A RIFLE-WIELDING man with an apparent deep hatred of US President Donald Trump has opened fire on Republican politicians at a baseball practice, injuring five people.

The shooter, who was killed after his gun rampage in the US state of Virginia, has been identified as James Hodgkinson, 66, of Illinois, who had posted a number of abusive anti-Trump rants on social media.

He shot the third-highest-ranking House Republican, whip Steve Scalise, and injured four others at the field just outside of Washington about 7am on Wednesday (9pm AEST).

In a chilling detail that suggests the violent incident was politically motivated, congressman Ron DeSantis said the man approached him and his Republican colleague Jeff Duncan before the shooting and asked a chilling question.

"A gentleman walked up to us and wanted to know whether there were Republicans or Democrats practising out there," Mr DeSantis told CNN.

"Congressman Duncan said that it was Republicans and then he immediately turned around and went towards the field.

"Once we got back to the Hill, we got word that there was a shooting.

"Immediately, Jeff and I looked at each other and said, 'We've got to report this individual'."

FBI Evidence Response Team members mark evidence at the scene of a multiple shooting in Alexandria, Va., Wednesday, June 14, 2017, where House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of La., and others, were shot at a congressional baseball practice. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
FBI Evidence Response Team members mark evidence at the scene of a multiple shooting in Alexandria, Va., Wednesday, June 14, 2017, where House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of La., and others, were shot at a congressional baseball practice. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Mr DeSantis said he was "not really a friendly guy", but it was "not enough that I thought he was going to go commit acts of violence".

Authorities say it is too early to ascertain the gunman's motive, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into Hodgkinson's anti-Trump social media rants.

"Trump is a traitor. Trump has destroyed our democracy. It's time to destroy Trump & Co," Hodgkinson wrote on his Facebook page on March 22.

The married man has also posted abusive and expletive-laden comments about Mr Trump on social media as recently as Monday.

US politician Steve Scalise has been shot at Republican baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia. Picture: Supplied
US politician Steve Scalise has been shot at Republican baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia. Picture: Supplied

His page also reveals him to be a strong supporter of Democratic senator Bernie Sanders and that he belonged to a Facebook group called "Terminate the Republican Party".

Hodgkinson, who worked as a building inspector, volunteered for the Mr Sanders' unsuccessful presidential campaign last year.

The senator said he was "sickened by this despicable act" and that "violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society".

Hodgkinson's brother Michael said he was angry over the election of Mr Trump and had travelled to Washington to protest.

"I know he wasn't happy with the way things were going, the election results and stuff," Michael told The New York Times.

Hodgkinson also had a history of violence.

He was accused in 2006 of punching a woman in the face and of aiming a gun at her boyfriend. The charges were later dismissed.

Mr Scalise was shot in the hip during the incident and dragged himself off the field leaving a trail of blood.

He underwent emergency surgery in a Washington hospital and is in a critical condition.

Two police officers, a congressional aide and a lobbyist were also shot.

In a televised address, Mr Trump described Mr Scalise as a "very good friend", a "patriot" and a "fighter".

"America is praying for you and America is praying for all of the victims of this terrible shooting," the President said.


Witnesses said the shooting may have been much worse if Mr Scalise's security detail not been at the game.

Hodgkinson engaged in a gunbattle with the Capitol Police before he was shot, dying later of his injuries.

"Had Steve not been there, I think you would have seen many more injured and probably many killed," Mr DeSantis said.

"I think it would have been a really gruesome day, so having the Capitol Police there really saved lives today; I think there's no question about that."

 

Mr Trump was the one to reveal that Hodgkinson had died from his injuries in the "very, very brutal assault."

He said he had spoken with Mr Scalise's wife, Jennifer, and pledged his support.

"America is praying for you and America is praying for the victims," he said. "We are with her and with the entire Scalise family."

Mr Scalise, the House Majority Whip, one of Washington's most powerful figures, was standing near second base when he was shot by Hodgkinson standing near third base, according to witnesses.

Republican Roger Williams, who coaches the team, was also injured in the attack.

"He asked are these Republicans or Democrats," Mr DeSantis told Fox News.

News Corp Australia


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