By Alexa Epitropoulos | [email protected]
The use of deadly force against shooter James T. Hodgkinson at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park was justified, according to a report released Friday by Alexandria Commonwealth’s
Attorney Bryan Porter.
The investigation found Hodgkinson fired 70 rounds – 62 from his semi-automatic assault rifle and eight from his 9mm semi-automatic pistol – during the gunfight.
The review from the commonwealth’s attorney detailed the chilling June 14 shooting in Del Ray, which resulted in five injuries, including House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who recently returned to Capitol Hill after spending weeks in critical condition and months recovering from his gunshot wounds.
Read: Alexandria Times’ coverage of the Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in June
The report clarified several aspects of the firefight, including the role played by Alexandria police officers Kevin Jobe, Nicole Battaglia and Alexander Jensen. The report indicated that two shots fired by Jensen struck Hodgkinson.
It also indicated that Hodgkinson was not killed at the scene, as was widely reported, but was still alive during transport to George Washington University Hospital and died there.
The commonwealth’s attorney is tasked with reviewing and analyzing any deadly force used by law enforcement officers that occurs within Alexandria. The review was conducted with information gathered during the criminal investigation, which was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Alexandria Police Department and the U.S. Capitol Police.
The review said members of the Republican team, who were practicing ahead of the annual Congressional Baseball Game for Charity, started gathering at Eugene Simpson Stadium
Park at 5:30 a.m. for the practice scheduled for 6 a.m. Hodgkinson, a 66-year-old Illinois native who had been living out of his vehicle in Alexandria for more than a month and was unhappy about the outcome of the 2016 election, was seen at the Monroe Avenue YMCA in Del Ray, which is adjacent to the park, shortly after 5:30 a.m.
The criminal investigation revealed he visited his storage unit between 6:23 and 6:35 a.m., where it is believed he retrieved two firearms that were used in the incident – a Century Arms International SKS-style 7.62x39mm semi-automatic assault rifle and a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm semi-automatic pistol.
Hodgkinson parked near the field before 7 a.m. and was seen approaching two members of the team at 7:02 a.m. At that point, Hodgkinson asked whether the practice was for a Republican or Democratic team. When one of the members responded that it was a
Republican team, he thanked them and walked away.
The suspect retrieved the SKS-style assault rifle and the semi-automatic pistol from his van before approaching Simpson Field from the west at around 7:06 a.m. About 20 to 25 people were practicing on the field at that point, the review said, with Scalise playing near second base.
The review confirmed a chain-link fence gate that bordered the field was padlocked
by chance, which it claimed most likely saved lives. Hodgkinson, then standing near
the gate, fired through the fence toward team members without warning.
The review said evidence indicates Scalise was the first to be shot. Lobbyist Matthew Mika
was shot in the chest and, shortly after, was assisted by other players off the field. Zack Barth, a legislative correspondent for Rep. Roger Williams (R – Tx.), was struck in his left leg while lying on the ground for cover. U.S. Capitol Police Special Agent David Bailey, who along with Special Agent Crystal Griner was part of Scalise’s security detail, was the first to engage the suspect, returning Hodgkinson’s fire with his Glock pistol. He stood near the first-base dugout and fired a total of 10 rounds toward the suspect – something the review noted likely caused the suspect to lose focus and become less accurate.
Hodgkinson fired 33 rounds from his original position at the fence. After taking fire from Bailey, he ducked behind the third-base dugout and then headed south of the field between a storage unit and a wooden press box behind home plate.
Griner first saw the suspect while he was moving toward the blue storage building. The suspect, at that point, fired at Griner and Bailey with his assault rifle. Griner engaged with the suspect while Bailey retrieved more magazines from inside their vehicle, a black SUV. When Bailey reloaded, he also began firing at Hodgkinson. Griner and Bailey, while taking cover behind their black SUV, continued to exchange gunfire with the suspect. Griner, who had extended her left leg past the vehicle where she was taking cover, was shot in the left ankle, which made her unable to stand. Bailey continued to engage the suspect.
Griner and Bailey discharged 25 rounds in total while taking cover behind the SUV, which
the review stated resulted in keeping Hodgkinson’s attention away from unarmed team members.
The review also detailed the actions of Alexandria Police Department officers Jobe, Battaglia and Jensen. Jobe, the first to arrive on the scene at 7:12 a.m., pulled up as Griner and Bailey were engaging Hodgkinson from behind the black SUV. Jobe, who correctly inferred the suspect was behind the blue storage unit, advised two approaching Alexandria police units to stop where they were in order to avoid becoming targets for Hodgkinson.
Battaglia and Jensen arrived at the scene at approximately 7:13 a.m. Upon seeing the suspect behind the blue storage building, Jensen took cover behind the engine block of his cruiser and relayed the suspect’s location over his radio.
Battaglia ran in the direction of the blue storage building and, as she approached
the northwest corner of the parking lot, the suspect came around the south side of the storage facility and opened fire at her. Battaglia took cover behind the engine block of a parked Lexus and relayed on her radio that she was taking fire.
Jensen, after checking to see that there were no bystanders downrange from the
suspect, attempted to fire a round at Hodgkinson, but his gun did not fire because it was in “cruiser safe” mode. After hearing that Battaglia was taking fire over his radio, he came up from behind cover and fired one round at the suspect, which did not hit him.
Evidence suggests a second shot from Jensen hit Hodgkinson in the right hip, according to the review.
After being struck by the bullet, Hodgkinson partially collapsed and dropped the assault rifle. At that point, he used his 9mm pistol and stood up, walking toward the north side of the storage unit, where he fired at Bailey and Jobe.
Jobe and Bailey engaged the suspect, with Jobe closing the distance between him and the suspect while firing four rounds. Jobe told the suspect to “get back” and “get down,” while Bailey told the suspect to get on the ground.
Instead of complying with the orders, Hodgkinson continued to fire, according to
the review. Bailey returned his fire and, at this point, one of Bailey’s rounds hit Hodgkinson in the chest, slightly to the left of the midline.
After being hit in the chest by Bailey, Hodgkinson rotated away from him, putting him in Jensen’s line of fire. Jensen, standing in front of his cruiser, fired a third round at Hodgkinson, which evidence suggests hit him in the left hip. Hodgkinson subsequently collapsed on the ground.
After Hodgkinson collapsed, Jobe and Battaglia approached him. Hodgkinson was trying to get up and was motioning toward his pistol.
Jobe placed the suspect in handcuffs. Jobe said the assault rifle and 9mm pistol were nearby, and when the suspect was searched, police found a partially loaded 9mm magazine in his pocket.
As other officers arrived on the scene, life-saving measures were performed on the
suspect and he was transported to the George Washington University Hospital. He died there from gunshot wounds.
Jobe transmitted over his radio at 7:15 a.m. – nine minutes after Hodgkinson began
firing at team members on the field – that the suspect was in custody.
The review found Hodgkinson, motivated by anger against Republican legislators, committed an act of terrorism, as defined by the Code of Virginia. The review said the suspect, using a lawfully purchased assault rifle and handgun, ambushed a peaceful assembly of people practicing baseball and “began to fire indiscriminately in an effort to kill and maim as many people as possible.”
“The agents and police officers who engaged the suspect were confronted with a suspect who determinedly and repeatedly engaged in deadly force against a group of innocent, unarmed baseball players,” Porter said in the review.
Porter said, for these reasons, the agents and officers were “justified in reasonably fearing for their lives and the lives of the people on the baseball field.”
“Therefore, it was reasonable – indeed it was necessary – for them to use deadly force in order to repel the assault and neutralize the threat,” the review stated.
Porter described the facts of the case as clear cut, and said the actions of Special Agents Griner and Bailey prevented the suspect from completing his planned attack and, thus, prevented “innumerable deaths and serious injuries.” He said the actions of Officers Jensen, Jobe and Battaglia helped neutralize the threat presented by the suspect without
further injury to bystanders.
“The agents and officers should be commended for their bravery and service. As others ran from the suspect, they engaged him and ran toward the danger. The agents and officers are the paradigm of what law enforcement officers should be and are true stewards of the public trust inherent in their respective offices,” Porter concluded in his review.