Arrow-right Camera

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Wednesday, January 16, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Night 27° Partly Cloudy
News >  Nation

Suspect killed in congressional shootout wanted to ‘terminate the Republican Party’

This 1992 photo provided by the St. Clair County. Ill., Sheriff’s Department shows James T. Hodgkinson. Officials said Hodgkinson has been identified as the man who opened fire on Republican lawmakers at a congressional baseball practice Wednesday June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Va. (St. Clair County Illinois Sheriff’s Department / Associated Press)
This 1992 photo provided by the St. Clair County. Ill., Sheriff’s Department shows James T. Hodgkinson. Officials said Hodgkinson has been identified as the man who opened fire on Republican lawmakers at a congressional baseball practice Wednesday June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Va. (St. Clair County Illinois Sheriff’s Department / Associated Press)

BELLEVILLE, Ill. – The shooter who was killed during gunfire at a practice for a congressional baseball game Wednesday morning belonged to a number of anti-Republican groups, including one called “Terminate the Republican Party.”

The shooter was James T. Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville.

Injured in the attack were House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La.; Matt Mika, a former congressional staff member who now works for Tyson Foods; and Zack Barth, a staff aide to Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas; and two U.S. Capitol Police officers who were part of Scalise’s security detail.

President Donald Trump said Hodgkinson died during gunfire exchanged with congressional security workers.

Hodgkinson owned a home inspection business. Hodgkinson was a licensed home inspector from 1994 to 1997, when his license expired, according to records from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. He also held a license from 2003 to 2016, but it was not renewed.

Two days ago, Hodgkinson posted an angry tweet about Trump on Facebook.

“I Want to Say Mr. President, for being an ass hole you are Truly the Biggest Ass Hole We Have Ever Had in the Oval Office,” he wrote on Facebook.

Hodgkinson is a member of a number of anti-Republican groups on Facebook, including one called “Terminate the Republican Party.”

-“The Road to Hell is Paved with Republicans”

- “Donald Trump is not my President”

– “President Bernie Sanders”

– “Illinois Berners United to Resist Trump”

– “Boycott the Republican Party”

– “Expose Republican Fraud”

– “Terminate the Republican Party”

The FBI and other federal investigators arrived Wednesday morning at Hodgkinson’s two-story home on the outskirts of Belleville. Spokesman Dillon McConnell of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said the agency is “conducting emergency traces for a handgun and a rifle,” but declined to identify the weapons types.

Hodgkinson took a Democratic ballot in the primary election in 2016.

In 2012, Hodgkinson took part in a protest outside the downtown Belleville post office. He said he was part of a “99 percent” team drawing attention to the amount of money and political power the top 1 percent of Americans acquired.

Aaron Meurer is a neighbor of the Hodgkinsons and said he noticed in the last two months James had been gone. The alleged shooter’s wife, Suzanne, told him her husband was traveling.

“She said that he went on a trip. She wasn’t real specific,” said Meurer, unsure of whether the couple had split up recently. “He’s been gone for the last two months, so I haven’t seen him around too often.”

Meurer said he occasionally cut his neighbor’s grass to help out. He didn’t know the neighbors well, just socialized from the lawn, and said his neighbor would fire guns on his rural property, commonplace in the open area outside of Belleville.

“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,” recalled Meurer, who said the couple lived across the street for about six years.

“He seemed like he was semi-retired; he was home a lot. He used to garden a couple of years ago,” said Meurer, who runs his own trimming and removal service. “I didn’t really talk to him too much. He was a Democrat and I was a Republican, so we didn’t have too much to talk about.”

Meurer said during the campaign Hodgkinson had a lone Bernie Sanders sign near the road in his front yard. He thought that Hodgkinson had raised foster kids who had grown up. He also thought there were grandchildren who visited occasionally.

“We were neighbors, but we didn’t talk every day. When we saw them in the yard we’d say ‘Hi’ and go on our way,” Meurer said. “He seemed like a normal guy, a regular guy.”

Meurer suggested that perhaps “this Democratic rhetoric made him snap. I know he was a pretty hardcore Democrat.”

Terry Beach, the executive director of the St. Clair County Intergovernmental Grants Department, said Hodgkinson worked as a subcontractor in the department’s housing rehabilitation and weatherization program.

However, Hodgkinson had been banned from the department, Beach said. Beach said he didn’t remember him well. It wasn’t immediately clear why Hodgkinson was banned from the department.

Hodgkinson has a varied arrest record in St. Clair County, for offenses such as failing to obtain electrical permits, damaging a motor vehicle, resisting a peace officer, eluding police, criminal damage to property, driving under the influence and assorted traffic offenses.

Realtor Charlene Brennan with Strano & Associates in Belleville used Hodgkinson from time to time for home inspections.

“He used to be in construction or the building trades, and then he went into home inspections. He had been doing home inspections for several years,” she said.

There was nothing about Hodgkinson that would have pointed to Wednesday’s events.

“From a business standpoint, he did not seem like he is a radical – opinionated but not a radical,” Brennan said. “He wasn’t obnoxious, he wasn’t problematic. When he did home inspections for me he didn’t rile up the buyers or make ridiculous statements.”

The accounting firm in Belleville where Hodgkinson’s wife works declined comment.

Former Congressman William Enyart, a Democrat from Belleville who was defeated by current Rep. Mike Bost, said he’s never heard of Hodgkinson.

“I don’t have a clue who this guy is,” Enyart said.

Enyart was defeated by Bost, a Republican from Murphysboro, in 2014.

Enyart is friends with Hodgkinson on Facebook, but Enyart said when he was in public life, he had a generally policy of “friending everybody.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders said Wednesday he was “sickened” by reports that the man who opened fire at a congressional baseball practice had volunteered on his presidential campaign.

“I have just been informed that the alleged shooter at the Republican baseball practice is someone who apparently volunteered on my presidential campaign,” Sanders, I-Vt., said in a statement. “I am sickened by this despicable act.”

Social media profiles that appeared to belong to Hodgkinson contained pro-Sanders and anti-Trump messages.

“Let me be as clear as I can be,” Sanders said. “Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms; Real change can only come about through nonviolent action, and anything else runs against our most deeply held American values.”

Trump decried the shooting of a top House Republican on Wednesday as a “very, very brutal assault” and called for all Americans to set aside differences and pray for the recovery of the victims.

Trump said that “many lives would have been lost without the heroic action” of the Capitol Police officers who took down the gunman.

“We may have our differences but we do well in times like these in times like these that everyone who serves in our nation’s capital is here because above all they love our country,” said Trump, speaking from the White House’s Diplomatic Room. “We can all agree that we are blessed to be Americans, that our children deserve to grow up in a nation of safety and peace, and that we are strongest when we are unified.”

Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter

Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter

There was a problem subscribing you to the newsletter. Double check your email and try again, or email webteam@spokesman.com

You have been successfully subscribed!


Top stories in Nation

News >  Nation

Judge bars citizenship question from 2020 census

A federal judge blocked the Trump administration Tuesday from asking about citizenship status on the 2020 census, the first major ruling in cases contending officials ramrodded the question through for Republican political purposes to intentionally undercount immigrants.