James T. Hodgkinson, the man who shot at least five people at a congressional baseball practice Wednesday, lashed out against President Donald Trump repeatedly on social media and has protested the gap between the rich and poor.
A law enforcement official confirmed the identity of the shooter. The gunman died, Trump said in a statement from the White House.
Hodgkinson, 66, a home inspector from Belleville, Ill., was described as a generous man who, with his wife, had raised several foster children and volunteered on the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign. But he was arrested for violent acts at least once.
His Facebook account came under attack from an angry public today after police identified him as the shooter. Among the messages Hodgkinson had posted on his account: “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 Monday on Facebook.
In 2012, he protested outside the Belleville post office to call attention to wealth and political inequality, calling himself part of the 99 percent, according to the Belleville News-Democrat.
In that protest, Hodgkinson carried a sign that read, “Tax the Rich Like Congress Did for 70 Years Till Reagan’s ‘Trickle Down.’”
His business, JTH Inspections, also drew fire on Yelp on Wednesday. The company’s Yelp site identified Hodgkinson as a certified home inspector with expertise in mold and radon detection.
Ray Page, a retired electrical contractor from the nearby town of Millstadt, has known Hodgkinson for more than 30 years. Hodgkinson supported Sanders and was strongly critical of Republicans, Page said.
“I’ve never known him to be a violent man,” said Page, who worked with Hodgkinson when Hodgkinson was in the construction business. “We never saw this one coming.”
Hodgkinson and his wife have raised several foster children over the years, Page said. “He’s been a very generous person in that respect.”
After Hodgkinson retired from construction, he started a home inspection business and would call Page from time to time with questions about electrical issues. Page said he sometimes went to bonfire parties that Hodgkinson hosted at his home between Belleville and Millstadt.
Page said he was “as shocked as anybody” when he heard Hodgkinson was the suspected shooter.
St. Clair County, where Hodgkinson lived, was surrounded by counties that went strongly for Trump in the 2016 presidential election. But Hillary Clinton edged out Trump in St. Clair itself, home to Belleville,
In a series of letters to the Belleville News-Democrat, Hodgkinson took on GOP tax policies that he said helped the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. In December 2011, he called for higher taxes on the wealthy.
“We used to have more than 30 tax brackets and the top marginal rate was more than 70 percent for many years. President Reagan dropped the top rate from 70 to 50 percent, which started the slow decline of the American middle class,” he wrote in a letter to the editor. “We need to vote all Republicans out of office. Let’s work to get this country back. Let’s all push for 20 brackets to $20 million with a top marginal rate of 60 percent.”
Sanders condemned the shooting as a "despicable act."
"I have just been informed that the alleged shooter at the Republican baseball practice is someone who apparently volunteered on my presidential campaign," Sanders said in a 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."
Hodgkinson appears to have been a member of the Carpenters Regional Council, a union that represents building trades workers in Missouri, Kansas, and southern Illinois. An employee of the Carpenters Regional Council told POLITICO that the union had a member by the name of James T. Hodgkinson listed as a "journeyman."
In April 2006, Hodgkinson was arrested on a firearms and battery charge after he allegedly punched his girlfriend in the face then pulled a 12 gauge shotgun on a witness, Joel Fernandez, who attempted to intervene.
“When Fernandez reached the outside porch area, Hodgkinson walked outside with a shotgun and aimed it at Fernandez face,” according to a St. Clair County, Illinois, sheriff’s report. “Fernandez attempted to get away from the shotgun and was struck in the left side of his head with the wooden stock by Hodgkinson.”
The incident involved one of the couple’s foster children, who had refused to come home from a neighbor’s house. Hodgkinson choked the child and pulled her child’s hair.
His wife, Suzanne, also was charged with domestic battery.
Toby Eckert and Marianne Levine contributed to this report.