James T Hodgkinson: What we know about Virginia suspect

By Jessica Lussenhop
BBC News

James T Hodgkinson in an 2006 mugshot from St Clair County, Illinois, where he residedImage source, Courtesy St Clair County State's Attorney Office
Image caption,
James T Hodgkinson in a 2006 mugshot from St Clair County, Illinois, where he resided

A picture is building of the prime suspect in the shooting ambush on Republican congressman at a baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia.

James T Hodgkinson, who shot and wounded congressman Steve Scalise and injured three others, was carrying an assault rifle and pistol, according to authorities.

Five people including two police officers were taken to Washington DC-area hospitals. Hodgkinson died in the firefight with the congressional security detail.

The 66-year-old was from Belleville, Illinois, a small city just across the Mississippi River from the city of St Louis, Missouri.

He was self-employed until recently and worked as a home inspector.

Media caption,
Bernie Sanders: 'I'm sickened by this despicable act'

Michael Hodgkinson, the suspect's brother, told the New York Times that James had become upset about the election of President Donald Trump and had moved to the Washington DC area "out of the blue" to protest.

Hodgkinson's wife told the ABC News that her husband moved to Virginia two months ago. She told neighbours only that he was travelling.

FBI investigators say he had been living in a white cargo van in the Washington DC suburbs since leaving his Illinois home.

Former Alexandria mayor Bill Euille told the Washington Post that he had seen James Hodgkinson every morning for the last month and a half at the local YMCA gym, using the showers.

Mr Euille said he was helping Hodgkinson look for a job in the area, that Hodgkinson spent hours on his laptop, and that it appeared he was homeless.

"He'd open up his gym bag and in it, he had everything he owned. He was living out of the gym bag," the mayor told the paper. "He sat in the Y's lobby for hours and hours."

The YMCA's lobby has a view of the playing field where the shooting took place.

Hodgkinson also frequented a bar at a nearby barbecue restaurant where he ordered Budweisers and watched golf. The bartenders say he was quiet, but "creepy".

"He'd sit there with a slight grin after a few beers. Not a happy smile when I'd glance over at him, but a creepy one," a bartender told Politico.

Image source, St Clair County Sheriff's Department
Image caption,
A 1992 mugshot of Hodgkinson

Back in Belleville, a childhood friend who knew him by his middle name "Thomas" told reporters he was "not evil", while his former lawyer characterised him as "a misanthrope" and "a very irascible, angry little man".

In 1996, the Belleville News-Democrat reported that his 17-year-old foster daughter committed suicide by pouring petrol over herself and setting herself on fire in her car. At the time, Hodgkinson was shocked, telling the paper she had been a "very practical, level-headed girl".

In 2002, he and his wife took custody of their 12-year-old great niece. However, she was returned to state custody three months after a violent episode with Hodgkinson.

According to court documents, the 2006 altercation took place after Hodgkinson tried to retrieve a 16-year-old girl believed to be his daughter from her friend's house.

The responding officer wrote in his report that the girl said Hodgkinson dragged her by her hair and beat her.

He then allegedly sliced into her seatbelt with a pocket knife and choked her as she tried to drive away.

Aimee Moreland, Hodgkinson's daughter's friend, told the Daily Beast that "he was really awful to [his daughter]" and that "he was always angry".

He also allegedly shot at Moreland's boyfriend with a 12-gauge shotgun and punched Moreland in the face.

Image caption,
Hodgkinson in a photo that was posted to his Facebook account

Hodgkinson was charged with multiple counts of domestic battery and aggravated discharge of a firearm, but after the victims failed to appear in court the charges were dismissed.

Ms Moreland told the Daily Beast that she missed court because of a mix-up on the dates.

"I tried to tell the court that this guy's crazy," she said. "That this is a big deal, but they didn't listen to me."

Hodgkinson's more recent criminal record in St Clair County, Illinois, shows many traffic violations, and a call made to police in March 2017 - potentially just days before he left for Virginia - complaining that Hodgkinson shot 50 rounds in a wooded area too close to residential homes.

The police report says Hodgkinson had a valid licence for the hunting rifle and was not doing anything illegal.

Media caption,
Watch as baseball gunman opens fire

An acquaintance of Hodgkinson confirmed that he had campaigned for Mr Sanders during the election.

Mr Sanders, a Vermont senator, said he was "sickened by this despicable act" and condemned Hodgkinson's actions.

A Facebook account that appeared to belong to Hodgkinson was filled with anti-Republican and anti-Trump posts, as well as expressions of support for former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (the page has since been removed).

On social media, Hodgkinson railed against Donald Trump, writing on Facebook, "you are Truly the Biggest A** Hole We Have Ever Had in the Oval Office" and calling Trump a "traitor".

He also belonged to many Facebook groups with names like "Terminate the Republican Party" and "Donald Trump is not my President".

Local media unearthed a 2012 photo of Hodgkinson protesting outside a downtown Belleville post office holding a sign that read, "Tax the Rich".

The Belleville-News Democrat also compiled his letters to the editor in 2012, when he railed against conservative tax policies and praised President Barack Obama.

"God bless the 99 percent," he concluded one letter.

Media caption,
Texas congressman fights back tears as he recounts shooting