House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was in “imminent risk of death” when he was flown to a trauma center Wednesday after being shot during an ambush of a GOP congressional baseball team practicing on a Virginia field.
“He will be in the hospital for a considerable period of time, presumably weeks,” said Jack Sava, trauma director at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, who spoke Friday about the Louisiana Republican who remains in critical condition at the hospital in the District.
Sava added that Scalise “was as critical as you can be when he came in” after a single rifle shot traversed his body from his left hip through internal organs to the other hip as witnesses said he was fielding ground balls.
Scalise, 51, and four others were wounded when an Illinois man opened fire Wednesday morning on the team practice in Alexandria. The shooter, James T. Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville, was fatally shot in a firefight with police.
The shot fired at Scalise left perhaps hundreds of bullet fragments internally, many of which may never be removed because surgery might be more dangerous than leaving them in place, Sava said. That circumstance is not uncommon for that type of injury, known as a transpelvic gunshot wound, the trauma surgeon said.
Sava said Scalise will require surgeries soon for abdominal and bone injuries, in addition to the two he has undergone to repair a bone in his leg broken by the bullet. The congressman sustained “substantial damage” to organs and blood vessels, Sava said, and remains in intensive care.
On Friday, the FBI said in a statement that it continues to process evidence and “to assess the potential motivations of the single shooter.” Hodgkinson had posted comments critical of President Trump on his social-media accounts and engaged in a profane tirade about Trump in a chance conversation with an auto mechanic the day before the attack in Alexandria, where Hodgkinson had been living in his van since about March.
Officials said Hodgkinson was carrying notes on which he had written the names of some Republican lawmakers. Investigators are trying to determine what his intent may have been — whether it was a list of potential targets for violence or whether he wrote them down for some other reason, one official said.
Though Scalise was conscious at the scene after he was shot and his office said he talked to his wife before his first surgery, he was in shock by the time he arrived at the hospital, according to Sava.
The surgeon on Friday said he was “a lot more confident and optimistic” about Scalise’s recovery than he was two days ago. He added that Scalise “will be able to walk and, hopefully, run.”
Sava said the congressman remains sedated but was able to “respond to family members” and physicians.
Infection remains a considerable risk in the days and weeks during Scalise’s extended hospital stay, Sava said.
Sava also said that Crystal Griner, one of the U.S. Capitol Police officers credited with saving Scalise and others at the field, sustained a gunshot wound to her ankle. Griner is still hospitalized at MedStar and “in good spirits,” Sava said.
A spokesman for George Washington University Hospital said that Matt Mika, a lobbyist wounded in the attack, was improving, and that as of Thursday night his condition had been upgraded from critical to serious. Another Capitol Police officer, David Bailey, who was hit by shrapnel, and a congressional aide, Zach Barth, who was shot, were previously treated and released from a hospital.
At Friday’s hospital news conference, Scalise’s chief of staff Brett Horton read a statement from Jennifer Scalise, the congressman’s wife.
“Our family asks that you continue to pray for Steve, Matt Mika, Zach Barth, and all of those hurt in this attack, and keep them in your thoughts as they face recovery,” the statement said.
Lenny Bernstein and Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.