When Rep. Roger Williams returned to the Capitol on Wednesday, visibly shaken and on crutches following the shooting at the Republicans’ congressional baseball practice that morning, the first thing he addressed was the response of Capitol Police officers on site.
“My family and I will be forever grateful,” Williams said.
As House members mulled their own safety at the Capitol, there was renewed focus on how much of a police presence members felt would be appropriate.
Special Agents Crystal Griner, David Bailey and Henry Cabrera were there as protective detail for House Majority Whip Steve Scalise. Rank-and-file do not typically travel with Capitol Police or other security.
“There will be those who will talk about what’s wrong with America but in this case, Officers Griner and Bailey, we saw what’s right with America,” the Texas Republican said. “We saw two people risk their lives to save the lives of others. We saw courage in the face of death.”
Griner and Bailey were also injured in the shooting, as was Williams, one of his staffers and a former staffer who remains hospitalized. Scalise was the only member of Congress on field who was shot and also remains in the hospital.
Williams welled up as he spoke of the officers, saying their actions of going after the shooter prevented what could have been “25 deaths or more.”
No one could have suspected a shooting take place in the early morning hours in a suburban D.C. neighborhood not known for violence, members said. But in the future, they may rethink wanting armed guards when there is a large gathering of members of Congress in one spot.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that Capitol Police get a bigger budget to offer protection to rank and file members, though she said she hadn’t heard from rank-and-file members who felt the need to have protection around the clock.
Only members of House and Senate leadership have security details that also travel with them back to their home districts.
Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond, a close friend of Scalise’s and fellow member from Louisiana, said he told Speaker Paul D. Ryan recently that he had concerns about the safety of members “and the thought that violence would come to our family next. And unfortunately it did.”
“Had Steve been sick, or tired or lazy and didn’t go to practice, then you would have saw a full-fledged massacre,” Richmond said.
Richmond said he saw Griner and Bailey almost weekly when they fly home to Louisiana with Scalise.
“They’re both just class acts,” Richmond said. “I’m just so used to seeing them and talking to them. They’re always around.”
Griner and Bailey both began working for Capitol Police in 2008, the same year Scalise was first elected to Congress.
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