Gunman's friend wonders why he would "jeopardize everything" over political opinion

James T. Hodgkinson, the man who opened fire Wednesday on members of Congress and aides practicing baseball, had preached his politics online but rarely in his public life, a longtime friend of Hodgkinson told CBS News' Dean Reynolds.

Ray Page, who has known Hodgkinson for more than 30 years, said his friend didn't agree with the Republican party but that he never heard Hodgkinson make any specific threats.

"He was what I would call a staunch Democrat, but I never heard him say he was going to do any harm to anybody," Page said. "It was his opinion -- it was a strong opinion and I knew better than to argue with him about it."

On Wednesday morning, Hodgkinson approached U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan near the baseball field and asked if the team playing was Republicans or Democrats, Duncan said. Duncan said he told him they were Republicans, and Hodginkson continued toward the field.

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Ray Page had known James Hodgkinson for more than 30 years.

CBS News

According to witnesses, Hodgkinson approached the fence by the third-base line and began firing, hitting U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, who was standing on second base. Teammates say Scalise dragged himself across the field leaving a trail of blood.

Witnesses say it soon became a gun battle between the shooter and police.

Zachary Barth, a staff member for Congressman Roger Williams and Matt Mika, who used to work on the Hill but now is a lobbyist for Tyson Foods, were also shot. Two Capitol Police officers, Crystal Griner and David Bailey, who are members of Scalise's security team, were wounded.

Hodgkinson, known as Tom, was born and raised in Belleville, Illinois, one of three children. He married and lived in the town with his wife. He ran a home inspection business until last year, when his license expired.

Page said Hodgkinson used to call him with information on home inspection projects, but Page didn't even know he had left town. Page said he and his wife used to attend an annual bonfire with Hodgkinson and his wife, and "everything was fine."

Hodgkinson and his wife took in foster children, which Page said he and his wife always thought was an indication of a "certain compassion."

Hodgkinson's widow spoke to the media Thursday, saying "I can't believe he did this."

Page said that while he didn't know Hodgkinson to have any guns, gun ownership is pretty common in the area. "It's the Midwest," he said.

Hodkingson's Facebook posts, Page said, were mainly about Bernie Sanders, although since President Trump came to office, they became more anti-Republican.

"I don't know why he would jeopardize everything over a political opinion," Page said.

Page said when his wife called him, she told him he would "never believe" who was the shooter in Alexandria.

"It took a minute to sink in," Page said. "And now he's dead and I can't even talk to him."