AUSTIN - U.S. Congressman Roger Williams (R-Texas) walked into a room filled with reporters at the state Capitol Monday afternoon on crutches. His right leg is in a boot. He'll be recovering from injuries he suffered at the hand of an active shooter for the next six weeks.
"I'm blessed to be here today," said Williams. "And it's a day I won't forget."
Wednesday, Williams was at a morning practice in a park just outside of Washington D.C. with the Republican Congressional baseball team he coaches.
"I was on the third base side of the batting cage, hitting ground balls to our third baseman," said Williams, "not knowing frankly that the perpetrator was probably 20 feet behind me."
"I then went around to the first base side to hit ground balls to Congressman Scalise," Williams continued, "and as soon as I began the first, as soon as I hit him the first ball, the first shot rang out. I think most everybody on the field thought it was a car backfiring."
"The shooting started, 'boom boom boom' and everybody yelled 'he's got a gun, take cover.'"
Willams dove head first into the first base dugout.
"I compare it like diving in a swimming pool with no water," he said.
To his surprise, two other congressmen were also in the dugout along with the 10-year old son of one of them.
"No sooner did that happen that all of a sudden Zack come running from right field and he dove into the dugout and he was yelling, 'I've been hit, I've been hit', blood was, he was bleeding."
Zack Barth is one of Williams' aide and a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin.
"He ran to the right field foul pole thinking he could get as far away from the shooter as he could. The shooter aimed at him three times and missed," said Williams. "And I guess hit him in the leg on the fourth time and Zack made his mind up that the only safe place he'd have to be was that dugout and he ran from the right field foul pole to the dugout. Unbelievable amount of bravery."
Williams says those in the dugout rushed to his side to care for him.
"There was just a lot of heroes that day among my colleagues. But at that moment when he landed there, Mo Brooks took his belt off his baseball pants, gave it to Flake and myself and put a tourniquet on his leg to stop his bleeding."
Williams said Barth is doing exceptionally well and is in good spirits now.
"It has been very moving to watch Zack handle everything," said Williams. "He is constantly asking how everyone on staff is doing and worrying about others rather than letting us worry about him. I believe that says a lot about this young man's character and upbringing. He is selfless and brave."
Williams said he is also grateful for the bravery of the two Capitol police officers, Crystal Griner and David Bailey, who were there and helped stop the shooter.
"This guy was shooting and shooting and shooting. He was trying to get to the first base side where we were but a gate, a gate would not let him get on the field. If that gate would have been unlocked, it would have been a different story," said Williams.
"Finally we heard the Griner and Bailey begin to fire back, which I got to tell you, was a fabulous sound. And they literally kept this perpetrator from going onto the field and massacring everyone. If they had not been there, it would have been totally different. All we had was balls and bats to defend ourselves."
Officer Griner was shot, along with Congressman Steve Scalise and a lobbyist, Matt Mika. Bailey was also injured.
"I received reports that Officer Bailey got shot five times in the chest but he had a bullet proof vest on."
"There were 25 congressman, 15 staff members on a baseball field that was fenced in across from the YMCA. There was one way out and one way in and we were playing baseball. We literally were sitting ducks for somebody that wanted to get up and go kill people," Williams said.
Williams hopes that will be a wake-up call to lawmakers.
"These are serious times. There's a lot of people that are angry out there," said Williams. "Somehow we need to be able to dial the rhetoric back to where people can agree to disagree and do it in the right way. I hope that this, what happened last Wednesday is a starting point where people will begin to understand that."
"As politicians, as people who represent people, we need to sell our positions, not downgrade the opposition," he added.
Williams said he would also like to see police increase security measures for lawmakers. The security detail is only given to constitutional office holders. Representative Steve Scalise is one, which is why two Capitol Police officers were there and able to help stop the shooter.
"The idea that you can come up and talk to your elected official about what your issues are and what you feel has always been a great thing about America. You could do that. And you know, when we're here in Texas and in our district we get great cooperation from local law enforcement."
"What my concern is, Of those two, if Steve Scalise had been sick that day, had a meeting that day, he didn't decide to come to practice, those two officers would not have been there. It would have been us against the shooter with baseball bats. So I would like to think that, that when we ever have, if you have a group of congress people, 25 people, 10 people, 12 people, republicans, democrats and they're in a group I would like for law enforcement to begin to think more serIous about more protection," said Williams.
Williams said he counts himself blessed because he will heal. Doctors tell him he will have to wear a boot on his leg for six weeks and undergo physical therapy for six weeks, but that he will make a full recovery. But the emotional trauma he feels will take longer to heal.
"I think the thing that I think about most is what could have happened," said Williams. "But I'm going to quit thinking about that and be thankful for what did happen. I don't think I will ever forget the sounds of the gun he was using. They said he fired 60 or 70 rounds, had 100 more rounds in his pocket when they found him, or when they killed him. I won't ever, I won't ever forget that."
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