LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) — There’s been an outpouring of outrage, sadness and condolences from local officials about a shooting spree in Tucson, Ariz., that claimed six lives and left 18 others wounded, including Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Police say the gunman targeted Giffords as she met with constituents at a grocery store.The three-term Arizona congresswoman is in critical condition with a gunshot wound to the head. Giffords spokesman C.J. Karamargin said an unspecified number of her staff members were injured in the shooting.
Arizona’s chief federal judge and a nine-year-old girl are among the dead.
Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik describes suspect Jared Loughner as mentally unstable and possibly acting with an accomplice. Authorities say the gun used was legal.
There was further tension at a vigil later outside Giffords’ office when a loud noise was heard. But authorities investigating a suspicious package say there was nothing explosive and the noise was caused by efforts to destroy the package and render it safe.
The shooting prompted an outpouring of sympathy from politicians and people around the country. President Barack Obama called the shooting “an unspeakable tragedy” and that such “a senseless and terrible act of violence has no place in a free society.” Obama sent his FBI director to oversee the investigation.
“It’s not surprising that today Gabby was doing what she always does, listening to the hopes and concerns of her neighbors,” Obama said in a nationally televised news conference. “That is the essence of what our democracy is about.”
Congressman Adam Schiff, who represents California’s 29th District, called the attack on Giffords and her staff “deeply distressing.”
“Gabby is a friend, in addition to being a colleague, and I hope and pray that she and her staff make a full recovery. It impossible to be an effective Representative without exactly the kind of informal community meetings and exchanges that she was engaged in at the time of the shooting — and that must and will continue for all of us,” he said in a statement released. “In this tragic hour, we come together as Americans to send our thoughts and prayers to Congresswoman Giffords, her staff, those who were injured, and their families.”
In a statement released Saturday, Congresswoman Karen Bass, who represents California’s 33rd District, said, “it is with the deepest feelings of sorrow and sadness that I learned of the horrific act of violence which was committed against Congresswoman Giffords and other innocent people in Arizona today. There are neither words nor sentiments that can fully capture the horror of this moment. It is a national tragedy for the country, and a personal tragedy for the Giffords family, her constituents and supporters. My thoughts and prayers are with Congresswoman Giffords, her husband Captain Mark Kelly, their family and staff. This is a sad day for us all.”
In addition, Representative Xavier Becerra of California’s 31st District released the following statement:
“What a sad and tragic day this is to learn of the shooting of our dear friend and colleague Gabrielle Giffords and many others attending her Congressional event in Tucson, Arizona. Our heartfelt prayers go out to Gabby, the many innocent victims and their families. Congresswoman Giffords has been a shining star in Congress and a champion for America’s working families. The vicious attack on Gabby and her constituents is nothing less than a despicable attack on all of us and our democracy. Our thoughts and prayers are with Gabby, her husband Mark and her entire family.”
Congresswoman Giffords has been a shining star in Congress and a champion for America’s working families. The vicious attack on Gabby and her constituents is nothing less than a despicable attack on all of us and our democracy. Our thoughts and prayers are with Gabby, her husband Mark and her entire family.”
Chief Justice John Roberts said in Washington that the killing of U.S. District Judge John M. Roll was a terrible loss for the judiciary. The judge served Arizona and the nation selflessly and with great distinction, Roberts said.
His death, at the hands of gunman apparently intent on assassinating Rep. Giffords, stunned those who mourned the loss of a devoted, talented and gentle man.
“I have never met a more sincere … fair minded, brilliant federal judge or any judge for that matter in my whole life,” Dupnik said.
Roll received death threats in 2009 after he denied a southern Arizona rancher’s motions to dismiss a lawsuit filed on behalf of illegal immigrants who alleged that the rancher detained, assault and threatened them, the Arizona Republic reported.
“It was unnerving and invasive … by its nature it has to be,” Roll told the Phoenix newspaper in a mid-2009 interview. He said he followed the advice of the Marshals Service to not press charges against four men identified as threatening him.
Federal law enforcement officials were poring over captured versions of a MySpace page that belonged to Jared Loughner and over Youtube video published to the Internet weeks ago under an account “Classitup10” and linked to him. The MySpace page, which was removed within minutes of the gunman being identified by U.S. officials, 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. Two spellings of his last name were given in the aftermath of the shooting – Loughner and Laughner.
“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).”
Three hours after the shooting, the L-shaped shopping center in Tucson was blocked off by police and had fire trucks and other vehicles in its parking lot that blocked the view of the store’s front door. No shell casing could be seen from the area 500 yards from the store where reporters and photographers were kept.
Outside Giffords’ office on Capitol Hill, a handful of congressional staffers could be seen walking into her office without comment, some with roller bags and one who was in tears. About a half dozen yellow flowers, placed by one mourner, sat outside the door.
U.S. Marshal for Arizona David Gonzales confirmed to the Associated Press that U.S. District Judge John Roll also died in the attack.
Giffords, 40, was re-elected to her third term last November. She was a member of the Arizona House and Senate before coming to Washington.
Giffords 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.”
Giffords 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.
In a statement of condolence, Sen. Bill Nelson, chairman of the Senate Commerce Space and Science Subcommittee, said her husband 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, he said.
Giffords was first elected to Congress amid a wave of Democratic victories in the 2006 election, and she won a narrow victory against a tea party favorite in the 2010 election.
She has been mentioned as a possible Democratic nominee in 2012 for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Jon Kyl, who has not said whether he’ll run again, or for the governor’s office in 2014.
The shooting comes amid a highly charged political environment that has seen several dangerous threats against lawmakers but nothing that reached the point of actual violence.
“There has been an increase in the violence of the rhetoric in politics in the last two or three years. But I never have been concerned for this kind of incident,” Congressman Brad Sherman, who represents the 27th District of California, told CBS2/KCAL9 in a phone interview.
“I would hate to think the hundreds and hundreds of town hall meetings that my colleagues and I do around the country, really thousands, would now have to have security and metal detection, etc. and I hope very much that that isn’t the case. We’ll see what the fallout from this incident is,” he added.
Giffords herself has drawn the ire of the right, especially for her support of the health care bill from politicians like Sarah Palin.
Her Tucson office was vandalized a few hours after the House vote to approve the health care law in March, with someone either kicking or shooting out a glass door and window. In an interview after the vandalism, Giffords referred to the animosity against her by conservatives. Palin listed Giffords’ seat as one of the top “targets” in the midterm elections because of the lawmakers’ support for the health care law.
“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.
Capitol police responded to the shooting by advising lawmakers and their staff to “take reasonable and prudent precautions regarding their personal security.”
Despite her clashes with the right, Giffords describes herself as a former Republican and current Blue Dog Democrat.
“You know, actually as a former Republican, you know, I consider myself someone who is pretty in the middle, I’m a blue dog Democrat, and one that is interested in making sure that our country maintains our prosperity and frankly, our superiority over other countries and that’s where we look at these threat, obviously our defense budget, our level of education,” she said in an interview with Fox News Channel this week.
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