AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A staffer for Republican U.S. Rep. Roger Williams was among those shot and wounded Wednesday when a gunman opened fire on a congressional baseball practice — and Williams himself hurt his ankle and leg while scrambling for cover. But three other Texas congressmen who attended weren't injured.
Williams, of Austin, identified the shooting victim as legislative correspondent Zack Barth. He said Barth, a Houston native and recent graduate of the University of Texas, was treated and released from the hospital and was on his way to a full recovery.
Williams arrived at a news conference in Washington using crutches and said he would be returning to Texas later this week for further treatment. He said Barth was shot while retrieving balls in the outfield and, even after the staffer was hit and bleeding, grabbed his cell phone and was texting, "letting people know we were under fire and needed help."
Also at Wednesday's practice were fellow Texas Reps. Joe Barton Mike Conaway and Kevin Brady, though Brady, chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement that he left practice "moments before the shooting began."
Since 1909, teams comprised of members of Congress from both parties have squared off to raise money for charity — and this year's game is scheduled to go forward as planned Thursday at Nationals Park in Washington.
The Republican team was practicing on a baseball field in Virginia when a gunman identified as James T. Hodgkinson opened fire shortly after 7 a.m. Top House Republican, Steve Scalise of Louisiana, was among those injured.
Hodgkinson was fatally shot by police.
Williams was a standout outfielder and third baseman at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth from 1968 to 1970, and briefly played for the Atlanta Braves farm system. He coached TCU baseball in 1976.
The congressman said he was hitting ground balls to Scalise when the shots began, "The first one (ground ball) I hit him, the shots went off."
Williams said he was on the first base side of the field and "literally dove into that dugout."
"It would be like diving into a swim pool with no water," Williams said. He said that, in seconds, an injured Barth had run in from the outfield and "we landed in each other's arms. He held me. I held him."
Williams said Republican Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona took off his belt and "made a tourniquet around Zack's leg to stop the bleeding."
Williams said the Republican team "practices every day from 6 to 8 a.m." and applauded the decision not to cancel the upcoming game, despite the shooting, saying a violent act should not disrupt tradition.
He credited two U.S. Capitol Police officers who were in Scalise's security detail and who shot and wounded Hodgkinson with saving many lives: "There could have easily been 25 or more deaths today."
Barton, of Ennis, south of Dallas, is the manager of the Republican congressional baseball team. He said two of his children were with him at the ballpark when the shooting started.
"Some of us went in the dugout. Some of us were on the ground," Barton said. He said his 10-year-old son, Jack, took cover under an SUV. He said his other son was in a batting cage and also took cover.
"There were dozens, if not hundreds, of shots fired," Barton said. "It was scary."
Conway, of Midland, posted a brief message about the shooting on Facebook, saying he was unharmed and asking people to keep those wounded "in your prayers today."