FBI Concludes GOP Baseball Practice Shooter Had No Ties To Terrorism

Jun 21, 2017
Originally published on June 21, 2017 5:39 pm
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We've learned more today about the man who shot and nearly killed Republican Congressman Steve Scalise at a baseball field in Virginia last week. Investigators say the man acted alone. They say they don't think the shooting was an act of terrorism. NPR's Tom Gjelten has more.

TOM GJELTEN, BYLINE: The FBI and other agencies have spent the last week trying to figure out why James Tom Hodgkinson opened fire on Republican congressmen. For years he'd ranted about their tax plans on social media and in letters to newspapers. After arriving in Washington from his home in Illinois, he took part in a demonstration to protest Republican tax policy - not activity that would arouse suspicion.

But Hodgkinson did bring with him an SKS rifle and a handgun. He rented a storage facility where he kept 200 rounds of ammunition. And then early on the morning of June 14, he went to the baseball field with his weapons.

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TIMOTHY SLATER: He fired over 60 shots from the third base side of the field. Fifty of those were from his SKS rifle. Approximately 50 of those were from his SKS rifle.

GJELTEN: FBI agent Timothy Slater said we don't know his intended targets. In addition to Scalise, Hodgkinson shot three others. He had taken pictures of the U.S. Capitol and the Supreme Court, but it didn't appear he was surveilling possible targets. On a piece of paper, he had written the names of six members of Congress, but Slater said it didn't seem like a hit list.

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SLATER: If you look at his pattern of life and what he was doing on his laptop and social media accounts, there's no indication that that was a list of targets or there was any threats associated with those names on the list.

GJELTEN: So what was the story with this 66-year-old retired home inspector? FBI agent Slater couldn't explain how anger over Republican tax policy could lead to an attempted massacre. He didn't speculate on Tom Hodgkinson's mental state except to say he was struggling.

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SLATER: He was not employed at the time of the event, and he was looking for some local employment. He was married for 30 years, and it appears that that marriage was not going so well. He suffered from taking some prescription medication, which I'm not going to get into. It was just a pattern of life where you could tell things were not going well for Tom.

GJELTEN: Agent Slater said it appears Hodgkinson's decision to shoot up a Republican baseball practice was more spontaneous than planned. Just the night before he was doing a Google Maps search plotting a return road trip to Illinois. Tom Gjelten, NPR News, Washington.

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