Members of Congress stumbled through a bloody scene Wednesday to help their wounded colleagues after gunfire erupted at a baseball field in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Va., where the Republican lawmakers were practicing for the upcoming congressional baseball game.
Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., was among at least five people wounded. Police in Alexandria, Va., said a suspect was in custody.
"It probably would have been a massacre" without Capitol Police, who were on the scene, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who was there, told MSNBC.
The shooting took place at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park. The park, about seven miles from the Capitol, abuts a residential community with a main street of trendy restaurants and small businesses. Residents describe a safe neighborhood where people walk around outside until late at night. The field is a community hub, with games and activities at all hours.
Katie Filous, 29, was walking her dogs near the baseball field when the first shots rang out. At first, she said, she thought the noise could be a pitching machine at the field. Then she heard shouts.
"They were screaming, 'It's a shooter! He's got a rifle! Get down!'," she recalled. "I laid down on the ground. There were a lot of shots.
"I was doing what I could to not get killed."
From her vantage point behind a tree, she saw a security officer leave a nearby SUV to confront the shooter with a handgun. "I saw the officer get hit, kind of slumping near the SUV," Filous said.
Later, she saw two people being carried away on stretchers and another person airlifted.
Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., told CNN that another congressman, Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, from Cincinnati, used some kind of scissors to cut through Scalise’s pant leg to get to his wound. Wenstrup is a podiatrist who served as a combat surgeon in Iraq.
“After the shooter was down … we deferred to (Wenstrup’s) judgement on what to do,” Brooks told CNN. Wenstrup “was getting some kind of scissors device to cut through the pants” to get to the wound on Scalise.
Speaking to CBS News, Wenstrup said about four or five people were hit.
"Once they had (the suspect) down I went out to Steve Scalise. I felt like I was back in Iraq as a surgeon. And Steve was conscious and okay. And that’s all I’ll say about that. They got him out of here and the others," he said.
Dave Miller was in his kitchen in a ground-floor unit in the apartment complex across the street from the field when he heard the first bursts of gunfire. When he saw people running away from the scene, he said he ran to his building's side entrance, where he and another resident flung open the door and shouted for people to come in. "Five or six ran in, all in baseball uniforms," he said.
"There was so much emotion," he said. "We were all shaking."
Luke Mahoney, who also lives in the building, said he was in bed when he heard the first shots ring out. "It was super loud — like 'bang bang bang bang,' " he said.
"This is a nice neighborhood," he added. "It's a safe place. It's super out of the ordinary for something like this to happen here."
The field lies near Route 1, a major artery that leads into Washington D.C. Random gun violence here is rare, though it was just a few years ago that the same neighborhood was in the national spotlight for the targeted shooting of a popular music teacher.
Alexandria native John Patrick said the sound of gunshots woke him up Wednesday morning. "I thought it was more construction going on."
Then ambulances and police flooded the streets of his neighborhood on the edge of the field. Patrick, who runs a local music school, said he had no idea the congressional baseball team even practiced there. Just 12 hours earlier, he had watched a friend's kids play on the same field.
On Wednesday morning, the scene looked vastly different: Dozens of reporters lined the outfield barrier, shooting photos through the chain-link fence as law enforcement gathered at the other end. Crime scene tape blocked off the entire field.
Despite the event, Patrick wasn't rattled. He and his young daughter played in the playground just beyond the crime scene tape.