Below is a timeline of the life of James T. Hodgkinson, the Belleville man who was named by police as the shooter at the congressional baseball practice Wednesday morning after he shot at congressmen and aides.
James Thomas Hodgkinson was born Dec. 12 to Deloris and James J. Hodgkinson. He was one of three children. The younger Hodgkinson sometimes went by “Tom” or “Thomas,” his middle name.
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Hodgkinson joins Belleville West High School’s wrestling and track teams as a freshman, according to his school yearbook. In his sophomore and junior years, yearbooks list him as a member of the varsity wrestling team at Belleville West.
Hodgkinson attended Belleville West with Belleville native Tom Calhoun, the PA voice for the Gateway Grizzlies and the St. Louis Blues. Calhoun remembered Hodgkinson as “Tommy” and they were in the same kindergarten class at Henry Raab Elementary School. They were both interested in sports in high school and played pick-up baseball games together as teens.
Belleville resident Dale Walsh grew up with Hodgkinson, attending Belleville West High with him. He said Hodgkinson was “a fun-loving guy” who was passionate about his views and “never backed down” on his convictions, but Walsh never knew his friend to be an extremist.
I want people to know he wasn’t evil.
Belleville resident Dale Walsh, who grew up with Hodgkinson and attended Belleville West High School with him
He graduated from Belleville West High School. No activities or clubs were listed in Hodgkinson’s senior yearbook.
He studied aviation at Belleville Area College, which later became Southwestern Illinois College.
In the fall, he transferred to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, then only six years open in its current location. Hodgkinson took two classes in one term, according to SIUE spokesman Doug McIlhagga, but did not complete a degree.
Hodgkinson opened JTH Construction, which he operated for nearly 20 years, according to his Facebook page, which was later taken down.
Hodgkinson was arrested Dec. 31 for driving under the influence, resisting arrest and fleeing police.
Hodgkinson has DUI, resisting arrest and fleeing charges that were dismissed after court supervision.
JTH Construction became JTH Inspections, a home inspection and air quality testing service.
The Hodgkinsons’ foster daughter, Wanda “Ashley” Stock, killed herself at the age of 17 by dousing herself with gasoline and setting herself on fire inside her car on a rural road south of Belleville. The Hodgkinsons spoke to the News-Democrat at the time, saying they did not know what triggered a “very practical, level-headed girl” to kill herself. Later they discovered there had been a previous suicide attempt before Ashley came to live with them, and that hours before she completed her suicide, her boyfriend had broken up with her.
In December, the Hodgkinsons assumed legal guardianship for their 12-year-old great-niece, Cathy Lynn Putnam. Cathy’s biological parents’ rights had been revoked, and she had been in foster care or with the Hodgkinsons since she was 4 years old. Her name was eventually changed to Cathy Hodgkinson.
April 1: Cathy refused to leave a friend’s house. Hodgkinson grabbed Cathy by her hair and pulled her to the floor. Cathy and her female friend try to leave in a car, but Hodgkinson opened the car door, cut the ignition and used a pocketknife to cut the seat belt. When Cathy’s friend threatened to call police, he punched her in the face. When the boyfriend of Cathy’s friend went to Hodgkinson’s house to talk about the attack, Hodgkinson aimed a 12-gauge shotgun at his face. The boyfriend fled and Hodgkinson fired a shot behind him.
Hodgkinson had two battery charges and an aiding damage to a vehicle charge later dismissed.
July 7: Cathy was returned to state custody.
Dec. 26: In a court document, the Hodgkinsons wrote: “Since then His Honor has seen fit to award guardianship of Cathy to our next-door neighbors, which is a quite stressful and uncomfortable situation for our family.”
Hodgkinson began writing letters to the editor to the Belleville News-Democrat. In them, he often railed against Republicans and tax policies, and at least once advocated for legalizing marijuana. His last letter to the editor was dated Sept. 12, 2012. He sent in nearly 30 letters to the editor between 2008 and 2012.
Hodgkinson was charged by Belleville with failing to obtain an electrical contractor license or electrical permit before performing work, but it was dismissed.
Hodgkinson protests low taxes for the rich outside the Belleville post office. Hodgkinson said he was part of a “99%” team drawing attention to the amount of money and political power the top 1 percent of Americans acquired.
Hodgkinson allegedly volunteered for Democrat Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. He took a democratic ballot in the primary election.
I knew he was a Democrat, a pretty hardcore one. I know he wasn’t happy when Trump got elected, but he seemed like a nice enough guy. ... He was a Democrat and I was a Republican, so we didn’t have too much to talk about.
Neighbor Aaron Meurer
March 24: A neighbor called deputies when he heard 50 shots fired in some pine trees near Hodgkinson’s home. Neighbors complained and called the St. Clair County Sheriff at 3 p.m. He had a valid Illinois Firearm Owners Identification card at the time and was firing a hunting rifle on his own property in unincorporated St. Clair County, so sheriff’s deputies did not file any charges and reminded him to shoot responsibly. As no illegal activity had taken place, no charges were filed, according to St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Bruce Fleshren.
Late March, early April: Hodgkinson moves to the Alexandria, Virginia and lives out of a gym bag for several months.
June 14: Hodgkinson allegedly opens fire on a Republican congressional baseball practice. Five were shot, including Rep. Steve Scalise, the majority whip of the House of Representatives. Scalise was in critical condition Wednesday night after undergoing surgery. President Donald Trump said Hodgkinson died during gunfire exchanged with congressional security workers during the practice session in Alexandria, Virginia.
Law enforcement officials have not said what they believe Hodgkinson’s motive may have been for the shooting.
Hodgkinson’s social media was marked by politics, and he belonged to multiple anti-GOP Facebook groups, including “The Road to Hell is Paved with Republicans,” “Donald Trump is not my President,” “President Bernie Sanders,” “Expose Republican Fraud,” and “Terminate the Republican Party.” Facebook removed his account Wednesday afternoon.