WASHINGTON (JTA) — James T. Hodgkinson, the suspect in the shooting at a Republican team’s baseball practice for a charity game against congressional Democrats, backed Bernie Sanders, according to his social media account.
Police say it is too early to determine a motive in the shooting in Alexandria, Virginia, that wounded Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., the third-ranked Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, and others. The media scrambled to provide biographical details about Hodgkinson, reporting that he owned a home inspection business and was described by a friend as “really progressive” in his politics.
A portrait of Sanders, the Independent senator from Vermont and the first Jewish candidate to win major nominating contests in a presidential primary season when he vied last year for the Democratic presidential nod, is the background photo on Hodgkinson’s Facebook page. The Washington Post quoted an acquaintance of Hodgkinson as saying they met campaigning for Sanders.
Hodgkinson, who reportedly opened fire with an automatic weapon, was shot in return fire by Capitol Police officers who were present at the practice for Thursday’s game against the Democrats. President Donald Trump said Hodgkinson died of the injuries he sustained during the shooting.
Sanders in a statement said that he was praying for the recovery of Scalise, who is in stable condition. Two Capitol Police officers and at least two others present were wounded.
“Our prayers go out for a full recovery of Rep. Scalise, the congressional aides and police officers who were injured,” said Sanders. “We’ve got to stop the violence.”
Later, after learning that Hodgkinson had apparently backed his candidacy, Sanders added to his statement.
“I am sickened by this despicable act,” he said. “Let me be as clear as I can be. Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms. Real change can only come about through nonviolent action, and anything else runs against our most deeply held American values.”
Hodgkinson, 66, a resident of Belleville, Illinois, filled his Facebook page with screeds against Trump and last year against Hillary Clinton, the Democrat who won the nomination but lost the general election to Trump. He signed a petition urging the Senate to remove Trump from office for treason.
In an impromptu news conference, Trump sent best wishes to Scalise and the others wounded.
“Please take a moment today to cherish those you love and always remember those who serve and keep us safe,” he said.
The Democratic team was practicing nearby. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressed their grief and well wishes.
Gabrielle Giffords, a former Democratic congresswoman from Arizona who is Jewish and was seriously wounded in a deadly January 2011 attack by a gunman, was among the well-wishers.
“My heart is with my former colleagues, their families & staff, and the US Capitol Police – public servants and heroes today and every day,” Giffords, who has since become a leading advocate for gun ownership reform, said on Twitter.