Details emerging about gunman in attack on GOP baseball practice - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Details emerging about gunman in attack on GOP baseball practice

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(Derik Holtmann/Belleville News-Democrat, via AP). FILE - In this April 17, 2012, photo, James Hodgkinson of Belleville protests outside of the United States Post Office in Downtown Belleville, Ill. (Derik Holtmann/Belleville News-Democrat, via AP). FILE - In this April 17, 2012, photo, James Hodgkinson of Belleville protests outside of the United States Post Office in Downtown Belleville, Ill.

WASHINGTON (WDRB) -- Details are emerging about the man identified as the gunman in the shooting that injured Rep. Steve Scalise and four others. 

The assailant has been identified as 66-year-old James T. Hodgkinson from Belleville, Illinois, which is near St. Louis, Missouri.  President Donald Trump says the gunman died from his injuries, but he did not identify him by name.

In the hours after the attack in Alexandria, Virginia, a picture began to emerge of an attacker with a mostly minor arrest record who worked as a home inspector and despised the Republican Party.

Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders says the man authorities identified as the gunman had apparently volunteered on his presidential campaign.

Sanders released a statement on Twitter saying "he is `sickened by this despicable act."  He says "Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms." 

Republican Representative Jeff Duncan says he suspects he spoke with the man who minutes later opened fire on the congressional baseball practice.

Duncan, of South Carolina, says he gave a description of the man to Alexandria police that "fits the picture that's being shown on TV."

Duncan says he was preparing to leave the baseball practice when the man approached him and asked: "Excuse me, sir, who's practicing today? Democrats or Republicans?"'

Duncan said he replied it was the Republican team, and the man thanked him and turned around. Nothing about the man "struck me as being out of the ordinary." Duncan says he left the field at 7:02 a.m. and had no idea there had been a shooting. He said he has no doubt the man he spoke with was the shooter, based on photos he's seen.

A search of online newspapers show that Hodgkinson frequently wrote letters to his local newspaper, the Belleville News-Democrat, which published nearly two dozen letters between 2010 and 2012, many of which included complaints about the same theme: income inequality.

Hodgkinson, who spent most of his life in the community of 42,000 just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, compared the economic conditions of the time to those that preceded the Great Depression and excoriated Congress for not increasing the number of tax brackets and taking other tax reform measures.

On May 14, 2010, he wrote: "I don't envy the rich; I despise the way they have bought our politicians and twisted our laws to their benefit."

Less than a year later, on March 4, 2011, he wrote that Congress should rewrite tax codes to ease the tax burdens of the middle class.

"Let's get back to the good ol' days, when our representatives had a backbone and a conscience," he wrote.

Later that year, in October 2011, he applauded the Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York and Boston, writing that the demonstrators "are tired of our do-nothing Congress doing nothing while our country is going down the tubes."

Hodgkinson also had arrests in his background for a series of minor offenses and at least one more serious offense. Court records show that his legal trouble started in the 1990s with arrests for resisting police and drunken driving. His most serious problems came in 2006, when he was arrested on a battery charge.

In April 2006, he was arrested on two counts of battery - one for striking a man in the face with a wood shotgun stock and another for punching a woman with his fist, as well as a count of unlawful damage to a motor vehicle for cutting the passenger seatbelt of the woman's car with a knife. According to the court clerk, the charges were dismissed in November of that year.

Though there are no other legal problems listed in St. Clair County, which includes Belleville, since 2011, Hodgkinson did come to the attention of local law enforcement as recently as March 24.

Bill Schaumleffel recalled that he heard loud shots being fired outside his house, which stands about 500 feet behind Hodgkinson's home. When he went outside, he saw Hodgkinson shooting a rifle into or on a cornfield. He was squeezing off five or six shots at a time and, according to the report of the incident, fired about 50 shots in all.

"I yelled, 'Quit shooting toward the houses,'" he said.

When Hodgkinson refused to stop, Schaumleffel called the sheriff's department.

"I told the sheriff, 'I don't know what's the matter with that guy, but he can't be shooting like that,'" he said.

St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson said Wednesday that Hodgkinson showed the deputy all required firearms licenses and documentation involving the high-powered hunting rifle, which he said he was simply using for target practice.

The deputy cautioned Hodgkinson about doing such shooting around homes, given that the rounds can travel up to a mile. No charges were filed.

"He said, 'I understand,' and said he needed to take the gun to a range to shoot it, Watson said. "There was nothing we could arrest him for, and there was no indication he was mentally ill or going to harm anyone.

"The only thing I was concerned about was that it was such a high-powered gun, and that somebody could possibly get hurt. We try to make sure people are reasonable when doing this."

Watson said the deputy on Wednesday recalled Hodgkinson as being "very cordial."

Dale Walsh, 65, of Belleville, said he was a lifelong friend of Hodgkinson's. He said Hodgkinson spent most of his life building homes but in recent years turned to home inspections.

Walsh said Hodgkinson never talked politics with him and did not seem prone to violence. But he said he was a passionate person who occasionally got into fights.

"He was the type of person that if you challenged him, he wouldn't back off."

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