Fast-Acting Citizens Kept Shooting From Being Worse

A court appearance is scheduled Monday for the man accused of carrying out Saturday's mass shooting as Rep. Gabrielle Giffords met with constituents in Tucson, Ariz. Six people were killed and more than a dozen were wounded, including Giffords who was shot in the head.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

All this morning, we'll follow up on the mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona. And in a moment, we'll have an update on the condition of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

We're also learning more details about the suspect, Jared Lee Loughner. He's 22 years old, and he's scheduled to appear in court today.

We begin our coverage with NPR's Martin Kaste.

MARTIN KASTE: The Pima County Sheriff's office says Jared Loughner arrived at the Tucson Safeway by cab. For a time, investigators suspected the driver of being an accomplice - an idea they later dropped. Thirteen minutes after Loughner's arrival, at 10:12 a.m., the first 911 calls came in.

(Soundbite of 911 call)

Unidentified Man #1: Hello, 911, there was a shooting at Safeway, where Gabrielle Giffords was.

KASTE: It didn't take long before the system was flooded with calls from around the shopping complex.

Unidentified Woman: Who? Okay, and there's other people that are injured?

Unidentified Man #2: Many people. There's multiple people shot.

Unidentified Woman: Okay. Oh, my God.

KASTE: The focus of the carnage was the congresswoman's meet-and-greet outside the Safeway, which investigators believe was specifically targeted by Loughner.

FBI director Robert Mueller.

Mr. ROBERT MUELLER (Director, FBI): I believe we have an indication that he attended a similar event.

KASTE: In a search of Loughner's home, investigators say they found a letter from Congresswoman Giffords thanking Jared Loughner for attending a similar meet-and-greet in 2007. They also say they found an envelope with the phrases my assassination and I planned ahead written on it, accompanied by what appears to be Loughner's signature.

Director Mueller wouldn't speculate about motivations, but he did point a finger at what he called inciteful speech on the internet.

Mr. MULLER: And that absolutely presents a challenge for us, particularly when it results in what would be lone wolves or lone offenders undertaking attacks.

KASTE: Federal prosecutors have charged Loughner with murder and attempted murder, and the charging document highlights the fact that some of the people he allegedly shot were federal employees quote, "engaged in performance of official duties."

And yet, it could have been even worse. The shooting stopped when it did, say authorities, because of the intervention of a handful of citizens. Patricia Maisch is one of them. Sitting outside her home on Sunday evening, a desert sunset to her left, she recalled those long moments on Saturday morning when the gunman drew near.

Ms. PATRICIA MAISCH: I was laying on the ground, and I was wondering how it was going to feel to be shot.

KASTE: But then, she says, the gunman was suddenly on the ground next to her, tackled by two men.

Ms. MAISCH: And somebody yelled, get the gun. So I immediately knelt up over him, 'cause he was right there on - almost on top of me, so he was reaching in his pocket and - with his left hand - and he pulled out a magazine, or a clip, and so I was able to grab the magazine and get a hold of it so that he couldn't.

KASTE: Some are calling Maisch a hero, but she's still mesmerized by the loss of so many lives. She says, while she was listening to the gunshots, she kept asking herself, how can somebody hate that much?

Martin Kaste, NPR News, Tucson.

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