Suspect in congressman’s shooting was from Belleville, Illinois – Consumer News

on Jun14

14 June 2017 | 6:56 pm

(Bloomberg)—The man suspected in today’s shooting of a top GOP congressman and several others expressed disdain for Republicans on social media, and neighbors said they heard gunfire coming from his rural Illinois property in recent months.

Two U.S. officials identified the shooter as James T. Hodgkinson, 66, of downstate Belleville. He was wounded in a shootout with police and later died of his injuries. The shooting injured House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, the third-highest ranked U.S. House Republican, and at least four others at a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Va., near the nation’s capital.

On social media, Hodgkinson presented himself as a supporter of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, decried the election of President Donald Trump and joined a Facebook group called “Terminate The Republican Party.”

One woman who lived near Hodgkinson’s house in Belleville, 10 miles southeast of St. Louis, described him as weird and said she sometimes heard him screaming. She said his daughter once sought refuge at her house after what she called a drunken row. The woman asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation.

In recent months, the neighbor said she heard the sound of rapid-fire shots being fired from Hodgkinson’s property, which convinced her that someone was shooting an assault weapon.

Two other neighbors, Carmen and Bill Schaumleffel, also recalled hearing the sound of gunshots from the property, they said in an interview.

“About two months ago there were some shots coming from over that way,” Carmen Schaumleffel said. Her husband had confronted the shooter, she said.

“He just walked out across the field and yelled at him about shooting because our grandkids were outside and the dogs, you know,” she said.

While they weren’t sure the person firing was Hodgkinson, whom they didn’t know very well, the incident occurred at his property, she said.

“What I remember of him, he was just a strange little character,” said Lyndon Evanko, an attorney who represented Hodgkinson in several cases in St. Clair County Circuit Court. “I got the feeling he was a bit of a misanthrope, that he didn’t really get along well with a lot of people, but there was nothing about him that would strike me as being overly nasty.”

Among the cases Evanko said he represented Hodgkinson in was a domestic battery case, in which Hodgkinson was alleged to have pointed a 12-gauge shotgun at a neighbor who had attempted to intervene in the domestic dispute, Evanko said. The case was ultimately dismissed, he said.

“I certainly would not have pegged him for this. He didn’t strike me as that kind of person,” Evanko said.

Hodgkinson, who was known by his middle name Tom, described himself on social media as a home inspector and he periodically was licensed for inspections, according to public records. He listed himself as president of JTH Services in public records and on social media.

Hodgkinson’s Facebook page featured Sanders prominently, with pictures and quotes from the Vermont senator. Among the other groups he was a member of was called “The Road To Hell Is Paved With Republicans.”

He apparently volunteered for Sanders’s presidential campaign last year, the lawmaker said in a press release.

VIOLENCE ‘UNACCEPTABLE

“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,” Sanders said.

Hodgkinson’s local newspaper, the Belleville News-Democrat, posted a photo of him protesting outside a local post office in 2012, holding a sign saying “Tax the Rich.”

GOP Representative Jeff Duncan of South Carolina told reporters that he informed Alexandria police about a brief encounter he had in the parking lot with a man he believed to be the suspected shooter.

Duncan said the man asked him whether the team was made up of Republicans or Democrats. Asked whether he believes they were targeted because they were Republicans, Duncan replied, “I would assume so.”

Hodgkinson has a record of arrests on relatively minor charges, including failing to obtain electrical permits, driving under the influence and resisting a police office, according to county court records.

In a series of letters to the editor in 2012, Hodgkinson spoke against Republican policies, arguing against tax cuts for the wealthy.

“I have never said ‘life sucks,’ only the policies of the Republicans,” he wrote.



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