Five officers who responded to the shooting of U.S. Majority Whip Steve Scalise received the nation's highest public safety honor on Thursday, as Scalise watched from the Washington-area rehabilitation facility where he continues to recover from his injuries.
"They saved my life, and are my heroes," Scalise, 51, said in a statement after President Donald Trump presented the Medal of Valor to Capitol Police officers David Bailey and Crystal Griner – who were Scalise's personal security detail – and Alexandria Police officers Nicole Battaglia, Kevin Jobe and Alexander Jensen.
Scalise's wife, Jennifer, and his doctors from MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where he had been treated until he was discharged earlier this week, all attended the ceremony.
Before placing the decorative medals around each officer's neck, Trump praised them as "real heroes whose courageous action saved so many lives."
"The Medal of Valor is reserved for those who go above and beyond the call of duty as each of these men and women did on that fateful day," Trump said. "And they did it with great courage, and they did it with instinct. When our human instincts tell us to run – 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."
U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise has been discharged from the hospital and moved to in…
Scalise, a Jefferson Republican and the No. 3 ranking member in the U.S. House, was the most seriously injured when James "Tom" Hodgkinson opened fire on Republicans on a Virginia baseball field where GOP congressmen were practicing for the annual charity game against Democrats.
This week, he was transitioned to in-patient rehabilitation. Vice President Mike Pence said at the start of the ceremony that Scalise was watching the ceremony remotely.
Scalise, who is the highest-ranking and longest-serving member of Louisiana's Congressional delegation, has represented the suburban New Orleans 1st District since 2008. As whip, he has become a key ally of Trump, who repeatedly referred to Scalise as his "friend" during the ceremony.
"Most people instinctively run from danger, but these officers did not hesitate to put their own lives on the line to run towards it that morning of June 14 to protect the lives of others. David, Crystal, Nicole, Kevin, and Alexander all have families of their own, yet they courageously confronted and stopped the shooter," Scalise said in his statement. "Everyone who was at the ballpark that morning owes their lives to the selfless and brave actions of these heroes, and I cannot thank them enough," Scalise said. "I am especially grateful to Crystal and David, who I have been blessed to have by my side day in and day out in my job as Majority Whip. I would not be here today without the bravery of Crystal and David."
The Medal of Valor is the nation's highest award for bravery for public safety officers and is awarded by the president or vice president.
Trump said Bailey and Griner, who were also injured in the shooting, "raced through the bullets" to engage the gunman. Hodgkinson was fatally shot in the ensuring shootout.
"These officers saved the lives of every innocent person on the field that day – many of them friends of (Pence) and myself," Trump said.
Doctors said Scalise faced "imminent risk of death" when he arrived by airlift at MedStar with significant blood loss and damage to bones and internal organs. Trump recalled visiting the hospital the night of the shooting.
"(The doctors) were a lot more worried that night at the hospital," he said.
Doctors haven't said how long it will be before Scalise fully recovers, but have previously described the process as "long." Trump on Thursday said that Scalise is in for "weeks of rehabilitation."
"Steve is a fighter – we've known that for a long time," Trump said. "He will recover. We're pulling for him and we are sending his family our support and our love."
The Senate is currently considering the Wounded Officers Recovery Act, which would allow Capitol Police officers injured in the line of duty to receive benefits from the United States Capitol Police Memorial Fund. Currently, only families of officers who are killed can access the fund.
The House, spurred by the June 14 shooting, has already passed the bill. U.S. Reps. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, and Ralph Abraham, R-Alto, and U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, R-Madisonville, are among the bipartisan slate of co-sponsors of the legislation.
"Without those brave officers, a massacre would have occurred," Kennedy said.
Trump said during the Medal of Valor ceremony that he would sign the legislation "immediately" if it gets to his desk.
"People have been looking at this for a long time," Trump said, turning to Scalise's wife. "Jennifer, you can tell Steve that he pulled it off, okay? That's better than being a whip."