Sanders ‘sickened,’ shooter possibly linked to ’16 campaign

In this image from Senate Television video, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., pauses as he speaks Wednesday, June 14, 2017, on the Senate floor at the Capitol in Washington, about the shooting at the Republican congressional baseball practice. Sanders says the man authorities identified as opening fire on the practice had apparently volunteered on his presidential campaign. Sanders says in a statement: "I am sickened by this despicable act." (Senate Television via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The man who shot a congressman and four other people Wednesday had apparently volunteered for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, the Vermont senator said Wednesday before assailing violence as “unacceptable in our society.”

“I am sickened by this despicable act,” said Sanders, an independent.

Sanders, 75, unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination against Hillary Clinton. He ran a passionate, anti-establishment campaign that won support from many younger, liberal voters and gave Clinton a closer race than many expected, but he eventually backed her candidacy.

The senator spoke hours after a man identified as James T. Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois, opened fire on Republican lawmakers, aides and others practicing baseball in suburban Alexandria, Virginia. Officers shot Hodgkinson, who later died.

Sanders issued a two-paragraph statement on the shooting and read it nearly verbatim on the Senate floor. He ignored a reporter’s attempt to ask him questions, walking briskly out of the Capitol after a vote.

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

Robert Becker, director of Sanders’ Iowa campaign, said staff workers could not recall Hodgkinson. Hodgkinson was said to have been among 1,000 volunteers around Davenport, but Becker said, “Nobody has a recollection of this guy coming in.”