Pence aide at shooting but unhurt, Hoosier lawmakers say the hatred ‘has to stop’

WASHINGTON – No members of Indiana’s Congressional delegation were at Wednesday morning’s baseball practice when a gunman opened fire, but an aide to Vice President Mike Pence was in attendance, according to the vice president’s staff.

Francis Brooke, a policy aide to Pence, is a coach on the team and wasn’t hurt. The vice president’s staff said he returned to work just before lunch as Pence spent the day at the White House working with President Trump and speaking with Congressional members including Rep. Joe Barton and Sen. Jeff Flake.

The gunman struck five people, including Rep. Steve Scalise, the majority whip of the House of Representatives.

“We saw Steve’s face flash up on the screen,” Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) said, who was in the House gym at the time. “Democrats and Republicans of course jaws dropped, and it was complete silence throughout the gym.”

Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) is the only Hoosier on the congressional baseball team. The Democrats were across the river at the time practicing as well for Thursday night’s game.

“I looked and said we’ve got to get everybody off the field right now,” Donnelly said, who was standing next to Rep. Mike Doyle at the time, the Democratic team captain.

“Mike went and grabbed everybody and brought them in the dugout, and then you just kind of look around,” Donnelly said. “What I kind of did is scan the entire field to see if there was anything out there.”

Donnelly said moments later the group united in prayer for “our friend Steve and all the officers and house aides would be O.K.”

Indiana lawmakers said they noticed an increase in security on Capitol Hill Wednesday, all applauding the work and efforts of Capitol Police who were on scene.

“Truly had the Capitol Police not been there, it could have been a true massacre,” Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) said.

Lawmakers said they haven’t made any immediate changes to their own security but acknowledged the threat level has intensified.

“It seems threats have gone up and the level of hatred and violence seems to be increasing against many of us,” Brooks said. “Or it’s been going on for some time and people haven’t been talking about it.”

Brooks, a former U.S. Attorney, said there’s a renewed effort among Congressional members to begin sharing threats internally to better protect each other.

“This has to stop,” she said. “The hatred and violence perpetrated against public officials and their staff just needs to stop.”

Both Brooks and Rokita serve on Scalise’s whip team, routinely meeting weekly on vote counts and other House matters.

“He doesn’t have a bad word about or for anyone,” Rokita said. “And that’s a real tough thing to do.”

The resolve, though, lawmakers said is to push forward.

Donnelly said he will play in Thursday night’s game and Brooks and her staff will be in attendance.

“My approach won’t change at all,” Donnelly said. “It’s a chance to be with my friends, colleagues and to try to have a nice evening for all of the folks that come out to the game.”

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