Rep. Giffords, Several More Shot; Six Dead
LIANE HANSEN, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.
It was just after 10 yesterday morning in Tucson, Arizona, a Saturday -people running errands, out shopping. Jacqueline Jackson was at the Safeway store on Ina Road. She had worked for Gabrielle Giffords, and she saw the congresswoman and her staff in front of the store, talking with constituents. She said hi, went to her car to get her cell phone to call her husband, and turned to go back.
Ms. JACQUELINE JACKSON: When I turn around and look - and the shooter was just standing clear as can be, like he did this every day, calm - pow, pow, pow, pow, pow; just shooting. And people were diving on the ground, and jumping behind and...
HANSEN: Jacqueline Jackson spoke with NPR's Ted Robbins.
Ms. JACKSON: And it's exactly where I was standing about 30 seconds before. I mean, if I had not gone to get my cell phone, I would either be dead or wounded.
HANSEN: Ted Robbins is in Tucson. And Ted, a terrible description there. What more is known about what happened yesterday?
TED ROBBINS: Liane, let's mention that Jackie Jackson is married to Peter Michaels, the news director at our member station in Tucson, KUAZ. And listeners might have heard him on the air yesterday morning, in fact. She was shaken, but lucky. Nineteen people were shot by the gunman. Six of them died, including John Roll, the presiding federal judge for Arizona, and a 9-year-old girl.
Congresswoman Giffords was flown to University Medical Center in Tucson. She had a bullet wound to the head at close range. She underwent surgery and remarkably - so far, anyway - one of her surgeons says he is optimistic about her survival. He said she responded to directions when she was brought out of anesthesia, but things can change quickly with a head wound.
The shooter was tackled and held by two men at the scene while he still had bullets in his semiautomatic weapon. A number of local law-enforcement agencies responded, headed by the Pima County Sheriff's Office and then the FBI.
HANSEN: What's known about the man in custody, Jared Loughner?
ROBBINS: Well, he's 22 years old, lived in a middle-class part of northwest Tucson, near where the shooting took place. Sheriff Clarence Dupnik called him disturbed. And in fact, Loughner has seven minutes of YouTube videos, with music and text. And he rants about not needing to obey federal law, and the need for a new currency.
The FBI has him in custody. Authorities say they don't think he acted alone. They released a photo of an older man they are looking for, who may have been at the scene.
HANSEN: A number of lawmakers spoke out after the shooting. President Obama called it a tragedy for our entire country. Senator John McCain said he was horrified. There must also be an amount of sadness out there as well.
ROBBINS: I think it's fair to say that this community is in shock. A crowd gathered at the hospital with candles and signs, holding a vigil for congresswoman Giffords. Her husband, who is an astronaut and a naval officer, is there. More people were at her congressional office. And let's listen to Lizzie Griffin(ph), who is a former Marine captain who served in Vietnam. She is a constituent, and she worked with Giffords on veterans' issues.
MS. LIZZIE GRIFFIN: She was involved with so many things related to the veterans and to the families, and to the soldiers coming back with mild brain trauma injuries and PTSD; and fighting for the families and for the counseling - and just out there. I mean, semper fi, just always faithful. I mean, she just - it was true that she wouldn't have any guards today because that's who she is. She'd just walk right up, and you'd give her a hug.
ROBBINS: And you know, last night, there was a suspicious package left in her office; it was detonated by Tucson police. No known connection as we know - as we know of yet.
HANSEN: And in the 30 seconds we have left, there is a political dimension. Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik yesterday talked about the vitriol in the political climate. What do you make of his statement?
ROBBINS: Well, Sheriff Dupnik is a fellow Democrat. He was admittedly emotional. And last fall's congressional campaign here was very ugly - lots of name-calling and attacks. Someone broke the glass in Giffords' office door. And we should note that people on all sides have expressed shock and sadness. And she had - Giffords barely won against a Tea Party Republican. On the other hand, some folks are saying that we should withhold judgment for a few days until we find out a motive, and perhaps people calm down.
HANSEN: NPR's Ted Robbins in Tucson. Thank you a lot, Ted.
ROBBINS: You're welcome.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.