WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/CBS News/AP) — The man suspected of opening fire on members of Congress during a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia Wednesday, had made social media posts critical of President Trump, and Republicans, but investigators are still unsure of what set him off to violence.
James T. Hodgkinson, who was 66, was fatally shot by police.
As CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported, investigators believe he had been in the Alexandria area for at least the last six weeks. Prior to that he had lived in rural Illinois where he had a criminal past, gripes with the GOP, and friends and family who said they didn’t see this coming.
He had apparently volunteered on Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.
“I have just been informed that the alleged shooter at the Republican baseball practice this morning is someone who apparently volunteered on my presidential campaign,” Sanders said Wednesday. “I am sickened by this despicable act, and let me be as clear as I can be, violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms.”
Sanders paid tribute to Capitol Police for their response to the shooting, and said his “hopes and prayers” are with House GOP Whip Steve Scalise and others who were wounded.
Sanders added, “real change” can only come through nonviolent action.
Meanwhile, the FBI has released a poster seeking information from the public about Hodgkinson.
Hodgkinson’s Facebook page indicates that, until recently, he ran a home-inspection business out of his home in Belleville, a downstate Illinois community across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.
Law enforcement officials arrived at his modest clapboard home in Belleville, Illinois just after 11:30 a.m.
Police and FBI agents were outside the home, gathered under a tree and at the back of an evidence van.
Because Hodgkinson died in the shootout with police, the big question ‘why’ is being pieced together from interviews, computer files, and his own words in published letters to his local newspaper and online.
“I don’t know his politics. But I can see how he’s pretty well fed up with some of this stuff,” a friend of Hodgkinson’s told Charlie De Mar of WBBM-TV, CBS2 Chicago. “I’m fed up with what’s going on in this state.”
But Hodgkinson was open about politics on Facebook. His Facebook page contained several posts criticizing President Trump and an image of Sanders.
The SITE Intelligence Group reports that Hodgkinson “regularly espoused vitriolic anti-Republican and anti-Trump viewpoints while supporting liberal causes on Facebook.” His posts didn’t overtly warn about Wednesday’s shooting, according to SITE, which reported that he often used “hyperbole and foul language in expressing his opinions.”
One post from March states: “Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.
He was also a member of a Facebook page called: Terminate the Republican Party.
In December, changed his cover photo to a picture of independent congressman Bernie Sanders. Another image states: “Democratic Socialism Explained In Three Words: We The People.”
An post in August states: “I want Bernie to Win the White House.” He volunteered for the Sanders’ presidential campaign.
Hodgkinson also appeared to maintain a Twitter account, which was not particularly active. His most recent posts urged Democratic senators to filibuster the nomination of Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Friends of Hodgkinson described him as happy-go-lucky and passionate about politics.
“It just took me by surprise when I saw it on the news today that he did what he did,” Dale Walsh said. “Throughout the years he didn’t back down from stuff. I mean he was in a few fights and stuff like that, but nothing that would demonstrate violence as far as what he did.”
A Republican lawmaker representing Bellville said Hodgkinson was “always angry.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Bost (R-Illinois) said Hodgkinson contacted his office with complaints more than ten times, but claims he never crossed the line to making any obvious threats of violence.
CBS News’ Kristin Steve and Laura Strickler report that, according to local court records and incident reports from the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department in Illinois, Hodgkinson had over 20 interactions with law enforcement for minor offenses.
Court records show he had seven convictions in total for misdemeanors since 1978. One conviction in 2009 was for failing to have an electrician’s license and another in 1991 was for speeding. The other five charges are too old for the court to have descriptions of the charges, Steve and Strickler report.
In 2006, Hodgkinson was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of battery, court records show. Lyndon P. Evanko, Hodgkinson’s former attorney, did not remember the circumstances of the charge but told CBS News that Hodgkinson never did anything violent. The charge was dismissed by a judge.
Evanko said there was nothing that stood out to him to indicate Hodgkinson would do something like Wednesday’s shooting, but that he did seem like a bit of a “misanthrope” and “not terribly personable,” and had an attitude of “this is how I do things and I should be able to do them my way.” Evanko described him as a “very angry little man, very angry person, felt slighted by people.”
While Hodgkinson was never charged with a felony, he was accused of violence against a 16-year-old girl who was in his care in 2006, and there appears to be a series of disputes with her, according to court records and incident reports.
Records from the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department show he had multiple run-ins with neighbors, complaining of them turning around in his driveway and damaging his yard.
As recently as March this year, a neighbor complained of him firing his gun in his backyard. According to a police report, a neighbor told police that they heard “50 shots.”
Bob Roberts of Chicago’s WBBM Newsradio spoke with neighbor William Schaumleffel, who said Hodgkinson appeared to take target practice on a stand of trees near his home, firing across Schaumleffel’s property while Schaumleffel’s 6-year-old granddaughter and 3-year-old grandson played outside.
“I yelled, ‘Stop that shooting. There’s houses over there and kids around.’ I don’t think that I was loud enough, that he heard me, or if he heard me, he ignored me,” Schaumleffel said.
The neighbor called 911 and summoned St. Clair County sheriff’s police; he said that when police arrived, the shooting stopped.
Schaumleffel said the rest of the 10 families in the immediate neighborhood were cordial but said the Hodgkinsons were not.
In the incident, Hodgkinson was found to have a valid license for the gun and was told to not shoot the gun in the area since homes were nearby.
A law enforcement official told CBS News’ Milton that Hodgkinson was not on the radar of the U.S. Secret Service. He was unknown to them.
(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)