Arizona shooting targets U.S. congresswoman, kills 6

John Boehner, Gabrielle Giffords
Susan Walsh

FILE - In this Jan. 5, 2011 file photo, House Speaker John Boehner reenacts the swearing in of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., on Capitol Hill in Washington. Congressional officials say Giffords has been shot in her district. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A gunman nearly unloaded a semiautomatic weapon at a busy supermarket Saturday during a public gathering for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, wounding the Democrat and killing Arizona's chief federal judge and five others in an attempted assassination that left Americans questioning whether divisive politics had pushed the suspect over the edge.

The shooting targeted Giffords and left the three-term congresswoman in critical condition after a bullet passed through her head. A shaken President Barack Obama called the attack "a tragedy for our entire country."

Giffords, 40, is a moderate Democrat who narrowly won re-election in November against a tea party candidate who sought to throw her from office over her support of the health care law. Anger over her position became violent at times, with her Tucson office vandalized after the House passed the overhaul last March and someone showing up at a recent gathering with a weapon.

Police say the shooter was in custody, and was identified by people familiar with the investigation as Jared Loughner, 22. U.S. officials who provided his name to the AP spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release it publicly.

His motivation was not immediately known, but Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik described him as mentally unstable and possibly acting with an accomplice. He said Giffords was among 13 people wounded in the melee that killed six people, including a 9-year-old girl, an aide for the Democratic lawmaker and U.S. District Judge John Roll, who had just stopped by to see his friend Giffords after attending Mass. Dupnik said the rampage ended only after two people tackled the gunman.

The sheriff blamed the vitriolic political rhetoric that has consumed the country, much of it occurring in Arizona.

"When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous," he said. "And unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry."

Giffords expressed similar concern, even before the shooting. In an interview after her office was vandalized, she referred to the animosity against her by conservatives, including Sarah Palin's decision to list Giffords' seat as one of the top "targets" in the midterm elections.

"For example, we're on Sarah Palin's targeted list, but the thing is, that the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action," Giffords said in an interview with MSNBC.

In the hours after the shooting, Palin issued a statement in which she expressed her "sincere condolences" to the family of Giffords and the other victims.

During his campaign effort to unseat Giffords in November, Republican challenger Jesse Kelly held fundraisers where he urged supporters to help remove Giffords from office by joining him to shoot a fully loaded M-16 rifle. Kelly is a former Marine who served in Iraq and was pictured on his website in military gear holding his automatic weapon and promoting the event.

"I don't see the connection," between the fundraisers featuring weapons and Saturday's shooting, said John Ellinwood, Kelly's spokesman. "I don't know this person, we cannot find any records that he was associated with the campaign in any way. I just don't see the connection.

"Arizona is a state where people are firearms owners — this was just a deranged individual."

Law enforcement officials said members of Congress reported 42 cases of threats or violence in the first three months of 2010, nearly three times the 15 cases reported during the same period a year earlier. Nearly all dealt with the health care bill, and Giffords was among the targets.

The shooting cast a pall over the Capitol as politicians of all stripes denounced the attack as a horrific. Capitol police asked members of Congress to be more vigilant about security in the wake of the shooting.

Giffords, known as "Gabby," tweeted shortly before the shooting, describing her "Congress on Your Corner" event: "My 1st Congress on Your Corner starts now. Please stop by to let me know what is on your mind or tweet me later."

"It's not surprising that today Gabby was doing what she always does, listening to the hopes and concerns of her neighbors," Obama said. "That is the essence of what our democracy is about."

Mark Kimball, a communications staffer for Giffords, described the scene as "just complete chaos, people screaming, crying." The gunman fired at Giffords and her district director and started shooting indiscriminately at staffers and others standing in line to talk to the congresswoman, Kimball said.

"He was not more than three or four feet from the congresswoman and the district director," he said.

Doctors were optimistic about Giffords surviving as she was responding to commands from doctors. "With guarded optimism, I hope she will survive, but this is a very devastating wound," said Dr. Richard Carmona, the former surgeon general who lives in Tucson.

Giffords spokesman C.J. Karamargin said three Giffords staffers were shot. One died, and the other two are expected to survive. Gabe Zimmerman, a former social worker who served as Giffords' director of community outreach, died. Giffords had worked with the judge in the past to line up funding to build a new courthouse in Yuma, and Obama hailed him for his nearly 40 years of service.

An uncle of the 9-year-old girl told the Arizona Republic that a neighbor was going to the event and invited her along because she had just been elected to the student council and was interested in government.

A former classmate described Loughner as a pot-smoking loner, and the Army said he tried to enlist in December 2008 but was rejected for reasons not disclosed.

Federal law enforcement officials were poring over versions of a MySpace page that included a mysterious "Goodbye friends" message published hours before the shooting and exhorted his friends to "Please don't be mad at me."

In one of several Youtube videos, which featured text against a dark background, Loughner described inventing a new U.S. currency and complained about the illiteracy rate among people living in Giffords' congressional district in Arizona.

"I know who's listening: Government Officials, and the People," Loughner wrote. "Nearly all the people, who don't know this accurate information of a new currency, aren't aware of mind control and brainwash methods. If I have my civil rights, then this message wouldn't have happen (sic)."

In Loughner's middle-class neighborhood — about a five-minute drive from the scene — sheriff's deputies had much of the street blocked off. The neighborhood sits just off a bustling Tucson street and is lined with desert landscaping and palm trees.

Neighbors said Loughner lived with his parents and kept to himself. He was often seen walking his dog, almost always wearing a hooded sweat shirt and listening to his iPod.

Loughner's MySpace profile indicates he attended and graduated from school in Tucson and had taken college classes. He did not say if he was employed.

"We're getting out of here. We are freaked out," 33-year-old David Cleveland, who lives a few doors down from Loughner's house, told The Associated Press.

Cleveland said he was taking his wife and children, ages 5 and 7, to her parent's home when they heard about the shooting.

"When we heard about it, we just got sick to our stomachs," Cleveland said. "We just wanted to hold our kids tight."

High school classmate Grant Wiens, 22, said Loughner seemed to be "floating through life" and "doing his own thing."

"Sometimes religion was brought up or drugs. He smoked pot, I don't know how regularly. And he wasn't too keen on religion, from what I could tell," Wiens said.

Lynda Sorenson said she took a math class with Loughner last summer at Pima Community College's Northwest campus and told the Arizona Daily Star he was "obviously very disturbed." ''He disrupted class frequently with nonsensical outbursts," she said.

In October 2007, Loughner was cited in Pima County for possession of drug paraphernalia, which was dismissed after he completed a diversion program, according to online records.

"He has kind of a troubled past, I can tell you that," Dupnik said.

Giffords was first elected to Congress amid a wave of Democratic victories in the 2006 election, and has been mentioned as a possible Senate candidate in 2012 and a gubernatorial prospect in 2014.

She is married to astronaut Mark E. Kelly, who has piloted space shuttles Endeavour and Discovery. The two met in China in 2003 while they were serving on a committee there, and were married in January 2007. Sen. Bill Nelson, chairman of the Senate Commerce Space and Science Subcommittee, said Kelly is training to be the next commander of the space shuttle mission slated for April. His brother is currently serving aboard the International Space Station, Nelson said.

Giffords is known in her southern Arizona district for her numerous public outreach meetings, which she acknowledged in an October interview with The Associated Press can sometimes be challenging.

"You know, the crazies on all sides, the people who come out, the planet earth people," she said with a following an appearance with Adm. Mike Mullen in which the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was peppered with bizarre questions from an audience member. "I'm glad this just doesn't happen to me."


Associated Press Writers Terry Tang and Pauline Arrillaga in Tucson, Jacques Billeaud, Bob Christie and Paul Davenport in Phoenix, and Espo, Matt Apuzzo, Eileen Sullivan, Adam Goldman and Charles Babington in Washington contributed to this report.

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RONALD RIML's picture

Texas "Republican" shot by a power hungry Right Wing Nut!!!

You've obviously either forgotten about or are neglecting to mention Republican attorney Harry M. Whittington who helped Karl Rove build up the Republican Party as it is known today in Texas.

He was shot by right wing fanatic and lousy quail hunter Dick Cheney on February 13, 2006. Whittington was rushed off to a hospital with a face full of birdshot, and Vice-President Cheney was again whisked off to an undisclosed, secret location.


Collateral Damage You seem to

Collateral Damage You seem to be disgusted at the term however were you that angry when george bush killed thousands of innocent victims claiming they were collateral damage, hey it was not me who came up with the term but YOUR GOVERMENT Sorry that is a fact you will have to deal with. as far as reaping well i am sure what i said is in fact the truth look now they try to appeal the insuance law Which was the worst law ever made anyways but only for the wrong reasons like I said before they would milk this cash cow for as long as possible and the american people will pay the bill and yes judges as well as the politicians will take part in this faisco.

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Do you

Do you have hundreds of composition books at your place with all of your "thoughts" written down? You've lost it brother. Get help.

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It just seems like in the not

It just seems like in the not so distant future, another country will be posting news stories of Americans smiling, holding up purple thumbs at the polls.

RONALD RIML's picture

They simply post pictures of us gunning each other down

As we post pictures of them bombing each other.

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It gives us both an out to

It gives us both an out to claim moral high ground while pointing our fingers at the other barbarian.

RONALD RIML's picture

So we each get a 'Booster Seat'

But they can't eat Ribs....

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True that....I'll take my own

True that....I'll take my own barbarians any day then.

RONALD RIML's picture

Ah - better the 'Barbarian you Know' ;)

This one guy I attended 'Night Classes' with was a Cook County Deputy who investigated the John Wayne Gacy murders. He wore a necklace with a golden 'bone' on it. This stuff turns you into a 'Sick Puppy'

His joke was "Do you know the temperature in John Wayne Gacy's basement?" Answer: "Twenty-six below" (That was how many of his thirty-three murder victims that he actually buried in his basement crawl space. I would check my buddy's fingernails and give him grief......

RONALD RIML's picture

Something in the water down in Tucson??

I've 'shirt-tail' relatives who live down in Tucson, and have been down there several times. Now, it's not exactly the sort of spot I find enchanting, but they love it well enough, with their view of the mountains, lizards, and saguaro cactus. But it's hotter than hell, they complain about the crime, so they don't get out often, but they don't have 'Mud Season'. I've noticed that they, too, have been getting a wee bit whackie along the "Gold backed Currency" themes which Loughner had been musing about in his writings. They even take to watching this reformed Junkie on TV peddling precious, overpriced golden coins interspersed with his hysterical hypothetical rants of Beckian B.S. And are very defensive about him, too - I might add. Believe me - they weren't like this before they moved to Tucson - it's all like a very cheap horror movie. Remember "Donovan's Brain?" Somebody's wife was in that.... ;)


Borderline comments

Some of the comments are getting a little borderline. Not all of them, but some. So please refrain from name-calling. If you want to talk about politics keep it civil.

There's been a lot of speculation on this incident and it's not even 24 hours old yet.

It very likely appears the individual, suspect, in this case had some serious issues beyond any political beliefs -- which we do not know are a factor in this tragic incident -- this story will be developing for weeks, if not months.

Our hearts and prayers, thoughts and condolences go out to all the victims and their families in this case. We wish a speedy recovery to those who have survived, although this is the kind of incident you can never really recover from fully. :(

In my opinion, this is not the time for political hysteria. Or time to start sniping at others or assigning political blame.

That said, some in the media have pointed out the Congresswoman's district was one of several that appeared on a map in a cross-hair, rifle scope sight graphic as part of a political ad and her name was listed with other lawmakers whose district's were also in cross hairs. Keep in mind this did not keep her from being re-elected and likely many in the left, the right and the middle found those ads offensive.

Giffords also made note of this in a public statement saying she was disturbed by the ad. By its very nature people are going to want to turn this into a political issue but by all respects Giffords, a Democrat, is a very conservative Democrat. She votes party line on key issues and supported the controversial health care reform but by all other accounts she is very well-respected on both sides of the aisle.

All the major political party leaders and the leaders of Tea Party movement nationally have strongly denounced this vicious attack in the most resounding terms.

There are going to be significantly more details coming from this incident in the next several days.

Thanks for your consideration.


All I can say is it really is

All I can say is it really is too bad about that 9yr old girl, Such collateral damage is always the worst part of a conflict. After only a few weeks since the guy who held the School board and fired over their heads before killing himself and the other recent crazy who was going to crash his plane into goverment offices, well all I can say is at least the crazies are finaly attacking the people responsible for the serious problems in the united states, our politicians, instead of schools and the public at large. Do I condone this? NO, however I feel that these politicians who are simply holding us all as pawns to fill their coffers from the pHamicon industry as well as the law and medical sector and of course the oil barons are the responsible ones, and not innocent children in schools nor people on the subway yet for years these crazies targeted the innocent now finaly thet are targeting those responsible, so am I sorry about the congress woman or the judge? No not really, I will light a candle for the little girl though and my sympathies to her family. to the others you reap what you sow.

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"collateral damage"??!

"Collateral Damage"???!! " to the others you reap what you sow"???? You have GOT to be kidding me! So in other words the other people that were wounded and killed deserve it??? Unbelievable!!! This is TOTALLY inappropriate, and it's people like you that feed the fire to these people. SHAME ON YOU!

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"collateral damage"??!

"Collateral Damage"???!! " to the others you reap what you sow"???? You have GOT to be kidding me! So in other words the other people that were wounded and killed deserve it??? Unbelievable!!! This is TOTALLY inappropriate, and it's people like you that feed the fire to these people. SHAME ON YOU!

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Not cool

This comment by fixit is not borderline Scott. It's completely inappropriate and should be removed. Fixit should be out of here.

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Could You Clarify That Comment?

What do you mean by "mostly now?"

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Sometimes, a Nut is Just a Nut

Comments attempting to blame Sarah Palin and others for this horrific event are just plain classless and sad.

There are plenty of mentally ill walking amongst us. Every now and then, they act out.

Can we have a modicum of respect for the victims of this deranged soul in Tucson?

 's picture

Tron... Check Out This Link

It might give you a little insight into the perp's mental state:

Perhaps you should do a little research before popping off.

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This is a terrible ,

This is a terrible , terrible, viscious act. This was a sick man. My prayers are for Rep Gifford and her family. And for those who were injured and killed.

RONALD RIML's picture

Deranged ex-Military with a Currency backed by Gold


Sounds Reich-Wing to me.

RONALD RIML's picture

Turns out he tried to join Military - but turned away....

Correction noted.

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Palin can see the ramifications - she's already removed the image from her site.

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more Palin

Not only that - she's removed her "don't retreat, reload" tweet.


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