The real heroes in congressional baseball attack

Wounded officer throws out first pitch
Wounded officer throws out first pitch

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  • Cedric Alexander: In the aftermath of the shooting, the Capitol Police and many who witnessed the attack acted as heroes
  • Their bravery deserves to be recognized, he writes

Cedric L. Alexander is a CNN law enforcement analyst and Deputy Mayor of Rochester, New York. He is a former president of The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. The views expressed are his own.

(CNN)One of the things that struck me hardest about the horrific shooting on the baseball diamond at the Republican congressional baseball practice Wednesday morning was the fact that, before opening fire, the shooter, James T. Hodgkinson, paused to ask if his potential targets were Democrats or Republicans. The idea that a man would politely inquire about the political party of a group of men practicing "America's pastime" and then open fire based on the answer, staggers me.

Cedric L. Alexander
But what struck me just as hard was what happened in the moments after his shots were fired. Americans acted as heroes.
Like most acts of violence, this was a kind of spasm. Ten minutes after it started it was over. But now, let's take the time to reflect on what happened.
    A woman who heard the shots called 911, and within three minutes Alexandria police responded. By then, US Capitol Police, who were members of the security detail assigned to Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana), had already engaged the shooter.
    Two of the officers, David Bailey and Crystal Griner, were shot and wounded defending Scalise, who was hit in the hip. Legislative aide Zack Barth and lobbyist Matt Mika were also shot before Hodgkinson was fatally wounded.
    Attacks like this have become all too typical of American life. The truth is that we live in a country divided by many things: race, religion, sexual orientation, and, yes, political affiliation. Partisan politics has become downright tribal -- an affiliation born not from intellect, but from emotion and fear. Acting from some atavistic impulse, Hodgkinson peered through the scope of his rifle and saw no human beings and no Americans. At the junction of his crosshairs were Republicans. So, he shot them.
    The formula that got us here is clear: Extremism begets extremism. Our tribal politics have become extreme, unthinking, and deadly.
    But while this is regrettably true, what I would much rather draw attention to is the simple heroism of the citizen who stopped to call 911 even as the bullets were flying. I want to acknowledge the breathtaking heroism of police officers just doing their jobs.
    Those Capitol Police who were on-scene, carrying only their service-issue handguns, advanced toward a man firing a semi-automatic rifle. He could squeeze off a hundred rounds, effortlessly, while between them they had maybe 20 or 24 shots of far shorter range and far less stopping power. Outgunned, they nevertheless advanced. For this was the work they had sworn to do. They gave no thought to the party affiliation of the people they were sworn to protect.
    Let us praise, as well, the officers from the Alexandria PD, who arrived within three minutes of the 911 call. They saw not a single Republican or Democrat. They saw people in danger.
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    Let us recount with awe and reverence the way combat-surgeon-turned-congressman Brad Wenstrup controlled the bleeding in Scalise's wounded thigh; how Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama used his belt as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding of a congressional aide's leg wound; how Marty Lavor, a photographer and former House staff member, instinctively threw himself on top of a congressman when somebody shouted "Stay down, stay down!"; how US Park Police medivac personnel descended in a helicopter to whisk the wounded majority whip to the hospital.
    Let us acknowledge that extremism bred heroism, professionalism, courage, and supremely American, exquisitely human decency.