Businessman and Congressman Roger Williams returned to Fort Worth Saturday, walking with a bit of a limp, but enormously grateful to be home after a week that saw a gunman open fire on Republican leaders during a baseball practice.
“I’m so happy to be back in Texas and grateful to be around family and my friends,” Williams said at the Fort Worth Club on Saturday afternoon. .
Williams was at the baseball diamond in Alexandria, Virginia on Wednesday, June 14, practicing for a Congressional baseball game, when a gunman opened fire, wounding a top Republican congressman and several others. The 66-year-old gunman, identified as James T. Hodgkinson, shot House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana before he was fatally shot by police who had been guarding the House majority whip. Scalise was upgraded from “critical” to “serious condition” Saturday and continued to show signs of improvement, according to officials.
Authorities believe the 66-year-old gunman had been living out of a van in northern Virginia since March after leaving his southern Illinois home. The man expressed grievances online about President Donald Trump and Republicans, but authorities said they’re still working to determine a motive.
Williams was asked if the shooting had changed any of his opinions on the second amendment.
“If he [the gunman] had a permit, I’m glad he had a permit,” said Williams. “I think what we’ve got here, dealing with a person, I’m not so sure he’s Republican or Democrat. I think this person has genuine issues, mental illness, to get up one day and say, ‘You know, I’m going to kill some people, I’m going to kill some Congressmen.’ I don’t see how … I don’t think of him that way. I just think this person had some real issues.
Williams hurt his foot and ankle running for cover, though he’s not exactly sure how. His staffer Zach Barth from Houston was shot in the leg and is recovering with his family.
Williams, a longtime area automobile dealer and business leader, represents Texas’ 25th district, which stretches from Austin to North Texas. He says he will return to Washington Tuesday.
“I’ve already had some good conversations with my Democratic colleagues. We can’t be fueled by anger we need to be fueled by patriotism,” Williams said.
Williams used his news conference Saturday to say that the event “showed everything that I believe is right with America.
“It showed that in the toughest of times, we come together and we stood as one. It showed us that the true patriots exist, and do what’s right, not what’s easy.”
He went on to praise the work of the police officers on the scene who ultimately shot and killed the gunman.
“Right now, I’m talking about Officers [Crystal] Griner and [David] Bailey. They risked their lives to save ours and stepped forward when they could have easily taken a step back. All of America should be grateful every day for law enforcement officers around the country. My family and I will be forever grateful to these two.”
Williams said that while he was in the dugout with others, he was able to look up and see one of the officers – he couldn’t see who – firing back at the gunman.
“I was laying on the ground was able to look up towards the steps that came down, and I saw, I don’t know who it was, but one of the officers literally had both hands on his gun firing, just one right after the other, firing back at the perpetrator.”
The gunman was unable to get past the fence to the playing field because the gate was locked. If the gunman had gotten past that gate, the outcome would have been much worse, said Williams.
Williams says the outpouring of support from people on all sides of the political spectrum has been truly helpful and encouraging. He says he looks forward to returning to work, but for now, is healing in at home in Texas.
“I feel blessed, I’m so glad that at the end of the day, everybody’s going to be fine,” Williams said.
Williams also wants the country’s politicians to use this event as a way to move the country forward.
“I just hope that, as I’ve said in the past, I hope we can use this as a building block, and not a stumbling stone or whatever you want to call it, to begin to get some peaceful dialogue going back among people that can agree, should agree, even agree to disagree, but not to where we get to this point.”
Williams, who was a baseball player at TCU and coached there for a year. was pleased Congressional leaders decided to continue the annual Congressional Baseball game on Thursday evening.
The game at Nationals Park on Thursday evening carried on a century-old bipartisan ritual. Democrats won in an 11-2 blowout.
“The baseball game two nights ago now truly was, as it always has been, has been bipartisan,” he said. “We had 26,000 people out there, raised a lot of money for charity. We were able to pray together and so forth.”
Williams wants that spirit to continue.
“Look, there’s no problem with agreeing to disagree. There’s no problem with debating issues. The problem is when it gets violent. What I want to see, it’s not going to change my core values, and it shouldn’t change their core values, but let’s talk about it in a way that allows us to talk about it, not get angry and have things happen that happened the other day.”
Williams has heard from a lot of people since the event. The event has also not made him angry, he said.
“There’s people I hadn’t heard from in a long time, and dear friends,” he said. “It’s just an unbelievable outpouring, and you realize that life is short, that you’re not in control. You can be at the wrong place at the wrong time, and you just begin, as you get older, you just love everybody and so forth. That’s kind of the way I feel about it. I’m not angry. I’m enjoying serving in Congress, but I’m not angry.”