WASHINGTON – The attack on a group of Republican lawmakers at an Alexandria, Va., baseball field was not linked to terrorism, the FBI said in a briefing on Wednesday.
Tim Slater, an assistant FBI director who has been heading the investigation, gave a briefing on its status more than a week after James Hodgkinson opened fire at a baseball field where Republicans were practicing for a charity baseball game.
Slater said Hodgkinson acted alone and was known to have an “anger management problem.”
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise remains in serious condition at a local hospital, one of five people wounded in the attack, including two Capitol Police officers. Hodgkinson, armed with an assault-style rifle and handgun, fired 60 shots before he was fatally wounded in an exchange of gunfire with the two officers and other local police in what Alexandria Police Chief Mike Brown described as “a combat situation.”
Investigators believe Hodgkinson had been living out of his van parked near the baseball field since late March after traveling to the area from his home in Belleville, Ill.
According to Slater, Hodgkinson kept a storage unit in Alexandria where investigators found 200 rounds of ammunition. He visited the unit 43 times between April and June, including the morning of the shooting.
The former owner of a Belleville home inspection business left behind a long written record of vehement opposition to Republican politics, regularly raging against President Trump and singling out Scalise at least once in a 2015 post to his Facebook account.
“Here’s a Republican that should lose his job, but they gave him a raise,” Hodgkinson purportedly wrote at the time, referring to the Louisiana congressman. The message was accompanied by a cartoon depiction of Scalise.
Authorities also recovered a written list of six Republican lawmakers from the suspect’s pocket that included Reps. Mo Brooks of Alabama, Jeff Duncan of South Carolina and Trent Franks of Arizona. However, the FBI said Wednesday there was no reason to believe they were specific targets.
During his time in the Washington area, Slater said he visited the offices of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose presidential campaign he supported. The visit took place in mid to late April, but unclear whether he made direct contact with Sanders.
Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., has raised the prospect that the incident may have been politically motivated, saying shortly after the attack that a man who matched Hodgkinson’s description approached him and others in the parking lot of the baseball field to ask whether the practice involved Republicans or Democrats.
In Belleville, Hodgkinson also had a record of arrests on various criminal charges dating back to 1988, according to St. Clair County, Ill., Circuit Court documents.
The charges ranged from minor driving offenses and repeated failures to obtain work permits to battery and driving under the influence. Records show that the battery case in 2006, which resulted in his arrest, was dismissed after a period of “supervision.” Hodgkinson’s arrest in 1992 by Illinois State Police for suspicion of resisting and obstructing a peace officer also was dismissed.
St. Clair County, Ill., Sheriff Richard Watson, whose deputies have assisted federal investigators in a search of the gunman’s Belleville home, said deputies last encountered Hodgkinson on March 24, when a neighbor reported gunshots fired in the area.
The sheriff said deputies arrived to find Hodgkinson with a hunting rifle on his property where he was apparently engaged in target practice.
“The guy was very cordial,” the sheriff said. “He showed the deputy his firearms identification card. Even though he was on his own property, he told the deputy that he probably should take the rifle to a gun range, just to be safe.”
At no time, Watson said, did Hodgkinson’s behavior appear erratic or threatening.
Watson said he learned of Hodgkinson’s connection to the Virginia shooting shortly after 9:30 a.m., when he arrived at the department for a meeting. “I about fell out of my chair,” Watson said, adding that authorities began to search their files for records of contacts with the shooter.
Former neighbors and family members, meanwhile, said their encounters with Hodgkinson were marked by displays of simmering anger and strange behavior.
Sue Hodgkinson, the wife of the gunman James Hodgkinson, said last week that her husband sold everything he owned from his home inspection business earlier this year before traveling to the Washington area. She said he told her that he was going “to work with people to change the tax brackets.”
“I had no idea this was going to happen,” she told reporters. “I don’t know what to say about it. I can’t wrap my head around it, OK?”