Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was Targeted for Assassination by Jared Lee Loughner






"Her father, Spencer Giffords, 75, wept when asked if his daughter had any enemies. "Yeah," he told The New York Post. "The whole Tea Party."

Mrs Palin issued a brief statement on the shooting. "My sincere condolences are offered to the family of Rep Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of today's tragic shooting in Arizona," she said."

US Politics

American congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords fights for life after being shot in head
Gabrielle Giffords, a Democratic Congresswoman, was fighting for her life after being shot in the head by a gunman who opened fire on a public meeting in Tucson, Arizona, killing six people.

By Philip Sherwell, in New York
09 Jan 2011
The Telegraph

The dead included a nine-year-old girl, a Giffords aide and a federal district judge whose life had previously been threatened over a contentious illegal immigration lawsuit that he was hearing. A further 12 people were injured in the rampage.

Miss Giffords, 40, who is married to an astronaut, survived the murderous shooting spree, despite being shot at point blank range by a single bullet that passed through her brain and out of her head.

President Barack Obama said she was "battling for her life". Initial reports listed the congresswoman among those killed, but doctors later said they were "optimistic" after emergency surgery.

"We cannot tell what kind of recovery but I'm about as optimistic as it can get in this situation," said Dr Peter Rhee, trauma surgeon a Tucson University Medical Centre.

The suspected gunman, identified by law enforcement officials as Jared Loughner, 22, also from Tucson, was in custody after being tackled by bystanders as he tried to flee the scene.

The attack immediately focused attention on the shrill political climate in the US. Miss Giffords had narrowly beaten off tough challenge in November's congressional elections by a Tea Party-backed Republican candidate, she had previously received death threats and her offices had been shot at.

But federal investigators were also studying bizarre and rambling video and social networking postings by someone in the name of Jared Loughner in whcih he apparently railed against the US government.

Another chilling twist was the presence of John Roll, a district judge, among the dead. He and his family were given protection in 2009 after he ruled that a lawsuit by illegal immigrants could proceed – a decision that was denounced on conservative talk show radio and brought an estimated 200 death threats.

The shooting took place in a car park outside a Safeway grocery store in a Tucson shopping mall as Miss Giffords was talking to an elderly couple at a "Congress on your Corner" event which she had advertised an hour previously on her Twitter account.

Andrea Gooden, an eyewitness who was working across the road from the shooting, said: "I heard about 15 shots. Then there were people racing across the parking lot."

Steven Rayle, who was on the scene at the time of the shooting and helped to hold the suspect down while waiting for police, told the Gawker website: "The event was very informal. Giffords had set up a table outside the Safeway and about 20 to 30 people were gathered to talk to her. The gunman, who may have come from inside the Safeway, walked up and shot Giffords in the head first."

Alex Villec, 19, a campaign volunteer, was organising the line of constituents when the shooter first approached.

The gunman "said, 'Can I talk to the congresswoman?', or something to that effect," said Mr Villec, who told him to join the queue.
A few minutes later, the man left the back of the line and walked toward Miss Giffords amid a group of 20 to 25 constituents, employees and volunteers.

"He was intent when he came back - a pretty stone-cold glance and glare," Mr Villec said. "I didn't see his gun, but it was clear who he was going for. He was going for the congresswoman.

"A few staff members were caught in the crossfire... His goal was the congresswoman."

Mr Villec saw him raise his hand and heard gun shots before ducking behind a pillar and later running across the car park to a bank for safety. "It was bedlam," he said. "People were getting down on the ground. They were screaming. I just did what I could to keep myself protected."

Dr Steven Aryle, a hospice doctor, was among those waiting to meet Miss Giffords when he saw a man about two feet from her side shoot her in the head, without saying a word.

He said he heard another 15 to 20 rounds. He helped hold the suspect down after other witnesses tackled and disarmed him.
"It was surreal. Gunshots sound less real in person," he said. "I thought someone was staging a protest. It just didn't feel real."

Miss Giffords' husband Mark Kelly was on Saturday night flying to Tucson, with his daughter by a previous marriage. A veteran of three space flights and a highly popular member of Nasa's astronaut corps, he had been due to command the last scheduled flight of the space shuttle programme in April. His twin brother, Scott, is also a Nasa astronaut, currently in orbit in the International Space Station.

Miss Giffords had been named as a political campaign objective for conservatives in November's elections by Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor, because of her strong support for the health reforms of President Barack Obama.

The Congresswoman, who is Jewish, is a gun-owner and supporter of the right to bear arms. She was also a strong advocate of abortion rights.
Mrs Palin published a "target map" on her website using images of gun sights to identify 20 Democrats, including Miss Giffords. But she nonetheless fought off a tough challenge from her Tea Party-backed Republican opponent to win re-election to her third term in Congress.

Her father, Spencer Giffords, 75, wept when asked if his daughter had any enemies. "Yeah," he told The New York Post. "The whole Tea Party."
Mrs Palin issued a brief statement on the shooting. "My sincere condolences are offered to the family of Rep Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of today's tragic shooting in Arizona," she said.

"On behalf of Todd [her husband] and my family, we all pray for the victims and their families, and for peace and justice."
President Obama said the attack was "an unspeakable tragedy" and added: "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."
The newly-elected Republican House Speaker, John 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."

Miss Giffords had just returned from Washington to Arizona after being sworn in to the new House. She had sent a message on the social networking site Twitter inviting constituent to the "Congress on Your Corner" event.

"Please stop by to let me know what is on your mind or tweet me later," she wrote. In a message earlier in the day, she said: "So good to be home. Happy New Year!"

Miss Giffords had previously complained of an attack by vandals on her Tucson office, and told friends she had been threatened.

The Washington Post said it was not the first time someone brought a gun to a Giffords event. A protester in August took a gun to a "Congress on Your Corner" event in Douglas, Arizona. Police were alerted after he dropped the firearm, the newspaper said

Arizona has been at the forefront of sharp and often ugly political conflicts over immigration and the role of government in the US. Rocks were thrown through the windows of Miss Gifford's constituency offices in Tucson last year.

Jan Brewer, the state's Republican governor, introduced a controversial law in the summer allowing police to question people if they suspected they were illegal immigrants. The new legislation prompted nationwide demonstrations by pro- and anti-immigrant groups.
JD Hayworth, a conservative former Republican Arizona congressman, said that members of Congress and other politicians in the state have been shying away from large town hall-style meetings for security reasons.

He said that Miss Giffords was taking part in what has become more of the "norm", events with smaller groups of voters, rather than large crowds that could turn rowdy or worse. Yet it was just this setting that exposed her and her aides to another danger as the lone gunman struck.
Mr Hayworth said the last campaign was a "very contentious one. But that was true for all of us in all directions." He added: "She is a very impressive person. And we're all praying for her."

Miss Giffords was a well-known local figure who had previously served in the Arizona state legislature and was often seen in her district riding her Harley Davidson motorcycle.

She was born in Tucson and graduated from Cornell University in 1996 with a master's degree in regional planning. Before entering politics, she ran her family's tire and automotive business in Tucson.

It is believed to be the first time that a woman politician has been the object of an assassination attempt in America, a country where elected leaders have often been the subject of attacks.