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Congressman, staffer recount baseball field shooting: 'We were trying to stay alive'

Rep. Roger Williams and his aide Zack Barth were on the Virginia baseball field when a gunman began shooting.
/ Source: TODAY

A congressional aide described how he was sent "running for my life" after getting shot in the leg by a gunman who opened fire on a baseball practice outside of Washington Wednesday.

“I was pinned down in right field. At that point, I got struck in leg, and made a run for it," Zack Barth, a legislative correspondent to Texas Rep. Roger Williams, said Thursday about the chaotic moments that took place at the Alexandria, Virginia, ball field.

Barth said by the time he reached the dugout, “I was bleeding pretty badly, but I was just trying to keep my head down, keep everybody’s heads down."

“We didn’t know what was going on. There was a lot of uncertainty, and we were just trying to stay alive,” he told TODAY.

The shooting took place during a Wednesday morning practice for a charity game among House lawmakers, staff members and others. Majority Whip Steve Scalise was also shot, along with a Capitol Police officer and a lobbyist.

Scalise underwent surgery Wednesday and was in critical condition at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

The gunman, James T. Hodgkinson, was shot by police and died of his wounds.

In the moments before Hodgkinson began spraying the field with gunfire, Williams was hitting ground balls to Scalise, unaware "the shooter was probably 20 yards from where I was,” the Republican lawmaker recalled to TODAY.

He heard a pop, but thought it was the backfiring of a car.

“But then came pop pop pop pop pop. People were yelling, ‘He’s got a gun. Get cover!’” he said.

Williams said he dove into the dugout, where several others were also taking cover.

Once Barth arrived, Williams and Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks used Brooks' belt to create a tourniquet to stop the younger man's bleeding.

Both Williams and Barth credited the Capitol Police officers for saving their lives.

“The thin blue line worked," Williams said, referring to the police force. "These two officers were fabulous. They saved all of our lives. There was no question that it would have been different if they weren’t there.”

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Members of Congress from both parties have been using the field, which is about seven miles from Washington, in preparation for an annual bipartisan charity game scheduled for Thursday.

The game will continue as scheduled Thursday night at the Washington Nationals stadium.

Williams cheered the decision, calling it “the right time to play this game.”

“It’s baseball, it’s America, and when America gets punched, America punches back and we’ll do that tonight,” he said.