Suspected ballfield shooter belonged to anti-GOP groups

By Allen Cone   |   Updated June 14, 2017 at 4:15 PM
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June 14 (UPI) -- The suspected shooter at a congressional baseball practice Wednesday belonged to several anti-Republican groups and campaigned for former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in 2016.

Police identified James T. Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville, Ill., as the shooter who opened fire on congressional Republicans practicing baseball in Alexandria, Va. President Donald Trump announced Hodgkinson died of a gunshot wound.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Louisana, was shot in the hip with a rifle, and two members of the Capitol Hill police force, a congressional staffer and a lobbyist also were injured.

Hodgkinson owned a home inspection business, according to his Facebook page but his license was not renewed in 2016, according to the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. He attended Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville.

Hodgkinson was a member of a number of anti-GOP groups on Facebook, including "Terminate the Republican Party." His Facebook page prominently features Sanders' image.

Two days ago he posted the following about Trump on Facebook: "I Want to Say Mr. President, for being an [expletive] you are Truly the Biggest [expletive] We Have Ever Had in the Oval Office."

Hodgkinson, who voted in the Democratic primary in 2016, participated in a protest outside the downtown Belleville post office, according to the Belleville News Democrat. He said he was part of a "99 percent" team noting the amount of money and political power the top 1 percent of Americans acquired. The newspaper photographed him at the event.

Charles Orear, 50, a restaurant manager from St. Louis, told The Washington Post that he became friendly with Hodgkinson during Sanders' presidential campaign, describing him as a "quiet guy" who was "very mellow, very reserved." They stayed overnight at the home of a Sanders supporter in Rock Island, Ill.

"He was this union tradesman, pretty stocky, and we stayed up talking politics," Orear said. "He was more on the really progressive side of things."

Sanders spoke on the Senate floor Wednesday after the shootings.

"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. I am sickened by this despicable act," Sanders said. "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. Real change can only come about through nonviolent action, and anything else runs counter to our most deeply held American values."

Robert Becker, the director of Sanders's presidential campaign in Iowa, told The Washington Post that "we had approximately 100 paid organizers on staff. He was not one of them." Becker said ahead of the caucuses in Iowa, about 10,000 people volunteered for Sanders at varying points and he couldn't find anyone who remembered him.

Law enforcement officials arrived at Hodgkinson's small farmhouse in the rural community southeast of St. Louis on Wednesday.

A neighbor told a Washington Post contributor that Hodgkinson hadn't lived at the house for "quite a while." He said Hodgkinson's wife left for work in the morning.

Police previously arrested Hodgkinson in St. Clair County on charges that include failing to obtain electrical permits, damaging a motor vehicle, resisting a peace officer, eluding police, criminal damage to property, driving under the influence and assorted traffic offenses.

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