Authorities have identified the suspect who opened fire on the Republican congressional baseball team practice early Wednesday morning in Alexandria, Virginia, as James T. Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville, Illinois. More details about Hodgkinson, who died after being shot by heroic Capitol Hill Police officers, have begun to emerge, presenting a picture of a man with a violent past who was virulently anti-Republican and anti-Donald Trump and a passionate supporter of Bernie Sanders.
In response to reports that Hodgkinson had volunteered on his Democratic presidential primary campaign, Sen. Bernie Sanders issued a statement a few hours after the attack decrying the suspect's "despicable act" and disavowing all violence.
"I have just been informed that the alleged shooter at the Republican baseball practice is someone who apparently volunteered on my presidential campaign. I am sickened by this despicable act," Sanders said in the statement. "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 nonviolent action, and anything else runs against our most deeply held American values."
Hodgkinson broadcast his political opinions on multiple Facebook accounts and appears to have been a member of several anti-Republican and anti-Trump groups, including, "Terminate the Republican Party," "The Road to Hell is Paved with Republicans," "Illinois Berners United to Resist Trump," and "Donald Trump is not my President."
The paper from Hodgkinson's hometown in Illinois, The Belleville News-Democrat, has provided one of the most thorough portraits of the suspect yet, including several quotes from neighbors. The paper confirmed that he took a Democratic ballot in the 2016 primary and was part of a left-wing "99%" protest in 2012. His neighbors knew him as a "hardcore" Democrat, but seemed shocked that he would act violently. BND reports:
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 travelling.
“She said that he went on a trip. She wasn’t real specific,” said Meurer, unclear 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.”
President Trump, who was the target of many of Hodgkinson's hostile social media posts, including one declaring, "It's time to destroy Trump & Co" (below), addressed the attack on Republicans on Wednesday, using the moment to call for unity.
"We may have our differences, but we do well in times like these in times like these to remember that everyone who serves in our nation's capital is here, above all, they love our country," said Trump in a statement from the White House. "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 and when we work together for the common good" (Read Trump's full statement here.)
More from the Daily Wire on the attack on the Republican congressman: