Doctors treating wounded US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords provided an optimistic
update Sunday about her chances for survival after a shooting rampage that
killed six, saying they are “very, very encouraged” by her ability to respond to
simple commands along with their success in controlling her
Federal prosecutors charged the suspect in the shooting, Jared
Loughner, with one count of attempted assassination of a member of Congress, two
counts of killing an employee of the federal government and two counts of
attempting to kill a federal employee.
RELATED:US Congresswoman shot in head; 18 are shot, 6 killed
Heather Williams, the first
assistant federal public defender in Arizona, says the 22-yearold suspect
doesn’t yet have a lawyer, but that her office is working to get a lawyer
appointed for him.
House Speaker John Boehner said normal House business
this week has been postponed in the aftermath of the shooting.
said a bullet went through Giffords’s head on the left side of the brain, but
she is still able to respond nonverbally to commands such as squeezing a hand or
showing two fingers. They offered several reasons for her survival, including
good luck and the fact that paramedics got her to surgeons quickly – in under 40
minutes – with the help of a helicopter.
“This is about as good as it is
going to get,” said Dr. Peter Rhee, a trauma surgeon.
“When you get shot
in the head and the bullet goes through your brain, the chances of you living is
very small and the chances of you waking up and actually following commands is
even much smaller than that. Hopefully it will stay that way.”
worked to reduce pressure from swelling in her head by removing bone fragments,
and they also removed a small amount of badly damaged brain. Giffords cannot
speak because she is on a ventilator.
Dr. Michael Lemole of the
University Medical Center in Tucson would not speculate on her degree of
recovery. “We talk about recovery in months to years,” he said.
medical prognosis came as authorities investigated the motivation of a gunman in
what could be an attempted assassination of the three-term Democratic lawmaker,
which killed six people, including a federal judge, an aide to Giffords and a
nine-year-old girl who was born on September 11, 2001.
into the tiny sanctuary of the Reform synagogue Giffords attends in Tucson to
pray for her quick recovery.
Outside the hospital, candles flickered at a
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.
Loughner was described by
friends as a pot-smoking loner who was rejected by the army when he tried to
enlist in 2008.
He dropped out of a local community college after having
five contacts with campus police for classroom and library
His motivation was not immediately known, but Pima County
Sheriff Clarence Dupnik described him as mentally unstable and possibly acting
with an accomplice.
Authorities said Giffords, 40, was targeted at a
public gathering by a man with a semiautomatic weapon at around 10 a.m. Saturday
outside a busy Tucson supermarket. Fourteen people were wounded.
fired at her 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,” Kimble said, describing
the scene as “just complete chaos, people screaming, crying.”
One of the
victims was Christina-Taylor Green, who was a member of the student council at
her local school and went to the event because of her interest in
She was born on 9/11 and featured in a book called Faces of
Hope that chronicled one baby from each state born on the day terrorists killed
nearly 3,000 people.
The fact that Christina’s life ended in tragedy was
especially tragic to those who knew her.
“Tragedy seems to have happened
again, in the form of this awful event,” said the author of the book, Christine
Authorities said the dead included US District Judge John M. Roll;
Green; Giffords’s Jewish director of communications Gabe Zimmerman, 30; Dorothy
Morris, 76; Dorwin Stoddard, 76; and Phyllis Scheck, 79. Judge Roll had just
stopped by to see his friend Giffords after attending Mass.
Robert Mueller, who was sent by Attorney-General Eric Holder to Arizona to help
coordinate the investigation, said Loughner bought the Glock 9- mm. handgun last
In one of several YouTube videos, which featured text against a
dark background, Loughner described inventing a new US currency and complained
about the illiteracy rate among people living in Giffords’s congressional
district in Arizona.
“I know who’s listening: Government Officials, and
the People,” 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
In 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 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
When asked if Loughner had any contact with Giffords in the past,
Mueller said the alleged gunman attended a similar event three years
The sheriff said the rampage ended only after two people tackled the
A third person intervened and tried to pull a clip away from
Loughner as he attempted to reload, the sheriff said.
“He was definitely
on a mission,” according to event volunteer Alex Villec, a former Giffords
Giffords is only the third woman ever to represent Arizona in the
House. In 2007 she married a US Navy captain, Mark Kelly, who has been an
astronaut since 1996. She is the only member of Congress married to an
According to the Forward newspaper, Giffords’s
paternal grandfather was born Akiba Hornstein, son of a Lithuanian rabbi. He
changed his name, first to Gifford Hornstein and later to Gifford Giffords,
apparently to shield himself from anti-Semitism. Though Giffords’s father is
Jewish, her mother is not.
In 2001, as an Arizona state senator, Giffords
went to Israel on a trip sponsored by the American Jewish Committee – a trip,
she said, that made her committed to living as a Jew.
In an interview
with Jewish Woman Magazine
on her initial election to Congress, Giffords said
her philosophy was shaped in part by Jewish values.
“I think about the
values, instilled in me by my Jewish relatives, of tolerance, of understanding,
and of a deep desire to assist and to educate others – particularly after I
visited Israel as part of the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange,”
Giffords told the magazine.
“It was a profound experience [for me] to
reconnect with that philosophical approach to life and to humanity, and to look
at the big picture and understand our interconnectedness.”
said in the interview that she was a member of the Reform Congregation Haverim
in Tuscon, led by Rabbi Stephanie Aaron, and took adult Jewish education classes
Steve Rabinowitz, a communications consultant and longtime
Democratic Party activist originally from Tuscon, spoke about his acquaintance
with the congresswoman.
“I grew up in Tucson and she’s a dozen years
younger than I am,” he said over the phone from Washington on Sunday.
knew their family. They owned a very prominent auto store. It was a tire store
but it was very well known, probably the biggest in town.”
first ran for Congress in 2005, Rabinowitz, who was already a seasoned veteran
in Washington with experience working for the White House during the Clinton
administration, assisted her in her campaign.
“I didn’t know Gabby until
she ran for Congress and [I] helped her with the Jewish media,” he said. “Here
in DC, people are from every state live here so it’s easy to put together a lot
of Arizonians with Gabby and hoping they would support her campaigns for
“Just last year we hosted a fundraiser for her. It was a
lovely evening with a basic cocktail reception. She talked about the issues of
the day and the Obama healthcare bill... She spoke about politics, Arizona,
Yiddishkeit and food.”
He added that the Jewish community in Tucson and
the Reform congregation she was a member of was “incredibly upset” by the
AP contributed to this report.
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