Wife Of GOP Baseball Practice Shooter Speaks Out | KUOW News and Information

Wife Of GOP Baseball Practice Shooter Speaks Out

Jun 15, 2017
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now more about what we've learned about the man who fired on a congressional baseball practice yesterday. Before James Hodgkinson traveled to Virginia, he lived in the town of Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis. NPR's Hansi Lo Wang is in Belleville and joins us now. Hi, Hansi.

HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: I understand the wife of the shooter spoke to reporters for the first time since the attack. What did she say?

WANG: Well, she was very upset speaking to reporters who have been camped outside of her home. Let's listen to a clip of what she said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SUZANNE HODGKINSON: I had no idea this was going to happen, and I don't know what to say about it. I can't wrap my head around it.

WANG: She got a lot of questions from reporters. And we learned that her husband told her that he wanted to go to Washington D.C. to work with people to change the tax brackets. And she said she had no idea what exactly he was doing while he was gone. And she suggested that maybe he wanted a break from living with their - her daughter's child who was living with them in their home. She also said she didn't know exactly who was shot on Wednesday, but she is sorry that he did this. And she wouldn't go into anything about his politics but did add this detail that he sold everything he owned from his businesses.

SHAPIRO: What can you tell us about the current status of the FBI investigation?

WANG: Well, at this point, the FBI's confirmed that the shooter used a 9-millimeter handgun and also a 7.62-caliber rifle. And there's no evidence so far that they were purchased illegally. They've also found a cell phone, a computer and camera in a white van that the FBI says he was living in in Alexandria since March. And that vehicle was parked across from the scene of the shooting. And the FBI is still canvassing Alexandria, Va., and here in Belleville.

SHAPIRO: What have you heard in Belleville from people who knew Hodgkinson?

WANG: Well, the people we've talked to are surprised that this happened. We know that he had a criminal record. He's faced a charge of battery, for example, but that was later dropped. One neighbor told us that he and his family really kept to themselves.

One woman I spoke to who lives in that area, Marilyn Blaha, said she knew him professionally from years ago, says her brother was still friends with him. And she was shocked by the news, says it was totally unexpected. And she thinks the community will rally around to support his family. Here's what she said.

MARILYN BLAHA: I think it kind of brings people together if anything, you know? I think they'll support his family. And people are pretty good around here. They won't look down on the fact that he, you know, he did wrong. I think that they'll come together for his family.

SHAPIRO: This shooting has brought national attention to the town of Belleville. Will you tell us about this place?

WANG: Well, it's a small town, and parts of it are pretty rural, including where the shooter's home is. It's lots of farmland, acres of corn and soybean fields. The county that it's in, St. Clair County, is politically purple. There have been protests against President Donald Trump on the main street here. And last November, Hillary Clinton beat Trump by just a few thousand votes. It was pretty close. And so there are a lot of GOP voters, and this county is really surrounded by Trump country. And to get a better sense of the political climate, I stopped by a local softball league game here last night, spoke to some people there. And the people told me, you know, despite these splits, it doesn't divide them personally, and they're able to get along.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Hansi Lo Wang in Belleville, Ill., thanks a lot.

WANG: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.