Arizona Holds Mass for Shooting Victims as Suspect Appears in Court

Representative Gabrielle Giffords had been holding an open-invitation meeting with constituents outside a supermarket in Tucson on Saturday when a man holding a gun approached and opened fire. Ms. Giffords, 40, was shot from close range by the gunman, who then began shooting into the crowd. Six other people were killed in the attack, and 13 others were injured. Christina Taylor Green, a young girl killed in the shooting, was born on 9/11 and featured in a book – Faces of Hope, Babies Born on 9/11 – about some of the children born on that day. The dead also included a federal judge and a congressional aide. A total of 19 people were shot outside the supermarket in Tucson.

Doctors treating Ms. Giffords say she remains in critical but stable condition. “At this phase in the game, no change is good,” said Dr. Michael LeMole, who is Gifford’s primary physician. “And we have no change.” (CBC) In a briefing at University Medical Center in Tucson, LeMole said Giffords is on a ventilator and responding to simple commands. No more swelling in her brain has been observed, and she remains in a medically induced coma. LeMole added that she is not “out of the woods yet… That swelling can take three days to five days to maximize,” he said. “Every day that goes by and we don’t see an increase we are slightly more optimistic.” (CBC)

Daniel Hernandez, an intern for Giffords, was standing about 15 metres away from the congresswoman, directing the public toward her, when the shooting began. He rushed to Gifford’s aid after she was hit. “The first thing I did was actually pick her up and kind of cradle her up against my body, up against my chest, to make sure she was sitting upright so she could breathe,” he told CBC News. “Once I had her breathing OK, I then started applying pressure to her wound to try and stem the blood loss as much as possible.” Hernandez said he then tried to keep Giffords calm, telling her he would contact her family.

Jared Loughner, 22, walked into the courtroom Monday afternoon wearing handcuffs and in a prison uniform, with a cut on the right side of his head. His expression was impassive as he walked in, looked straight at the crowd at the back of the room packed with reporters, then turned to speak to his lawyer, Judy Clarke. He responded “yes” when asked if he understood his rights. Clarke is known for her defence of “unabomber” Ted Kaczynski and Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. During the 13-minute hearing, Mr. Loughner said very little, only periodically leaning forward to speak into a microphone. Mr. Loughner, who did not enter a plea, confirmed his identity and had an attorney appointed to defend him. When asked, he said he understood that he could get life in prison or the death penalty for allegedly killing federal Judge John Roll on Saturday. Ms. Clarke defended Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Timothy McVeigh. She waived a detention hearing for her client. The federal judge ordered Mr. Loughner held without bail and scheduled a preliminary court appearance for January 24. The courtroom was under heavy protection on Monday by about a dozen US marshals. Prosecutors charged Mr. Loughner with five counts, including killing federal employees and attempting to assassinate Representative Gabrielle Giffords. It is unclear whether the US justice department will seek the death penalty against Mr. Loughner.

Mr. Loughner has not co-operated with investigators, instead invoking his right under the US constitution to remain silent. Local Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said he almost certainly acted alone. “He’s a typical troubled individual who’s a loner,” he said, quoted by Associated Press news agency. (BBC)

Investigators searching Mr. Loughner’s home said they had found evidence that the attack was premeditated. They found an envelope with messages saying “I planned ahead”, “my assassination”, and the name Giffords. (BBC) The 9mm pistol used in Saturday’s shooting was purchased at a gun store in November, FBI Director Robert Mueller told reporters Sunday. And a law enforcement source said the suspect tried to buy ammunition at a Walmart store but was turned down because of his behaviour. Another Walmart store later sold him the ammunition, the source said. Describing the attack, Sheriff Dupnik said a potentially worse tragedy may have been averted. A woman tackled the gunman as he tried to reload, snatching a magazine of bullets, he said. The gunman managed to reload with another magazine, but the gun malfunctioned and two men then restrained him.

Various former classmates have described Mr. Loughner as “obviously disturbed.” (BBC) One of them, Lynda Sorenson, feared he might become violent. “We do have one student in the class who was disruptive today,” she wrote in an e-mail quoted by the Washington Post. “He scares me a bit… Hopefully he will be out of class very soon, and not come back with an automatic weapon.” (BBC) He was said to be a loner who had posted a number of anti-government videos and messages on social networking websites. Shortly before the attack, he had posted: “Goodbye friends. Dear friends, don’t be mad at me.” (BBC)

Months before Saturday’s shooting rampage, one of Loughner’s former instructors said he saw Loughner as a threat and kicked him out of class. Loughner was “physically removed” from the Pima Community College algebra course in June – less than a month after it began – instructor Ben McGahee told CNN. McGahee said Loughner sometimes shook, blurted things out in class and appeared to be under the influence of drugs at times. “I was scared of what he could do,” McGahee said. “I wasn’t scared of him physically, but I was scared of him bringing a weapon to class.” (CNN) McGahee said that in class once, Loughner had accused him of violating his free-speech rights: “And of course free speech is limited in the classrom.” One such outburst was “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” and McGahee – who had already raised concerns about Loughner with administrators – had him removed. Loughner “needed psychological help,” and McGahee said he was not surprised to hear that his former student was the suspect in Saturday’s bloodbath. “The guy was mentally disturbed. He was very isolated,” he said. (CNN) In a statement Saturday night, Pima Community College said Loughner was was suspended after a series of run-ins with campus police between February and September, capped by the discovery of a YouTube video in which he accused the college of operating unconstitutionally. Loughner quit school after the suspension, the college said – and it warned him that to return, he had to present a doctor’s note saying that his presence would not be “a danger to himself or others.” McGahee said the school responded to complaints about Loughner but “they didn’t do it early enough… I think they did the best they can do, but as far as the time frame goes it could have been shortened,” he said. (CNN)

A U.S. army official confirmed that Loughner was rejected by the military in 2008 for failing a drug test. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not disclose the type of drug.

Flags across the US were flown at half mast on Monday. Earlier Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, led a national minute of silence at the White House for the victims of the shooting. About 300 White House staff members joined the brief outdoor ceremony, bowing their heads as a marine honour guardsman rang a bell three times. Mr. Obama praised the “extraordinary courage” of the people at the scene who wrestled the gunman to the ground, saying they had showed “the best of America.” (BBC) Later, Obama called the shooting a “heinous crime” and “mindless violence… I think it’s important for us to also focus, though, on the extraordinary courage that was shown during the course of these events,” Obama told reporters. “Part of what I think that speaks to is the best of America, even in the face of such mindless violence.” (CBC) The president is expected to travel to Arizona in the next few days. The moment of silence was also observed at the U.S. Capitol building and on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange. On the east steps of the Capitol building, hundreds of congressional staffers also paid tribute to Ms. Giffords and the other victims of Saturday’s shooting. Lawmakers also paid tribute to Ms. Giffords and other victims of the mass shooting on the steps of the Capitol building.

The BBC’s Jonny Dymond, in Tucson, says small groups gathered in public places, in offices and in shops and stopped in silence for a minute. The city did not come to a halt, Dymond said, as many had done their mourning over the weekend in public vigils and private houses.

The crew on board the International Space Station (ISS) also paused for a brief silence. The commander on the ISS is Ms. Gifford’s brother-in-law, Cmdr. Scott Kelly. “As I look out the window, I see a very beautiful planet that seems very inviting and peaceful. Unfortunately, it is not,” Cmdr. Kelly said. “These days, we are constnatly reminded of the unspeakable acts of violence and damage we can inflict upon one another, not just with our actions but also with our irresponsible words. We are better than this. We must do better,” he added. (BBC)

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Republican John Boehner, called on fellow legislators to “stand together” and “rally round our wounded colleague.” (BBC) The House has postponed all legislative debates next week, including a controversial bill to repeal Mr. Obama’s healthcare reform.

Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg, a gun control advocate from the state of New Jersey, announced on Monday to introduce legislation that would ban high-capacity ammunition clips, like the one used in Saturday’s attack. “The only reason to have 33 bullets loaded in a handgun is to kill a lot of people very quickly. These high-capacity clips simply should not be on the market,” Mr. Lautenberg said. (BBC)

Some commentators and politicians have blamed violent rhetoric and hatred conveyed in the media for the shooting. “People think now if they want to make a statement, they can do that by bringing bodily harm to someone who doesn’t agree with them,” Democratic Representative Ed Pastor said on CNN.

The information in this article has been gathered from sources including the BBC, CBC, and CNN.

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