Crist Dauberman, manager at the Del Ray Service Center in Alexandria, Va., said he put air in the tires of James T. Hodgkinson’s van about 10 a.m. the day before Hodgkinson is accused of shooting Congressman Steve Scalise and four others at a nearby baseball field.
The van had Illinois tags, Dauberman said. The two men chatted, and Dauberman mentioned that he worked six days a week. The remark set Hodgkinson off in a profanity-laden rant about Trump.
“The guy flipped out when I said that about working six days a week,” Dauberman said. “He went on a tirade. He called (Trump) an asshole, that he f-----d the country up more than anybody in history.”
Dauberman said Hodgkinson seemed especially mad about what Trump was doing about taxes.
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The volume and fury of the outburst alarmed Dauberman.
“It was a little more than the average, ‘Trump sucks,’” Dauberman said. “He said, ‘Something needs to be done.’”
He said Hodgkinson mentioned that he was part of some group, and told Dauberman that he was “on there to do something about Trump.”
At no point did he mention hurting anyone, Dauberman said, or he would have called the police.
Dauberman managed to distract Hodgkinson by bringing the conversation back to his tires.
Hodgkinson calmed down, and asked if he’d be good to go all the way back to the Midwest with his re-inflated tires. Dauberman was left with the impression that he might be planning to head home soon.
He said Hodgkinson didn’t appear to be homeless, and his van didn’t show obvious signs of being lived in.
There were no signs the man might be out of the ordinary, Dauberman said, “Until he got that button pushed, and he went on a tirade about Trump.”
Back in Illinois, Jamie Geoppo, a co-owner of Papa Vito’s Pizza, said he recognized Hodgkinson’s name when it was in the news this week, not only as a Belleville resident but also as a frequent customer.
Hodgkinson would come in to the restaurant on North Belt West in Belleville or use the drive-through every few weeks, according to Geoppo.
“It’s a little surreal,” he said.
Geoppo said his 3-year-old child was on his mind when he heard the news of the shooting.
“I was thinking of my son when I saw on CNN that it was at a baseball field,” he said. “I thought it had to do with kids.”
Geoppo said he didn’t have much interaction with Hodgkinson.
“There was nothing that stood out to me that would ever indicate that something like this would happen,” Geoppo said. “He was a customer, just like anybody else who will be coming through tonight or any other night.”
News-Democrat reporter Lexi Cortes contributed to this report.