BALTIMORE (WJZ/AP) — A 66-year-old Illinois man named James. T. Hodgkinson opened fire on a congressional baseball team practice Wednesday morning, wounding five people including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana.
Hodgkinson reportedly volunteered with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’s campaign in the 2016 election, and had recently posted a petition to impeach President Donald Trump on his Facebook page, along with the statement: “Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.”
He was also a member of a Facebook group called “Terminate the Republican Party.”
“I am sickened by this despicable act,” Sanders said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “And let me be as clear as I can be, 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 non-violent action and anything else runs counter to our most deeply held American values.”
Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) says he saw Hodgkinson in the parking lot before the shooting, where he politely asked “who are those guys?”
After being told they were members of the Congressional baseball team, he inquired: “What are they, Republicans or Democrats?”
CBS News reports the gun he used was a M4 assault rifle.
Authorities are now at the suspect’s home in Belleville, Illinois.
Neighbors tell CBS News they have not seen him in months.
Until recently, Hodgkinson ran a home-inspection business out of his house.
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 adopting 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 matter. Court records show that his legal trouble started in the 1990s with arrests for resisting police and drunken driving.
In 2006, he was arrested on a battery charge after allegedly punching a woman in the face, then striking her boyfriend in the head with the wooden stock of a 12-guage shotgun before firing a round at the man, according to a sheriff’s department report.
While trying to drive away from that confrontation, the report said, Hodgkinson used a pocket knife to cut a seat belt. The charges were dismissed later that year, according to the court clerk.
Three years earlier, Hodgkinson served as an independent contractor on a county weatherization program. He was banned from the program after he was apparently caught rummaging through someone’s desk in search of a check, according to Mark Kern, the St. Clair County board chairman.
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 last spring.
On March 24, Bill Schaumleffel recalled hearing 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 a cornfield. He was squeezing off five or six rounds at a time and, according to the report of the incident, fired about 50 shots in all.
“I yelled, ‘Quit shooting toward the houses,'” Schaumleffel 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 for the high-powered hunting rifle, which he said he was simply using for target practice.
The deputy cautioned Hodgkinson about 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.”
Watson said the deputy on Wednesday recalled Hodgkinson being “very cordial.”
Hodgkinson’s wife told ABC News that her husband had been living in Alexandria for the past two months. His Facebook page indicated that he had left his job.
The office of Republican Rep. Mike Bost, whose district includes Belleville, said it had a record of 10 contacts with Hodgkinson between June 2016 and last month. The contacts were made via phone calls and emails. Spokesman George O’Connor described them as “negative in nature on a variety of legislative issues, but not threatening.”
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.
Hodgkinson never talked politics with him, Walsh said, but 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.”
(TM and Copyright 2017 CBS and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)