Metro-East News

A week after shooting, ‘violent rhetoric’ worries metro-east congressmen

Rep. Shimkus reflects on Congressional Baseball Game

U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, talks about the Congressional Baseball Game and the reaction after James T. Hodgkinson, of Belleville, went on a shooting spree at a practice before the game.
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U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, talks about the Congressional Baseball Game and the reaction after James T. Hodgkinson, of Belleville, went on a shooting spree at a practice before the game.

The FBI released new details Wednesday morning on the shootings last week of a congressman and four others at a baseball filed in Alexandra, Virginia, which were carried out alone by James Hodgkinson of Belleville on June 14.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., announced on Twitter on Wednesday morning that he was now considered in fair condition, although he had an “extended period of healing and rehabilitation” ahead of him.

U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, is roommates with Scalise in Washington, D.C. He retweeted Scalise’s condition update with the caption “Good news!”

Shimkus said he wasn’t necessarily surprised that Hodgkinson acted alone, but he added that people probably found it more surprising the attacker identified with far-left ideologies.

“I think we forget that there are violent tendencies on both extremes; the liberal left needs to be just as concerned as the conservative right with the violent rhetoric,” Shimkus said.

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, was at the baseball practice when Hodgkinson opened fire. Davis also said violent extremism can be found in both parties.

“I’m not surprised, the hate — people with that much hate in their hearts — can be in both parties,” Davis said. “In this case, he was clearly motivated by his hate for the president and our party.”

Davis said while experiencing something like last week’s shooting has made him more patient with his family and loved ones, it’s lessened his patience for the arguing and vitriol taking place in the country’s political landscape.

U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro said people who act in an extreme manner — such as Hodgkinson — are set off in times of political turmoil.

“If you’re going to do this you’ve got mental health issues,” Bost said. “ ... I believe he was stirred by the conditions of the time.”

Federal Bureau of Investigation Washington Field Office, Special Agent in Charge, Timothy Slater, with Alexandria Police Department Chief Michael Brown, from left, and United States Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa, speaks to reporters outside the FBI Washington Field Office on Wednesday during a news conference about the investigative findings to date in the shooting that occurred at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria, Va. Manuel Balce Ceneta AP

Shimkus said the first time he consciously thought about his personal safety — and his family’s safety — was right after the 9/11 attacks.

“I’m no more concerned than 15 years ago,” he said. “It’s just a risk; it shouldn’t be, but we live in a sinful world.”

As a public figure, Shimkus said, there will always be a risk of coming under physical attack.

But Davis said security measures might need to be reviewed.

“Obviously, when you go to baseball practice at 6:30 in the morning to play a game for charity, you don’t expect to be shot at,” Davis said. “Once that happened, we are — of course — going to look at security precautions. We will take into consideration security issues — not only with me and my family — but we will prioritize security for workplace events; that’s only natural.”

Bost added that he has to constantly consider security when appearing in public or meeting with his constituents.

“You have to keep open communication with your constituents somehow, but you also have to keep yourself, your family and your staff secure,” Bost said.

Shimkus said when he and his staff travel to different places in Illinois they let local party leaders and local police know that they will be in the area. He lets those organizations determine if they want a presence at whatever event or meeting Shimkus is attending.

Last week, U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, R-New York, said in light of the shooting he would be carrying a gun with him when permissible by Washington, D.C. gun laws.

When asked where he stood on that position, Shimkus said it’s a matter of individual choice.

“I believe in the right to keep and bear arms,” he said. “So if people feel that they need to go to that extent, then they should go to that extent.”

Bost echoed his thoughts, saying the right to bear arms is just that — a right, if done legally.

The FBI said Hodgkinson lived in a YMCA parking lot in his van after arriving in the Alexandria, Virginia area from Belleville in March. Communication with his family shortly before the shooting indicated the unemployed man was running low on money and looking for local work.

“If Scalise’s people had not been there, we would have a lot a lot of dead congressmen,” Bost said. “The more we know about this, the more we realize that’s true.”

Bost said investigators are still trying to track down multiple weapons legally purchased by Hodgkinson.

“These officers there did an unbelievable job and were successful in taking out an aggressive shooter,” Bost said of Hodgkinson. “Even when both of them were injured they stayed on guard until they were properly relieved.”

LINK: Full BND coverage of congressional shooting

“It’s a tragedy; it’s sad. I’m glad law enforcement was there,” Shimkus said. “They still have some more digging to do, but it seems to be a simple case of a disgruntled individual who took it too far.”

Davis said he’s still not sure what to think of the attack.

“It’s still pretty surreal, you think about it and it seems like it happened a long time ago,” Davis said. “You don’t know how you are supposed to feel. ... There seems to be some sense of normalcy, though.”