June 15, 2017 10:49:31 AM
Mississippi Rep. Trent Kelly was the first intended victim of Wednesday's mass shooting at an Alexandria, Virginia, baseball park, where members of Congress were practicing for a charity baseball game.
Kelly (R-Saltillo), reached at his Washington D.C., office Wednesday afternoon, confirmed an Associated Press report in which Texas Rep. Joe Barton said Kelly was the first to be targeted by the shooter, who missed the Congressman before shooting and hitting five people.
"I was in close proximity to the shooter and aware of what was happening," said Kelly, a second-term Congressman representing Mississippi's 1st District in North Mississippi.
The shooter, identified as James T. Hodgkinson of Illinois, shot and wounded five, including Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise, a congressional staffer, a lobbyist and two Capitol Police officers as the Republican team was practicing early Wednesday morning. Hodgkinson died in custody as result of wounds suffered in the exchange of gunfire with the two officers, ending a terrifying 10-minute assault, witnesses said.
According to multiple reports, Hodgkinson opened fire from behind a chain-link fence along the third-base line. From that vantage point, Kelly, who was playing third base, would have been the closest person in proximity to the shooter.
"I've given my statement to the Capitol Police Department and the Alexandria Police Department, and I really can't go into details," said Kelly, a Colonel in the Army National Guard. "But I was very close to what happened. What I can tell you is that all of the congressmen and staffers acted appropriately and that those two Capitol Police officers acted heroically. If not for their actions, many more people would have been shot, I am sure."
Kelly said he was back at work at the Capitol at noon.
"Obviously, things got delayed because we were later getting back to the Capitol," he said. "A lot of us couldn't come back the way we came. I had to take the bus back. I had a small business committee meeting at 11 a.m., and that got pushed back an hour."
The Congressman said it was important to get back to work, mainly for the message it sends.
"It's so important to show the people that we won't be intimidated by cowards and terrorists and that we will continue to do the work of the people," Kelly said. "I've been so impressed with both sides of the aisle in how they've come together in this situation."
Kelly said he and the other congressmen will play in Thursday's charity baseball game as planned.
"Absolutely," he said. "We cannot allow this to dictate our freedoms or what we do. I think we all feel that way."
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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