Officers stopped suspect on day of Ariz. shooting
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A wildlife officer pulled over the suspect in the assassination attempt against Rep. Gabrielle Giffords less than three hours before the shooting, authorities said Wednesday as they pieced together more details of a frenzied morning.
Jared Lee Loughner ran a red light but was let off with a warning at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, the Arizona Game and Fish Department said. The officer took Mr. Loughner’s driver’s license and vehicle registration information but found no outstanding warrants on Mr. Loughner or his vehicle.
Wildlife officers usually do not make traffic stops unless public safety is at risk, such as running a red light. The stop was on an access road that connects to Interstate 10 — well away from the site of the shootings, Game and Parks spokesman Jim Paxon said.
“He had a valid license; the car was registered; he had insurance,” Mr. Paxon said. “He was warned and released because we had no probable cause to hold or do an extensive search.”
It’s the latest evidence of Mr. Loughner’s busy morning before, police say, he showed up at a Tucson supermarket in a taxi at 10:11 a.m. and killed six, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl. Fourteen others, including Mrs. Giffords, were wounded.
Also that morning, Mr. Loughner, 22, ran into the desert from his angry father, who was chasing his son after seeing him remove a black bag from the trunk of a family car, said Rick Kastigar, chief of the sheriff’s investigations bureau. Investigators still are searching for the bag.
Hours after the attack, sheriff’s deputies swarmed the Loughners’ home and removed what they describe as evidence Mr. Loughner was targeting Mrs. Giffords. Among the handwritten notes was one with the words “Die, bitch,” which authorities believe was a reference to Mrs. Giffords.
Investigators with the Pima County Sheriff's Department previously said they had found handwritten notes in Mr. Loughner’s safe reading “I planned ahead,” ”My assassination” and “Giffords.” Capt. Chris Nanos said all the writings were either in an envelope or on a form letter Mrs. Giffords‘ office sent him in 2007 after he signed in at one of her “Congress on Your Corner” events — the same kind of gathering where the massacre occurred.
On Wednesday, Dr. Peter Rhee, University Medical Center trauma chief, said Mrs. Giffords‘ recovery from the gunshot wound to her head is going as anticipated, and she has become more responsive as she comes out of heavy sedation.
Her condition is stable and, so far, has not taken any dips, Dr. Rhee said.
Meanwhile, the city held a tribute to victims on the eve of a visit on Wednesday by President Obama, who will honor the victims in a speech to a rattled state and nation.
On Tuesday night, several hundred mourners filled a Tucson church for a Mass to remember the slain and pray for the injured. As people filed in, nine young girls sang “Amazing Grace.” The youngest victim of the attack, 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, was a member of that choir.
“I know she is singing with us tonight,” said Tucson Bishop Gerald Kicanas, who presided over the service.
In one apparent reaction to the shooting, the FBI said background checks for handgun sales jumped in Arizona following the shootings, though the agency cautioned that the number of checks doesn’t equate to the number of handguns sold.
Still, there were 263 background checks in Arizona on Monday, up from 164 for the same date a year ago — a 60 percent rise. Nationally, the increase was more modest: from 7,522 last year to 7,906 Monday, a 5 percent jump.