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Rep. Giffords shot, judge and 5 others killed at Tucson event

Federal judge, child among victims

  • Updated

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot point-blank in the head on Saturday at a northwest-side grocery store, but surgeons say they are optimistic about her recovery.

Meanwhile, Gov. Jan Brewer's office is confirming federal Judge John Roll was among the dead, as was Gabe Zimmerman, Giffords' director of community outreach.

Sheriff Clarence Dupnik last night said there were six dead, including a child, among the 19 dead or injured. The girl slain in the attack was later identified as Christina-Taylor Green, 9. Later, Dorwan Stodder, a church volunteer, was identified as being one of the people killed.

Giffords was in critical condition following surgery at University Medical Center, said Dr. Peter Rhee, a UMC surgeon. The bullet passed cleanly out her brain, exiting her head.

Rhee said she was following commands, which is a good sign.

The shooting occurred at a Safeway supermarket where Giffords was holding one of her regular "Congress on Your Corner" events, which allows her to speak directly with constituents in her district.

The gunman has been identified as 22-year-old Jared Loughner, according to The Associated Press, although Dupnik declined to identify the assailant and said police are not convinced he acted alone.

Loughner has had at least two minor run-ins with police, according to online court records.

In October 2007, he was cited by the Pima County Sheriff's Department for possession of drug paraphernalia, a charge that was dismissed in November 2007 when he completed a diversion program.

One year later, in October 2008, Loughner was charged with a "local charge" in Marana Municipal Court. That charge was also dismissed following the completion of a diversion program in March 2009.

Court records indicate the Marana case file is due to be purged in December 2013. It's unclear what the exact charge was.

He had several nonsensical postings on various social-media sites.

Giffords has held several events since first taking office in January 2007 although this was her first event since her re-election to a third term in November.

"I've never been so shocked in my life as the events that happened today," Dupnik said, taking the opportunity to warn against "vitriol" in the political sphere.

"It's not only a very sad day for tucson and for the family, the friends of all the victims of this horrendous, senseless unbelieveable crime. But it's a sad day for America."

Giffords, 40, was talking to a couple in the store when a gunman rushed her, shouting as he fired his weapon.

The gunman fired at people in line and got within 4 to 5 feet of the congresswoman, said Mark Kimble, a former Tucson newspaper executive who is now on her staff.

The gunman fired at Giffords then ran out, continuing to shoot.

Members of Giffords' staff were among the wounded. District director Ron Barber remained in surgery, but his life was not expected to be in danger.

Pam Simon, Giffords' community-outreach representative, was also shot and injured, but expected to survive, Giffords spokesman C.J. Karamargin said.

Zimmerman, 30, who had a master's degree in social work from Arizona State University, had been with the congresswoman since her first election.

"He was a social worker through and through," Karamargin said. "He gave help to people for a living and he was very good at it."

Karamargin said Zimmerman was in the middle of making plans for his wedding, and the two had recently spoken about possible honeymoon plans.

He said the 9-year-old girl had been brought by her family to meet the congresswoman to see how government works.

He said Roll had worked with Giffords' office most recently in helping to secure funding for the Yuma courthouse.

A tearful U.S. District Judge Frank Zapata of Tucson, meanwhile, said he was "devastated" to hear of Roll's death. "We've been friends for 25 years and he was a tremendous judge and a tremendous person."

Karamargin said there was no warning, and said there had been no security at the event, although local law enforcement was typically notified of such town hall meetings.

When asked if there should have been more security at the community event, Karamargin said Giffords worked to be accessible to her constituents.

"She always prided herself on reaching out to the people who elected her and it would compound this tragedy if that were to change," he said.

She has done 20 such "Congress on Your Corner" events, he said.

Two individuals at the event tackled the man after the shooting, Dupnik said, adding there was still ammunition in the semi-automatic pistol.

Dr. Steven Rayle, a hospice doctor who used to work in the emergency department at St. Mary's Hospital, went to the event to meet the congresswoman, whom he'd never met before.

Rayle said he was walking toward her, about 8 to 10 feet away, when he saw a man about 2 feet away from her side shoot her in the head.

There was no warning of the shot, he said. The man didn't say a word.

The congresswoman fell to the ground and a staff member ran to her side. She was conscious and he saw her sitting up against a wall - signs he considered encouraging.

He said he heard another 15 to 20 rounds. He helped hold the suspect down after other witnesses tackled and disarmed him.

'It was surreal. Gunshots sound less real in person," Rayle said. "I thought someone was staging a protest. It just didn't feel real."

Alex Villec, a 19-year-old volunteer, organized the line of constituents when the shooter approached the line outside Safeway.

The shooter said "Can I talk to the congresswoman?", or something to that effect, Villec said. He told him to stand at the back of a line to wait for about 20 minutes.

A few minutes later, the shooter left the back of the line and walked toward Giffords amid a group of 20 to 25 constituents, employees and volunteers.

"He was intent," Villec said. "He was intent when he came back - a pretty stone-cold glance and glare. ... I didn't see his gun, but it was clear who he was going for. He was going for the congresswoman.

"A few staff members were caught in the crossfire ... . His goal was the congresswoman."

The shooter walked past Villec and to his left, past tables and toward Gifford. Villec saw him raise his hand and heard gunshots before ducking behind a pillar and later running across the Safeway parking lot to a bank for safety. "It was bedlam," he said. "People were getting down on the ground. They were screaming. I just did what I could to keep myself protected."

Matthew Laos, 43, was the first person in line at the event. He came to talk to Giffords about his U.S. Army assignment and show her an award he had received.

"I was proud to show her the award. And I even said to her that I was so proud she had won this election under the most difficult circumstances," Laos said, adding he spoke with her for seven minutes, then it dawned on him he was monopolizing her time, with some 20 people in line behind him.

As he was driving away, he saw law enforcement vehicles speeding by. "It was just too close to the event," he said, adding he had a strange feeling. When he got home, he turned on the news, then drove to Giffords' midtown congressional office, 1661 N. Swan Road, to try to get more information on her condition.

By noon, about 15 people had gathered at the office, some bringing flowers.

Mary Helen Kaser, 69, was crying when she arrived.

Kaser had worked on all of Giffords' congressional campaigns. She drew a parallel to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. "This is as bad," she said. "Actually, this is worse, because I knew her so well.

"She was such a bright light on Congress. She had such a future. I hope she still does."

Shortly after 1 p.m., an impromptu gathering of people stood on the corner of Pima and Swan in front of the office.

Some held signs. Others held up the two-finger peace sign at passers-by.

One sign read, "Don't make this about politics. Republicans and Democrats deplore this kind of hatred and violence."

Another said, "Best American assassinated. Fight peace killers."

Marty Johnson, 36, held a sign on the corner, saying, "Let Us Mourn Together," as a shrine started in front of the congresswoman's nameplate.

"I came here hoping for a sense of togetherness and unity in mourning," he said.

The group later started a prayer circle.

Daniel Viehland, a 21-year-old student studying political science who was among the crowd gathering at the office, said he hopes people take a lesson away from the shooting.

"It's a symptom of what's been going on in this country," Viehland said. "On both sides you've got this extreme rhetoric." He noted Sarah Palin's controversial posting last year in which she put a target on districts she wanted Republicans to take back. "One thing this made me realize is I need to be very careful about what I say on Twitter or Facebook and make sure I'm not responding with anger," he added.

Last March, Giffords' Tucson office was vandalized after the House vote overhauling the nation's health-care system.

Giffords had just started the congressional session. She tweeted welcomes to new Republican Congressman David Schweikert and had just sponsored legislation, with Republican Congressman Ron Paul, to cut congressional salaries.

U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, Giffords' seatmate from Southern Arizona, said, "It's horrific. It's heartbreaking. It's very frightening. I hope she comes out of it. This is not what public service is all about."

The heated rhetoric and civil discord creates an environment for something like this to happen, he said.

He lamented a series of incidents demonstrating the buildup that leads to something like this, including an envelope of white powder sent to his Tucson office as well as a shot fired at his Yuma office.

"Gabby's contributions were all in the future. Her career was all in the future."

Washington, D.C., authorities urged his staff to "stay put," concerned about whether the attack might have been a conspiracy.

His family in Tucson now has security, but he doesn't know yet whether he will have a Secret Service detail in the future.

Giffords married Cmdr. Mark E. Kelly, 46, a NASA astronaut and Navy pilot from New Jersey, in December 2007 at a wedding attended by Robert B. Reich, the former labor secretary. Kelly flew in to be by his wife's side early this afternoon.

At the grocery store, Alfred Maynes stood outside the police tape waiting for his daughter Bryanna, 19, to emerge from Safeway.

The Maynes family was making pancakes at 9:45 this morning when they ran out of butter. Bryanna ran into the store without her cell phone and never returned.

She borrowed a phone inside to let her family know she was safe.

"I wanna talk to her when she gets out here," Alfred said. "We're assuming she's OK."

The White House sent out a statement mourning the "unspeakable tragedy."

"We do not yet have all the answers," President Obama said. "What we do know is that such a senseless and terrible act of violence has no place in a free society. I ask all Americans to join me and Michelle in keeping Representative Giffords, the victims of this tragedy, and their families in our prayers."

Giffords was elected to Congress in 2006, the third woman in Arizona history elected to Congress and the first Jewish member of Congress from Arizona. She is a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition in the U.S. House and was named by a political magazine as one of the most centrist members of Congress.

Giffords prided herself on her accessibility to the public, even though some of the meetings grew heated, particularly those focusing on the health-care overhaul. She held several large public meetings in 2009 about the legislation that drew vocal and rowdy protesters.

She told the Star during her tenure in Congress that speaking with the people she represented was one of the most rewarding, and sometimes difficult, parts of her job.

Jonathan Paton, a Republican who ran for her seat last year, said he was "devastated" by the shooting.

He recalled in 2000, when the two faced each other for the first time for a seat in the state Legislature, that they ended up on the wrong street and jokingly walked up to each other to deliver their political pitches. "Things got testy in the election, but she is a sweet person and a good person," Paton said, adding she is also "extremely smart."

Authorities are investigating dozens of victims and witnesses.

The FBI is involved in the investigation. Obama sent Robert Mueller, the bureau's director, to Arizona to head the investigation.

Stay tuned to StarNet for updates

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Related to this story

Christina-Taylor Green, the 9-year-old who was shot at the event and later died at a hospital, had just received her first Holy Communion at St. Odelia’s Catholic Church on Tucson’s northwest wide, Catholic Diocese of Tucson officials said.

A candlelight vigil will be held tonight at University Medical Center for U.S. Rep Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of Saturday’s shooting at a northwest side Safeway.

The Star is looking for witnesses to today's shooting. Please contact the newsroom at 573-4142 or at

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