Mon, Jan 10, 2011 - Page 1 News List

US lawmaker shot in the head, in critical condition

IN SARAH’S CROSSHAIRS:There had been two incidents involving Gabrielle Giffords’ recent election campaign, while Sarah Palin had also placed her on a political ‘hit list’

AFP, TUCSON, ARIZONA

People gather for a vigil for US Representative Gabrielle Giffords at the University Medical Center in Tuscon, Arizona, on Saturday.

PHOTO: AFP

A US lawmaker was in critical condition yesterday after being shot in the head when a gunman opened fire at a public event, killing six people in an attack that shocked the nation.

US Representative Gabrielle Giffords, 40, a member of US President Barack Obama’s Democratic Party, was meeting constituents at a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona, when the assailant unleashed a volley of automatic fire. A nine-year-old girl and a US federal judge were among those killed, and 12 others were wounded.

Obama called the attack a “tragedy for our entire country.” The US House of Representatives, which opened under new Republican leadership just three days earlier, called off proceedings for this week.

Bystanders tackled the gunman, identified as 22-year-old local resident Jared Lee Loughner. News reports said he had filled the Internet with angry and largely incoherent condemnations of the government, while the army said he had tried to enlist but was rejected.

A Loughner profile posted on YouTube listed Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ The Communist Manifesto and Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf among his favorite books.

“There’s some reason to believe that he came to this location with another individual,” Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik told reporters, saying the gunman “has kind of a troubled past, and we’re not convinced that he acted alone.”

Doctors said a bullet passed through Giffords’ brain. Despite initial media reports she had died, local television networks said late on Saturday she was awake in her hospital bed and recognized her husband, NASA astronaut Mark Kelly.

“She is in critical condition [but] I’m optimistic about recovery,” University Medical Center trauma chief Peter Rhee said. “We cannot tell what kind of recovery, but I’m about as optimistic as you can get.”

At a later briefing, however, Giffords family friend and former US surgeon-general Richard Carmona was more cautious, saying: “With guarded optimism, I hope that she will survive, but this is a very devastating wound.”

Giffords was hosting an event dubbed “Congress on Your Corner” at a Safeway supermarket in a strip mall off a major intersection in Tucson, a city of rolling desert and cactus trees in the fast-growing southwestern state.

Giffords, like most rank-and-file US legislators, traveled without any security detail, according to witnesses.

The incident came amid heightened security after packages ignited in a post office in Washington on Friday and two government buildings in neighboring Maryland on Thursday.

Dupnik noted two incidents involving Giffords during the recent election campaign — one when at a meeting “someone in the audience dropped a gun out of their pants,” while in another windows were broken at her offices.

Denouncing “vitriol” notably by some media outlets, he added that a suspicious package had been found at her headquarters since the shooting, which was being investigated.

Giffords, the first Jewish woman to be elected to US Congress from Arizona, barely survived a bruising re-election bid last year to a Republican rival from the right-wing “Tea Party” movement.

Giffords is a centrist and a member of the so-called Blue Dog Coalition of Democrats who support fiscal conservative, pro-business policies.

Obama condemned the attack as an “unspeakable tragedy” adding: “Such a senseless and terrible act of violence has no place in a free society.”

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