01.08.11

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Shot

The Democrat of Arizona was shot in the head during a public event, and six others were killed. Reports say she's made it through surgery and is expected to pull through.

As mourners hold vigils from D.C. to Arizona, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords remains in intensive care and six more are dead. Read the latest news on the shooting.

A hospital spokesperson now says Rep. Giffords never awoke after surgery and recognized her husband, despite reports to the contrary late Saturday night. "She's not talking to anybody," said the spokesperson. Giffords remains in critical condition and doctors told the one of the congresswoman's staff members Giffords was shot in "the best place you can be shot … It didn’t cross the centerline of the brain, which is crucial." Should she pull through, Giffords would be beating long odds: The survival rate for gunshot wounds to the brain is about 5 percent, according to Fox News' health editor.

After hearing gunfire Daniel Hernandez, five days into his internship at Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ office, ran toward the commotion. He saw people lying on the ground and started checking pulses. Then he saw Giffords lying on the sidewalk and bleeding. Hernandez, a trained nurse and junior at the University of Arizona, pulled Giffords into his lap and applied pressure to the entry wound, holding her upright so she didn’t choke on blood. At the same time, he instructed a bystander on how to help Giffords’ district director, Ron Barber, who was lying wounded nearby. "Make sure you stay with Gabby. Make sure you help Gabby,” Barber told Hernandez. And he did, staying with her until the paramedics arrived and then holding her hand on the ambulance ride to the hospital.

The Pima County Sheriff's Office has released a list of the dead: Christina-Taylor Green, 9 years old, who was born on 9/11; John Roll, 63, a federal district court judge; Gabriel Zimmerman, 30, a staffer for Giffords; Dorwin Stoddard, 76; Dorothy Morris, 76; and Phyllis Schneck, 79.

Vigils to mourn those lost in Saturday’s shooting and to support those recovering from injuries are under way in Arizona and in Washington, D.C., where The Daily Beast's Benjamin Sarlin is reporting. Mourners and supporters, largely getting organized via Facebook, have gathered outside Tucson’s University Medical Center, where victims, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, are recovering from injuries, and outside on Capitol Hill. Flowers have been amassing outside Giffords’ office in Arizona.

A total of 18 people were injured. The gunman reportedly used a semi-automatic gun called a Glock 19, which was purchased legally in November, according to The Washington Post. Police are also seeking a second suspect, citing " some reason to believe" that the alleged shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, did not act alone.

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Arizona authorities have identified Loughner, 22, as the man who allegedly opened fire. According to Caitie Parker, who says she has known Loughner for years, he apparently met Giffords once in 2007, and described her as "stupid and unintelligent." Loughner, initially reported as a possible veteran, attempted to enlist but was rejected, according to the U.S. military. Disturbing YouTube videos that Loughner reportedly made have surfaced.

Law enforcement officials have confirmed the gun that was used in the attack was bought legally. The shooter reportedly fired on Giffords from about four feet away. The gun was purchased on November 30 at Sportman’s Warehouse, in Tucson, and was bought along with at least one additional handgun.

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One eyewitness described the scene: "It was continuous shooting. There was no breaking between it. They walked up and, I'm assuming, just kept firing. It sounded like tons of pots and pans falling down on the ground right next to my ear it was so loud," said Jason Pekau, who worked near the Safeway grocery store where the event was being held.

Giffords came into office in the Democrats' 2006 wave, but the election in her conservative-leaning district was a tough one for the centrist Democrat (the Arizona 8th went 52 percent to 46 percent for McCain in 2008). She is a Fulbright scholar, Scripps grad, and businesswoman. She won a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives when she was just 31. The Washington Post reported she has been cultivated for a possible Senate run in 2012. Giffords is among the politicians to whom Keith Olbermann donated campaign contributions this fall, prompting a scandal at MSNBC.

Giffords is married to Mark Kelly, an astronaut who was profiled by The Daily Beast’s Sandra McElwaine in October. Kelly was flown to Tucson in a NASA jet to be with his wife.

Photos: Gabrielle Giffords

Roll, the U.S. district judge who was killed in the shooting, was a federal judge in Arizona and was at the center of the contentious immigration debate there. He was the target of hundreds of threats against his family and his life after he allowed a lawsuit filed by illegal immigrants against ranchers to go forward. "They cursed him out, threatened to kill his family, said they'd come and take care of him. They really wanted him dead," a law enforcement official said in 2009. Saturday’s shooting has not been linked to any political motivations. Witnesses say the shooter appeared to be clearly targeting Giffords.

Giffords is known for her support of gun rights and even talked about her personal gun ownership.

She supported President Obama’s health-care reform bill in 2009. At a town hall at another Safeway store in Arizona in August, Giffords called the police when an angry opponent of the legislation dropped a gun on the floor during the event. After the bill passed, Giffords was one of several Democratic members to have their office windows vandalized.

Giffords was also included on Sarah Palin's "target map," released in March of last year, which featured gun crosshairs superimposed over her target's districts on a United States map. The graphic was removed from Palin’s website today. Giffords' Republican opponent, Jesse Kelly, held a campaign event in which he invited supporters to shoot a machine gun. “Get on target for victory,” an ad for the event read

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Statement from President Obama: "We do not yet have all the answers. What we do know is that such a senseless and terrible act of violence has no place in a free society. I ask all Americans to join me and Michelle in keeping Representative Giffords, the victims of this tragedy, and their families in our prayers."

Statement from Sarah Palin: "On behalf of Todd and my family, we all pray for the victims and their families, and for peace and justice."

Correction: An earlier version of this story stating Giffords awoke Saturday night and recognized her husband has been updated.

Reporting by Benjamin Sarlin and David Sessions.