James Thomas Hodgkinson, the 66-year-old home inspector from Bellville, Illinois, who was killed Wednesday after firing on Republican congressmen practicing for a charity baseball event, appears to have channeled a lifetime of family trauma and personal failure into political rage.
He vented for years — in the form of letters to the local newspaper, calls to his congressman, and vitriolic Facebook posts — before crossing the line and turning to real-world violence.
“We have to come together as a country to stop the political and rhetorical hate that we see in the 24-news cycle on social media,” said an emotional Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., after the shooting. “Hate has real consequences and we saw it and witnessed it today.”
How Hodgkinson went from posting a political cartoon online in 2015 that derided Rep. Steve Scalise as someone who should lose his job, to shooting Scalise with a high-powered rifle, is only just starting to become clear.
Hodgkinson built a life in Bellville, a suburb of St. Louis, with a modest business, a wife and a succession of foster children. But it was one marked by tragedy. His lawyer, Lyndon Evanko, told ABC News that Hodgkinson and his wife were caretakers to at least two girls who died in tragic circumstances. One foster daughter committed suicide while another died of a drug overdose.
His repeated brushes with authorities suggest that Hodgkinson grew increasingly short-tempered as he aged.
Court records show that between 1989 and 2011, Hodgkinson was cited for several traffic violations and minor offenses aside from a violent domestic dispute in 2006 when he allegedly struck two people and fired a semi-automatic rifle into the air. He was charged with domestic battery and unlawful discharge of a shotgun, but the case was ultimately dismissed.
There were also signs a business he started in 1994 under the name “Accurate Appraisals and Home Inspection Service, Inc.,” and later JTH Services, Inc., was faltering….