Rep. Steve Scalise, the married father of young children and the third most powerful lawmker in the U.S. House, has been released from the hospital after suffering gunshot wounds he incurred when a Republican-hating Bernie Sanders campaign volunteer opened fire at a congressional baseball practice.
The news of Scalise’s release – especially as the bullets struck his pelvis and shattered bone – came as a relief to many.
The Republican congressman, a former engineer from Louisiana who was the House Whip, was the first national lawmaker shot since Gabby Giffords in 2011. He was one of 17 U.S. congresspeople shot since 1789. In 1978, Rep. Leo Ryan died in Guyana while investigating the Jim Jones cult. Fifteen U.S. lawmakers have been killed in office. The first occurred in 1831, when Spencer Pettis, a House member from Missouri, was “shot and killed in a duel with Thomas Biddle, an Army officer” that took place on a river sandbar known as “Bloody Island.”
According to The Washington Post, others include Huey Long, the famous Louisiana senator, who was murdered in 1935 by the son-in-law of a judge he wanted to gerrymander out of office, and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, gunned down by assassin Sirhan Sirhan in 1968 in a California hotel. There were high-profile woundings; in 1954, Puerto Rican nationalists walked into the U.S. Capitol and shot five lawmakers, although, as with Scalise, none died.
The congressman, father, and husband was hailed as a “patriot” by President Donald Trump.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Scalise Will Undergo Intensive Rehabilitation After Leaving the Hospital
NBC Washington reported on July 26 that Scalise has been discharged from the hospital.
Scalise “was released from MedStar Washington Hospital Center on Tuesday (July 25), and now will begin intensive inpatient rehabilitation, the hospital said in a statement Wednesday morning,” NBC Washington reported.
The hospital said in its statement, “He is in good spirits and is looking forward to his return to work once he completes rehabilitation.”
The single rifle shot struck Scalise in the left hip. The bullet traveled across his pelvis, fracturing bones, injuring internal organs, and causing severe bleeding.
The description of Scalise’s wounds came from MedStar Washington Hospital Center, which provided a June 14 update on Scalise’s injuries, detailing them.
Rushed to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, a Level I Trauma Center, Scalise underwent immediate surgery, the statement said, as well as “an additional procedure to stop bleeding.” He received multiple units from a blood transfusion.
His condition was listed as critical at that time, and he was going to require additional operations, the June 14 statement said.
The wound Scalise suffered was a dangerous one from the start. “The pelvic area is home to the iliac blood vessels, which include major arteries that branch off the aorta, the main route that carries oxygenated blood to all parts of the body. Wounds to those vessels, large and small, cause fast, severe blood loss, which can set off a cascade of problems for surgeons trying to save a patient’s life,” the Washington Post explained. Between 30-50% of injuries to those vessels lead to death, the newspaper reported.
That statement followed what sounded like a more optimistic assessment of Scalise’s condition.
Scalise was initially described as being in stable condition at the hospital. His office released a statement, which said Scalise was in “good spirits” and able to speak to his wife, Jennifer, by phone after the shooting.
“Prior to entering surgery, the Whip was in good spirits and spoke to his wife by phone. He is grateful for the brave actions of U.S. Capitol Police, first responders, and colleagues,” that statement said. “We ask that you keep the Whip and others harmed in this incident in your thoughts and prayers.”
Scalise was visited in the hospital by the nation’s executive leaders.
As President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump sat at the bedside of the wounded Scalise the day of the shooting, the mood turned somber in the room. Later, the president gave the first indication that things might be touch-and-go for Scalise. Trump emerged to reveal that Scalise was “in very tough shape” and to ask for prayers. The president and his wife gave Scalise and his wife a bouquet of white flowers.
2. Scalise Called His Wife, Jennifer, His ‘Best Friend’ & Is the Father of Two Young Children
Steve Scalise is married, to Jennifer, and he is the father of two young children, a girl named Madison, and a son named Harrison. Steve Scalise frequently posted photos of his young family on social media. According to the couple’s wedding announcement in the Times Picayune newspaper in New Orleans, Scalise and the former Jennifer Ann Letulle were married on March 19, 2005 at St. Louis Cathedral.
He is the son of Alfred J. Scalise, and the late Carol Schilleci Scalise. Alfred was a real estate agent and Carol worked on aging issues. Scalise graduated from Archbishop Rummel High School and Louisiana State University, where he received a bachelor of science degree in computer science with a minor in political science, the wedding announcement said, adding that he was employed by a local technology company and was already a state representative in Louisiana. The couple honeymooned in Europe. Jennifer was employed by SES Inc. at the Spawar Systems Center.
They went on to have two young children together, and Scalise shared updates with the public on social media.
He wrote in May on Instagram, “Happy #MothersDay to my wonderful wife and the best mom to our two great kids. Love you, Jennifer!”
In March, he wrote that it was the couple’s 12th wedding anniversary. “Today I celebrate 12 wonderful years of marriage with my best friend and mother of our 2 great kids. Happy anniversary Jennifer!”
He posted photos with his family at Mardi Gras parades, taking his son canoeing, and other activities.
One Instagram post showed Scalise with Harrison on a Cub Scout canoeing weekend.
On National Spouse’s Day, Scalise wrote on Twitter that he couldn’t do his job without his wife.
The fun-loving couple, devout Roman Catholics, went sledding together down Capitol Hill and Jennifer once surprised her husband in D.C. for his 50th birthday.
Scalise got President Trump to wish Madison a happy 10th birthday:
U.S. Sen Jeff Flake, of Arizona, called Scalise’s wife from the baseball diamond to tell her that her husband had been shot. He didn’t want her to hear it on the news. Flake said that Scalise was “coherent” the entire time after being shot, according to The New York Post.
3. Scalise Is a Former Systems Engineer Considered Very Popular Back Home in Louisiana
Scalise represents the 1st Congressional District in Louisiana, being elected in a 2008 special election after Bobby Jindal vacated the seat to become governor. His seat runs “from the culturally distinct New Orleans suburbs to the vibrant bayous and wetlands abundant in natural resources.”
During the 113th Congress, he served as chairman for the Republican Study Committee, the conservative House caucus. Scalise’s legislative bio highlights his conservative bonafides. “Scalise is a strong conservative leader who upholds the Constitution, advocating for the principles of fiscal discipline, lower taxes, an all-of-the-above national energy strategy, a robust national defense, and conservative values,” the bio says.
During his time in Congress, Scalise fought for alternatives to Obamacare, worked to ban what his office called “radical climate change regulations,” and reformed the FCC. He was a supporter of Trump’s controversial travel ban.
He and his family live in Jefferson, Louisiana, in a district that included “all or parts of Jefferson, Lafourche, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Terrebonne Parishes.”
In Louisiana, Scalise is “hugely popular,” reported NPR, earning 75 percent of his district’s votes in November. He is a former systems engineer who “got his start in politics at Louisiana State University, where he was twice elected speaker of LSU’s Student Government Association. He served as a member of Louisiana’s state Legislature for 12 years before being elected to the U.S. House,” NPR reported, adding that Scalise was once quoted as saying he wanted to pull Republican leadership “as far to the right” as he could.
In the House, he is the Majority Whip. His position in House leadership is why he was accompanied to the baseball practice by Capitol Police officers Crystal Griner and David Bailey, which may have saved his – and many others’ – lives, after they acted quickly to help neutralize the gunman.
As majority whip, Steve Scalise’s job is to ensure that members of the Republican party vote together on pieces of legislation. In that position, Scalise helped get the American Health Care Act passed in the House of Representatives earlier this year. “Passing the American Health Care Act was about saving families who are struggling under the weight of a broken law that doesn’t work,” Scalise said.
Scalise fought for Second Amendment rights and was a supporter of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election.
Scalise’s last tweet before the shooting was on a bill to help veterans by holding the VA accountable.
Scalise’s career is not without controversy. He was accused of speaking at a white supremacist rally. “European-American Unity and Rights Organization held a conference in the New Orleans area. The group, identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group with anti-semitic and racist writings, was headed by David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and prominent Louisiana politician,” wrote Politifact. However, the site found that the facts were muddled. “Did Scalise know what he was attending? Knight and Scalise said he didn’t; others have said Duke was so notorious in Louisiana it would be impossible for Scalise not to know.
“From the evidence, we know Scalise attended … something. Whether it was a gathering of white supremacists or a civic meeting right before is unclear,” Politifact wrote, noting that, by one account, “Scalise has admitted to speaking to a group he never addressed, which would be another bizarre twist in this muddied controversy, one that we’ll continue to monitor.”
4. Scalise Was Standing at Second Base When Shot & ‘Army Crawled’ to Safety
It was a “deliberate attack.”
The shooter, a disgruntled former home inspector from Illinois, who had dissolved his business and moved to Virginia, was toting an SKS rifle 7.62 and a 9 mm pistol.
Around 7 a.m. June 14, he walked up to Rep. Jeff Duncan in an Alexandria, Virginia park and casually inquired whether Republicans or Democrats were practicing. Learning Republicans were practicing, the gunman, James T. Hodgkinson, 66, said thanks, and walked toward the field where some of the nation’s most prominent senators, congressmen, their staffers and one member’s child were practicing for a charity baseball game, many wearing red shirts bearing the word “Republican.”
He opened fire, while standing behind the dugout, a short man in blue jeans and a blue shirt standing 5 foot 6, but a locked chain-link fence prevented him from making it on the field.
“He was hunting us at that point,” Rep. Mike Bishop told The New York Times. “Pop pop pop pop,” Bishop described for the newspaper what happened next, saying that Hodgkinson was shooting in bursts of two, more than 50 rounds in all. The horrific shots, which seem to punctuate the silence forever, can be heard in this video. Warning: It’s disturbing with some graphic language.
Steve Scalise was standing at second base when he was hit. The New York Times described a chaotic, frightening scene. Scalise “army crawled” to the safety of the grass after being shot, the newspaper reported.
“All of a sudden, we heard a loud, what sounded like a gunshot, very loud and very close,” Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., told NPR’s Morning Edition. “[Scalise] went down and dragged himself off of the infield into the outfield about 10 or 15 yards and was laying motionless out there.”
When the dust cleared, five lay injured, and the shooter was down, killed by return fire. The two Capitol police officers assigned to Scalise were credited for engaging the shooter and saving numerous lives.
The others shot or injured were Matt Mika, a lobbyist; Zack Barth, a congressional staffer; and the two Capitol Police officers who engaged the gunman, David Bailey and Crystal Griner. Mika was also listed in critical condition after the shooting.
5. The Gunman Was a Republican Loathing Bernie Sanders Backer Who Expressed Animus Toward Scalise
The killer, James T. Hodgkinson, a 66-year-old man from Belleville, Illinois, had dissolved his home inspection business and, on the cusp of retirement, came to Virginia bearing a grudge. That grudge was against President Trump, Republicans in Congress, and, judging from one negative cartoon he posted, Steve Scalise.
Hodgkinson railed against the GOP in letters to the editor back home, in protests, and on Facebook and Twitter, but friends were surprised he would act violently on it. He holed up in Virginia for about two months, his wife told ABC News, before turning assassin. In Virginia, he lived in his van and worked out at the local YMCA.
“Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co,” he wrote on March 22.
Hodgkinson was a Bernie Sanders supporter, judging from his Facebook page; the Vermont senator acknowledged Hodgkinson was a campaign volunteer and condemned his actions.
The killer’s actions spurred people on both sides of the aisle to urge a healing in the nation’s corrosive political discourse, in which each side demonizes the other.