The police dispatch for trouble at Simpson Park seemed routine — a “weapons violation.” It quickly escalated: “Shots being fired, and there are people running.”
One of the first officers to arrive shouted for “all available units. . . . I’ve still got shots being fired.”
Fiona Apple, a veteran paramedic, learned of the unfolding attack when a woman knocked on the front door of a fire station where Apple was on duty just four blocks from the park. The woman had heard gunshots close by, and she couldn’t get through to 911.
It was just after 7:09 a.m. Wednesday, and calls were pouring in to the 911 center. Apple rushed to her unit — Paramedic 202. She was told to wait. The gunfire had not yet subsided at the baseball field. It took an additional minute and 45 seconds before she and others could move.
“We’ve got one in custody,” a police officer screamed over the radio at 7:14 a.m., according to audio from the Broadcastify streaming service. “One shooter. We need medics.”
Apple, 54, was the first paramedic to respond, leaving her station with other emergency crew packed in her ambulance and racing up Route 1. Four miles away, another paramedic, 43-year-old Richard Krimmer, pulled out of his station at 7:16 a.m.
He and Apple quickly arrived at the shooting and were the first emergency responders to treat the most serious of the wounded — Louisiana Republican and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, and Matt Mika, a lobbyist for Tyson Foods.
Three others, including a police officer, had been wounded by gunfire. Their attacker was an Illinois man, armed with a high-powered military-style rifle and a handgun, who had posted social-media blasts against President Trump and took literal aim at Republican lawmakers and staff practicing baseball ahead of a charity game against their Democratic colleagues.
Police officers fatally shot the attacker, James T. Hodgkinson, 66, preventing more carnage and allowing quicker treatment of the wounded.
Bystanders, one a doctor, rendered immediate care before Apple and Krimmer arrived — a tourniquet for Scalise, a chest patch for Mika.
“Everything came together,” said Alexandria Fire Chief Robert C. Dubé. “Police put the shooter down. Had they not done that, we would have had dozens of patients and a far worse outcome.”
Apple parked at the side of an Aldi grocery store. She stepped onto the field at 7:22 a.m.
The paramedic and her partners rushed to the side of a maintenance shed, where she found Mika with a gaping chest wound. A firefighter had already put a plastic seal over the injury. “I was not confident about his condition,” Apple said in an interview Friday at an Alexandria fire station where Krimmer also recalled the morning on the ballfield.
Krimmer, a firefighter and paramedic, got to the park shortly after Apple and rushed to a black SUV with a blown-out tire to find Crystal Griner, one of the U.S. Capitol Police officers who fired at Hodgkinson and was wounded in the foot during an exchange of gunfire.
Seeing Griner well tended to, Krimmer ran to the outfield grass just behind second base. He found Scalise lying on his right side, a bullet in his left hip. Witnesses would later say Scalise had been fielding grounders when he was hit.
Standing over the congressman were two firefighters and four police officers armed with assault-style rifles. Leaning over Scalise was Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), an Army Reserve officer and doctor who was in Iraq and put his battlefield medicine knowledge to work. He applied a canvas “tactical tourniquet,” carried by police officers, that tightens around a metal rod.
“He told us he had some issues stopping the bleeding,” Krimmer said of Wenstrup, who introduced himself as a doctor but did not mention his position in Congress. Krimmer said they used Scalise’s torn baseball uniform to lift him onto a stretcher and get him to an ambulance while giving him pain medication and a blood-thickening agent to try to stem the bleeding.
Krimmer said Scalise was able to answer basic questions, such as his name, date of birth and where he hurt. “He was very uncomfortable,” Krimmer said.
It took time to move Scalise in the ambulance to a waiting U.S. Park Police helicopter, just a block away, with so many emergency vehicles packing the field and nearby streets.
He was flown to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, barely alive.
The director of the trauma center, Jack Sava, said Scalise was at “imminent risk of death” when he arrived. A bullet had entered his left hip and traveled across to the other hip, leaving hundreds of fragments in its wake, breaking bones and damaging blood vessels and internal organs. Scalise, who was listed in serious condition as of Saturday, has had several surgeries already. He probably will be hospitalized for some time, Sava has said.
Krimmer, who joined the fire department 16 years ago and has a son graduating high school who is thinking about a career as a paramedic or doctor, said he had no idea he had treated a lawmaker until after the helicopter had departed.
At 7:59 a.m., Krimmer’s wife texted him, “Are you ok?”
He answered, “Yea, I’m in the middle of it.” She had seen the helicopter on television and asked whether he had treated the congressman.
“That’s pretty much when I found out,” he said.
On the other side of the field, Apple was rushing to get Mika off to George Washington University Hospital. He, too, had suffered a critical injury, with “a large wound to the center of his chest.” The plastic seal the firefighter had in place helped keep air out and prevented Mika’s lungs from collapsing. They rolled him onto his back to check for additional injuries.
Apple, the mother of four grown girls, joined the fire department, where two of her friends worked, in 1992. She had moved from England in 1969 to grow up in Northern Virginia.
While she was at the ballfield, her daughters peppered her with texts, which she saw later, asking whether she was okay. “I told them to pray for my patient,” she said. “He needed a prayer chain.”
Krimmer and Apple see the park shooting in narrow terms — each focused on a single patient.
As the rest of the country sat riveted to news coverage of the shooting, Apple and Krimmer went on to other calls, each important in its own right.
For Krimmer, it was an elderly woman with chest pains.
“We’re reactionary,” Krimmer said of his job. For him and his fellow paramedics, he said, the park shooting will blend into a longer list of emergency runs they made. “I think, six months from now, it’s going to be just a call we ran.”
Moriah Balingit contributed to this report.