Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) has been critically wounded in a fusillade of gunshots that left 11 others wounded at a Tuscon supermarket where she was holding a public event. Early reports from the scene indicate at least five people have been killed, including at least one child. Rep. Giffords is currently said to be in critical condition with a gunshot wound to the head, while surgeons race to save her life. A federal district chief judge is among the injured.
NBC News in Tuscon reports a gunman is in custody, and the FBI has taken charge of the investigation. A news conference is scheduled shortly with more details. The shooter has been described as a Caucasian male in his 20s.
Witnesses report at least fifteen to twenty gunshots, fired at close range. Giffords was reportedly hit first, after which the gunman began firing at others on the scene. Some reports suggest a bystander in the crowd returned fire at the gunman.
Giffords, 40, was conducting her first public event since re-election to a third term. She is married to astronaut Mark Kelly, who is scheduled to command the final space shuttle mission in April.
The motive for the attack is not yet known. Giffords is said to have received threatening mail on a variety of topics, ranging from gun control to border security. Her office was vandalized last March after she voted in favor of health care reform. ABC News describes her as a supporter of gun rights, who has nevertheless received “angry letters from anonymous source,s ranging about the supposed national gun registry.” A letter addressed to Giffords, along with President Obama, Senator John McCain, and Senator John Kyl accused her of having “Brian a Terry’s blood” on her hands, a reference to a Border Patrol agent killed in a shootout last month.
Further updates as more news comes out. Prayers for Representative Giffords, her family, and everyone injured in this horrible crime.
Update: Federal Judge John M. Roll, shot along with Giffords, is reported to have died from his wounds. Other reports say Roll is still alive, so we are standing by for confirmation.
Update: Early identification of the shooter says he is named Jared Loughner, 22 years old. His MySpace account has already been knocked down. His final update was reportedly entitled “Goodbye, Friends.”
Update: At a hospital news conference, doctors said they are “very optimistic” that Rep. Giffords will recover. Meanwhile, attention is turning to a YouTube page that may have been established by the shooter. A video that begins by identifying its author as “Jared Lee Loughner,” posted on December 15, displays a text-only rant about “currency” and illiteracy. ending with assurances that “in a few days, you’ll know I’m conscience dreaming!”
Update: Sadly, confirmation has been received that Judge Roll perished from his wounds. The death of a nine-year-old girl has also been confirmed.
Update: His YouTube profile says Loughner’s favorite books include The Communist Manfiesto and Mein Kampf. He appears to have been obsessed with government “mind control” through grammar. It should be noted his own writing was atrocious, as you can see if you follow the YouTube link above.
Update: Reuters says official death toll from the shooting is “at least six.”
Many thanks to Marge Cooke for assisting with the preparation of this post and updates.