Radel: ‘Horrifying’ to see friend, top House Republican shot

Reporter: Corey Lazar
Published: Updated:
Trey Radel and Steve Scalise

FORT MYERS, Fla. Former Congressman Trey Radel was in disbelief as he watched his friend, Rep. Steve Scalise, being taken to the hospital.

“It’s horrifying to see the video of my buddy being wheeled out of there after being shot in the hip,” Radel said.

Trey Radel and Steve Scalise

Radel had just finished his Wednesday morning show for 92.5 Fox Radio when he learned Scalise and four others were shot during practice for a charity congressional baseball game.

Scalise, congressional staffers and Capitol Police officers were wounded in the shooting.

The suspect, later identified as James T. Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville, Illinois, was taken into custody, but later succumbed to his injuries, according to authorities.

Radel emphasized the importance of Scalise’s prominent government position and the way it played a role in Wednesday morning’s incident.

“[Scalise] is the most powerful member of the House Republicans,” Radel said. “And the only reason that Capitol Police were there at this baseball practice today was because he was there.”

Radel stressed the shooting’s proximity to the nation’s capitol.

“And again, while this is happening in Alexandria, Virginia — outside of Washington, D.C. — the threat level gets raised everywhere,” he said.

The news hit home for Radel even though the shooting took place a thousand miles away.

“I hear the call over the breaking news speakers saying Steve Scalise has been shot,” Radel said. “And it happened at a baseball game. I know exactly what they were practicing for.”

Republicans and Democrats face off annually in the friendly Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals. The game will go on as scheduled Thursday, said Rep. Martha McSally, an Arizona Republican.

“You bring out your families. You bring your children to the baseball game,” Radel said.

Republican Congressman Tom Rooney of Florida’s 18th House District was at practice with Scalise and left just five minutes before the shooting took place.

“All I can say is thank God it was my kid’s last day of school and that I left early,” Rooney said.

“You know for this to happen the day before the game to our majority leader …,” Rooney said. “(Scalise) couldn’t be a nicer guy and always joking around and clowning around at practice. You know, it’s just heartbreaking, really,” Rooney said.

Just before Rooney left, he and Scalise were working on double plays, Rooney said on Facebook.

Rooney and Scalise were working on double plays just before Rooney left,

Republican U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney of Florida’s 19th District lamented the shooting on Facebook.

He called the shooting a “heinous act of criminality” but also expressed optimism that both sides will view Wednesday’s events as a call for unity.

“Maybe this is gonna be one of those milestones that will actually help people put the divisiveness between the extreme right and the extreme left behind each other,” Francis Rooney said.

Other Florida politicians took to Twitter to express their thoughts on the shooting and well-wishes for Scalise and those involved:

While the investigation of this morning’s incident is still preliminary, Radel hoped the somewhat polarizing tension of Washington did not play a role.

“You just hope that politics don’t enter this,” Radel said. “(The Congressional Baseball Game) is one of the very few, very public examples of where member of Congress, Republicans and Democrats get together, they get along.”

Tom Rooney explained how congressional members on both sides of the aisle look forward to the game.

“But literally it’s one of the few fun things that we do with Democrats that you know we raise a lot of money for charity and you know we all look forward to this game every year,” Rooney said.

WINK News reporter Nicole Valdes gathered more reaction from local lawmakers:

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