Warm Southern Breeze

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AZ Congresswoman Giffords (D) Shot in Tucson – Was Palin “Target”

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Saturday, January 8, 2011

AZ Democrat, Congresswoman Giffords Shot in Tucson

Was SarahPAC “target”

“Don’t retreat, reload.”
– Sarah Palin (R), Twitter post

TUCSON — Representative Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, and 17 others were shot here on Saturday morning when a gunman opened fire outside a supermarket where Ms. Giffords was meeting with constituents for a “Congress on Your Corner” event.

Ms. Giffords, 40, was described as being in very critical condition at the University Medical Center in Tucson, where she was operated on by a team of neurosurgeons. One of the surgeons said that she had been shot once in the head, “through and through,” with the bullet going through her brain.

“I can tell you at this time, I am very optimistic about her recovery,” he said in a news conference. “We cannot tell what kind of recovery but I’m as optimistic as it can get in this kind of situation.”

An official with the Pima County Sheriff’s Department said that six people had been killed and 18 wounded in the shooting, including a federal judge, John Roll, who had been involved in immigration cases and had previously received death threats. Among the six dead was a child about 9 years old, the hospital confirmed.

Ten of the wounded were taken to the hospital.

Richard Kastigar, a supervisor with the sheriff’s department, identified the gunman as a 22-year-old who was in custody. Citing unnamed sources, the Associated Press identified the suspect as Jared Laughner.

Witnesses said Ms. Giffords was speaking to constituents when a man ran up and began firing. He then tried to escape on foot but was tackled by a bystander and taken into custody by the police.

The Saturday event was outside a Safeway supermarket and was the first opportunity for constituents to meet with Ms. Giffords since she was sworn in for a third term on Wednesday. She arrived in Washington when Democrats took control of the House in 2006 but narrowly survived a re-election bid in November.

“I saw the congresswoman talking to two people, and then this man suddenly came up and shot her in the head and then shot other people,” said Dr. Steven Rayle, a witness to the shootings and a former emergency room doctor who now works at a hospice. “I think it was a semiautomatic, and he must have got off 20 rounds.”

Dr. Rayle said that Ms. Giffords slumped to the ground and that staff members immediately rushed to her aid. “A staffer had his arm around her, and she was leaning against the window of the Safeway. He had a jacket or towel on her head,” the doctor said.

At least one of the other shooting victims helped Ms. Giffords, witnesses said.

Television coverage showed a chaotic scene outside a normally tranquil suburban shopping spot as emergency workers rushed the wounded away in stretchers. Some were taken from the site by helicopter.

Sylvia Lee, a friend of Ms. Giffords, told CNN that the congresswoman had received numerous threats.

In a statement, the House speaker, John A. Boehner, said: “I am horrified by the senseless attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and members of her staff. An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve. Acts and threats of violence against public officials have no place in our society. Our prayers are with Congresswoman Giffords, her staff, all who were injured and their families. This is a sad day for our country.”

Ms. Giffords, who represents Arizona’s Eighth District in the southeastern corner of the state, has been an outspoken critic of Arizona’s tough immigration law, which is focused on identifying, prosecuting and deporting illegal immigrants.

Last March, after the final approval of the Democrats’ health care law, which Ms. Giffords supported, the windows of her office in Tucson were broken or shot out in an act of vandalism. Similar acts were reported by other members of Congress, and several arrests were made, including that of a man who had threatened to kill Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington.

And in August 2009, when there were demonstrations against the health care measure across the nation, a protester who showed up to meet Ms. Giffords at a supermarket event similar to Saturday’s was removed by the police when the pistol he had holstered under his armpit fell and bounced on the floor.

During the fall campaign, Sarah Palin, the former Republican vice-presidential candidate, posted a controversial map on her Facebook page depicting spots where Democrats were running for re-election; those Democrats were noted by crosshairs symbols like those seen through the scope of a gun. Ms. Giffords was among those on Ms. Palin’s map.

Ms. Giffords narrowly won re-election in November in a race that was dominated by the immigration issue. She held on to her seat even as dozens of her Democratic colleagues, including two fellow Democrats from Arizona — Ann Kirkpatrick and Harry Mitchell — were defeated, and she went on a districtwide “thank you” tour after the race.

Ms. Giffords was able to maintain the support of constituents who favored the immigration law with her strong advocacy in favor of gun rights and for toughening border security.

In an interview at the Capitol this week, Ms. Giffords said she was excited to count herself among the Democrats who joined the new House Republican majority in reading the Constitution aloud from the House floor. She said she was particularly pleased with being assigned the reading of the First Amendment. “I wanted to be here,” she said. “I think it’s important. Reflecting on the Constitution in a bipartisan way is a good way to start the year.”

As a Democrat, Ms. Giffords is something of anomaly in Arizona, and in her district, which has traditionally tilted Republican. Last year, she barely squeaked to victory over a Republican challenger, Jesse Kelly, with just a bit over a 1 percent margin. She was aided in part by a blue streak that runs through part of her district in Southern Arizona, which has nonetheless normally been held by a Republican.

But Ms. Giffords had clearly heard the message that constituents were dissatisfied with Democratic leaders in Washington. At the Capitol this week, Ms. Giffords refused to support the outgoing Democratic House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California, in her symbolic contest with the Republican, Mr. Boehner of Ohio.

Instead, Ms. Giffords cast her vote for Representative John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat and hero of the civil rights movement.

President Obama issued a statement on Saturday afternoon calling the shootings “an unspeakable tragedy.” He said that some victims “have passed away, and that Representative Giffords is gravely wounded.”

“We do not yet have all the answers,” the statement said. “What we do know is that such a senseless and terrible act of violence has no place in a free society.”

Ms. Giffords, an avid equestrian, was part of the Democratic class of 2006 that swept Democrats into the majority and that just turned over this past Tuesday to the Republicans.

She ran in an open seat that was vacated by a centrist Republican, Jim Kolbe, and defeated a conservative Republican who was tough on immigration and border enforcement.

Ms. Giffords had worked to win the confidence of her constituents on border issues and beat the White House to the punch last year by announcing administration plans to put more National Guard troops at the border.

Ms. Giffords is married to the astronaut Mark E. Kelly, who is a veteran of three space flights including serving as commander of a space shuttle Discovery in 2008.

Marc Lacey reported from Tucson, and David M. Herszenhorn from Washington. Carl Hulse, Ashley Southall and Jennifer Steinhauer contributed reporting from Washington and J. David Goodman from New York.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: January 8, 2011

An earlier version of this article misstated Gabrielle Giffords’s condition. While several news reports had said she had died on the scene, a hospital spokeswoman said that the congresswoman was undergoing surgery.

A version of this article appeared in print on January 9, 2011, on page A1 of the New York edition.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/us/politics/09giffords.html?_r=1&hp=&pagewanted=all

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