Congressional shooter named as 66-year-old Belleville man
A new report in Alexandria, Va., recounts the final moments of James T. Hodgkinson’s life and says police were justified in fatally shooting the congressional assailant from Belleville on June 14.
The report states Hodgkinson was “fueled by rage” against Republican legislators.
That ruling was issued Friday afternoon and can be found on Page 39 of a 41-page report, issued by the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Alexandria, that describes the shooting. Hodgkinson was killed after injuring U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana.
“For the reasons stated above, the use of deadly force ... in this case was justified by the doctrine of self-defense as that doctrine is outlined by the law of Virginia. I decline to bring any criminal charge against the agents and officers,” the report reads.
Hodgkinson, of Belleville, opened fire on congressional Republicans who were practicing for the annual Congressional Baseball Game. The team included U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville. Scalise’s roommate is U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, who has played in the congressional game in previous years.
Hodgkinson had written several letters to the editor to the News-Democrat. Scalise returned to Congress earlier this month.
“During the gun battle, the suspect (Hodgkinson) fired a total of at least 70 rounds: 62 7.62x39mm rounds fired through the assault rifle and 8 9mm rounds fired through the semi-automatic handgun,” the report states. “In aggregate, the agents and police officers fired a total of at least 40 rounds.”
The report recounts Hodgkinson’s behavior leading up to the shooting.
“By late 2016, he had stopped working and was experiencing some financial distress,” the report states. “Additionally, Hodgkinson was increasingly making vague statements about how he would ‘not be around much longer’ to family members. Hodgkinson held strong political opinions and was very unhappy about the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. He spent a significant amount of time on social media, using it to express his political views, such as his strong support for Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.
“People who knew Hodgkinson described him as ‘hot-tempered’ but did not believe him to be violent. Hodgkinson had never been convicted of any crime. Therefore, he was not prohibited by law from purchasing or possessing firearms.”
Bryan L. Porter, Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Alexandria, wrote in the report: “The agents and officers should be commended for their bravery and service. As others ran from the suspect, they engaged him and ran towards the danger. The agents and officers are the paradigm of what law-enforcement officers should be and are true stewards of the public trust inherent in their respective offices.”
He added: “This case did not present a close call. To the contrary, not only were the actions of the agents and officers reasonable, they were obligatory in light of the overwhelming and determined force employed by the suspect.”
Porter wrote in the report: “The evidence in this case establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect, fueled by rage against Republican legislators, decided to commit an act of terrorism as that term is defined by the Code of Virginia. The suspect, using a lawfully-purchased assault rifle and handgun, ambushed a peaceful assembly of people practicing baseball and began to fire indiscriminately in an effort to kill and maim as many people as possible.”
On the morning of the shooting, the report states, Hodgkinson approached two members of the congressional team who were leaving the practice early.
“The suspect asked them whether the practice was for the Republican or Democratic team,” the report states. “They responded that it was for the Republican team. The suspect said “OK, thanks” and walked away.”
Porter also wrote that the actions of two U.S. Capitol Police agents who were at the ball field “indisputably prevented the suspect from completing his planned attack and, therefore, prevented innumerable deaths and serious injuries. Their actions also ‘pinned down’ the suspect and created time for the Alexandria police to respond and join the gun battle.”
The report, including 25 pages of a moment-by-moment account of Hodgkinson’s attack and its aftermath — including details on the fatal shots that struck the Belleville man — notes the quick response of the Capitol Police agents serving as Scalise’s protective team that morning.
People at the baseball field said Hodgkinson appeared calm and did not speak before firing a single round toward the players on the fields.
“The agents were sitting in their vehicle, with the windows down when they heard the first shot,” the report states. “... Within seconds, additional shots were fired and the agents immediately realized that an active shooter was firing at the baseball players. Both agents exited the black Suburban SUV and began scanning the field, looking for the suspect.”
Players and witnesses heard the first shot, but did not realize what was happening right away. They looked around to see what the noise was and saw Hodgkinson near a fence on the third base side of the field, pointing his rifle toward the players on the field.
He then approached the fence and continued firing as several players dropped to the ground and began shouting warnings.
Other people took shelter in the dugouts, the report states.
Matthew Mika, a current lobbyist and former Republican staffer, was on a the field near first base when he was shot in the chest just after Scalise was shot in the hip near second base.
Other players helped Mika off the field and took cover behind the agents’ black Suburban SUV.
The third person shot during the attack was Zachary W. Barth, a legislative correspondent for Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas. Once he heard the shots fired, he ran to the right-field side but could not find an exit.
He got down on the ground and could feel bullets hitting the ground around him. He was then shot in the lower left leg.
“In fear for his life, and despite his injury, Mr. Barth got up and ran to the first-base dugout where he took shelter until it was safe,” the report states.
Hodgkinson was shot by both special agents and Alexandria police, taking wounds in the chest and hip. He was on the ground but “making motions towards his pistol” when he was placed in handcuffs. An Alexandria officer searched Hodgkinson and found a partially loaded 9mm magazine. Medics were allowed into the area once police determined there was not a second shooter.
He was taken into custody six minutes after the first 911 call of an active shooter.
“It is impossible to determine the order in which the rounds struck the suspect from physically examining the bullets,” the report states. “However, the totality of the evidence suggests that (Alexandria Police Officer Alexander) Jensen fired the first round that struck the suspect in the right hip, hitting him from the right rear and causing him to drop the assault rifle and partially fall to the ground.
“The suspect then recovered and regained his feet, transitioning to his 9mm pistol. At this point, (Capitol Police Special Agent David) Bailey shot the suspect from the front, striking the suspect in the upper abdomen and causing him to rotate to his torso to his left, in a counterclockwise motion. Shortly thereafter, Jensen fired again from the right rear, striking the suspect in his now-exposed left hip. The combined force of Bailey’s round and Jensen’s second round effectively neutralized the threat and caused the suspect to drop the handgun and fall to the ground where he was taken into custody.”
The report says at least six 911 phone calls were received between 7:09 a.m. and 7:12 a.m. as Hodgkinson fired 33 rounds from the same location near third base.
Once Bailey began firing at Hodgkinson, the report said, the shooter ducked behind the third-base dugout.
Hodgkinson then maneuvered himself to a wooden press-box behind home plate.
“They observed that the suspect was still armed with the assault rifle as he moved toward the blue storage building located to the rear of the home-plate area,” the report states. “The suspect pointed the assault rifle at the agents and fired at them.”
The agents continued to exchange fire with Hodgkinson from behind their SUV, as the shooter eventually moved to the south side of a blue storage building.
Special Agent Crystal Griner was eventually shot in the ankle, and Bailey continued to fire shots at the Belleville man.
The two agents fired a total of 25 rounds from behind the black SUV.
“The effect of these rounds was to ‘pin down’ the suspect behind the blue storage building and to keep his attention from returning to the unarmed baseball players,” the report states.