Special guest post by Bill Gage
Who knew that members of Congress were at a baseball practice in Alexandria? Clearly the shooter knew that members of Congress would be at that specific baseball field. He probably researched the event, the location and the time. He possibly even surveilled the event before or followed the members of Congress from the Capitol to the field. This shows a level of planning that is consistent with others such as John Hinkley (President Reagan ) or Jared Lee Loughner (Gabby Giffords). Active Shooters typically follow the same pre-attack phases (1) perceived grudge or grievance, (2) target selection (3) pre-attack surveillance, and (4) the attack. It appears that this attacker showed a similar pattern. It appears that the attacker, James Hodgkinson, had a political grievance against Republicans. There are unconfirmed reports that before the attack he asked, “is this the republican or democrat practice.” Media reports also show Hodgkinson participating in anti-Trump and anti-Republican activities. This shows a perceived political grievance by the attacker.
The charity baseball game is a highly publicized event, with most likely some social media exposure. Members of Congress, or their staff, most likely put on Instagram or Facebook the dates and times of the baseball practices. It could have been as easy for the attacker as following a Republican member of Congress on social media, following his/her feed, then preparing for the attack. There will probably be some attempts to limit members of Congress from publicizing their schedule of movements on social media after this attack.
I worked with Capitol Police hundreds of times throughout my career with the Secret Service. There is a small unit with the Capitol Police, that provides dignitary protection to members of Congress. Typically, only the Congressional Leadership receives physical protection, and high level Congressional Leadership, such as the Speaker of the House, and Majority and Minority leaders, have mid-size protection details. Minority and Majority Whips typically have small protective details. I will not reveal the exact size of the protective details in order to protect operational security. I was on similar details many times throughout my Secret Service career. It is typically just you and another agent, with a pistol, a radio, and two spare mags. You are totally relying on your mindset, marksmanship and tactics to defeat an attack.