Congressman: I was first target of anti-Republican gunman

Friday, June 16, 2017
 | Staff (

Congress shootingA congressman from Mississippi says a gunman who opened fire on Republicans on a Virginia baseball field, seriously wounding Rep. Steve Scalise, shot at him first.

Rep. Trent Kelly tells OneNewsNow he was positioned at third base when gunshots rang out, and he saw the rifle and locked eyes with the gunman.

"I look to my right immediately," Kelly recalls, "and the guy looked me dead in the face."

Authorities have identified the gunman as James Hodgkinson, a left-wing activist from Illinois who opened fire on the unarmed congressmen near the third base dugout. He was fatally wounded by Capitol Hill police who were present as a security detail for Scalise, who is House Majority Whip.

Rep. Jeff Flake has described how Scalise, shot through the hip near second base, trailed blood behind him as he tried to drag himself to safety. 

Kelly, a decorated Iraq War veteran who is a colonel in the U.S. Army National Guard, recalls that his military training kicked in when the shots rang out, and began fleeing from the gunman in a zig-zag pattern as trained to do so.

"He shoots the second shot after I'm running, when I'm between the pitcher's mound and shortstop," Kelly recalls. "He shoots the third when I'm where the second baseman plays and the pitcher's mound, and I see Scalise – he's right in my peripheral vision – and I see him crumple and go the ground."

"I'm still processing what happened and what it means for me and my office," Rep. Jim Banks (R-Colorado) tells OneNewsNow after the July 14 shooting.

Banks says he is concerned about the safety of his congressional staff and his own family, and he warns of a "lack of civil discourse" in Washington, D.C.

"And I think," he adds, "that's an unfortunate deterioration of the political process."

Hours after the shooting, House Speaker Paul Ryan urged colleagues to "lift each other up" and show the country, and the world, that Congress is "united in our humanity."

Following Ryan's speech, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi encouraged Congress to politely debate and humbly listen to others who disagree.

Just hours later, however, Pelosi criticized "sanctimonious" Republicans for blaming the shooting on left-wing political rhetoric after a reporter pointed out the shooter's "anti-Republican sentiment" at Pelosi's press briefing.

"How dare they say such a thing. How dare they," responded Pelosi, who said in January, the day after Inauguration Day, that Republicans "pray in church on Sunday and prey on everyone else the rest of the week."

Hodgkinson supported Sen. Bernie Sanders and volunteered for his presidential campaign, and he railed against "the rich" and Republicans in letters to the editor he submitted to his local newspaper.

A post-shooting commentary at The Huffington Post, the left-wing news website, pushed back against accusations of left-wing violence. The story documented acts of right-wing violence, including controversial statements made by then-candidate Trump that encouraged violence.

The story also claimed that Republicans are "moving to deprive an estimated 24 million people of their health insurance – an act that will cause an estimated 43,000 needless deaths each year."

The story linked to a Washington Post story in which the headline warned that repealing the Affordable Care Act will "kill" 43,000 people annually.

A Democratic strategist, meanwhile, has launched a "Hunt Republicans" hash tag on Twitter after the shooting and defended it to media.

"I'm not advocating violence but I'm saying I understand it," Jim Devine, a New Jersey activist, told a newspaper there. "This is the chickens coming home to roost." 

There has to be more tolerance, Kelly observes, for opposing points of view.

"That is the reasons soldiers go and fight war," says Kelly. "It's not so they can oppose their will upon others but so that other people can speak freely whatever their view is."

There is no room for hatred, he adds, only disagreement. 

Editor's note: This story has been corrected after misidentifying Rep. Trent Kelly. 

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