Investigators looking into Alexandria gunman's social media account

Lashing out against political adversaries in violent and mean ways is much more common than some think according to politicians and social media experts.

NEW ORLEANS -- As police investigate the shooting in Virginia that injured five people, including Rep. Steve Scalise, investigators are also looking into the gunman's past and his social media page.

While authorities worked to try to figure out why James Hodgkinson opened fire, some of his background came into focus.

Tim Slater, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office, said during an afternoon update that the shooter, James Hodgkinson, had been in the Alexandria area since March and that investigators believe he was living in his van.

And the Belleville, Ill., man was apparently seething over Trump being in office and Republican politics and policies

His Facebook page includes a post that reads: “Trump is  Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.”

He also once singled out Scalise, writing on his Facebook page in 2015, "Here's a Republican that should lose his job, but they gave him a raise.'' That message was accompanied by a cartoon depiction of Scalise.

Hodgkinson’s page also prominently featured pictures of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) who ran for president, and apparently volunteered for Sanders’ campaign. The Vermont senator said he was “sickened” by the shooting.

“Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms,” Sanders said in a statement. “Real change can only come about through nonviolent action, and anything else runs against our most deeply held American values.”

Senator John Kennedy said he's noticed hateful comments on his own Facebook page.

"People need to just stop hating, whether you're on the left or the right. they just need to stop hating people who disagree with them," Kennedy said.

The hateful comments often catch Tiffany Starnes eye as she browses the comments section on the internet or looking at live streams. The digital marketing consultant and Loyola teacher encourages her students to think before hitting send.

"People need to understand that what they're saying is public. Someone is listening. So, think before you type. Think about what you're saying," Starnes said.

Rabbi Debora Silver with Shir Chadash Conservative Congregation in Metairie says she's often horrified by internet comments.

"There is something about the ease of social media that takes away the normal constrictions that we might put on our speech," Rabbi Silver said.

Rabbi Silver wants people to remember that regardless of your race, religion or political views, the power of your tongue and your words, have consequences. At the end of the day Rabbi Silver wants everyone to remember one thing we all have in common is our life.

"There are plenty of ideas out there, for people to hate. But they are ideas. And the person who is manifesting those ideas, however repugnant, I find their ideas, I have no claim on their life," Rabbi Silver said.

USA Today reports the gunman also once singled out Scalise, writing on his Facebook page in 2015, "Here's a Republican that should lose his job, but they give him a raise."

© 2017 WWL-TV


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