Anti-Trump gunman attacks US lawmakers, dies in shootout

A Capitol Police officer stands guard in front of the US Capitol Building, on June 14, 2017.

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia — A rifle-wielding critic of President Donald Trump opened fire Wednesday on US lawmakers practicing for a charity baseball game, seriously wounding a top Republican congressman and injuring four others before he was killed by police.

The 66-year-old gunman was identified as James T. Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois, an ardent supporter of liberal Senator Bernie Sanders — who said he was “sickened” by what he called a “despicable act.”

In a national address, Trump appealed for unity following the morning assault in the Washington suburb of Alexandria, Virginia, which came amid high political tension in the US capital after a vitriol-filled 2016 election.

“We are strongest when we are unified and when we work together for the common good,” said the president.

Congressman Steve Scalise underwent surgery after being shot in the hip and remained in critical condition, according to MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

Four others were wounded: a congressional aide, a lobbyist for Tyson Foods, and two US Capitol Police officers.

Trump described Scalise, the number three Republican in the House of Representatives, as a “very good friend” and “patriot,” telling him: “America is praying for you and America is praying for all of the victims of this terrible shooting.”

The FBI said it had recovered and was attempting to trace two weapons, a rifle and a handgun, and was actively investigating Hodgkinson’s “associates, whereabouts, social media impressions, and potential motivations.”

According to his Facebook page, Hodgkinson was a fervent supporter of Sanders, the feisty independent who battled Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination last year.

Hodgkinson’s social media posts displayed strong anti-Trump sentiment.

After an all-members briefing where Democrats and Republicans held hands and prayed, House Speaker Paul Ryan and top Democrat Nancy Pelosi addressed the somber chamber and proclaimed lawmakers were “united.”

The shooting took place just after 7:00 am (1100 GMT) as the Republican team practiced for the well-loved charity showdown.