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Suspect in Giffords shooting acted alone
Doctors say congresswoman showing positive signs
Question of the Day
TUCSON, Ariz. — Federal prosecutors brought charges Sunday against the gunman accused of attempting to assassinate Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killing six people at a political event in Arizona.
Investigators said they carried out a search warrant at Jared Loughner’s home and seized an envelope from a safe with messages such as “I planned ahead,” ”My assassination” and the name “Giffords” next to what appears to be the man’s signature. He allegedly purchased the Glock pistol used in the attack in November at Sportsman’s Warehouse in Tucson.
Court documents also show that Mr. Loughner had contact with Ms. Giffords in the past. Other evidence included a letter addressed to him from Ms. Giffords‘ congressional stationery in which she thanked him for attending a “Congress on your Corner” event at a mall in Tucson in 2007.
Heather Williams, the first assistant federal public defender in Arizona, says the 22-year-old suspect doesn’t yet have a lawyer, but that her office is working to get one appointed. Her office is asking for an outside attorney because one of those killed was U.S. District Judge John M. Roll.
Meanwhile, authorities released 911 calls in which a person witnessing the mass shooting outside a grocery store in Tucson describes a frantic scene and says, “I do believe Gabby Giffords was hit.”
Mr. Loughner fired at Ms. Giffords‘ district director and shot indiscriminately at staffers and others standing in line to talk to the congresswoman, said Mark Kimble, a communications staffer for Giffords.
“He was not more than three or four feet from the congresswoman and the district director,” Mr. Kimble said, describing the scene as “just complete chaos, people screaming, crying.”
Mr. Loughner is accused of killing six people, including an aide to Ms. Giffords and a 9-year-old girl who was born on Sept. 11, 2001. Fourteen others were wounded. Authorities don’t know Mr. Loughner’s motive, but said he targeted Ms. Giffords at a public gathering about 10 a.m. Saturday.
Sheriff Dupnik said the rampage ended only after two people tackled the gunman. A third person intervened and tried to pull a clip away from the gunman as he attempted to reload, the sheriff said.
“He was definitely on a mission,” according to event volunteer Alex Villec, former Giffords intern.
Doctors treating the lawmaker provided an optimistic update about her chances for survival, saying they are “very, very encouraged” by her ability to respond to simple commands along with their success in controlling her bleeding.
An unidentified man who authorities earlier said might have acted as an accomplice was cleared Sunday of any involvement. Pima County sheriff’s deputy Jason Ogan told the Associated Press on Sunday that the man was a cab driver who drove the gunman to the grocery store outside of which the shooting occurred.
Mourners crammed into the tiny sanctuary of Ms. Giffords‘ synagogue in Tucson to pray that she quickly recovered. Outside the hospital, candles flickered at a makeshift memorial. Signs read “Peace + love are stronger,” ”God bless America and “We love you, Gabrielle.” People also laid down bouquets of flowers, American flags and pictures of Giffords.
The assassination attempt left Americans questioning whether divisive politics had pushed the suspect over the edge.
A shaken President Obama called the attack “a tragedy for our entire country.”
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a statement Sunday that FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III was traveling to Arizona to help coordinate the investigation.
In a brief statement Sunday morning, House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Democrat, said flags on the House side of the Capitol in Washington will be flown at half staff to honor Ms. Giffords‘ slain aide, Gabe Zimmerman. Mr. Boehner said normal House business this week is postponed to focus on any necessary actions in the shooting aftermath.
Strong reaction came from overseas, as well.
British Prime Minister David Cameron expressed shock at the shooting and added that he shared Mr. Obama’s belief that “we must never allow violence and hate to extinguish the open political discourse which is our surest protection.”
Fidel Castro also denounced the attack as atrocious. “Even those of us who don’t share at all the politics and philosophies [of the Obama administration] sincerely desire that no children, judges, legislators or citizens of the United States die in such an absurd and unjustifiable way,” Mr. Castro said in an opinion piece titled “An Atrocious Act,” published in Cuban state-controlled media.
Ms. Giffords 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.
Authorities said the dead included U.S. District Judge John Roll, 63; Christina Greene, 9; Mr. Zimmerman, 30; Dorothy Morris, 76; Dorwin Stoddard, 76; and Phyllis Scheck, 79.
Dupnik lashed out at what he called an excessively “vitriolic” atmosphere in the months leading up to the rampage as he described the chaos of the day.
Ms. Giffords expressed similar concern about the political atmosphere, 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 Ms. 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,” Ms. Giffords said in an interview with MSNBC.
In the hours after the shooting, Mrs. Palin issued a statement in which she expressed her “sincere condolences” to the family of Ms. Giffords and the other victims.
During his campaign effort to unseat Ms. Giffords in November, Republican challenger Jesse Kelly held fundraisers where he urged supporters to help remove Ms. Giffords from office by joining him to shoot a fully loaded M-16 rifle. Mr. 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, Mr. 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 Ms. 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 spokesman C.J. Karamargin said besides Mr. Zimmerman, the aide who was killed, two other Giffords staffers were shot but expected to survive. Mr. Zimmerman was a former social worker who served as Ms. Giffords‘ director of community outreach.
Greg Segalini, an uncle of Christina’s, the 9-year-old victim, 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.
Christina, who was born on Sept. 11, 2001, was involved in many activities, from ballet to baseball. She had just received her first Holy Communion at St. Odilia’s Catholic Church in Tucson, Diocese of Tucson officials told the Arizona Daily Star.
Mr. Loughner, the suspect, was described by a former classmate 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, Mr. Loughner described inventing a new U.S. currency and complained about the illiteracy rate among people living in Ms. Giffords‘ congressional district in Arizona.
“I know who’s listening: Government Officials, and the People,” Mr. 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 Mr. 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 Mr. 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.
Mr. 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.
High school classmate Grant Wiens, 22, said Mr. 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,” Mr. Wiens said.
Lynda Sorenson said she took a math class with Mr. 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, Mr. Loughner was cited in Pima County for possession of drug paraphernalia. The charges were dismissed after he completed a diversion program, according to online records.
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 Mr. Kelly is training to be the next commander of the space shuttle mission slated for April. His brother currently is serving aboard the International Space Station, Mr. Nelson said.
• Political reporter Joseph Weber of The Washington Times and Associated Press writers Jacques Billeaud, Raquel Maria Dillon and Terry Tang contributed to this report..
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