Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Latest From Arizona: Authorities: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Was Target Of Shooting Spree

(NECN/CNN) - U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona is fighting for her life after a mass shooting spree at a grocery store where she was holding a political event Saturday.

At least six people are dead and at least a dozen wounded, and law enforcement officials have identified the suspect as 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner.

"I heard about 15 to 20 gunshots in the Safeway parking lot," said Jason Pekau, who works nearby. "I came outside immediately did not a vehicle or any people fleeing running screaming near where the shooting happened, everyone was screaming that it was Gabrielle Giffords."

Giffords was air lifted to a hospital after witnesses say she sustained a close range gunshot wound to the head.

"The congresswoman is not deceased, but in critical condition," said Dr. Peter Rhee, who is optimistic about her recovery.

"This is more than a tragedy for those involved," said Pres. Barack Obama. "This is a tragedy for Arizona, and a tragedy for our entire country."

Although the investigation into the incident is in the early stages, emotions have been heated in Arizona over border security and the immigration issue.
Reporting from Tucson, Ariz — 

Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head and critically injured Saturday during a meet-and-greet with constituents at a Tucsonsupermarket when a gunman opened fire, killing six — including U.S. District Judge John M. Roll — and wounding at least 12 others.

Giffords, a 40-year-old centrist Democrat who is a leading proponent of immigration reform and fiscal belt-tightening, was shot point-blank, but her surgeon said he was "very optimistic" she would survive the attack.

A 9-year-old girl also was killed in the mid-morning attack that unfolded while Giffords was hosting an event at the bustling shopping center, which quickly turned chaotic as police cordoned off streets and rescue helicopters rushed to the scene.

About 15 to 20 shots were fired in rapid succession, witnesses told news agencies at the scene. A federal source identified the suspect as Jared Lee Loughner, 22, who reportedly fired a pistol with an "extended magazine," the source said.

The motive in the attack was unknown. Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said he believed Giffords was the intended target of the shooting.

"He has kind of a troubled past and we're not convinced that he acted alone," Dupnik told a news conference in reference to the suspect.

Authorities were seeking a second male in connection with the shooting, he said.

The youngest woman ever elected to the House when she joined Congress in 2006, Giffords recently survived a tough reelection campaign for her third term, defeating "tea party" candidate Jesse Kelly by just 4,000 votes.

There were no immediate signs that Loughner had overt political connections. A rambling series ofYouTube videos posted as "my final thoughts" by someone with that name talked of "a mind controller … able to control every belief and religion."

Tyler Ramsier, 24, said he attended school with Loughner at Mountain View High School in Tucson and that Loughner graduated in 2007. Ramsier said Loughner hung out with a group of friends who wore trench coats and baggy pants and kept to themselves. Ramsier described them as "contrary."

Sheriff's officials cordoned off the area of North Soledad Avenue where Loughner lives, a neighborhood in northwest Tucson of mostly one-story, brick houses.

Bert Escovar, 71, who has been a resident of the neighborhood for 30 years, said he believed the alleged shooter lives with his mother and father. "Every time I saw him, he was by himself," said Escovar, who added that he had seen Loughner but never spoken with him. "He dressed like a normal teenager."

David Cook, who has lived in the neighborhood for seven years, said the family moved there about four years ago and seemed friendly and often waved when they drove down the street. Cook said Loughner's father rebuilds classic cars and owns a 1967 Chevelle.

Giffords was shot with a single bullet to the head that went "through and through," but was "responding to commands" after undergoing neurosurgery, said Peter Rhee, director of trauma at the University Medical Center in Tucson.

"I can tell you at the current time period, I'm very optimistic about recovery," Rhee told reporters. "We cannot tell about full recovery, but I'm about as optimistic as I can get in this situation."

President Obama called the shooting an "unspeakable tragedy."

"We're going to get to the bottom of this, and we're going to get through this," he declared. "I know Gabby is as tough as they come, and I am hopeful that she is going to pull through."

The president, who called Giffords "a friend," said authorities still do not know what provoked the attack.

"It is not surprising that Gabby today was doing what she always does, listening to the hopes and concerns of her neighbors," he added. "That is the essence of what our democracy is all about. That is why this is a tragedy for more than those involved."
Arizona Sen. John McCain, a Republican, called the shooter a "wicked person who has no sense of justice or compassion" and said he was praying for the recovery of the victims.

"Whoever did this, whatever their reason, they are a disgrace to Arizona, this country and the human race, and they deserve and will receive the contempt of all decent people and the strongest punishment of the law," McCain said.

Arizona's GOP chairman, Randy Pullen, said party members are "deeply saddened and mortified" by the shooting.

"Senseless acts of violence like these are shocking, disturbing and have no place in our country. The thoughts and prayers of all Arizonans are with the victims and families during this terrible tragedy in our state's history. We sincerely hope that the responsible party is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," he said.

Just an hour before the shooting, Giffords had posted an announcement on her Twitter account: "My 1st Congress on Your Corner starts now. Please stop by to let me know what is on your mind or tweet me later."

This has been a winning formula in her conservative, border district. Giffords survived a tough challenge from a "tea party" candidate in the November election.

Her district was littered with signs proclaiming, "Giffords Opposes SB1070," referring to her opposition to Arizona's tough anti-immigration measures.

She has been a perennial top target of Arizona Republicans. Her district office was vandalized after she voted for the healthcare reform bill and friends said she had received several unspecified threats.

She is married to Mark E. Kelly, 46, a pilot and astronaut who was commander of the space shuttle Endeavour. His twin brother, Scott, is also an astronaut.

Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is in intensive care following surgery at the University of Arizona Hospital for a gunshot wound to the head at close range.

Dr. Manny Alvarez, senior managing health editor of, said surviving a gunshot wound to the head is rare, but not unheard of – and Giffords is in for a long fight.

Alvarez said the survival rate of a gunshot wound to the head is about 5 percent – and 3 percent of those who do survive will always have a neurological deficiency, such as memory loss or a lack or motor skills.

“It all depends on where the bullet goes,” he said. “Your best chance of survival is from front to back, if you get shot side to side, the survival rate is less, and it all depends on the damage the brain has.”

Giffords’ friend, state Sen. Linda Lopez, confirmed the bullet entered Giffords’ head at her temple and exited through her forehead. Lopez said Giffords was responding to commands before surgery but is not sure what Giffords' long-term prognosis is.

“If the bullet goes through both hemispheres and leans toward the base of skull, that is where most of the vascular tissues are, and that can be a deadly result,” Alvarez said. “If the bullet goes through both hemispheres, but there is a clean exit wound, the patient can be lucky and there might not be any significant damage. Of course, the best prognosis is when the bullet affects only one hemisphere. Nonetheless, any gunshot wound to the head is going to leave residual side effects.”

Alvarez said the next three to four days is considered the most critical for Giffords, and recovery could take years to achieve.

“Doctors carefully opened the skull and looked for any type of bleeding and then cauterized blood vessels,” Alvarez said. “Patients are kept under anesthesia for three to four days to monitor brain swelling, which is one of the complications of this surgery."

Alvarez pointed to the story of a British soldier who survived a gunshot wound to the brain but learned to walk and talk again and in October 2010 was quoted in the The Sun as saying, “They say I’m a walking miracle.”

The soldier, Liam Brentley, was shot near the ear, and the bullet came out the other side of his head, pinging a wall, according to the U.K. newspaper.

Brentley is deaf in one ear and has some memory loss.

House Delays Vote on Health Care Repeal After Arizona Shooting Spree
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The House is delaying a vote on repealing the recently enacted health care law because of the shooting rampage in Arizona Saturday that killed a federal ...See all stories on this topic »

Federal Judge, 9-year-old Girl Among 6 Killed by Gunman in Tucson, Arizona Read Full Story

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A shooting has left at least six dead and 10 injured, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz. Police have one suspect in custody, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner. Karen Brown reports. Watch Video

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Read more:

"When you represent a district that includes the homes of the O.K. Corral and Tombstone, 'The Town Too Tough to Die,' nothing's a surprise out in Cochise County," she told the Arizona Republic.

Gabrielle Giffords is a politician; her Navy captain husband is an astronaut. It was his occupation that was supposed to be dangerous. But Giffords, the moderate, three-term Democratic congresswoman who survived a bullet's trajectory through her head, has already had brushes with danger on the job.

Last March, after the House approved healthcare reform with her support, someone shot or kicked out a glass door in her Tucson office. During a town hall meeting with constituents in 2009 at the height of the healthcare debate, a protester showed up with a gun. Police were called, but Giffords made light of the incident.

"When you represent a district that includes the homes of the O.K. Corral and Tombstone, 'The Town Too Tough to Die,' nothing's a surprise out in Cochise County," she told the Arizona Republic.

Former Tucson Mayor Tom Volgy, who has known Giffords for more than a decade, said her attitude was not surprising.

"She's in the best tradition of those who say, 'I have to ignore that and go out there and do it because it comes with the territory,' " Volgy said. "She's … very warm, very caring … very much committed to public service."

According to the National Journal, Giffords made 340 appearances in her district in her first term.

People who know the congresswoman well described her as down to earth, energetic and — at the center —calm.

Giffords' rabbi, Stephanie Aaron, said the lawmaker asked her to give the invocation at a town hall meeting last year at a high school. Many in the overflow crowd of more than 1,000 were angry and confrontational.

"She was just so calm," said Aaron, who also presided over Giffords' wedding. "She kept her composure through the whole event — a very bitter, raucous session — kept her cool so people could talk and listen to each other. … At her core she's a very calm soul. … She seems like the very last person who would attract anyone who would want to do something like this."

Former South Dakota Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, a fellow Democrat, cried when she spoke about Giffords' shooting. "When I heard some of the reports confirming she's survived in surgery, I thought, thank God, and also, 'That's Gabby,' " said Sandlin, who threw a wedding shower for Giffords three years ago. "She's one of the strongest women I know."

Giffords, 40, is a rarity in transient Arizona: a third-generation native. But her political persona was perfectly suited to her swing district. Independent-minded, she was among 19 Democrats last week who did not vote for Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D- San Francisco) as House speaker. Instead, she voted for Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the civil rights movement veteran.

Giffords joined the GOP on Thursday in reading the Constitution on the House floor, gushing afterward to the New York Times: "I just read the 1st Amendment!"

Giffords first won elective office in 2000 when she joined the state House of Representatives, and two years later — at age 32 — she became the youngest women elected to the Arizona Senate.

In 2005, when Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe announced his retirement after 11 terms, Giffords gave up her state Senate seat to campaign full-time. She easily defeated Republican Randy Graf, a favorite of the self-appointed border patrol group the Minutemen. Her district, Arizona's 8th, is one of the most competitive in the state. It stretches south and east across the desert and shares 100 miles of border with Mexico.

Soon after she was sent to Washington, she joined the Blue Dog Coalition of conservative Democrats, but supported the party on most social-issue legislation and took a relatively moderate stance on immigration, a crucial issue in her district.

Giffords endorsed the Obama administration's deployment of National Guard troops on the border. But she also favored a guest-worker program and path to citizenship for those in the country illegally who met certain requirements.

She opposed Arizona's controversial immigration law enacted last year, but rejected calls for a national boycott of the state in protest of that law.

It was a source of great frustration to Republicans when they failed to oust Giffords in November, in a race that was not called until three days after the election. Giffords edged Republican Jesse Kelly, a former Marine and a "tea party" favorite who lost by slightly more than 1 percentage point.

In a recent Fox interview, she characterized herself as a "someone who is pretty in the middle."

She met her husband, Navy Capt. Mark E. Kelly, in China as part of an exchange program with the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. On their first date, they visited a maximum-security prison in Florence, site of Arizona's death row. Her future husband jumped into the electric chair, she told the Arizona Daily Star.

The November 2007 nuptials between the astronaut and the congresswoman were chronicled in the New York Times' Vows column. '' Frank Capra would have had a field day with the life of Gabrielle Giffords," said economist and former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, a mentor of hers.

Reich offered a toast: "To a bride who moves at a velocity that exceeds that of anyone else in Washington, and a groom who moves at a velocity that exceeds 17,000 miles per hour."

Kelly, 46, a father of two teenage girls, is a three-time veteran of space shuttle missions. On April 1, he is scheduled to command the last flight of the shuttle Endeavour. Kelly is scheduled to meet in space with his twin brother, Scott, commander of the International Space Station.

In 2008, as Giffords watched her husband blast into orbit aboard Discovery, she relayed their intimate goodbye conversation to the Arizona Daily Star. "We told each other how much we loved each other," Giffords said. "And then he asked to make sure that I had his garbage can brought in from the street."

Giffords earned a bachelor's degree in sociology and Latin American studies from Claremont's Scripps College in 1993. She received a master's degree in regional planning from Cornell University.

In May 2009, Giffords returned to Scripps to give the commencement address.

"The safety of the world depends on your saying 'no' to inhumane ideas," she told graduates. "Standing up for one's own integrity makes you no friends. It is costly. Yet defiance of the mob, in the service of that which is right, is one of the highest expressions of courage I know."

Abcarian reported from Los Angeles, Barabak from San Francisco and Mascaro from Washington.


Please sign the on-line petition to indict Sarah Palin for incitement to violence, related to designating Arizona Congresswoman Jessica Giffords with a gun target on her website:


There is ample evidence from Palin's public speeches and commentary that the image was used with the specific intent of inciting violence against Democratic congressmen labeled with these gun targets.

The other congressmen targeted by Palin are at serious risk if the DOJ fails to pursue this vigorously. Allowing Palin and others to continue to promote this type of gratuitous violence sets a dangerous precedent.  It's actually quite reminiscent of the activities of Hitler's brown shirts -" which unfortunately were never investigated or prosecuted by the German government.

Palin has wisely taken the gun targets off her site this morning, but you can view it here:

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