Latest update: 09/01/2011
- shootings - US Congress - USA
Arizona congresswoman shot in head at public event
A US congresswoman from Arizona, Democrat Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head during a public event in Tuscon Saturday when an unidentified gunman opened fire on the crowd she was addressing, killing six people and wounding several others.
By News Wires (text)
REUTERS - A U.S. congresswoman from Arizona was shot and seriously wounded and six other people were killed by a man who opened fire at a meeting the politician was holding in Tucson on Saturday, officials said.
Gabrielle Giffords, a 40-year-old Democrat in her third term in the House of Representatives, was airlifted to a hospital in Tucson after being shot in the head at point-blank range outside a Safeway supermarket in the Arizona city.
Six people were killed, and a "number of individuals" were wounded including Giffords in the attack, in which a total of 18 people were shot, Rick Kastigar, an official from the Pima County Sheriff's Department, told CNN.
He said the suspected gunman was in custody. NBC News said the suspected gunman was Jared Laughner, 22, of Arizona.
NBC cited officials as saying one of the dead was federal judge John Roll.
President Barack Obama deplored the attack as an "unspeakable tragedy," saying in a statement that "while we are continuing to receive information, we know that some have passed away, and that Representative Giffords is gravely wounded."
Giffords was undergoing surgery.
"The congresswoman is still in surgery. The others are still in surgery as well. Their conditions range from serious to critical. They are all either in surgery or coming out," University Medical Center spokeswoman Darci Slaten told Reuters.
One of the victims was a 9-year-old girl, Slaten said.
Giffords was hosting a "Congress on Your Corner" event -- public gatherings to give her constituents a chance to talk directly with her -- when attacked from about 4 feet (1.2 metres) away, NPR said.
It said the suspect tried to run away but was tackled by a bystander.
‘Senseless and terrible act’
"We do not yet have all the answers. What we do know is that such a senseless and terrible act of violence has no place in a free society. I ask all Americans to join me and Michelle in keeping Representative Giffords, the victims of this tragedy, and their families in our prayers," Obama said.
Andrea Gooden, an eyewitness who was working across the street from the event, told Fox News she heard about 15 consecutive gunshots during the shooting.
Representative Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, told CNN that Giffords' office had been shot at before and she had received death threats in the past.
House Speaker John Boehner said in statement he was horrified by the attack on Giffords and members of her staff.
"An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve. Acts and threats of violence against public officials have no place in our society. Our prayers are with Congresswoman Giffords, her staff, all who were injured, and their families. This is a sad day for our country," Boehner said.
Boehner took over the top position in the House of Representatives after his Republican Party won control of the House in elections on Nov. 2. The new Congress convened this week.
Giffords, who was re-elected in November, has focused on immigration reform, military issues, stem cell research and alternative energy while serving in Congress. She is married to U.S. astronaut Mark Kelly.
She served on the House Armed Services, Science and Technology committees.
Before going to Washington, Giffords served in the Arizona Legislature from 2000 to 2005 and ran her family's tire and automotive business.