James Hodgkinson, whom law enforcement officials identified as the man who opened fire on Congress members and staffers at a GOP baseball practice Wednesday morning, was a fierce opponent of President Donald Trump, according to initial accounts and a review of his social media profiles.
The 66-year-old from Belleville, Illinois, owned a home-inspection business and appeared to be a fervent supporter of progressive politics and a critic of Trump.
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was among several people shot. He was “critically injured and remains in critical condition,” MedStar Washington Hospital Center tweeted Wednesday afternoon. He had undergone surgery earlier.
Trump said the gunman had died from his injuries but did not name him.
Hodgkinson left a litany of anti-Trump and anti-Republican posts on the timelines of his Facebook and Twitter accounts, and he joined several Facebook groups with names such as “The Road to Hell is Paved with Republicans” and “Terminate the Republican Party.”
“Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.,” Hodgkinson wrote in a March 22 post.
Court records show that Hodgkinson had been arrested on charges of battery and aiding damage to a motor vehicle in 2006. The charges were dismissed.
‘Totally out of the blue’
Hodgkinson was also a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders and volunteered for his 2016 presidential campaign. Sanders released a statement on Wednesday saying he was “sickened by this despicable act.”
Hodgkinson “wasn’t happy with the way things were going, the election results and stuff,” his brother, Michael, told The New York Times. “Totally out of the blue.”
Michael said he wasn’t close with his brother, but that James was politically active and led a regular life.
Charles Orear, an acquaintance of Hodgkinson’s who said he campaigned with him for Sanders, told The Washington Post that Hodgkinson was a “quiet guy” who was “very mellow, very reserved.”
“He was this union tradesman, pretty stocky, and we stayed up talking politics,” Orear told The Post. “He was more on the really progressive side of things.”
One of Hodgkinson’s neighbours, Aaron Meurer, told the Belleville News-Democrat that Hodgkinson had been absent for the past two months and that he wasn’t sure if Hodgkinson was still with his wife, Suzanne.
Hodgkinson’s wife told ABC that he had been living in Alexandria for the past two months.
“She said that he went on a trip. She wasn’t real specific,” Meurer said.
He added: “I knew he was a Democrat, a pretty hardcore one. I know he wasn’t happy when Trump got elected but he seemed like a nice enough guy.”
Criticisms of Republicans
The Belleville News-Democrat on Wednesday released several letters to the editor Hodgkinson wrote in 2012 that criticised conservative policies and Republican politicians.
In one letter, he railed against the conservative commentators Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly, saying, “They speak their lies and hatred and misdirection to anyone who will listen.”
In another letter, he called for an overhaul of the federal tax code to raise income tax rates on the rich and said, “God bless the 99 per cent.” He also expressed hope that politicians would soon “legalise or at least decriminalize marijuana use.”
In other etters between 2008 and 2012, reported by NPR and The New Republic’s Emily Atkin, Hodgkinson described President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and their associates as traitors and accused them of being “war profiteers.”
He also criticised President Ronald Reagan for giving tax breaks to the rich, saying, “I don’t ever again want to hear how great a president he was.”
#Belleville suspect James Hodgkinson #killed in congressional #shootout belonged to anti-GOP groups. #Alexandira https://t.co/NF7KbWKM1I pic.twitter.com/2AIMiVmJxY
— News-Democrat (@bellevillenewsd) June 14, 2017
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