Northeast Florida Congressman Ron DeSantis is one of the members of the Republican baseball team whose practice was interrupted by gunfire. Rep. Steve Scalise, the House Majority Whip, was shot, along with congressional aides and Capitol police. Reports are that five people in total were shot.
"This is a public field," DeSantis told NBC News, describing the scene and the practice. "There's people around, people walking their dogs. But it's not the type of thing that anyone necessarily goes and watches."
The practice early Wednesday was a gathering of capitol hill Republicans at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria, a few miles south of the Pentagon. The workout was in preparation for a traditional annual baseball game, scheduled for Thursday, between Republicans and Democrats in Congress, benefiting charity. DeSantis and a companion were leaving when they were approached in an encounter he says was "odd".
"He was really interested in whether it was Republicans or Democrats," DeSantis detailed, "then he immediately turned to the field."
The shooting reportedly started just minutes after that encounter, making the chance meeting ominous in hindsight.
"I didn't think it was dangerous or anything like that, DeSantis said. "But then, once we heard news of it, immediately it just clicked. We said 'Look, this guy may have been it, we've got to report him.'"
Although it was not immediately confirmed that the shooter was the same man who approached DeSantis, the Congressman said that after he saw released material about the gunman, there was little doubt.
"Once I saw the picture, I was like, 'Oh boy, this is the guy.'"
The baseball field where the shooting happened is a public facility. In a separate interview with ABC News, DeSantis explained that there was no security for the practice itself. Although it was not immediately confirmed whether the shooting was politically motivated - let alone whether targeting Republicans or Rep. Scalise specifically - DeSantis highlighted that the only security present happened to be personnel assigned to protect Scalise because of his rank as party Majority Whip.
"The baseball thing is kind of a fluke," he said. "There would have been zero security had [Scalise] not been there."
Despite the laid-back nature of the practice, DeSantis speculated that it could be conspicuous even to the casual observer, especially given that it was happening early in the morning.
"You've got a lot of guys who are in their 50s and 60s" ... "So, it's clearly not just, like, community youth baseball or anything like that," he began, "It is something that would obviously be different for somebody that's walking by, and it wouldn't be that difficult to put two and two together, even if you knew nothing about it previously."
DeSantis was not injured. His wife, Casey, is a host on our magazine show First Coast Living. Rep. DeSantis and Casey have one young daughter.
"We are all kind of on pins and needles, hoping [the injured] pull through," DeSantis said.
Casey released the following statement on Wednesday afternoon:
Ron and I are praying for Congressman Scalise and the other victims of today’s senseless attack. We pray for a speedy recovery for all those affected.
I would like to personally thank the Capitol Hill Police who selflessly put their lives on the line to prevent what could have been a massacre. God Bless you and your families for your service.
To those who have sent us kind words and well wishes, thank you. I am humbled by the outpouring of support, it means a lot to our family. Madison and I will be traveling to Washington tonight to be with Ron and to support the Democrats and Republicans at the Congressional Baseball Game tomorrow as they raise money for charity. I pray that this night of bipartisanship will remind everyone to focus on what unites us and not what divides us.
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