryan how we move forward to make sure that public servants can be safe and secure as we do our duties and represent the people of the great United States of America.
[11:20:06]BOLDUAN: Do you want to play in the game tomorrow?
JEFFRIES: Well, you know, I don't think that the game is going to take place. We'll see. That information will probably be communicated to us at this briefing and we'll have to decide what's going to happen moving forward, but that will be a decision that I think members will collectively make along with our leadership.
BOLDUAN: Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, thank you so much. We had you booked for absolutely different conversation and I wish we were having that conversation instead of this horrible thing that we're talking about today. Thank you very much for your time.
I want to head back to a different part of the capitol where Brianna Keilar is standing by. Brianna, what are you picking up? KEILAR: We are actually waiting to talk to Congressman Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee, Kate. He was at the practice when the shooting occurred and he will join us in not too long here, but as we await that. I just want to tell you what we've been hearing from some of the members of Congress who were at the practice when this happened or even just before it happened.
We heard from Congressman Rodney Davis still very shaken. He came here to the capitol and this, mind you, it's not that far from Alexandria where this happened. It could have been a 20-minute drive and came still dressed in his baseball uniform.
And we're hearing from him as well as other members from Congress even as we wait to see what the details are of the shooting and what the motive might have been as the shooter has been identified James Hodgkinson.
They're talking about political rhetoric and wanting to reduce some -- I want to bring in the congressman. We are live right now. Thank you for joining us, Congressman Fleischmann from Tennessee. Tell me about where you were when this happened and just describe how this unfolded.
REPRESENTATIVE CHUCK FLEISCHMANN (R), WITNESSED SHOOTING: This is a routine day of practice for our Republican baseball team, and it was at the conclusion of practice and I was doing my stretching like I always do after practice. I'm 54 now so I stretch after practice and I was walking in --
KEILAR: Where were you?
FLEISCHMANN: I was in left field. I was walking in on the third base side and saw my dear friend Trent Kelly from Mississippi and we were bantering back and forth about how well we had done today and I didn't realize it, but at that point in time the shooter had to be to my back because I walked forward and we heard a single gunshot. I heard a pop.
I did not recognize that as a gun shot at that time so I didn't do anything. I stood there, and I was with my friend Larry Hardy who is one of our coaches. He comes up and he coaches us, but within a few seconds all of a sudden there were multiple gunshots being fired and Larry and I both went down.
The shots were obviously coming from the third base side. By this time I was behind home plate, laying on the ground with Larry by the fence. It was obvious that there was an active shooter and after about a minute, I got up and I ran and I dove into the dugout on the first base side where there were several people in there.
KEILAR: There was a pile of you, basically, right?
FLEISCHMANN: Absolutely. We were all trying to get to cover. I lay upon the inside wall of the dugout because I figured that was the best way to cut down an angle because shots were being fired.
KEILAR: How many at this point do you think? Could you even count? FLEISCHMANN: Several. It was multiple gunshots and it continued for a long period of time and finally, was there some return fire, thank God, from the Capitol police who were there guarding our majority whip. He had security with him.
Two of our great Capitol Police folks were injured saving our lives because we were sitting ducks in that dug out. I realize there was blood all over the place and it was not a good place to be. There was a child in the dugout, Congressman Barton's son.
Children come out to the practices because this is supposed to be a very safe and wonderful place. It always has been over the past seven years. Just a terrible day.
KEILAR: So you got out of the first-base dugout and then where did you go?
FLEISCHMANN: After we were told that it was all clear and it seemed like it took forever to subdue the shooter and they did, then they came and took us and they put us in a --
KEILAR: Who is they? The police?
FLEISCHMANN: The police, law enforcement did.
KEILAR: How much time do you think passed?
FLEISCHMANN: Five minutes? We were told to go to a basketball court that is adjacent to the baseball field and they put up yellow tape around there and they said you all stay in here until we interview you and then they interviewed every witness and asked for our account.
KEILAR: Congressman, how are you feeling right now? I mean, we've been talking to members of Congress, they seemed still very shaken. This didn't happen very long ago. How are you feeling about what just happened and also about what this means for the future?
FLEISCHMANN: First of all, I'm very sad. I'm sad for my colleagues who got shot. I'm sad for my colleagues who got severely injured.
[11:25:08]And I feel sad today that when I went to baseball practice like I had for seven years in the past with my colleagues and friends, I had always felt safe.
Now after today I wonder whether or not I will ever feel safe going to a baseball field with practice like that because literally, if that horrific shooter had chosen, he could have shot me as well as anyone else. I was just fortunate not to be shot.
KEILAR: Or for my experience participating in the women's softball game, the congressional women's softball game, people don't make every practice. So I'm assuming Steve Scalise -- I'm assuming he makes a lot of practices and has good attendance, but maybe isn't able to make everyone especially with his leadership obligations.
So I feel like that has been coming to the minds of many of you as you think about what would have happened if he hadn't been there with the detail? If his detail were not there, there would not have been no security, right?
FLEISCHMANN: That's absolutely right. Steve Scalise is my dear friend and my dear colleague. He's a great American. I wish him a speedy recovery. My heart goes out to him. I saw him actually laying there at his second-base position after he had been shot.
He does make all of the practices. He's a great athlete and a great baseball player, and his security is omnipresent. Fortunately, they were there because otherwise we would have had much greater damage.
My heart goes out to the Capitol Police. My thanks go out to the Capitol Police, but for the fact that they returned fire this horrific shooter could have killed more people.
KEILAR: Did you get the sense that it was the Capitol Police and it was the detail that was able to subdue the shooter?
FLEISCHMANN: Absolutely. They were initially the only presence that was armed there and the reason I knew that as we lay in the dugout and we're being fired upon. There were bullets fired all over the place and bouncing all over the place and finally we heard return fire and that was the Capitol Police firing back at the shooter.
KEILAR: Congressman Fleischmann, thank you so much. We are so glad that you are OK and we appreciate you talking to us. Thank you so much. So, Kate, there you hear it. At least according to what Congressman Fleischmann saw and we certainly know that there was a lot of chaos during this time that he's giving us the account of.
There obviously is the sense that the detail was so instrumental in subduing the shooter and in a way as even as we survey the scene and it's so horrific. There is also a sense from these members of Congress about also how much more vulnerable they could have been.
BOLDUAN: I will say and I know you feel the same. The level of composure that members of Congress have shown in the direct aftermath as they're walking to the capitol still with their baseball gear on is truly remarkable.
Brianna, we'll get back to Brianna in a second and I want to go right now to Congressman Joe Barton. He is the manager of the Republican Congressional baseball team. I want to play you what he's been saying. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPRESENTATIVE JOE BARTON (R), TEXAS: I am Congressman Joe Barton. I'm the Republican manager and I have Congressman Pat Meehan with me who is our number one relief pitcher. Our prayers go out to Steve Scalise and his family and for the others and the Capitol Hill police who got wounded and our volunteers who got wounded also.
The heroes are the police officers who -- who attacked the shooter, and in doing so quite probably saved many, many lives. This is a charity baseball game. We've played it for almost a hundred years and it's for a very good cause. I can only speak for myself. I hope we continue the game -- in some ways what democracy is all about.
REPRESENTATIVE PAT MEEHAN (R), PENNSYLVANIA: My first thoughts go to the heroism to the capitol police who were there and responded immediately in a manner that likely saved the lives of a number of people, members of Congress as well as the staffers that are out there each morning helping us. I just left one of our other colleagues who we were talking about where we customarily are on the field. He positioned himself in the visitors' dugout, which is across the field --
BARTON: Behind it.
MEEHAN: Across the field from where the Capitol Police generally sit and it's fortunate because Steve Scalise is a member of leadership. He has a security detail there otherwise we would just be a bunch of guys out on a normal morning practicing, but I think the fact that we practice there every morning and it's a group of Congress people together, sometimes as many 25 people maybe 30 --