Metro-East News

In wake of shooting, has Belleville area been mischaracterized?

One of the first details made public about James T. Hodgkinson was the name of his hometown.

Wait, what? Where is he from?

“The shooter is from Belleville, Illinois,” media outlets announced — again and again.

The city gasped as law enforcement officials and the media swarmed Hodgkinson’s home outside the city limits at 5941 Rolling Hills Lane.

Hodgkinson had been identified as the shooter at the congressional baseball practice Wednesday morning, where a congressman and three other people were shot.

Hodgkinson was killed by police.

Now more than 24 hours after the shootout, some leaders in Belleville are defending their community and its residents.

“I definitely think it’s (the city) being falsely portrayed at this time,” said Cindy Bingham, chair of the Ogles Watch Neighborhood Association. “Belleville is a great city.”

The Ogles neighborhood is less than 10 minutes from Hodgkinson’s home.

And in the wake of the shooting, some residents felt pain as the media released more information about Hodgkinson.

“The Alexandria shooter is from Belleville?!,” Andrew Hagnauer said in a Facebook post Wednesday morning. “Bellevegas at its finest.”

When asked about his initial reaction to the news, Hagnauer, a Maryville resident, said “It’s always a surprise when the suspect is from an area so close to home.”

Hagnauer said some of his friends even had their homes inspected by Hodgkinson or his company, JTH Inspections, also called JTH Construction.

Others called the shooter’s connection to Belleville disappointing.

“It kind of makes me feel a little bit ashamed,” Shawn Pfaff said after hearing the news Wednesday.

But some community members are more concerned about how the city can move forward.

“We’re not worried about Belleville,” said Signal Hill resident Georgia-Ann Edwards. “There are people with problems all over the world. Belleville’s spirit will be fine. Because its spirit is strong.”

Roger Wigginton, Belleville Alderman Ward 8, agreed.

“It’s no reflection on the city,” Wigginton said. “And, it should be no reflection on the city.”

Cara Anthony: 618-239-2471, @CaraRAnthony