Oklahoma’s federal legislators strongly praised the law enforcement response Wednesday to a Virginia shooting attack that appeared to target Republicans.
The Associated Press said a rifle-wielding attacker opened fire on Republican lawmakers at a congressional baseball practice early Wednesday, wounding House GOP Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and several others as congressmen and aides dove for cover.
The assailant, prepared with "a lot of ammo," and fought a gun battle with police before he, too, was shot and later died. The gunman was identified as James T. Hodgkinson, 66, of Illinois. Authorities said Hodgkinson had several minor run-ins with the law in recent years and belonged to a Facebook group called "Terminate the Republican Party."
Hours later, Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders said the gunman had been among the many volunteers on his presidential campaign.
This region’s Republican legislators issued statements Wednesday offering prayers for the victims.
"“I am deeply shocked and saddened to hear that my colleague and friend Majority Whip Steve Scalise, along with Capitol Police and Congressional staff, were shot while practicing to play in the annual Congressional Baseball Game," said Tom Cole, R-4th District. "This senseless act of violence endangered dozens of innocent people. We are very fortunate that the Capitol Police were on the scene, and that the Alexandria Police Department and first responders who also arrived almost immediately. Their heroism and rapid response most likely prevented an even worse attack.
“My thoughts and prayers are very much with those who are wounded and their families.”
Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford also released several statements throughout the day, saying “please join me in praying for @SteveScalise, congressional staffers & Capitol Hill police that were shot in Alexandria. This is so terrible.”
Similar thoughts were offered by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma.
"My thoughts and prayers are with Rep. Scalise, capitol police and all those affected by this tragedy,” Inhofe said in a tweet.
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.