Updated June 14 at 1:10 p.m. with comment from lifelong acquaintance - Metro East residents are coming to terms with the notion that one of their neighbors has been identified as the shooter at a Congressional Republican baseball practice Wednesday morning in suburban Washington, D.C.
Many national media outlets are quoting unnamed federal law enforcement officials as saying the gunman was James T. Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville.
Belleville resident Dale Walsh, 55, said he’s known Hodgkinson all his life and people called him Thomas or Tommy. He said Hodgkinson never had a streak of violence but was known to not back down from a fight.
"At all the parties, he was the jokester of the party. He was always happy go lucky. It just took me by surprise when I saw on the news today that he did what he did."
"I just want to let people know that he wasn’t evil. He was, I guess, tired of some of the politics going on."
Updated June 14 at 12:20 p.m. - with details from Ill. Rep. Rodney Davis and Rep. Mike Bost - A member of the Illinois delegation was at the suburban Washington, D.C., baseball practice where a gunman started shooting at Republican members of Congress. From The Associated Press:
Rep. Rodney Davis says he never thought he'd go to a baseball practice and "have to dodge bullets." Davis, a Republican from Illinois, credited U.S. Capitol Police officers on the scene of Wednesday's shooting outside Washington D.C. He said had they not been there, it "would have been a massacre." Davis was interviewed on CNN, still in his baseball T-shirt, with blood on his elbow and hand. He said he and other members of Congress fled the dugout as shots were fired, took shelter behind cars and then ran to a nearby apartment building to call police. Police have not said whether the shooter was intentionally targeting members of Congress. But Davis said, "I don't think it's a coincidence that no bullets were fired outside the baseball field."
During an early afternoon conference call with reporters, Davis described the shooter "a madman" and "crazed lunatic." The member of Congress also had a clear message for the country:
"If you don’t like the policies of someone who’s elected, change them at the ballot box. But be respectful and kind, and stop the hateful, hateful rhetoric that I see coming out of politics, of Congress. I see it coming out of news media. I see it on social media," he said.
"I will tell you a scene I’ll never get out of my mind, is looking back and seeing my friend, Steve Scalise … not just the House Majority Whip for Republicans … he’s a friend of mine, a roommate of John Shimkus, but he’s a dad to two young children. And I saw him laying in the outfield, motionless, and I thought he was dead."
Belleville is in Illinois' 12th district, which is represented by Mike Bost, a Republican. He has put out the following statement:
"With reports indicating that Wednesday morning’s shooter is from my district, this is a tragedy that certainly hits close to home. As we continue to gather information, Tracy and I would like to send our prayers to my friend and colleague, Steve Scalise, as well as members of the security detail and congressional staff who were injured. We live in challenging times and the political rhetoric has been turned up to an alarming level. This should serve as a wake-up call for all of us to step back from the battle lines and come together to strengthen our nation."
Updated June 14 at 11:57 a.m. with statement from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. - The Metro East man authorities believe shot at Republican members of Congress during a baseball practice near Washington, D.C., was a volunteer for the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders. The independent from Vermont has issued the following statement:
"Our prayers go out for a full recovery of Rep. Scalise, the congressional aides and police officers who were injured. We’ve got to stop the violence."
Sanders also spoke about the shooting Wednesday on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
Updated June 14 at 11:25 a.m. with details about business history - More details are emerging about the man authorities believe shot at Republican members of Congress during a baseball practice Wednesday morning in suburban Washington, D.C.
Documents filed with the State of Illinois show James T. Hodgkinson used to own an appraisal and home inspection business. It was incorporated in 1994 and dissolved voluntarily in January of this year. His home inspector license was not renewed in late 2016 and Hodgkinson’s' real estate appraisal license expired in 1997. The records also show he was never disciplined by the state while the business was operating.
Hodgkinson was a volunteer for presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. He is believed to have lived in Illinois' 12th Congressional district. The group Indivisible 12th, which describes itself as a "movement based on respectful dissent" has been quick to distance from itself Hodgkinson. It has released a statement saying he was not a member and does not condone Wednesday morning's actions.
"The Indivisible 12th of Illinois does not, and will not, condone any kind of violence, including jokes about assassinating the President or any representatives. No matter how much we oppose Donald Trump's agenda, we will never support or promote rhetoric that inflames the hatred of those who are on the brink of violent action. We are disgusted with the despicable act of this coward. Regardless of how angry this administration or our representatives make us feel, there is ZERO tolerance for hate in our groups. We support respectful dissent, but never this or anything intended to intimidate or harm anyone. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families, and we hope that we can all strive for a level of engagement that is respectful and peaceful, regardless of the issues."
A man who allegedly opened fire on Republican members of Congress on Wednesday morning at a baseball practice appears to be from Belleville, Illinois, according to the Washington Post.
The newspaper reports that unnamed law enforcement officials identified the shooter as James T. Hodgkinson. According to the Associated Press, Hodgkinson has died. He was wounded when members of the Capitol Police Department returned fire.
Hodgkinson, 66, had owned a home inspection business, according to the newspaper. On his Facebook page, Hodgkinson noted that he left his job at the end of 2016. His wife told ABC News that he had been living in Alexandria, Virginia, for the past two months.
Court records show that Hodgkinson had two traffic tickets dismissed in 2011. He was convicted of failure to obtain an electrical contracting license in 2009, pleaded guilty to a speeding ticket in 2007, and had misdemeanor charges of battery and aiding and abetting damage to a motor vehicle dismissed in 2006.
At least five people were injured in the shooting in Alexandria, Virginia, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who was shot in the hip and was undergoing surgery. An aide of Texas Rep. Roger Williams and Capitol Police officers also were shot.
Police said they had a suspect in custody. The FBI has taken over the investigation.
This is a developing story.
Follow David on Twitter: @dpcazares