Alexandria Shooting – Facts, Myths, Conjecture and Speculation.

The Shooting

Many news outlets are labeling this an assassination, which is the targeted killing of an individual.  In my humble opinion there is no evidence to support this.  This should be labeled a mass shooting, likely politically motivate.

The Shooter

James Thomas Hodgkinson, has been profiled by his hometown newspaper:

1951

James Thomas Hodgkinson was born Dec. 12 to Deloris and James J. Hodgkinson. He was one of three children. The younger Hodgkinson sometimes went by “Tom” or his middle name.

1965

Hodgkinson joins Belleville West High School’s wrestling and track teams as a freshman, according to his school yearbook. In his sophomore and junior years, yearbooks list him as a member of the varsity wrestling team at Belleville West.

Hodgkinson attended Belleville West with Belleville native Tom Calhoun, the PA voice for the Gateway Grizzlies and the St. Louis Blues. Calhoun remembered Hodgkinson as “Tommy” and they were in the same kindergarten class at Henry Raab Elementary School. They were both interested in sports in high school and played pick-up baseball games together as teens.

Belleville resident Dale Walsh grew up with Hodgkinson, attending Belleville West High with him. He said Hodgkinson was “a fun-loving guy” who was passionate about his views and “never backed down” on his convictions, but Walsh never knew his friend to be an extremist.

1968

He graduated from Belleville West High School. No activities or clubs were listed in Hodgkinson’s senior yearbook.

1969

He studied aviation at Belleville Area College, which later became Southwestern Illinois College.

1971

In the fall, he transferred to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, then only six years open in its current location. Hodgkinson took two classes in one term, according to SIUE spokesman Doug McIlhagga, but did not complete a degree.

1976

Hodgkinson opened JTH Construction, which he operated for nearly 20 years, according to his Facebook page, which was later taken down.

1992

Hodgkinson was arrested Dec. 31 for driving under the influence, resisting arrest and fleeing police.

1993

Hodgkinson has DUI, resisting arrest and fleeing charges that were dismissed after court supervision.

1994

JTH Construction became JTH Inspections, a home inspection and air quality testing service.

JTH Construction became JTH Inspections, a home inspection and air quality testing service that he listed as closed in 2016.

1996

The Hodgkinson’s foster daughter, Wanda “Ashley” Stock, killed herself at the age of 17 by dousing herself with gasoline and setting herself on fire inside her car on a rural road south of Belleville. The Hodgkinsons spoke to the News-Democrat at the time, saying they did not know what triggered a “very practical, level-headed girl” to kill herself. Later they discovered there had been a previous suicide attempt before Ashley came to live with them, and that hours before she completed her suicide, her boyfriend had broken up with her.

2002

In December, the Hodgkinsons assumed legal guardianship for their 12-year-old great-niece, Cathy Lynn Putnam. Cathy’s biological parents’ rights had been revoked, and she had been in foster care or with the Hodgkinsons since she was 4 years old. Her name was eventually changed to Cathy Hodgkinson.

2006

April 1: Cathy refused to leave a friend’s house. Hodgkinson grabbed Cathy by her hair and pulled her to the floor. Cathy and her female friend try to leave in a car, but Hodgkinson opened the car door, cut the ignition and used a pocketknife to cut the seat belt. When Cathy’s friend threatened to call police, he punched her in the face. When the boyfriend of Cathy’s friend went to Hodgkinson’s house to talk about the attack, Hodgkinson aimed a 12-gauge shotgun at his face. The boyfriend fled and Hodgkinson fired a shot behind him.

Hodgkinson had two battery charges and an aiding damage to a vehicle charge later dismissed.

July 7: Cathy was returned to state custody.

Dec. 26: In a court document, the Hodgkinsons wrote: “Since then His Honor has seen fit to award guardianship of Cathy to our next-door neighbors, which is a quite stressful and uncomfortable situation for our family.”

2008

Hodgkinson began writing letters to the editor to the Belleville News-Democrat. In them, he often railed against Republicans and tax policies, and at least once advocated for legalizing marijuana. His last letter to the editor was dated Sept. 12, 2012. He sent in nearly 30 letters to the editor between 2008 and 2012.

2009

Hodgkinson was charged by Belleville with failing to obtain an electrical contractor license or electrical permit before performing work, but it was dismissed.

2012

Hodgkinson protests low taxes for the rich outside the Belleville post office. Hodgkinson said he was part of a “99%” team drawing attention to the amount of money and political power the top 1 percent of Americans acquired.


I KNEW HE WAS A DEMOCRAT, A PRETTY HARDCORE ONE. I KNOW HE WASN’T HAPPY WHEN TRUMP GOT ELECTED, BUT HE SEEMED LIKE A NICE ENOUGH GUY. … HE WAS A DEMOCRAT AND I WAS A REPUBLICAN, SO WE DIDN’T HAVE TOO MUCH TO TALK ABOUT.  Neighbor Aaron Meurer


2017

March 24: A neighbor called deputies when he heard 50 shots fired in some pine trees near Hodgkinson’s home. Neighbors complained and called the St. Clair County Sheriff at 3 p.m. He had a valid Illinois Firearm Owners Identification card at the time and was firing a hunting rifle on his own property in unincorporated St. Clair County, so sheriff’s deputies did not file any charges and reminded him to shoot responsibly. As no illegal activity had taken place, no charges were filed, according to St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Bruce Fleshren.

Late March, early April: Hodgkinson moves to the Alexandria, Virginia and lives out of a gym bag for several months.

June 14: Hodgkinson allegedly opens fire on a Republican congressional baseball practice. Five were shot, including Rep. Steve Scalise, the majority whip of the House of Representatives. Scalise was in critical condition Wednesday night after undergoing surgery. President Donald Trump said Hodgkinson died during gunfire exchanged with congressional security workers during the practice session in Alexandria, Virginia.

Law enforcement officials have not said what they believe Hodgkinson’s motive may have been for the shooting.

Hodgkinson’s social media was marked by politics, and he belonged to multiple anti-GOP Facebook groups, including “The Road to Hell is Paved with Republicans,” “Donald Trump is not my President,” “President Bernie Sanders,” “Expose Republican Fraud,” and “Terminate the Republican Party.” Facebook removed his account Wednesday afternoon.

The Guns

From FBI/ATF joint statement update (June 16, 2017)

According to ATF, weapons traces of the 9mm handgun and 7.62mm caliber rifle found at the scene were legally purchased by the shooter with federal licenses. The ATF provided photos of weapons similar in appearance to those used in Wednesday’s shooting.

Stock image of a rifle that resembles a weapon in the June 14 shooting in Alexandria, Virginia.
Stock image of a 9mm handgun that resembles a weapon in the June 14 shooting in Alexandria, Virginia.

 

Rifle
SKF Rifle, 10 round clip

 

 

Pistol
9 mm Pistol, typically 9 round magazine

The Myths

The rife was an AK-47 Assault rifle, with the implication, in many people mind, that it was an automatic weapon.

The SKF is a 1950 vintage soviet design that predates the AK-47.  It is a clip fed and reloading is more complex than a magazine fed weapon.  It is semi-automatic.

 

Clip
Inserting a new clip into a SKF rifle.

In interviews, Senator Ran Paul and others, intimated that there was a pause while the shooter reloaded.  A SFK expert who listened to a tape of the shooting reported that he heard 10 7.62 mm rounds (rifle) and 50+ 9mm rounds (pistol), noting there is no way to tell where in the event the recording started.

 “From the more than five-minute video, I heard only 10 7.62 rifle shots. That’s the legal capacity for that firearm. I’m going to assume that his rifle is not modified but it’s hard to know when the videographer started taping.

The first five rifle rounds were not well-placed shots because they were too fast. He was shooting indiscriminately. But the second set of five are the ones I’d be worried about. He was acquiring targets and his shooting was more methodical because he was giving himself more time.

There were 56-57 pistol shots in all, and that includes after the police got there.”

The expertise of the shooter must also be questioned, if we assume two SFK clips (20 rounds) and four Pistol magazines (36 round) he hit 4 individuals, one twice, 7% accuracy, and only two shots were in center mass of body.  Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots, within six seconds, at twice the range, at a moving target, using a bolt action rifle, and had two hits by comparison.

Conjecture

There are frequent reports that the shooter was subjected to a Federal Firearms Background Check , this will be true if the weapons were purchased post 1998, when the checks were begun, before that no checks were required.

The fact that he had an Illinois Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) in 2017 indicates that he had applied for it subsequent to 2007, unless it was a renewal, which would mean that he could have acquired it as early as 1967, when the law was enacted.

Speculation

Based on the infamous “unnamed sources” it is being reported that the shooter “had a (handwritten) list of at least six GOP lawmakers’ names at the time of the shooting.”  And “all of the congressmen are associated with the conservative House Freedom Caucus.”  It is not reported where the list existed, on his person, in his van, in his gym bag, …, but some outlets imply on his person by use of “carried or with”.  The reporting is that two of the named individuals were on the practice field at the time of the shooting.  As with most speculative reports it concludes with “law enforcement officials are cautioning against drawing conclusions about the list or the suspect’s motivations for having it”  The classic we will tell you something then tell you not to believe it.  Far from the classic factual reporting mantra of who, what, when, where and why.

The only injured congressional member is House Majority Whip, Steve Scalise, who is not a member of the House Freedom Caucus.

The Park

 

Scene
The Park, from the area of 3rd base dugout to 2nd base is 130 ft.