Politics

James Hodgkinson Had Been Frequent Critic of GOP

66-year-old Illinois man identified as shooter at Republicans’ baseball practice

In this undated file photo, James Hodgkinson holds a sign during a protest outside of a United States Post Office in Belleville, Ill. Hodgkinson has been identified as the suspect in the Wednesday, June 14, 2017, Washington D.C. shooting. (Derik Holtmann/Belleville News-Democrat via AP)

James T. Hodgkinson, who wounded five people at Republicans’ congressional baseball practice Wednesday morning before later dying at a local hospital, had been critical of the Republican party.

Hodgkinson, 66, was from Belleville, Illinois, a town outside St. Louis represented by GOP Rep. Mike Bost. The two-term member is not on the baseball team.

Hodgkinson, who cast a ballot in the Democratic presidential primary, belonged to several anti-Republican groups, including one called “Terminate the Republican Party,” according to his hometown newspaper, the Belleville News-Democrat.

He’d been a volunteer on Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ unsuccessful 2016 presidential campaign, and a photo of Sanders was the cover image on the Facebook account believed to have belonged to Hodgkinson. (Sanders took to the Senate floor Wednesday to condemn the shooting.) 

[What the Shooting Suspect Has Said about Republicans]

The Facebook account, which has since been disabled, contained posts critical of President Donald Trump. On March 22, he shared a petition from Change.org that he had signed, writing, “Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.”

Hodgkinson’s latest tweet, from April of this year, was about asking Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin to support a filibuster of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, then Trump’s nominee to the high court.

On the same Facebook account, presumed to have belonged to Hodgkinson, he weighed in on the special election in Georgia’s 6th District, seizing on GOP nominee Karen Handel’s comments in a recent debate that she does not support a “livable wage.” 

The message on the Facebook page read: “Republican (expletive) Wants People to Work for Slave Wages, when a Livable Wage is the Only Way to Go! Vote Blue, It’s Right for You!”

Democratic nominee Jon Ossoff called the post “sickening” Wednesday, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Handel said in a statement she was aware that the suspect made had made "vile comments" about her on social media and condemned the violence.

Hodgkinson had a history of writing letters to the editor, some of which the Belleville News-Democrat republished online Wednesday after he was identified as the shooter. In many of them, he is critical of the Republican party and what he thought was an unfair tax system.

In a letter from July 2012, he describes MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” as his favorite TV program.

“On a recent show she stated that 17 very rich men are supplying the Republican Party with more than 60 percent of their campaign contributions,” he wrote.

“These men are trying to buy our country. You know they expect something for all this money. That something is that Mitt Romney and a Republican Congress won’t raise their taxes. We all know that the rich don’t pay enough taxes,” he continued.

In an earlier letter from July 2012, Hodgkinson criticized former President George W. Bush for “ruining our economy.”

He ended several letters with calls to “vote all Republicans out of Congress.”

Hodgkinson owned a home inspection business. A neighbor told the Belleville News-Demcorat that Hodgkinson has been gone for the past several months and that Hodgkinson’s wife had told him that Hodgkinson had gone on a trip.

“I didn’t really talk to him too much,” the neighbor, Aaron Meurer, told the Belleville News-Democrat. “He was a Democrat and I was a Republican so we didn’t have too much to talk about.” Meurer did not return calls from Roll Call. 

County sheriff’s officers have been periodically dispatched to Hodgkinson’s home over the years, county records show. A neighbor reported in 2006 that Hodgkinson, who was attempting to locate his daughter, had “used bodily force” to damage an upstairs bedroom door in her house. Hodgkinson complained in 2007 that the neighbor’s trash hauler was turning around in his driveway.

The most recent report was in March. Officers were dispatched when a caller reported hearing as much as 50 gunshots near Hodgkinson’s house. They arrived to find Hodgkinson shooting rounds in the pine trees. He showed them a valid state firearms permit, and the officers told him not to shoot in the residential area.

Stephanie Akin contributed to this report.

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