An "eerie feeling" prompted U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Great Bend, to skip the Republicans’ baseball team practice Wednesday morning in Alexandria, Virginia.
Shooter James T. Hodgkinson was fatally shot after wounding five people, including House Republican Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and former congressional staffer Matt Mika, now government relations director for Tyson Foods.
In a conference call interview Wednesday afternoon, Marshall called it "a shocking day."
Republicans have practiced two or three days a week for about six weeks for the Thursday charity baseball game, Marshall said. "I think I missed one other practice," he said.
He "never felt it was a safe location," he said of the baseball field.
"I’ve had a bad feeling," he said. "Call it providence, call it what you want," he said, but he decided not to go to the Wednesday practice. He said he "just had an inkling" he didn’t need to be there.
He learned of the shooting via television in his office in the Cannon Office Building. They assembled in the office, closed the curtains and locked the doors, he said. He called a fellow freshman congressman on the baseball team. He reached out to his wife, too. Texts and phone calls multiplied.
Marshall described Scalise as a friend and a mentor.
"He’s everybody’s best friend," he said. "He was so enthusiastic about this baseball game. He’s the guy that’s there every day at practice, diving after baseballs, chatting it up and getting everybody fired up."
Marshall played catch with Mika several times over the past several weeks.
Two of the wounded were Capitol police officers assigned to guard Scalise because he is in House leadership. Marshall praised the bravery of the officers. He credited their response with saving the lives of others who could have been hit by gunfire.
Marshall, a physician who captured the Big First seat in November 2016, noted that his father was a police officer. When members of Congress are together in large groups, he thinks about the potential risk. "I just can’t help myself," he said.
Another time he thought they were vulnerable occurred when House Republicans rode buses to the White House after passage of the American Health Care Act, aimed at the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Marshall said he wasn’t aware of any death threats against him but said he was worried about the security of his staff. He also said his wife and daughter are "very concerned about this."
"I think America needs to look in the mirror," Marshall said. Why is there so much anger? Marshall asked. "I’m going to look in the mirror myself," he said. "Am I pushing that agenda of yelling at each other?" he said.
As Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, addressed members of Congress after the shooting, they stood, hand in hand, and prayed.
"I remain forever hopeful," Marshall said.