WASHINGTON — Former Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille said he got the shock of his life when the face of the man suspected of opening fire on members of Congress flashed on the TV screen Wednesday morning.
Euille said it was “the guy with the laptop” with whom he had chatted with each morning in recent months at the local YMCA.
Euille, who is still called “Mayor” by area residents, said 66-year-old James T. Hodgkinson had been frequenting the lobby of the YMCA on East Monroe Avenue for nearly two months.
Euille, who works out at the YMCA five days a week, said he often chatted with Hodgkinson and even tried to help the Illinois man find a job. “He was a loner, but presented himself very well. He was well-spoken and just didn’t seem to be depressed or irritated about anything,” said Euille.
“He never engaged in political talk,” Euille said. But Hodgkinson would shower, go out to his car, get his laptop and sit for hours. “Never really interacting with anyone but myself when he saw me, and this staff person at the front desk.”
According to Euille, Hodgkinson recently asked the front desk staff about the group of men playing baseball in the mornings at the ball field nearby. He wanted to know if they were Democrats or Republicans.
South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan said he was leaving the field, before then shooting, when a man asked him which team was playing on the field, Democrats or Republicans.
Hodgkinson has ranted against Republican leaders in the past on his Facebook page and in letters to the editor in his hometown newspaper. Euille is a Democrat.