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Wife of DC Gunman: ‘I Can’t Believe He Did This’


Sue Hodgkinson stood unsteady and emotional as a local sheriff’s deputy held her hand and led her to a bank of several microphones. It was her first time to face the TV cameras that had been camped outside her house here since Wednesday morning, when her husband opened fire at a Virginia baseball field, outside Washington, as Republican members of Congress were practicing.

James Hodgkinson was shot dead after the FBI says he wounded House of Representatives Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a U.S. Capitol Police officer and two others.

Watch: DC Gunman's Wife: I Can't Believe He Did This

‘I had no idea this was about to happen’

Hodgkinson says her husband prepared for his trip to Washington by selling everything he owned from his home-inspection business. He closed the business last year, and his Facebook page lists him as former owner. But the sign for JTH Inspections still stands at the beginning of her driveway.

Hodgkinson told his wife he was going to Washington to "work with people to change the tax brackets," she said.

“I had no idea this was about to happen,” she said of the shooting, which seemed to target Republican congressmen. When asked what she wanted to say to the families of the injured, she said she “didn’t know who was shot.”

James Hodgkinson was a regular editorial contributor to the Belleville News Democrat newspaper, complaining about taxes and urging higher taxes on the rich. In 2012, he protested outside the local post office, carrying a sign reading "Tax the Rich." His social media pages were filled with angry rants about those taxes, Republicans, and specifically President Donald Trump, whom he called "a traitor." But when his wife was specifically asked if politics "consumed" him, she refused to say.

Jim Guetterman owns about 200 hectares of corn and soybeans behind Hodgkinson’s house. He says everybody's got a gun these days.
Jim Guetterman owns about 200 hectares of corn and soybeans behind Hodgkinson’s house. He says everybody's got a gun these days.

‘Never bothered anybody’

Jim Guetterman owns about 200 hectares of corn and soybeans behind Hodgkinson’s house. His only contact with the 66-year-old was returning a saddlebag that fell off Hodgkinson’s Harley Davidson motorcycle.

"He never bothered anybody that I knew of," Guetterman said, shaking his head in disbelief that someone living that close to him could do something like that.

The FBI says Hodgkinson had been living for the past three months in his car and taking showers at the YMCA in Alexandria, Virginia. He used a .30-caliber semi-automatic rifle and a 9 mm handgun. Police say the guns were legal, and he carried the required Illinois Firearm Owner’s Identification card.

Watch: Richard Wagner of St. Clair County Sheriff's Department

‘Never tipped us off’

In late March, days before Hodgkinson left town, Bill Schaumleffel called the St. Clair Sheriff’s Office to complain about Hodgkinson firing his rifle toward houses when his grandchildren were outside.

The sheriff’s deputies didn’t file charges, but they were familiar with Hodgkinson. He had a long list of charges — traffic violations, fleeing police, assault — all without convictions.

Chief Deputy Sheriff Richard Wagner reflected on those interactions and said, “He never tipped us off or gave any indication that he was violent in any way.”

Schaumleffel seemed to think the 2016 election enraged Hodgkinson: “He was getting even with whomever got into office he didn’t like — he was going to take some of them out.”

Congressman Steve Scalise, the most seriously wounded, is in critical condition following several surgeries.

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    Carolyn Presutti

    Carolyn Presutti is an Emmy, Silver World Medal, AP Broadcaster’s Best of Show, and Clarion award-winning television correspondent who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters. She has also won numerous TV, Radio, Multimedia, and Digital awards for her TV/Web coverage of Muslim Portraits, The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, Google Glass & Other Wearables, and the 9/11 Anniversary.  Presutti was VOA’s Nathanson Scholar to the Aspen Institute and VOA’s delegate to the U.S. government’s Executive Leadership Program (ELP).

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