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GOP Baseball Practice Shooting: 'We Dove For The Dugout'

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Here is what we know about a shooting directed at a group of lawmakers this morning. It happened around 7 o'clock in the morning. U.S. Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona tells us he was one of 25 or so lawmakers who regularly meet for batting practice.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Another was Steve Scalise, the No. 3 House Republican. They were on a baseball diamond in Alexandria, Va., just outside Washington, D.C. Flake said he heard a shot, then another shot, then many more than 50 shots.

JEFF FLAKE: We dove for the dugout - those of us who were on the field still. And Steve Scalise went down and dragged himself off of the infield into the outfield about 10 or 15 yards and was laying motionless out there. But there was gunfire going overhead, so I couldn't get out there. Another staff member with a leg wound, who was shot in the field, made it to the dugout and came in. And we put - got a belt and put pressure on his wound.

MARTIN: Senator Flake says the wounded Steve Scalise was unable to move, caught in the open as shooting continued. Local resident Katie Fullis (ph) was on the sidewalk nearby.

KATIE FULLIS: Somebody from the baseball team started screaming. And I heard really, really loud pops very close to me, so I started crying and laid flat on the ground with my dogs. I think the shooter was coming across the baseball field towards everyone. And the security person stepped out of the Suburban and had a handgun and yelled, drop your weapon. And the person shot that guard, and he or she fell in front of us...

MARTIN: Did - you saw that happen?

FULLIS: Yes. It was right in front of me as I was laying on the ground.

INSKEEP: That was Katie Fullis (ph) speaking earlier this morning. Now, what she was seeing was Congressman Scalise's security detail. They were there. They were armed. They returned fire from beyond the dugout, where many of the lawmakers took shelter. The gunman was eventually wounded and arrested.

A total of five others were shot. Senator Flake, ultimately, was able to get out onto the field and help stop the bleeding of Congressman Steve Scalise. He described Scalise as OK, as conscious and talking - in any case - and called his wife to give her the news.

MARTIN: We've been hearing from people who were there at the scene and nearby, among them, Joe Muscavige (ph). He was at the local YMCA nearby this baseball field. And he joins me now. Can you hear me OK, Mr. Muscavige?

JOE MUSCAVIGE: I can.

MARTIN: Thanks for being with us. What did you see?

MUSCAVIGE: Nothing, initially. I was downstairs in the Y when someone ran down the stairs and said that there was an active shooter situation. Myself and several of the other people that were down there ran into the men's locker room, where we waited for about 10 minutes or so, at which point, we left and came upstairs, where - the front of the YMCA overlooks the entire baseball diamond where the situation happened.

So, you know, we saw a large number of police, fire trucks, ambulances, unfortunately, two people being loaded on gurneys into those ambulances and then just a lot of kind of looking out the window at what was going on.

MARTIN: Yeah, were you - did you have any idea what was going on?

MUSCAVIGE: For those first 10 or 15 minutes or so when we were downstairs, we just had heard that there was an active shooter. And we were talking amongst ourselves. It was maybe eight or 10 people in the locker room. And then people started to - you know, when I said, oh, I heard a number of shots - and from there, it was just trying to call people that we knew to let them know we were OK or what was happening.

MARTIN: Did police - had they shut the YMCA? I mean, they were preventing people from going out?

MUSCAVIGE: Yeah, yeah. We're currently locked down still. I mean, I got here a little after 7 o'clock. You know, so I've been here for over 2 and a half hours.

MARTIN: You're still there?

MUSCAVIGE: Yeah.

MARTIN: Thank you so much for making time to talk with us today. We so appreciate it. Take good care.

MUSCAVIGE: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's Joe Muscavige, one of those who witnessed the shooting today in Alexandria, Va., where we're told five people were shot and then a sixth person - the shooter - was hit by police or by the security detail that was guarding the wounded Steve Scalise, the No. 3 House Republican.

This is a good moment to remind everyone - including ourselves - that this is a situation where facts - apparent facts - will change. We'll learn new information. Things we think we know will change. But let's get up to date on what we do know and our best sense of what it means. Our White House correspondent Tamara Keith is here to help talk us through this. And one question on anybody's mind, Tam, is who's the shooter? Let's describe what little is known here.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: We don't know a lot about the shooter, other than that he is in custody. One of the congressmen who was there described him as a white male, kind of chubby. So that's what we got. That's not a lot of detail.

INSKEEP: And we should remind people that eyewitness descriptions can turn out to be wrong. It can be someone else who was seen. We don't even necessarily know that that description is correct. But that's what we have. We can presume that this was a heavily armed person, based on what we heard from Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, who described a single shot that was in the clear, such that Senator Flake wasn't really sure it was a gunshot.

Then there was a second shot. And then he knew - and then a cacophony of shots. Some people had said more than 50 shots. He said easily more than 50 shots.

KEITH: He also said that he did not see the rifle, but that others on the baseball team saw that there was a rifle. And then later, Flake described that maybe - maybe he had switched to a handgun of some kind. We've seen other reports of that as well. Though, again, we aren't sure - we don't have certainty on that.

INSKEEP: And then the next question we'll have is, could these lawmakers have been targeted? Could people have known that these people, who would not have necessarily looked like lawmakers in baseball clothes or baseball uniforms and so forth - kind of casual clothes - would somebody have known? And it certainly does seem plausible that they would have known because Senator Flake says they met at that date, at that time and at that place very, very often.

KEITH: Yeah. According to a statement from Congressman Roger Williams, who's a coach on the team - he was there. He was not injured. One of his aides was injured and is receiving medical treatment. According to that statement, they practice there every day at 6:30 in the morning at the Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria, Va.

So it was a known thing that they were practicing. The congressional baseball game is tomorrow night. And the Republican team practices regularly together in this location. The Democrats practice in a different location. The game is scheduled for tomorrow night to raise money for charity.

INSKEEP: Somewhere in the back of their minds, congressmen have to be conscious that something like this could happen at any time.

KEITH: Certainly. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot several years ago. They think about it, certainly.

INSKEEP: That's NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith helping us work through the latest. And we'll continue reporting on today's shooting. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.