Gun­man sup­ported Sanders, ranted against Repub­li­cans

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY AN­DREA NO­BLE

James T. Hodgkin­son — the 66-year-old gun­man who at­tacked Repub­li­cans pre­par­ing for a base­ball game Wed­nes­day morn­ing — posted anti-Trump rants on­line, de­fended the po­lit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy of Sen. Bernard Sanders and was an out­spo­ken critic of GOP poli­cies.

In one re­cent Face­book post, Hodgkin­son called Mr. Trump a traitor who “de­stroyed our Democ­racy.” He called his Repub­li­can con­gress­man 10 times over the past year to voice con­cerns.

Hodgkin­son, who had vol­un­teered for Mr. Sanders’ pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, also wrote against Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton, who he said “stole” the pri­mary from Mr. Sanders.

But the home in­spec­tor from Illi­nois spewed nearly all of his vit­riol at Repub­li­cans, and when ap­proach­ing the base­ball field Wed­nes­day morn­ing made sure first to ask whether the play­ers were Repub­li­cans or Democrats.

Rep. Mike Bost, who rep­re­sents the Belleville area in Con­gress, said Hodgkin­son’s con­tacts with his of­fice didn’t seem out of the or­di­nary.

“While he con­tin­u­ally ex­pressed his op­po­si­tion to the Repub­li­can agenda in Con­gress, the cor­re­spon­dence never ap­peared threat­en­ing or raised con­cerns that anger would turn to phys­i­cal ac­tion,” the Illi­nois Repub­li­can said in a state­ment.

Mr. Sanders said he was “sick­ened by this de­spi­ca­ble act.”

Author­i­ties were work­ing to cob­ble to­gether a full story of what mo­ti­vated Hodgkin­son to shoot and in­jure a con­gress­man and three oth­ers on the Alexandria base­ball field. The at­tack sent mem­bers of Con­gress, staffers and even chil­dren scram­bling to take cover.

They asked for help un­der­stand­ing why the gun­man, who was killed in a fire­fight with po­lice, left his home in ru­ral Illi­nois in March and drove to the Wash­ing­ton area, where he was un­em­ployed and liv­ing out of his car.

“While the sub­ject is de­ceased, we con­tinue to ac­tively in­ves­ti­gate the shooter’s mo­tives, ac­quain­tances and where­abouts that led to to­day’s in­ci­dent,” said Tim Slater, the spe­cial agent in charge of the FBI’s Wash­ing­ton field of­fice.

Law­mak­ers who at­tended the prac­tice game said Hodgkin­son was the same per­son who had ap­proached them in the park­ing lot just prior to the shoot­ing.

Rep. Jeff Dun­can, South Carolina Repub­li­can, de­scribed the in­ter­ac­tion, say­ing the man asked “if the team prac­tic­ing was a Demo­crat or Repub­li­can team.”

“I told him they were Repub­li­cans. He said, ‘OK, thanks,’ turned around,” Mr. Dun­can said. “I got in the car and left to find out my Repub­li­can col­leagues were tar­geted.”

De­tails about the gun­man emerged as the FBI and lo­cal law en­force­ment of­fi­cials con­ducted a search of his home in Belleville, just out­side St. Louis.

Hodgkin­son did have a his­tory of vi­o­lence and of be­hav­ior that drew po­lice at­ten­tion. Po­lice re­ports in­di­cate he was ar­rested on charges of do­mes­tic as­sault more than a decade ago but more re­cently was the sub­ject of a com­plaint about gun­fire out­side his ru­ral Illi­nois home.

A St. Clair County Sher­iff’s Depart­ment re­port from 2006 in­di­cates that Hodgkin­son was ar­rested and charged with do­mes­tic bat­tery and ag­gra­vated dis­charge of a firearm for a do­mes­tic as­sault, dur­ing which he was ac­cused of fir­ing a shot­gun at a man.

The re­port says Hodgkin­son went to a neigh­bor’s home to re­trieve his foster daugh­ter and struck a man who in­ter­vened in the head with the wooden stock of his shot­gun. When the man turned to run, the re­port states, Hodgkin­son fired once. It was un­clear whether he aimed at the man or in the air. Hodgkin­son then en­tered the home and fought phys­i­cally with his daugh­ter as he at­tempted to get her out of the house. He left and went back to his home be­fore deputies ar­rived on the scene.

St. Clair County court records in­di­cate that the charges were later dis­missed.

Sher­iff’s re­ports in­di­cate that since then, deputies have re­sponded sev­eral times to Hodgkin­son’s home to take com­plaints of dam­age to his yard.

More re­cently, deputies had to in­ter­vene af­ter they re­ceived a com­plaint of shots fired on his prop­erty by a neigh­bor.

Wil­liam Schaum­l­ef­fel, the neigh­bor who called po­lice, told The Wash­ing­ton Times that he was out­side with his grand­chil­dren when he was star­tled by a se­ries of loud gun­shots. Scan­ning the farm­land sur­round­ing his prop­erty, he couldn’t im­me­di­ately de­ter­mine where the shots were com­ing from.

“There is a grove of white pine trees, and he stepped out of there and I could see he had a gun he shoul­dered,” Mr. Schaum­l­ef­fel said. “He pointed it. It wasn’t at us or the house, and he wound off about six rounds.”

Mr. Schaum­l­ef­fel said he yelled at his neigh­bor, who was more than 200 yards away, to knock it off. He got no re­sponse and called the sher­iff’s depart­ment when Hodgkin­son kept fir­ing.

“It was too much gun to be fir­ing around the area be­cause of the houses around,” he said.

Deputies said they spoke with Hodgkin­son, who had an Illi­nois firearms own­ers iden­ti­fi­ca­tion card, and ad­vised him not to dis­charge the hunt­ing ri­fle in the area. Pos­sess­ing a gun and fir­ing it safely in that part of the county is not il­le­gal, so no charges were filed, the sher­iff’s of­fice said.

Hodgkin­son grew up in Belleville and op­er­ated the home con­struc­tion and in­spec­tion busi­ness JTH In­spec­tions for decades be­fore clos­ing it last year. In re­cent years, he wrote a se­ries of letters to the editor, pub­lished in the Belleville News-Demo­crat, in which he railed against Repub­li­cans and in­come inequal­ity and voiced sup­port for tax re­form.

De­spite Hodgkin­son’s ea­ger in­volve­ment in pol­i­tics, his neigh­bors said he and his fam­ily mostly stuck to them­selves.

“They just didn’t mix,” Mr. Schaum­l­ef­fel said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TO­GRAPHS

Law en­force­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tors went to the home of James T. Hodgkin­son on Wed­nes­day in Belleville, Illi­nois, to cob­ble to­gether a full story of what mo­ti­vated him to open fire on Repub­li­can law­mak­ers.

Hodgkin­son, who held strong po­lit­i­cal views, ranted in so­cial me­dia against Pres­i­dent Trump and Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton.

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