Guest Author - Donna Johnson
Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords held a public meeting on January 8, 2011 at a Tucson, AZ Safeway grocery store. This meeting, called “Congress on Your Corner,” was scheduled to allow residents in Giffords’ Congressional district to meet with her and present their questions to her.
During the meeting, a man later identified as 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner approached the small crowd around Giffords and opened fire. Witnesses reported hearing as many as 20 shots before several bystanders, including retired Army Colonel Bill Badger, age 74, wrestled Loughner to the ground and disarmed him.
Police and emergency medical personnel arrived at the scene to find 19 people had been wounded, including Giffords, who had been shot in the head. Of these, five people-Dorthy Murray and Dorwin Stoddard, both 76 years old; Phyllis Scheck, age 79; Judge John Roll, 63 and Giffords’ Community Outreach director, Gabriel Zimmerman, 30-died at the scene. A sixth and final fatality came later, when 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
Her intern, Daniel Hernandez, Jr., immediately attended to Giffords after the shooting. Despite her grave injury and early reports to the contrary, she would survive her wound, with the actions of Hernandez likely making her survival possible.
Initial reports indicated that police were searching for a second shooter, a white male in his 50s. However, authorities soon clarified that Loughner was the only gunman involved. They further reported that Giffords was the target of the attack, as confirmed by evidence gathered at his home. Witnesses also reported that Loughner shot Giffords first, deliberately, before opening fire on the others in what seemed to be a random fashion.
On March 3, 2011, Loughner was indicted on 49 criminal counts, including murder and attempted murder. However, he was ruled incompetent to stand trial for these charges on May 25, 2011. Under Arizona law, if Loughner does eventually stand trial, he cannot plead “not guilty by reason of insanity,” but he may plead “guilty but insane.” Loughner was remanded to a federal facility in Missouri for treatment of his condition, with the goal of making it possible to try him for the offenses in the future.
As of June 2011, Giffords has undergone several medical procedures, including surgery, being placed in a medically induced coma and rehabilitative therapy. The first pictures of the Congresswoman after the shooting, showing her with short, dark hair, were released on June 12, 2011. Giffords’ staff has commented that she still has difficulty in communicating verbally and is not ready to return to office. The decision of whether she will run for re-election must be made by May 2012, the deadline for candidates to file.
Although Giffords' rehab continued to progress well, in January 2012 she made the decision to not only refrain from seeking re-election, but to step down before completing her term.