The gunman who shot a top GOP congressman and several other people Wednesday at a baseball practice outside the nation’s capital had a long history of lashing out at Republicans and recently frightened a neighbor by firing a rifle into a field behind his Illinois home. James T. Hodgkinson, 66, wounded House Rep. Steve Scalise before he was fatally shot by police who had been guarding the House majority whip.
In the hours after the attack in Alexandria, Virginia, a picture began to emerge of a shooter with a mostly minor arrest record who worked as a home inspector and despised the Republican Party. On Facebook, Hodgkinson was a member of a group called “Terminate the Republican Party,” a fact that seemed to take on chilling new meaning in light of an account from South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan. He said he was preparing to leave the baseball field when a man politely asked him whether it was a Democratic or Republican team before quietly walking off. Until recently, Hodgkinson ran a home-inspection business out of his house in southern Illinois. His Facebook page shows that he was a fan of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who last year made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. Sanders acknowledged Wednesday that Hodgkinson had apparently been among many volunteers on his 2016 campaign.
Authorities believe Hodgkinson had been in the Alexandria area since March, living out of a cargo van and not working, FBI agent Tim Slater said. An online search of newspapers shows that he frequently wrote letters to his local newspaper, the Belleville News-Democrat, which published nearly two dozen of them between 2010 and 2012. Many included complaints about the same theme: income inequality.