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In a dramatic eyewitness account, Sen. Rand Paul described Wednesday how he was just outside the perimeter of the baseball field when the first shot rang out — and then seconds later he saw Rep. Steve Scalise wounded.
“There was a rapid succession of shots, you know five or 10 shots,” Paul said on MSNBC. “In the field, I see Representative Scalise is shot but moving, and he’s trying to drag himself through the dirt and out into the outfield.”
Paul — who said a "massacre" was prevented by Capitol police on the scene — also saw two congressional staffers in the field.
“They were laying down, but then I’m seeing the shots hitting the dirt around them, and they’re trying to make the difficult decision: Do we lay here, stay low and hope he doesn’t hit us ... or does the shooter just advance and come close and shoot you?”
“One of the staffers scrambled up over the fence. It was probably a 15-20 foot fence, and he did it in about two seconds,” Paul recounted. “I’m on the outside of the fence, and he and I are hiding behind the tree but the gunshots are landing in the dirt in the outfield and around us.”
Paul said it took a few minutes to determine where the shots were coming from and that he and the staffer were not sure which side of the tree to shelter behind.
“The people in the field unfortunately didn’t have much of a chance because nobody could get to them and they couldn’t get to us and it was a wide open field,” Paul said. “There was no way to get to people like Scalise until the firing had stopped.”
Paul, a doctor, said he thought the shots sounded like they were coming from an AR-15 rifle, and that the gunman continued to reload the weapon.
“I probably heard 50-60 shots,” he said. “Then finally we heard the response from the Capitol Hill police.”
Paul said he felt lucky Capitol Hill police were present and that they prevented a "massacre."
"Had they not been there it would have been a massacre, because there's no escaping a guy you know if he's got several hundred bullets and we had no weapons and no place to hide," he said. "So if he would have advanced on the rest of us there would have been no chance, the only chance we had was that the shots were returned by the Capitol Hill police."
Paul added, “Everybody probably would have died except for the fact that the Capitol Hill police were there and the only reason they were there was because we had a member of (House) leadership on our team. If Scalise wouldn’t have been on the team — unfortunately he was hit and I hope he does well — but also by him being there probably saved everybody else’s life because if you don’t have a leadership person there, there would have been no security there.”
Scalise is in stable condition.
Paul stressed that members of Congress are just like everyone else, and that they aren't usually followed by an armed security detail.
"We’re just like normal people," he said. "I go to the grocery store like a normal person. I buy my groceries. I go to the gas station. We practice out there and we just ... we live in a country where we hope there's not such hatred or craziness and, I don't know, disappointing, sad."