James Hodgkinson dead: Virginia shooter dies after opening fire on Republicans

The suspect had volunteered for Bernie Sanders and called Donald Trump 'a traitor'

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The Independent US

 The suspect in the Virginia shooting case has been identified by multiple US media sources as a 66-year-old from Illinois. He was fatally wounded in an exchange of fire with police.

At a press conference, FBI agent Tim Slater said that while they had identified the suspect, they were not naming the individual. However, the Washington Post was the first of many to report that law enforcement officials had identified him as James Hodgkinson, of Belleville, a suburb of St Louis. 

The Post quoted Charles Orear, 50, a restaurant manager from St Louis, who said that he became friendly with Mr Hodgkinson during their work in Iowa on Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign. Mr Orear said Mr Hodgkinson was “a passionate progressive” and showed no signs of violence or malice toward others, the newspaper said.

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The suspect has been named by US media as a 66-year-old from Illinois (AP)

“You’ve got to be kidding me,”Mr Orear said. “I met him on the Bernie trail in Iowa, worked with him in the Quad Cities area.”

Public records suggest Mr Hodgkinson work a home inspection specialist. 

The St Louis Dispatch said it believed Mr Hodgkinson had attended  Belleville West High School and Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville (SIUE). It said that a spokesman for the university said that a James T Hodgkinson took two classes at the university in the autumn of 1971.

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Mr Hodgkinson’s Facebook page uses Bernie Sanders face as the cover image. On March 22, he wrote: “Trump is a Traitor. Trump has destroyed our democracy. It’s time to destroy Trump & Co.”

On the same page, he wrote in August 2016: “I want Bernie to win the White House.” 

In recent years, he commented on a variety of political issues, slamming Republicans at every turn. In 2012, Hodgkinson said the country needed tax reform. Most recently, three weeks ago, he urged people to stop the NEXUS pipeline, a Midwest gas transmission line.”

One photograph, initially obtained by another local paper, showed Mr Hodgkinson protesting outside the Post Office in Belleville, carrying a placard that reads: “Tax the rich like Congress did for 70 years till Reagan’s ‘trickle down’. We need $20-$30m”.

Before Mr Hodgkinson’s identity was made public, Mr Sanders had issued a statement on the shooting at a Republican Congressional baseball team practise, offering his prayers and condemning the violence.

“Our prayers go out for a full recovery of Rep Scalise, the congressional aides and police who were injured. We’ve got to stop the violence.”

Once it emerged that Mr Hodgkinson had volunteered for his presidential campaign, he issued an updated comment.

“I have just been informed that the alleged shooter at the Republican baseball practice is someone who apparently volunteered on my presidential campaign. 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.”

The spokesman said the date of birth they had on file was December 12 1950. It said that would match the age of the suspect in the shooting as reported by the Post.

The Dispatch said that the house believed to belong to Mr Hodgkinson lies at the end of a gravel lane, with a few other houses around it. It said one neighbour walked to the end of the gravel road and angrily confronted reporters , telling them to get off the property.

Apparently referring to the suspect’s wife, he said: “She's got enough problems.”

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