FBI portrait shows Virginia shooter had ‘anger management problem’
Personal problems drove Hodgkinson, but motive unknown
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.
The FBI’s Timothy Slater said James Hodgkinson was “struggling ” in many ways.