After lawmaker shooting, probe seeks clues amid trail of political anger left by attacker – Washington Post

 In U.S.
Law enforcement officials worked Thursday to piece together the final nomadic months of the shooter whose anger toward President Trump apparently erupted in a rage of gunfire that left House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and four others wounded on a baseball field.

Among the many questions for investigators is whether the gunman — James T. Hodgkinson, a 66-year-old unemployed home inspector from southern Illinois — had long planned Wednesday’s assault and possibly studied the movements of lawmakers in the months he spent living in his van in northern Virginia.

Hodgkinson died after a shootout at the Alexandria baseball field where Scalise and Republican colleagues were holding a practice for an annual congressional baseball game against Democrats.

Authorities said Hodgkinson used a rifle and a handgun in the attack. They were investigating whether they were obtained legally.

Scalise remained in critical condition, according to officials at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Four other people were wounded by gunfire and two of them were still hospitalized, including a lobbyist who remains in critical condition.

The shooting brought temporary displays of unity among lawmakers across America’s sharp political divide. But the attack also resonated far beyond the crime itself into possible reckonings over the country’s drift toward increasingly angry and uncompromising politics.

A major show of political solidarity was expected later Thursday at the Congressional Baseball Game, which organizers vowed to hold even in the chaotic hours after the shootings. Officials said there will be additional security at Nationals Park for the 108-year-old event.

Last year, an estimated 10,000 people were said to have attended game which has a long tradition.

On Wednesday evening, President Trump and his wife Melania visited Scalise and spoke with his wife.

Hodgkinson, who had been living in his van in Alexandria for the past few months, had posted anti-Trump rhetoric on his Facebook page and had written letters to his hometown newspaper blaming Republicans for what he considered an agenda favoring the wealthy.

Several congressmen at the Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria praised the officers who engaged Hodgkinson, including two Capitol Police officers who were injured. One lawmaker said the baseball team members would have been sitting ducks had the gunman been able to make it onto the field.

“It would have been a bloodbath,” said Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.).

Rep. Jack Bergman (R-Mich.), a retired Army general, said, the shooter was kept off the field by a chain-link fence, which was locked. “If he had been able to gain entrance to the field, it would have been a whole different story.”

A lobbyist, a congressional aide and a Capitol Police officer also were shot, while a second officer was struck by shrapnel. Rep. Roger Williams (R-Tex.) injured his ankle while helping others take cover.

On Thursday morning, Williams along with one of his staffers — Zach Barth, who was shot in the leg — described the incident and fear in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show.

“I was running for my life,” Barth said of how he ran to seek cover from the field to the dugout. Once in the dugout with several other people, he said: “I was trying to keep my head down and prevent anything else from happening.”

“We were just trying to stay alive,” he said.

Barth was treated and released from the hospital Wednesday afternoon.

Williams described how he had just started to hit balls to Scalise when he heard the popping sound of shots being fired. He said he thought it was a car backfiring, but then realized it wasn’t and dove for cover to the dugout.

He said there were generations of people inside the dugout, including another congressman’s 10-year-old son.

“We bonded that day,” Williams said. “It was a scary day.”

He credited the two special agents with the Capitol Police who were members of Scalise’s security detail with being there. He described them as fabulous and said without them it would “have been a different” outcome “if they had not been there.”

Williams said that it also helped that a gate to the field was locked, preventing the shooter from getting onto the field.

“If he had gotten onto the field we would have had nowhere to go,” Williams said. “We had nothing but bats. … The Lord worked yesterday. He saved us.”

In a televised statement from the White House, Trump on Wednesday called for people to come together and commended the injured officers.

“Many lives would have been lost if not for the heroic actions of the two Capitol Police officers who took down the gunman despite sustaining gunshot wounds during a very, very brutal assault,” he said.

Lawmakers and bystanders described a horrific attack that began shortly after 7 a.m., when the shooter began firing more than 50 rounds from a military-style rifle and a handgun, taking aim through the chain-link fence.

Scalise was felled by a bullet to the hip as he fielded grounders at second base, witnesses said. Then the aide and the lobbyist were struck as the gunman moved methodically around the fence and toward the home-plate backstop. As Scalise crawled across the field, leaving a trail of blood, the gunman advanced toward a dugout, where several people were hiding.

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