Giffords’s breathing tube out; docs say progress made

University Medical Center in Tucson doctors say they’ll soon know if Congresswoman can speak after being shot in the head.

Gabrielle Giffords (photo credit: AP)
Gabrielle Giffords
(photo credit: AP)
NEW YORK – Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, wounded in a shooting attack just over a week ago, continues to be in critical condition, but is making progress after a bullet went into her skull, through her brain and back out of her skull.
On Saturday, doctors at the University Medical Center in Tucson removed Giffords’ breathing tube and replaced it with a tracheotomy tube, as well as a feeding tube “to provide nutritional support.”
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In a statement, doctors said Giffords can breathe on her own but the breathing tube was being used as a precaution. With it removed, doctors said they can now evaluate her ability to speak. The hospital said that such procedures are “not uncommon” among intensive care patients suffering serious brain injuries.
Meanwhile, in an unexpected twist to the Arizona shootings, a man wounded in the attack was arrested and taken in for a psychiatric exam after he yelled “You’re dead!’ at a political activist at town hall meeting, authorities say.
James Eric Fuller, 63, was detained on misdemeanor disorderly conduct and threat charges Saturday during the event taped for ABC’s This Week television program, Pima County sheriff’s spokesman Jason Ogan said.
Fuller apparently became upset when Trent Humphries, a leader in the independent Tea Party movement, suggested that conversations about gun control be delayed until all the dead from the January 8 shooting were buried, KGUN-TV in Tucson reported.
Authorities said he took a picture of the leader and yelled “You’re dead!” Ogan said deputies decided he needed a mental health evaluation and he was taken to a hospital.
Fuller, who said he was hit in the knee and back, was one of 19 people shot at a Safeway store in Tuscon. Six people died in that attack.
The New York Times reported that Fuller said last week he had been having trouble sleeping after he was attacked.
The paper said in an interview last week, Fuller repeatedly denounced the “Tea Party crime syndicate,” and said he placed some of the blame for the shooting on Sarah Palin and other Republican leaders, saying they had contributed to a toxic atmosphere.
Meanwhile, as Tucson attempted to heal, the Safeway supermarket reopened and a memorial of flowers quickly grew outside.
Randy Larson, 57, came by to shop but instead found himself sitting quietly on the curb choking back tears.
“I can’t come here and go about my day as usual,” he said. “Why should it be usual for me when it’s not for the victims?”
Elsewhere in town, an organization called Crossroads of the West held a gun show, one of many it hosts in several Western states. An estimated crowd of 4,000 showed up, though the mood was less upbeat than past shows, organizer Bob Templeton said.
Gun enthusiasts mingled in the county fairgrounds building, discussing Second Amendment rights and buying handguns, rifles and other weapons.
The group considered canceling the event, but decided Tuesday it would go on, said Templeton, adding that the shooting was not about gun rights, but rather “a deranged person who was able to carry out whatever his agenda was.” Also Saturday, Pima Community College released a video that shows suspected shooter Jared Loughner, 22, giving an improvised nighttime campus tour and rambling about free speech and the Constitution.
Loughner provides an angry narration that includes statements such as, “I’m gonna be homeless because of this school,” and calling Pima “a genocide school.”
College officials confirmed that the video, discovered on YouTube, led them to suspend Loughner from school on September 29.
AP contributed to this report.