James Hodgkinson: Hate Makes Man Stage Astonishing Attack

Maniacal attacks can occur at any time or place. In this blog post, I look at one that happened on a baseball field outside Washington, D.C. The shooter, James Hodgkinson, opened fire on members of Congress practicing for an annual charity baseball game.

James Hodgkinson

James Hodgkinson was 66 years old, a left-wing radical, unemployed, and out of money. He had lived most of his life in Belleville, Illinois. But by June 2017, he had spent about six weeks living in his van. He parked the van near a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, and at a nearby YMCA.

The sheriff of St. Clair County, Illinois, where he lived most of his life, noted that Hodgkinson had about a dozen interactions with law enforcement over a span of twenty years. These incidents included traffic offenses, drunk driving, and domestic battery. Authorities dropped the latter charge when the victim declined to testify.

James Hodgkinson in an undated mugshot (St. Clair County, Illinois Sheriff's Department)
James Hodgkinson in an undated mugshot (St. Clair County, Illinois Sheriff’s Department)

In March 2017, a neighbor in Belleville called police to report Hodgkinson firing a rifle at trees in a residential neighborhood. Responding officers determined that he had a valid gun permit. They advised him not to shoot in a residential area but did not arrest or cite him.

James Hodgkinson Opens Fire

Early on the morning of June 14, 2017, Republican members of Congress were at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park. They were practicing for the Congressional Baseball Game, an annual event staged to benefit charity. Three Capitol Police officers were present to protect House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, whose leadership position merited a security detail.

Congressman Steve Scalise, one of the victims shot by James Hodgkinson (U.S. Congress - Office of Congressman Steve Scalise)
Congressman Steve Scalise, one of the victims shot by James Hodgkinson (U.S. Congress – Office of Congressman Steve Scalise)

Practice had been underway for about half an hour when Hodgkinson opened fire with a Russian-designed SKS rifle. When the shooting began, two Capitol Police officers, David Bailey and Crystal Griner, rushed onto the field. Hodgkinson then retreated behind the third base dugout. A ten-minute gunbattle ensued. Alexandria Police officers responding to a 911 call arrived within three minutes and joined the Capitol Police. The firing stopped when bullets from several officers wounded Hodgkinson.

Capitol Police Officer Crystal Griner throws out the first pitch at a Capitol Hill women's softball game a week after suffering a gunshot wound to the ankle (africanamericanreports.com)
Capitol Police Officer Crystal Griner throws out the first pitch at a Capitol Hill women’s softball game a week after suffering a gunshot wound to the ankle (africanamericanreports.com)

Congressman Scalise was at second base when the shooting started. He suffered a severe wound to the hip. He required several blood transfusions and multiple surgeries to repair the damage. Others suffering wounds were Matt Mitka, a lobbyist for Tyson Foods; Capitol Police officers Bailey and Griner; and legislative aide Zach Barth.

Epilogue

James Hodgkinson died of his wounds at George Washington University Hospital later that day.

Scalise returned to Congress to a standing ovation on September 28.

One day later, the Congressional Baseball Game went on as scheduled. The event sold almost 25,000 tickets, a record, and raised more than $1 million for charity.

You can find more information about the annual Congressional Baseball game here.

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