Congressman Bill Johnson returns to Valley and talks about shoot - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Congressman Bill Johnson returns to Valley and talks about shooting that targeted Republicans

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Republican Congressman Bill Johnson, who represents the 6th District, is back in the Mahoning Valley for the first time since the June 14th shooting that injured his friend and colleague Congressman Steve Scalise.

21 News spoke to him one-on-one about the shooting that targeted Republicans, the game that brought both political parties together, and how Washington lawmakers move forward from here.

The gunfire that critically injured Congressman Scalise and three others at a Virginia baseball field could forever change Washington.  

For Congressman Johnson, he's thankful that this was the one day his 13-year-old son Nathan couldn't make it to practice.

"Any other time he would have been with me that morning and we would have stayed for the entire practice because he runs the bases to give us a little extra practice.  But he had basketball camp here in Ohio so he didn't come in until Wednesday night and wasn't with me.  Thank God, because we would have been there for the entire practice and who knows what could have happened.  I'm just very, very grateful." Congressman Johnson said.

The gunman's violence only served to bring the two political parties and the nation closer together as they vowed to still play ball the very next night.

The charity baseball game raised more than $1-million dollars.  Breaking their record by more than $500,000.

"There was a lot of bonding, camaraderie, among Republicans and Democrats.  We had a prayer together out at second base where Steve Scalise would be," Congressman Johnson said.

One of the most emotional moments of the night was when Capitol Hill Police Officer David Bailey threw out the first pitch.

Congressman Johnson tells 21 News, "Capitol Hill Police Officer David Bailey, who helped bring the shooter down, was there on crutches. He threw out the first pitch and when members, that had been at practice, realized that he was there; that was very emotional because they got an opportunity for the first time to thank him for saving their lives."

The 6th District Congressman believes he crossed paths with the shooter as he left the Virginia baseball field early to go to a meeting. "This is a residential area, so the cars are not going very fast.  It's like a 25 mile per hour zone. If I remember correctly, I had stopped at a crosswalk to let him get out of my lane of traffic.  I didn't think anything out of the ordinary.  I probably would never have remembered it had this not occurred.  But when something like this occurs you begin to reflect. I gave a report to the Capitol Police and as it turns out the shooter was living out of a white cargo van, that's exactly what he was in."

One thing that's still unsettling to Congressman Johnson is knowing that the shooting happened just five or 10 minutes after he left and that the place that many of his friends took cover is where the gunman hoped to trap them.

"He was working his way around behind the fence.  Hiding himself in trees, and obstacles there to get cover.  But he had worked himself to almost behind the first dugout where a lot of members and staff had gone to for cover.  Because it's a recessed dugout like if you see the Cleveland Indians play, it's dug into the ground. It's got concrete all around it, so it was a place for people to get down.  But if he had gotten inside that gate there at the first baseline we'd been talking about there would have been several dozen funerals this week instead of our good friend being in the hospital," Congressman Johnson said.

Because of the shooting, Johnson does say he notices a difference in the discourse in Washington, "I think there's a commitment.  I certainly pray that commitment is a long-term commitment.  We can disagree in America without being disagreeable.  You know and we've got to learn to get back to that. Husbands and wives don't agree on everything.  Brothers and sisters don't agree on everything.  Employers and employees don't agree on everything.  But we don't pick up weapons and start shooting each other on things that we disagree on.  And it shouldn't be that way with verbal venom in our nation's capital.  And we need some help with that we really do.  Because the media needs to stop sensationalizing this venomous rhetoric when it comes out," Congressman Johnson said.

The Congressman also believes people need to work through their differences and talk to their lawmakers when possible, not look to a gun when they have a problem.

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