After James Hodgkinson was identified as the alleged shooter in an incident that left a congressman and several others wounded, many in Belleville recounted times they’ve met him or worked with him.
He didn’t want to show his face on camera, but Matthew Jett has had a few casual run-ins with Hodgkinson over the years.
“I knew him from a bar me and friend used to frequent,” said Jett, “We called him 'Hodge' or 'Hodges' and he seemed like a really nice guy, just kind of chill, bought me a drink a few times.”
Jett was shocked to learn he was the shooter in who targeted Republican congressman on a baseball field in Alexandria, VA Thursday morning.
“He never really struck me as someone who would try and harm other people,” said Jett.
A similar sentiment came from the owner of Papa Vito’s pizza restaurant, Jamie Geoppo, who says Hodgkinson ordered from them all the time.
"We never saw anything that would make you think that this would happen. He was a loyal customer so we know we must have been doing something right," said Geoppo.
However, more than 10 years ago, Hodgkinson was an employed contractor with St. Clair County’s Intergovernmental Grants Department. County employees say the witnessed a concerning side to Hodgkinson.
One Monday morning in 2003, Pam Dougherty, a county clerk, showed up to her office to find Hodgkinson rummaging through her desk.
"I asked him what he was doing, and he said ‘I'm looking for my check,’ and I'm like, ‘I don’t have your check,’ and he was like, ‘Well where is it? I didn't get it?’" said Dougherty.
The county said they pay all contractors at the end of each week, sending out checks by mail on Friday. They said Hodgkinson's was sent the Friday before he showed up to the county offices unannounced.
The intrusion and Hodgkinson’s behavior led the county to ban him from the building and end his employment.
"I could tell he was angry I mean, I don’t remember feeling scared or nervous about the situation. I thought it was very odd. That has never happened to me before," said Dougherty.
Hodgkinson attempted to get his job back one more time with the county, said Terry Beach, the current Executive Director of the St. Clair County Intergovernmental Grants Department.
“Mr. Kimball [former director] gave him an application to fill out and he never came back. He never completed that. That was the last we heard of him. That was five years ago,” said Beach.
St. Clair County said prior to Hodgkinson’s unannounced visit to the county offices, he was a “good contractor” and never received complaints about his work. The county said he did a lot of home rehabbing projects for low-income families and the elderly.
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