FBI says baseball shooter had list of names; Scalise improves to ‘fair’ condition

WASHINGTON — The FBI says the gunman who shot and injured House GOP Whip Steve Scalise and three other people during a Republican congressional baseball practice last week fired a total of 60 rounds with two firearms and had a list of six members of Congress when he carried out the attack.

During a news conference Wednesday, Tim Slater, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Washington office, said authorities believe 66-year-old James “Tom” Hodgkinson acted alone, and there was no connection to terrorism.

Slater declined to discuss any of the names on the list or whether any of those members were at the baseball practice, only saying he would not characterize it as a “hit list.”

At this point in the investigation, the attack appears to be “more spontaneous” than planned, Slater said.

Later Wednesday, the hospital treating Scalise, who was shot in the hip and seriously wounded, announced his condition had improved to fair and that he “continues to make good progress.”

The FBI, which reviewed records from Hodgkinson’s cellphone and laptop, released preliminary details from its ongoing probe into the shooting, piecing together Hodgkinson’s whereabouts and online activity in the days and weeks leading up to the shooting.

The unemployed former home inspector from Belleville, Illinois, was known to have anger management issues, was running out of money and on prescription medication before the attack, Slater said. He had been living out of his van in the Alexandria, Virginia, area since Mach 2017, frequenting the YMCA near Eugene Simpson Park where he opened fire June 14.

“I think he was struggling in a lot of aspects of his life,” Slater said.

Hodgkinson frequently ranted on social media, espousing “anti-Republican views,” Slater said, but he never made any threats to members of Congress or to the Congressional Baseball Game.

The night before the shooting, Hodgkinson looked up driving directions from Alexandria back to his home in Belleville and also did a Google search for the “2017 Republican Convention,” according to online searches reviewed by investigators. Two days before the shooting, Hodgkinson messaged a family member seeking to return home, Slater said. The FBI did not say what the response from the family member was. 

Before he left Illinois in March, police had been called to his home for complaints he was conducting target practice on his property, Slater said. But at the time, police determined Hodgkinson hadn’t violated any laws. His criminal history includes a 2006 domestic battery charge.

During the assault at the baseball field, Hodgkinson was armed with a 7.62 mm caliber SKS rifle and a 9 mm handgun and fired about 60 rounds, Slater said. Both guns were purchased legally, according to the FBI. The handgun was purchased in November 2016, after the presidential election, authorities said.

Before being fatally shot multiple times by police, Hodgkinson wounded Scalise, a lobbyist for Tyson Foods and a congressional aide. One Capitol Police officer — Special Agent Crystal Griner — also suffered a gunshot wound to the ankle.

Scalise, who was shot in the hip, was at “imminent risk of death” when arrived at D.C. MedStar Washington Hospital Center, doctors said last week. The hospital released a statement Wednesday saying Scalise’s condition had improved to fair and that he is “beginning an extended period of healing and rehabilitation.”

During his time in the D.C. area, Hodgkinson visited various sites along the National Mall, including the U.S. Capitol, the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court, based on photos and videos retrieved from his cellphone, the FBI said.

“At this point in our investigation, we do not believe that these photographs represent surveillance of intended targets,” Slater said. “However we continue to learn more about the shooter and his recent activities.”

Hodgkinson also took part in a tax-themed protest in D.C. on April 15, Slater said. In addition, Hodgkinson visited the office of Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose 2016 campaign he had volunteered for, and emailed the offices of Illinois Democratic senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin.

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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