A violent incident in the nation's capitol Wednesday morning could have been a lot worse without onsite protection, according to eyewitness accounts. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was in attendance at the early morning baseball practice — he was among those injured — along with his security detail, and the presence of D.C. Capitol police may have saved lives at the Alexandria shooting.
The shooting occurred at the Simpson baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Capitol Hill. According to news reports, the GOP representatives were practicing for a bipartisan baseball game, a longstanding congressional tradition. As the only member of congressional leadership in attendance, Scalise had a Capitol Police escort. When the shooting started around 7:15 a.m. ET, Scalise's security detail was able to spring into action right away.
"Everybody probably would have died, except for the fact that the Capitol Hill Police were there," Sen. Rand Paul told MSNBC while describing the scene during the shooting. "The only reason they were there is that we had a member of leadership on our team. If Scalise wouldn't have been on the team... By him being there, he probably saved everybody else's life, because if you don't have a leadership person there, there would have been no security there."
Breaking: Senator Rand Paul describes shooting scene https://t.co/wMTL3i1OPG— MSNBC (@MSNBC) June 14, 2017
In the end, five people were injured: Scalise, a congressional aide for Texas representative Roger Williams, two law enforcement officers, and the shooter. However, Paul's recounting of the shooting indicates that this number was in fact much lower than it might have been. Most of the Congressional representatives were out in the open field without anything to cover them from the shooting. If the Capitol Police hadn't been there, the body count could have been much higher.
Dozens of representatives tweeted their support and gratitude for the Capitol Police, a nice moment of bipartisanship to see at this tense moment. "Just talked to Capitol police, they indicate officers will be ok. Thank God. Hope true for anyone hit," posted Senator Claire McCaskill. "
My thoughts are with Rep. Scalise, Congressional staff & Capitol Police. Mahalo to brave first responders who protect us every day," said Senator Mazie Hirono. The immediate aftermath of mass shootings too often becomes a partisan debate over gun control, so it was comforting to see politicians from both sides of the aisle just taking a moment to be thankful that their friends and colleagues were alright.
The brave men and women who put their lives on the line for a living should always be appreciated and respected, but that's never more clear than when their job really does save lives. Without their service Wednesday morning, this shooting could have been a truly terrible tragedy. Hopefully instead, it will be a learning lesson for all about how to come together and work to make sure these mass shootings no longer threaten American lives.