WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump has awarded the U.S. Medal of Valor to five police officers for their heroism at the scene of a gun attack last month against members of Congress.
The five first responders stopped the shootout, which took place at a baseball field in Washington's suburbs. Republican lawmakers and some of their staff and aides were practicing at the time for an annual baseball game between Republican and Democratic members of Congress.
WATCH: President Trump honors first responders
Three members of the Alexandria, Virginia, police department and two U.S. Capitol Police special agents received the nation's highest honor for public safety officers during a White House ceremony Thursday. All suffered injuries in the process; one of the two women in the group is still walking with the aid of crutches.
“When our human instincts tell us to run [away] — there's danger! — our police and first responders run straight at it: standing in the breach, protecting the innocent and keeping our loved ones safe,” Trump said at the award ceremony.
“These officers saved the lives of every innocent person on the field that day,” the president added, calling them “real heroes whose courageous action under fire saved so many lives.”
He noted the first responders were at a disadvantage when they confronted a gunman wielding rifles, while they had only handguns.
Those honored were: Alexandria Police Department Officers Nicole Battaglia, Alexander Jensen, and Kevin Jobe and Capitol Police Special Agents Crystal Griner and David Bailey.
During the incident on June 14, Congressman Steve Scalise, the third highest-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, was shot once in the hip, an injury that became life-threatening. The high-powered bullet shattered his pelvis and damaged other internal organs as it disintegrated into hundreds of fragments, causing massive internal bleeding.
Scalise was close to death for several days, but slowly recovered following multiple surgeries. The 51-year-old lawmaker left the hospital just Wednesday, six weeks after the attack, and is now at a rehabilitation center where he will undergo weeks of therapy.
The 66-year-old gunman who shot Scalise and three other people died in a shootout with the police at the sports field. Investigators subsequently found that he carried a list of Republican lawmakers' names, and apparently had been stalking some of them for weeks.
The gunman, James Hodgkinson, had traveled halfway across the country to Washington three months before the attack, and was living in his car during that time. When he arrived at the baseball field in mid-June he asked a bystander who was practicing; when he learned the amateur players were Republican lawmakers, he produced a semi-automatic rifle and began firing.
The attack cast a pall of gloom over Washington, but the annual Congressional Baseball Game went on as scheduled that night. The contest is a summertime tradition dating back to 1909, a friendly competition that raises money for charities.