Paulsen: ‘We’re a family in many ways’

U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen. MPR News file

Third District Minnesota U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen is one of Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise’s roommates and a member of the Republican congressional baseball team, although he was not at the practice in Arlington, Virginia Wednesday morning where Scalise and four others were shot.

“I learned of the incident on the way to the White House when I was bringing some constituents in for a White House tour,” Paulsen told MPR News on Wednesday afternoon. “Right away, my heart sank, and you just think about your own family.”

Capitol police officers who were in Scalise’s security detail wounded the shooter, who has been identified as James Hodgkinson, 66. Hodgkinson later died of his injuries, President Donald Trump announced at the White House.

“There’s no doubt that the Capitol police that were on hand saved a lot of lives by being there,” Paulsen said, adding that there have been uniformed police officers at the team’s practices before, but that the security detail was present Wednesday because Scalise’s position as the third ranking House Republican requires it.

“One of the agents told me when he heard the first shot it sounded like a tire had blown.”

Paulsen said Democrats and Republicans had been looking forward to their annual charity baseball game Thursday night.

“Despite some of the portrayals of Congress not getting along, we’re actually very collegial with one another. We’re a family in many ways,” he said. “So you can imagine how hard it is to hear someone you work alongside with has actually been shot or injured. I think we all feel that way, and probably more so for our families.”

Paulsen said he’s not focused on the background of the suspect or whatever political motivations he may have had.

“I hope this scary incident can remind us of the importance of civility and respect and restraint in our political discourse and society as a whole, because that’s what we really need and strongly believe in.”