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US politician in critical condition after deadly shooting in Arizona

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-01-09

Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is in a critical condition after being shot in the head during a political event in Tucson Saturday. Six people were killed during the incident. Police report that they believe the gunmen was not acting alone.

REUTERS - U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was battling for her life on Sunday after an assailant shot her in the head and killed six others as she met with constituents in Tucson.

The 40-year-old Democratic lawmaker was in critical condition and doctors were cautiously optimistic she would survive. The suspected gunman was in federal custody as investigators sought a motive in the rare shooting of a U.S. lawmaker and looked for a possible accomplice.

The suspect, identified as Jared Lee Loughner, 22, opened fire with a semi-automatic pistol at point-blank range outside a supermarket on Saturday afternoon. He was tackled by two bystanders after the shooting.
 
Among the dead were a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl. Twelve other people were wounded in the shooting rampage.
 
'AN INCREASINGLY VIOLENT POLITICAL DISCOURSE IN THE US'
The shooting shocked Washington, where Congress postponed a vote on healthcare reform later this week. Following an acrimonious election campaign last year, some suggested the political vitriol might have played a role in the shooting.
 
Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said the suspect "has kind of a troubled past and we're not convinced that he acted alone." He said he believed Giffords was the intended target of the shooting.
 
Dupnik said the suspect had made threats to kill in the past but not against Giffords. "All I can tell you is that this person may have a mental issue," he added.
 
The sheriff's office said early Sunday authorities were still seeking for a second man "possibly associated with the suspect" who was filmed by a video camera near the scene of the shooting and is wanted for questioning.
 
President Barack Obama put FBI Director Robert Mueller in charge of the investigation. "We don't yet know what provoked this unspeakable act," Obama told reporters.
 
Giffords was shot once in the head with the bullet going "through and through," according to a trauma surgeon at the Tucson hospital where she was airlifted for surgery.
 
"I can tell you at this time, I am very optimistic about her recovery," said Dr. Peter Rhee, medical director of the hospital's trauma and critical care unit. "We cannot tell what kind of recovery, but I'm as optimistic as it can get in this kind of situation."
 
Political fallout
 
Giffords was hosting a "Congress on Your Corner" event -- public gatherings to give her constituents a chance to talk directly with her -- when the gunman attacked from about 4 feet (1.2 metres) away, according to media reports.
 
The shooter approached Giffords from behind, firing at least 20 shots at her and others in the crowd, MSNBC said, citing law enforcement officials and witnesses.
 
The shooting prompted lawmakers in Washington to put off its agenda for next week, including a vote on the repeal of Obama's contentious healthcare overhaul. The new Congress convened last week after Nov. 2 elections in which the Republican Party won control of the House of Representatives.
 
House Speaker John Boehner said in statement he was horrified by the attack on Giffords and members of her staff and called a news conference for 8:30 a.m. (1330 GMT) on Sunday.
 
The U.S. Capitol Police cautioned members of Congress "to take reasonable and prudent precautions regarding their personal security. Still, most lawmakers are largely unguarded outside the Capitol, except the leaders of the House and Senate, who have security details.
 
"We can be shot down in our district, but we can also be shot walking over to the Capitol," Democratic Representative Maxine Waters of California told the Washington news outlet POLITICO. "We have a lot of people outside who appear to be fragile emotionally. So we don't know when one will walk up and shoot us down. We're vulnerable, and there's no real way to protect us."
 
Giffords had warned previously that the heated political rhetoric had prompted violent threats against her and vandalism at her office.
 
In an interview last year with the MSNBC television network, Giffords cited a map of electoral targets put out by former Alaska Republican Governor and prominent conservative Sarah Palin, each marked by the cross hairs of a rifle sight.
 
"When people do that, they've got to realize that there's consequences to that action," Giffords told MSNBC.
 
Outside the Tucson hospital where Giffords underwent surgery, scores of people held a candlelight vigil for her and the other victims.
 
"In a moment like this it's important to come here and say 'this is wrong,'" said Jesse Davis, 32, a grocery store worker. "The people who represent us deserve better than this. They deserve our respect."
 
YouTube videos
 
In several videos posted on the Internet site YouTube, a person who posted under the name Jared Lee Loughner criticizes the government and religion and calls for a new currency. It was not known if he was the same person as the suspect.
 
"The government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar. No! I won't pay debt with a currency that's not backed by gold and silver! No! I won't trust in God!"
 
The FBI was investigating whether the shooting suspect was the same person who posted the videos, a federal law enforcement official said.
 
In a biographical sketch on the site, the author of the post writes that he attended Tucson-area schools and that his favorite books include Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf", Karl Marx's "Communist Manifesto," and Ken Kesey's "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," set in an insane asylum.
 
Giffords, who is married to a NASA astronaut, is seen as a rising star in the Democratic Party. She narrowly defeated a conservative opponent and was one of the few Democrats to survive the Republican sweep in swing districts in the November elections.
 
Her state has been at the center of a political firestorm the past year, symbolizing a bitter partisan divide across much of America.
 
The spark was the border state's move to crack down on illegal immigration last summer, a bill proposed by conservative lawmakers and signed by Republican Governor Jan Brewer.
 
Most Arizonans supported it, but opponents and many in the large Hispanic population felt it was unconstitutional and would lead to discrimination. Giffords said it would not secure the border or stop drug smuggling and gun running.
 
Dupnik, a friend of federal judge John Roll, one of those killed, criticized the political environment in Arizona and the rest of the country, and speculated it might have had a role in the shooting.
 
"When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous," Dupnik said.
 
"And, unfortunately, Arizona I think has become sort of the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry."

 

Date created : 2011-01-09

  • USA

    Arizona congresswoman shot in head at public event

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