Politics

Shooting Victims Come from All Walks of Hill Life

Majority whip among those injured at Republican baseball team practice

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was shot Wednesday morning at a Republican congressional baseball team practice. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A member of congressional leadership, two members of his security detail, a young Hill staffer and a lobbyist — a microcosm of the often hierarchical but interconnected life on Capitol Hill — were all injured at Wednesday morning’s GOP baseball team practice.

The shooting of Majority Whip Steve Scalise, as a member of House leadership, has garnered the most attention.

It wasn’t lost on lawmakers that had Scalise not been there, the violence could have been worse. 

“I shudder to think what may have happened this morning were it not for the quick action taken by Representative Scalise’s security detail,” Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch said on the Senate floor Wednesday. Scalise has a security detail because of his position in leadership. 

Special agents Crystal Griner, David Bailey and Henry Cabrera, members of the U.S. Capitol Police’s Dignitary Protection Division, exchanged fire with the suspect, who has been identified as James T. Hodgkinson of Belleville, Ill. Griner was shot and Bailey reportedly was injured by shrapnel. 

“I’m grateful that Special Agent Griner is in good condition in the hospital having been shot in the ankle, and Special Agent Bailey was treated and released having sustained a minor injury during the incident,” U.S. Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa said in a Wednesday afternoon statement.

“The attack was an attack on us all and our democracy,” said Gus Papathanasiou, chairman of the United States Capitol Police Labor Committee, a union for Capitol Police officers.

“These courageous special agents returned fire to apprehend the perpetrator of this senseless and appalling act of violence. Through their heroic actions, they prevented a massacre, saving the lives of dozens of elected Members of Congress and congressional staff,” Papathanasiou said. 

“There could have easily been 25 deaths or more today,” said an emotional Texas Rep. Roger Williams, the coach of the GOP baseball team, at a Wednesday evening press conference.There were none from the baseball field in suburban Virginia as of publication. The gunman later died in a local hospital. 

‘A third son’

Among the others wounded were Matt Mika, a former GOP Hill staffer and sports lover who’s helped out with the GOP congressional team for years.

Mika is now government relations director for Tyson Foods in the company’s Washington, D.C. office. A Michigan native, he’s been a lobbyist for the company for six years and previously was senior director of legislative affairs for the American Meat Institute. 

While on the Hill, Mika was a senior legislative assistant for Michigan Rep. Tim Walberg, who said Wednesday that his former staffer had “become like a third son” to him. The Michigan Republican opened an Education and the Workforce subcommittee hearing Wednesday afternoon with a prayer. 

“Lord, we pray as well you would restore our country, that you would heal our divides, that you would bring us together and create a nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all,” Walberg said.

Mika worked for Walberg during the congressman's first term, from 2007 to 2009.

"He has an very energetic and magnetic personality, loved by many regardless of party affiliation," said Bruce Miller, now chief of staff to Nevada Rep. Mark Amodei, who worked with Mika in Walberg's office.

"He is also a great mentor to our some of our former interns in Tim’s office, some of whom he continues to provide advice and guidance for as staffers on the Hill today," Miller added.

Earlier in his Hill career, Mika worked for former Pennsylvania Rep. Dave Camp as a legislative assistant.

Mika was taken to George Washington University Hospital, where GOP Reps. Kevin Brady, Erik Paulsen and John Shimkus — all roommates of Scalise — visited him.

“Baseball is one of his great passions and he has always loved the Congressional team,” his family — en route to Washington, D.C. — said in a statement released to WXYZ Detroit.

Texting for help

Zachary Barth, a legislative correspondent in the office of Texas Republican Roger Williams, was also shot. Williams, who showed up to a Wednesday evening press conference on crutches after injuring his ankle in the shooting chaos, said Barth had been released from the hospital.

Barth had been in the outfield fielding balls when the shooting began, while Williams was on third base, the congressman said. They both ran for the dugout. 

“We landed in each other’s arms. He held me, and I held him,” Williams said.

Williams praised his young staffer for remaining tech-savvy under pressure. “All the time we were under fire, he was texting, letting people know we were under fire and needed help.”

Barth previously worked as a staff assistant in the office of former Texas GOP Rep. Randy Neugebauer for several months before he was “snatched up” by Rogers, Neugebauer said. 

“He’s an outstanding young man,” Neugebauer said. “We didn’t get to keep him very long. While he was there, he made a big impression. He’s very conscientious, personable, probably one of our better staff assistants.” 

Barth had been an intern on the political team for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Bush called Barth in the hospital early Wednesday afternoon. 

“He spent some time in [New Hampshire] down the homestretch of the primary helping us with GOTV,” Jesse Hunt, National Republican Congressional Committee press secretary and also an alum of the Bush campaign, wrote in an email Wednesday morning. 

“Great kid,” added NRCC communications director Matt Gorman, another Bush campaign veteran. “He’s a hard worker and you never saw him without a big smile on his face.” 

In the wake of the shooting, the House Office of Employee Assistance alerted congressional offices that it's available “to support individuals and teams through traumatic and stressful events.”

Emily Wilkins, Kyle Stewart, Stephanie Akin and Griffin Connolly contributed to this report. 

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