Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords Survives Shooting But Remains In Critical Condition
10:45 a.m. PDT Sunday: Giffords is still in critical condition, but signs point to a positive recovery. Police are looking for a man in his 40s who may be associated with gunman suspect Jared Lee Loughner.
5:40 p.m. PDT Update: Giffords remains in critical condition. The next 24 hrs. will be crucial.
2:21 p.m. PDT Update: Pima County Sheriff will hold an update news conference a 4:00 p.m. PDT.
2:20 p.m. PDT Update: FBI Director Robert Mueller has been dispatched to Tucson to personally head the criminal investigation.
2:03 p.m.PDT Update: Sarah Palin under heat in wake of Giffords shooting. She had marked Giffords' district on a map with crosshairs. Now Palin has deleted a controversial tweet where she asked supporters to "reload."
1:58 p.m. PDT Update: Arizona daily publishes recent photo of alleged shooter.
1:51 p.m. PDT Update: Speaking live to the nation, President Obama calls the shooting "an unspeakable act" and says Giffords is "battling for her life."
1:50 p.m. PDT Update: Scattered news reports say a second suspect may have been apprehended. Pima County law enforcement officials describe the situation as "dynamic."
1:45 p.m. PDT Update: Reuters reports that Giffords has emerged from surgery and is alive. Surgeons say they are "optimistic" about her recovery.
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was hospitalized Saturday morning, suffering a gunshot through her head at point-blank range during a community meeting in Tucson, according to the public information officer for the hospital where Giffords underwent surgery and was esponding to commands as of 1:30 p.m.
Seventeen others were also shot at the gathering at a Safeway grocery store, killing at least five of them. A man is said to have run up behind Giffords and some of her aides and then opened fire on them with a pistol, shooting 15 to 20 bullets.
Her district director Ronald Barber is believed to among the dead, according to CNN. John Roll, the chief judge of Arizona's federal court was killed as well, according to MSNBC. Roll, appointed by the first President Bush, received death threats in 2009 after certifying a lawsuit filed by illegal immigrants against an Arizona rancher.
NPR reports that the 22-year-old suspect was taken down by a bystander, and police placed him in custody. The Huffington Post says the suspect is Jared Laughner, a white man described as "clean-shaven." Later, reports elsewhere say his name is actually Jared Lee Loughner. At least three fake Facebook profiles now exist for Laughner, though he does appear to have a real YouTube channel.
In the videos, posted just a month he ago, he seems to forecast his imminent fame and uses text to rail against the country's present political order and calls for a gold and silver currency standard. He says most of the people in Giffords' district are "illiterate."
Below is a screenshot from one video:
President Barack Obama called the shooting an "unspeakable tragedy" and a "senseless act of violence" in a statement. Congressional leaders--both Democrats and Republicans--matched the president's condescension of the act in separate statements.
Two days ago, Giffords read the first amendment as part of the first-ever reading of the full U.S. Constitution on the House floor.
The “Congress on Your Corner" event was meant to allow constituients to briefly chat with Giffords individually.
According to the New York Times, Giffords had held similar events that have been rocked by problems. In 2009, a protestor dropped his pistol on a supermarket floor.
Last year, her office in Tucson was vandalized shortly after the health care reform vote. The House is scheduled to vote to repeal that very same legislation on Wednesday, though the Senate is not expected to concur.
She had to cancel an event last week because of threats against her, but for the most part has stood up in the face of various threats.
In November, she outlasted a challenge from a Sarah Palin-backed Tea Party candidate. Giffords has served in the U.S. House for four years. She sits on the House Science and Technology and Armed Services committees. Her husband is an astronaut, and her district receives large amounts of defense dollars. Defense contractor Raytheon Missile Systems is one of the area's biggest employers.
She's a graduate of Scripps College in Claremont and was a Fulbright Scholar, which allowed the Spanish speaker to spend time in Mexico. Originally registered as a Republican voter, she became a Democrat after graduate school because she felt she was more moderate on social issues than fellow Arizona Republicans.
Giffords has supported, a pathway to citzenship for illegal immigrants, gay marriage and health care reform.
Arizona has been a hotbed for problems related to illegal immigration. A recent law allowed the state to shut down a class that was said to teach to too much about Latino history.
Giffords' eighth congressional district was most recently won by George W. Bush and John McCain by about six-point margins. The three-fourths white community has tended to vote Republican until Giffords' rise in 2006. Her district's median income is about $40,000. The district touches about 5 percent--100 miles--of the U.S.-Mexico border.
If Giffords dies, Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, would have to call a special primary and general election to fill the vacancy because Arizona does not have a general election already scheduled within the next six months.
Brewer would have three days to decide on a date for the elections. Arizona law would put the special primary election date in about mid-March.