FBI por­trait shows Vir­ginia shooter had ‘anger man­age­ment prob­lem’

Per­sonal prob­lems drove Hodgkin­son, but mo­tive un­known

USA TODAY US Edition - - NEWS - Kevin Johnson USA TO­DAY WASH­ING­TON Con­tribut­ing: Aamer Mad­hani

Adrift and strug­gling to cope with an ar­ray of per­sonal prob­lems, James Hodgkin­son was run­ning out of money and told a fam­ily mem­ber that he wanted to re­turn to Illi­nois. That was just two days be­fore he opened fire on Repub­li­can law­mak­ers with a mod­i­fied as­sault ri­fle and a hand­gun at an Alexan­dria, Va., baseball field.

A week af­ter the stun­ning at­tack, which left House Ma­jor­ity Whip Steve Scalise crit­i­cally wounded and four others in­jured, the FBI Wed­nes­day of­fered a trou­bled por­trait of the 66-yearold gun­man with “an anger man­age­ment prob­lem” who abruptly left a strained mar­riage in Belleville, Ill., more than month ago to take res­i­dence in a van on the out­skirts of the cap­i­tal — along with his weapons.

While he was prone to rage against the pol­i­tics of Pres­i­dent Trump and was carrying the names of six law­mak­ers in his pocket at the time he was fa­tally wounded in an ex­change of gun­fire with po­lice, fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors said they were still at a loss for what drew Hodgkin­son to the quiet neigh­bor­hood of Del Ray and ul­ti­mately to launch the as­sault in which he fired 60 rounds.

“He was strug­gling in all kinds of dif­fer­ent ways,” FBI As­sis­tant Di­rec­tor Tim Slater said.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors con­cluded that there was no con­nec­tion to ter­ror­ism and that ev­i­dence in­di­cated Hodgkin­son had acted alone.

Yet Slater ac­knowl­edged that there was much more they didn’t know about the for­mer owner of a home in­spec­tion busi­ness.

Slater said the list of law­mak­ers, which in­cluded Reps. Mo Brooks of Alabama, Jeff Dun­can of South Carolina and Trent Franks of Ari­zona, pro­vided no con­text or im­me­di­ate in­di­ca­tion that the law­mak­ers were tar­gets. A sketch of Wash­ing­ton-area streets also found on the gun­man was “not deemed to be of in­ves­tiga­tive sig­nif­i­cance,” Slater said.

A re­view of Hodgkin­son’s lap­top, cell­phone and cam­era, which yielded pho­to­graphs of the Capi­tol, the Wash­ing­ton Mon­u­ment, Dirk­sen Se­nate Of­fice Build­ing and the Na­tional Mu­seum of African Amer­i­can History and Culture, ap­peared to re­flect the time­line of a typ­i­cal tourist – not a man plot­ting mass mur­der.

In mid- to late April, Slater said, Hodgkin­son vis­ited the of­fices of Ver­mont Sen. Bernie San­ders. The gun­man was an ar­dent sup­porter of the se­na­tor’s cam­paign for the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion, but it was not im­me­di­ately clear whether Hodgkin­son had any di­rect con­tact with San­ders. A re­view of his elec­tronic com­mu­ni­ca­tions also showed con­tact with the of­fices of Demo­cratic Illi­nois Sens. Richard Durbin and Tammy Duck­worth. Yet those com­mu­ni­ca­tions, and his at­ten­dance at a lo­cal tax protest, have not yielded ev­i­dence of a mo­tive.

Per­haps the most sus­pi­cious of his pre-at­tack ac­tiv­i­ties was the at­ten­tion he paid to a lo­cal stor­age unit he had rented in Alexan­dria, where in­ves­ti­ga­tors re­cov­ered more than 200 rounds of am­mu­ni­tion and other com­po­nents for the 7.62-cal­iber SKS ri­fle he wielded dur­ing the as­sault.

The stor­age fa­cil­ity’s vis­i­tor log, Slater said, showed that Hodgkin­son had gone there 43 times be­tween April and June. Most days, he would ar­rive be­tween 6 and 7 a.m. Some­times, he would visit twice a day, but never for more than an hour.

On the morn­ing of the at­tack, he ar­rived at 6:23 a.m. and left just 12 min­utes later.

Be­fore the first shots were re­ported just af­ter 7 a.m., Hodgkin­son raised the omi­nous prospect of a po­lit­i­cally-mo­ti­vated at­tack when he en­coun­tered Rep. Ron De­San­tis, R-Fla., and others in the baseball field park­ing lot.

“Is this the Repub­li­can or Demo­crat baseball team?” Hodgkin­son asked, ac­cord­ing to the FBI’s ac­count. “When the wit­ness re­sponded that it was a Repub­li­can event, Hodgkin­son re­port­edly re­mained at the baseball field.”

Still, Slater said that there is no ev­i­dence that the gun­man had ad­vance knowl­edge that the law­mak­ers would be prac­tic­ing there or that he was tar­get­ing any of those in­volved in the prac­tice.

Shortly af­ter that park­ing lot en­counter, ac­cord­ing to the FBI, Hodgkin­son went to his van, re­trieved his ri­fle and donned a hol­stered 9 mm hand­gun.

Wit­nesses then re­ported that the gun­man, ap­pear­ing un­usu­ally calm and de­lib­er­ate for a shooter, opened fire in the di­rec­tion of the un­wit­ting law­mak­ers and staffers in the midst of their prac­tice.

Slater said Hodgkin­son fired at least 50 rounds from the ri­fle and 10 ad­di­tional rounds from the hand­gun be­fore two U.S. Capi­tol Po­lice of­fi­cers and Alexan­dria po­lice re­turned fire.

At 7:14 a.m., Hodgkin­son was re­ported down.

In Belleville, the FBI is con­tin­u­ing to re­view Hodgkin­son’s rocky past. It in­cludes a record of ar­rests on var­i­ous crim­i­nal charges dat­ing back to 1988, ac­cord­ing to St. Clair County, Ill., Cir­cuit Court doc­u­ments.

MANUEL BALCE CENETA, AP

The FBI’s Ti­mothy Slater said James Hodgkin­son was “strug­gling ” in many ways.

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