Attorney General Merrick Garland on Tuesday promised House lawmakers that he will look into why the FBI deemed the 2017 shooting that nearly killed Rep. Steve Scalise, Louisiana Republican, and several GOP colleagues as “suicide by cop,” instead of domestic terrorism.
“I promise I will raise the issue with the FBI,” Mr. Garland told lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee while testifying about the Justice Department’s fiscal 2022 budget request.
The shooting, which targeted Republicans practicing in Alexandria, Virginia, for the annual congressional baseball game, was carried out by a lone gunman who had made numerous social media posts backing far-left causes and the presidential candidacy of Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent.
The Department of Homeland Security, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and Alexandria prosecutors all deemed the attack as domestic violent extremism targeting Republican members of Congress.
The FBI, however, privately determined the attack was “suicide by cop.” The designation was not made public until a congressional hearing last month.
Republicans have fumed over that determination, saying it downplays the shooter’s political motivation, which would make the incident domestic terrorism.
“This is clearly one of the cases where I think it needs to be reclassified because I think the evidence is very clear and many members of Congress could have lost their lives,” Rep. Robert Aderholt, Alabama Republican, said at the hearing Tuesday. “It is a very important issue for all members of Congress, whether Democrat or Republican.”
Mr. Aderholt continued by noting that gunman James Hodgkinson “took defensive measures to shield himself from bullets and yet it was still suicide by cop.”
The incident occurred in June 2017 when the 66-year-old Illinois man opened fire at a Virginia baseball field where the Republican congressional baseball team was practicing.
Hodgkinson was killed in a shootout with Capitol Police after five other people were injured, most severely Mr. Scalise.
Rep. Brad Wenstrup, an Ohio Republican who served as an Army surgeon during the Iraq War, applied first aid and worked to stop Mr. Scalise’s leg from bleeding.
During a House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence hearing last month Mr. Wenstrup grilled FBI Director Christopher A. Wray about the “suicide by cop” designation.
He told Mr. Wray, who was not in charge of the FBI at the time of the attack, that the designation was inaccurate and undermined the heroism of the survivors.
“Director, you want suicide by cop, you just pull a gun on a cop,” Mr. Wenstrup said, noting that Hodgkinson acted like a man in a gunfight trying to kill as many people as possible. “It doesn’t take 136 rounds. It takes one bullet.”
Mr. Wray did not respond to Mr. Wenstrup’s comments, other than to say he was not running the bureau at the time.
Former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was in charge of the bureau at the time of the attack.