Gunman who shot top GOP congressman had history of arrests

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FILE - In this March 20, 2015, file photo, Sen., Rand Paul, R-Ky. speaks in Manchester, N.H. Ready to enter the Republican chase for the party’s presidential nomination this week, the first-term Kentucky senator has designs on changing how Republicans go about getting elected to the White House and how they govern once there. Paul will do so with an approach to politics that is often downbeat and usually dour, which just might work in a nation deeply frustrated with Washington. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)

By Don Babwin and Jim Salter, Associated Press

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois man who shot a top Republican congressman and several other people Wednesday while they practiced baseball outside the nation’s capital had several minor run-ins with the law in recent years and belonged to a Facebook group called “Terminate the Republican Party.”

James T. Hodgkinson, 66, was fatally shot by police during the attack. Hours later, Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders said the gunman had been among the many volunteers on his presidential campaign.

Court records show that Hodgkinson’s legal trouble started in the 1990s with arrests for resisting police and drunken driving. His most serious problems apparently came in 2006, when he was arrested on a battery charge. Records indicate he has not been involved in any legal cases since 2011.

Until recently, he ran a home-inspection business out of his home in Belleville, in the southwestern corner of the state, across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, according to Hodgkinson’s Facebook page.

He also wrote frequent letters to his hometown newspaper, the Belleville News-Democrat, which published nearly two dozen letters between 2010 and 2012, many of which included complaints about the same theme: income inequality.

Hodgkinson compared the economic conditions of the time to those that preceded the Great Depression and excoriated Congress for not increasing the number of tax brackets and taking other tax reform measures.

On May 14, 2010, he wrote: “I don’t envy the rich; I despise the way they have bought our politicians and twisted our laws to their benefit.”

On March 4, 2011, he wrote that Congress should rewrite tax codes to ease the tax burdens of the middle class.

“Let’s get back to the good ol’ days, when our representatives had a backbone and a conscience,” he wrote.

In October 2011, he applauded the Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York and Boston, writing that the demonstrators “are tired of our do-nothing Congress doing nothing while our country is going down the tubes.”

He also wrote about conservative talk radio and TV, saying that his favorite show was Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC program and writing that he believed MSNBC provided “a better, balanced opinion,” than Fox News.

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