Who is James Hodgkinson, the Virginia shooting suspect who wrote 'It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co' on Facebook?

He was said to be upset following last year's presidential election results

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The Independent US

The individual suspected of open firing on a congressional baseball game is a man who had been a frequent critic of Republican politics.

Media reports paint James Hodgkinson, the 66-year-old suspect, as a man angry at the surprise election of President Donald Trump in November, with an increase in the number of anti-Trump messages he posted in anti-Republican Facebook groups coming recently.

“Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co,” a recent post on an account believe to be his reads. His account features a picture of Senator Bernie Sanders as the primary photo.

He appeared to be in several anti-Republican groups online, including ones named “Terminate the Republican Party”, “The Road To Hell Is Paved With Republicans”, and “Donald Trump is not my President”.

Mr Hodgkinson’s interest in politics, however, is not a new development. Hailing Belleville, Illinois, volunteered on the the presidential campaign for Mr Sanders in 2016. Pictures of him and letters to the editor sent to his local paper show that he was particularly upset with rising income inequality, and advocated for raising taxes on wealthy Americans. He also wrote at least one letter in which he said that marijuana should be legalised in order to raise revenues.

In those letters, he accuses other, conservative comment writers of spreading “lies and hatred and misdirection to anyone who will listen”.

But things apparently took a turn following the election last year, which tilted in Mr Trump’s favour in a dramatic finish after months of near-certainty from political pundits and polls that Hillary Clinton would win.

“I know he wasn’t happy with the way things were going, the election results and stuff” Michael Hodgkinson, the suspect’s brother, told the New York Times.

Neighbours also reported that he had been distraught by the news of Mr Trump’s election, but hadn’t seen him in several weeks. They noted that most people in their neighbourhood had guns since they live in a rural area of Illinois.

It was later reported that Mr Hodgkinson had been living in Alexandria for several weeks before the attack, with a former Alexandria mayor - Bill Euille - saying he had talked with with Mr Hodgkinson nearly every morning for the past six weeks and believed he was "living out of a gym bag".

Back in Illinois, one neighbour, William Schaumleffel, said that he had seen Mr Hodgkinson practising shooting in March, and that it concerned him enough to call the police. He was shooting into pine trees near his home, which Mr Schaumleffel said was dangerous because there were houses in the general direction of the shots. That incident was later described as “target practise”.

“I told my wife, hey, I’m gonna call the sheriff. He’s likely to turn the gun on us”, Mr Schaumleffel told the Daily Beast.

Mr Hodgkinson was charged with multiple counts of domestic battery and aggravated discharge of a firearm in 2006, though those charges were dismissed.

According to court documents, the 2006 altercation took place after Mr Hodgkinson tried to retrieve a 16-year-old girl believed to be his daughter from her friend's house.

The responding officer wrote in his report that the girl - who was a student who lived with Hodgkinson and his wife - said Mr Hodgkinson dragged her by her hair and beat her. He then allegedly sliced into her seatbelt with a pocket knife and choked her as she tried to drive away.

He also allegedly shot at one of her friends with a 12-gauge shotgun and punched another 16-year-old girl in the face.

According to local authorities, the 2006 charges against Mr Hodgkinson were dropped after the victims failed to appear in court.

One friend, David Walsh said that Mr Hodgkinson was "not evil". 

“I guess I just want to let people know that he’s not evil,” Mr Walsh told The Washington Post from outside Mr Hodgkinson’s home in Belleville, Ill. “I guess he was tired of some of the politics going on. Like in this state, we have politicians collecting a check and doing absolutely nothing for us.”

Mr Walsh said Hodgkinson once worked as a home builder and later had a home inspection business until last year. “To me, he was just a nice guy,” Mr Walsh said.