(WASHINGTON) — Early in the morning on June 14, 2017, a lone gunman in Alexandria, Virginia, opened fire on a field where Republican lawmakers were practicing for the annual congressional charity baseball game. Four people were shot, including House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., who suffered life-threatening injuries.
Now a year later, Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, one of the congressmen on the field during the attack, told ABC News’ Start Here podcast the Republican baseball team is ready to play ball with Scalise in the starting lineup.
“He’s come a long way from a year ago — let’s put it that way,” he said. “He’s out there, he’s taken some swings in the cage, and he’s taken a few grounders at second base.”
Wenstrup, a right-fielder, was just getting into the batting cage when the first shot rang out a year ago. After the second shot, which he believed hit Scalise, he took cover and stayed down.
“From where I was, I could see him. I could see where the shooting was coming from. I could see Capitol Police, and so fortunately I was in a great spot.”
When the shooter started gunning down the first-base line, he raced to hide behind the bathroom: “I could still peek out and see what was going on, and once the shooter was down, I was able to get to Steve.”
Onlookers saw a small hole in Scalise’s hip, but Wenstrup, a decorated Army ranger, quickly realized there was no exit wound. His instincts as a combat surgeon in Iraq kicked in.
“I knew better,” he said. “It reminded me of one of our troops in Iraq that didn’t fare so well because we were too late in getting to the deeper wound that you don’t see on the outside.”
He hurriedly applied a tourniquet and “just kept him as stable as we possibly could.”
When Scalise returned to Congress last fall, he credited the Ohio congressman with saving his life. Wenstrup said on Start Here that the House majority whip “took a bullet for all of us.”
“If he wasn’t there, Capitol Police aren’t there. If they’re not there, then there is no response to the shooter and he can walk right on the field and start having his way.”
After the attack, Wenstrup said he visited the field with his family to reflect. This year, the Republican baseball team visited the scene together “as a show of force,” but they’ve been practicing at a different field.
“We’re not going to be daunted by this forever, and it was probably good to get back there a little bit,” he said on Start Here. “But long term, people felt better going somewhere else so it wasn’t a reminder every day. We wanted to go out and practice, play baseball, have some camaraderie and get ready for a charity baseball game.”
When asked whether Congress has done enough in the last year to prevent a similar shooting from happening again, the congressman noted the STOP School Violence Act and the increased security at the congressional baseball practices, but added there’s still more work to be done.
“I think that we do have an issue we have to deal with in America — and that is violence in America, and maybe violence around the world as well,” he said. “But, at the same time, I think we have to look at the causes of it, what’s leading to it, and take a holistic approach and really take a health care approach to what’s going on in America.”
Wenstrup said he’s trying to come up with solutions by studying violence and homicide in the U.S., but going into Thursday’s game, he’s thinking about “how lucky we are,” because last year’s shooting could’ve been much worse.
“I’m going to think how grateful we are for all the divine intervention that took place that day, that all of us are still alive — and back for another game.”
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