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For weeks, Alexandria shooter hung out at YMCA within sight of ball field

 (Facebook and Associated Press)
(Facebook and Associated Press)

The Alexandria, Va., shooter apparently left his home in Illinois and spent weeks hanging out at a YMCA near the ball field where he shot at Republican congressmen and staffers.

James T. Hodgkinson, killed in a shootout with police, has been in the Alexandria area since March, FBI Special Agent Tim Slater told reporters at a news conference.

Hodgkinson would spend hours sitting in the lobby of the YMCA, staring at his laptop, said member Stephen Brennman.

Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville, Ill., never dressed in workout clothes, but was usually dressed in polyester pants, collared shirts and a flat hat resembling a beret, Brennman says.

“I saw him over the course of weeks and weeks,” said Brennman, a lawyer with offices in Washington. Brennman, who lives in Alexandria, says he talks with everyone, to the point of people jokingly calling him the Y’s “social director.”

But Hodgkinson never looked at him and never said a word, he said.

“He was always in his own little world,” he said. “I never saw him talk to anybody.

“It’s just a friendly place, but I didn’t see him interacting with anybody at all. Just a blank stare.”

At first, Brennman said, he figured Hodgkinson was a contractor. “He looked like that kind of guy, like a guy who would come and sell you siding. Then it was like – what is he doing here?”

Brennman said he was curious but never asked staff members about him.

Former Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille, in an interview in the Washington Post, also said Hodgkinson began showing up at the YMCA weeks ago.

Hodgkinson would typically sit in one of two places, Brennman said, in the main lobby or with his back to a window. If he turned around and looked out that window, he would have had a good view of the ball field.

“The guy had to know something was going on that day. The only people I saw play baseball or softball there were kids,” Brennman said. 

When he saw the shooter’s picture on CNN, Brennman said, the man looked familiar, but he couldn’t place him. “I’m in the shower, really racking my brain, and it came to me: Oh my God, it’s that guy sitting there with his laptop. I got chills all over.”

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