Scalise Gunman Dodged 2006 Charge That Would Bar Gun Purchases

  • 2006 charges of battery against James Hodgkinson were dropped
  • Hodgkinson identified as shooter in Washington-area attack

The man who shot House Majority Whip Steve Scalise managed to escape domestic battery charges 11 years ago that could have prevented him from lawfully owning a firearm, according to his defense attorney at the time.

James Hodgkinson

Photographer: Derik Holtmann/Belleville News-Democrat via AP

James Hodgkinson, 66, was arrested after a 2006 incident in which he was accused of beating his foster daughter, according to court records. The case crumbled after the victim decided not to testify, according to Lyndon Evanko, who was his defense attorney.

"It was a domestic situation, and those were usually dealt with dismissals," Evanko, a retired Belleville, Illinois lawyer, said in a telephone interview. "There was insufficient evidence."

It was a fateful turn of events. Under federal law, someone found guilty of domestic battery of a family member can be barred from legally owning a firearm. Hodgkinson’s home state of Illinois has a broadly similar provision, said Ari Freilich, a staff attorney at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence in San Francisco.

"He would have been required under law to relinquish his firearm license and any weapons under his possession," Freilich said in a phone interview.

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The FBI said Thursday a 9 mm handgun and a 7.62 mm caliber rifle were found after Hodgkinson shot Scalise and three others Wednesday morning at a ball field outside Washington where Republican lawmakers were practicing for a charity baseball game. 

The agency said both guns were purchased from federal firearms licensees and "we currently have no evidence to suggest that the purchases were not lawful."

Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana, was in critical condition and will require additional operations, MedStar Washington Hospital Center said in a statement late Wednesday on its website. The bullet tore through his pelvis, fracturing bones, injuring internal organs and causing severe bleeding, the hospital said. Hodgkinson was shot and killed by police.

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In the April 2006 incident, Hodgkinson was arrested and charged with two counts of domestic battery, among other charges, after he attacked his foster daughter when she refused his demands to come home from a neighbor’s house, according to a report from the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office.

He was also alleged to have pointed a 12-gauge shotgun at a man who attempted to intervene in the dispute and struck him in the head with the butt of the gun, according to the report. Hodgkinson fired the gun as the man retreated, although police said it wasn’t clear if it was aimed at him.

Hodgkinson was charged with aggravated discharge of a firearm, a felony. A conviction for that offense would have also triggered a federal prohibition against owning a firearm. Authorities decided not to pursue those charges, according to Evanko.

"I think he just fired the gun up in the air," Evanko said "At the time everybody wasn’t so hot to trot on gun stuff."

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