Scalise thanks Capitol police who saved his life: 'You are my hero'

Friday, September 29, 2017

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise returned to the U.S. Capitol for the first time since the June 14 shooting that left him wounded and in critical condition.

Scalise entered the House floor on crutches Thursday morning with a beaming smile and was met with a standing ovation, pats on the back, and hugs from his colleagues.

"You have no idea how great this feels to be back here at work in the people's House," the Louisiana congressman said while addressing his colleagues.

"As you can imagine, these last three and a half months have been pretty challenging times for me and my family, but if you look at the outpouring of love, of warmth, of prayer -- my gosh, [my wife] Jennifer and I have been overwhelmed with all of that outpouring," Scalise said. "It's given us the strength to get through all of this and to get to this point today."

Scalise and several other Republican lawmakers were practicing for an annual congressional charity baseball game early in the morning on June 14 in Alexandria, Virginia when a lone gunman opened fire. Scalise was hit in the hip and taken to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where he underwent surgery. Four others, including two U.S. Capitol police officers on duty, were also injured. The gunman, later identified as James T. Hodgkinson, died from injuries he sustained in a shootout with police.

Scalise was discharged from the hospital in July six weeks after the shooting but still had to undergo "intensive inpatient rehabilitation," according to the hospital.

"I'm definitely a living example that miracles really do happen," Scalise said.

Scalise said the shooting changed him "but not in the ways you might think."

"It's only strengthened my faith in God, and it's really crystallized what shows up as the goodness in people," Scalise said. "I got to see that goodness in people and so while some people might focus on a tragic event and an evil act, to me, all I remember are the thousands of acts of kindness and love and warmth that came out of this and kept me going through all of it and again, just re-emphasized just how wonderful most people are and how much compassion there is out there."

Scalise thanked the two U.S. Capitol police offices -- Crystal Griner and David Bailey -- who were assigned to his security detail that day and fired back at the shooter even though they had also been injured.

"David, you are my hero, you saved my life. Thank you so much," Scalise said, as representatives gave Bailey, who was in the audience, a standing ovation.

"So many others of you, again, both Republican and Democrat, reached out in ways that I can't express the gratitude and how much it means to me, Jennifer and our whole family," Scalise said. "It really does show the warm side of Congress that very few people get to see."

Scalise spoke of his faith that provided an "unbelievable sense of calm."

"When I was laying out on that ball field, the first thing I did once I was down and I couldn't move anymore, is I just started to pray," Scalise said.

Scalise also thanked his wife, Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, a medical doctor and Iraq War veteran, who applied a tourniquet to Scalise's wound, and his friend, Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., who was the first to rush to the hospital.

He also expressed gratitude to the surgical team at MedStar Washington Hospital Center who "put me back together again, which was quite a task, to the point where I'm actually able to relearn how to walk again."

Before addressing the House, Scalise tweeted "I'm back" this morning, along with a photo.

ABC News' John Parkinson contributed to this report.

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