Metro-East News

Before becoming congressional shooter, James Hodgkinson shot as this teen fled

Childhood friend remembers Belleville man who shot Congressman

Dale Walsh grew up with James Hodgkinson, of Belleville, who opened fire on a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Va. He said Hodgkinson "wasn't evil."
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Dale Walsh grew up with James Hodgkinson, of Belleville, who opened fire on a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Va. He said Hodgkinson "wasn't evil."

Eleven years before James “Tom” Hodgkinson shot a U.S. Congressman and three others on a Virginia ballfield, he put a 12-gauge shotgun in the face of a 19-year-old from Belleville.

“I wasn’t super surprised,” said Joel Fernandez on Thursday about the man who pointed the shotgun, hit Fernandez and then fired as Fernandez fled. “The guy was a piece of trash. I was not a fan of his.”

On April 1, 2006, Fernandez went to Hodgkinson’s door after Fernandez’s girlfriend, Aimee Moreland, was punched in the face by Hodgkinson. He was met by Hodgkinson pointing a gun at Fernandez’s face, Fernandez said. Hodgkinson hit Fernandez in the head with the stock of the gun.

“I decided it wasn’t a good idea to confront a guy with a gun,” Fernandez said.

He started to flee and heard a shot.

“I had no idea,” he said, when asked if he thought the shot had been aimed at him.

The guy was a piece of trash. I was not a fan of his.

Joel Fernandez

Moreland told police that Hodgkinson forced his way into the home at 5962 Rolling Hills Road, across the street from Hodgkinson’s house, to collect his daughter. Hodgkinson grabbed the girl off the bed by her hair and threw her to the floor. Moreland heard the girl screaming and went upstairs, according to the report by the St. Clair County Sheriff’s deputy.

Moreland and Hodgkinson’s daughter got into Moreland’s 2000 green Honda Civic, but Hodgkinson opened the door and tried to pull his daughter out, then took out a knife and cut the seatbelt. There was a struggle between Hodgkinson and his daughter, the report stated, during which Moreland tried to intervene. It was then, Moreland told police, that Hodgkinson punched Moreland in the face.

Police investigating the case found a spent 12-gauge shotgun casing near Hodgkinson’s front porch.

Hodgkinson was charged with battery, but the case was dropped when witnesses did not appear.

According to a guardianship case in St. Clair County, the Hodgkinsons became the guardians of the then 13-year-old girl in 2002. After the 2006 incident, St. Clair County Circuit Judge James Radcliffe ordered the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to turn over complete home studies of the Hodgkinsons to the St. Clair County State’s Attorney’s Office. He then terminated the Hodgkinson’s guardianship, allowing the girl to be placed with the Hodgkinsons next-door neighbors.

The Hodgkinsons filed their final report as guardians the day after Christmas 2006.

In that report, they detailed the expenses incurred on her behalf, including legal fees, intermediate foster care, damage done to the front lawn and $300 to repair a hole kicked in her bedroom wall.

“ … in addition to the lost work time we incurred for counseling, court dates, incarcerations and medical expenses for the stress the rest of the family was put through while (the girl) manipulated her way through the system,” James and Suzanne Hodgkinson wrote.

The girl died in 2015.

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