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Pressroom

January 10, 2011

Accused gunman faces federal charges

TUCSON, ARIZ. — Federal prosecutors brought charges Sunday against the gunman accused of attempting to assassinate Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killing six people at a political event in Arizona.

Investigators said they carried out a search warrant at Jared Loughner's home and seized an envelope from a safe with messages such as "I planned ahead," "My assassination" and the name "Giffords" next to what appears to be the man's signature. He allegedly purchased the Glock pistol used in the attack in November at Sportsman's Warehouse in Tucson.

Court documents also show that Loughner had contact with Giffords in the past. Other evidence included a letter addressed to him on Giffords' congressional stationery in which she thanked him for attending a "Congress on your Corner" event at a mall in Tucson in 2007.

Heather Williams, the first assistant federal public defender in Arizona, says the 22-year-old suspect doesn't yet have a lawyer, but that her office is working to get one appointed. Williams' office is asking for an outside attorney because one of those killed was U.S. District Judge John Roll.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said Sunday that Loughner acted alone.

Meanwhile, authorities released 911 calls in which a person witnessing the mass shooting outside a grocery store in Tucson describes a frantic scene and says, "I do believe Gabby Giffords was hit."

Loughner fired at Giffords' district director and shot indiscriminately at staffers and others standing in line to talk to the congresswoman, said Mark Kimble, a communications staffer for Giffords.

"He was not more than three or four feet from the congresswoman and the district director," Kimble said, describing the scene as "just complete chaos, people screaming, crying."

Loughner is accused of killing six people, including an aide to Giffords and a 9-year-old girl who was born on Sept. 11, 2001. Fourteen others were wounded. Authorities don't know Loughner's motive, but said he targeted Giffords at a public gathering around 10 a.m. Saturday.

Doctors treating the lawmaker provided an optimistic update about her chances for survival, saying they are "very, very encouraged" by her ability to respond to simple commands along with their success in controlling her bleeding.

Larry Rowlett, a former Secret Service agent with 35 years of security experience, said members of congress and other public figures should evaluate security measures.

"In those types of instances, when they are in the public, it wouldn't hurt to have a security advance team," said Rowlett, who is now president and CEO of Mississippi-based Presidential Security & Training Services.

He said the team would have investigated all threats before the event to assess the level of security needed at the venue.

Rowlett said if Saturday's event was for the president or a presidential contender, a security agent would have been standing in front of where the speaker was.

"The agent would have advanced toward the person firing the shots," said Rowlett, who noted that may have prevented some people from being shot.

Mourners crammed into the tiny sanctuary of Giffords' synagogue in Tucson on Sunday to pray that she quickly recovers. Outside the hospital, candles flickered at a makeshift memorial. Signs read "Peace + love are stronger," "God bless America and "We love you, Gabrielle." People also laid down bouquets of flowers, American flags and pictures of Giffords.

The fact that Christina's life ended in tragedy was especially tragic to those who knew her. "Tragedy seems to have happened again," said the author of the book Faces of Hope, Babies Born on 9/11, Christine Naman. "In the form of this awful event."

Authorities said the dead included Roll; Christina Taylor Green; Giffords aide Gabe Zimmerman, 30; Dorothy Morris, 76; Dorwin Stoddard, 76; and Phyllis Schneck, 79. Judge Roll had just stopped by to see his friend Giffords after attending Mass.

An unidentified man who authorities earlier said might have acted as an accomplice was cleared Sunday of any involvement. Pima County sheriff's deputy Jason Ogan told The Associated Press on Sunday that the man was a cab driver who drove the gunman to the grocery store outside of which the shooting occurred.

Neighbors in Loughner's neighborhood said Loughner lived with his parents and kept to himself. He was often seen walking his dog, almost always wearing a hooded sweat shirt and listening to his iPod.

The sheriff said the rampage ended only after two people tackled the gunman. A third person intervened and tried to pull a clip away from Loughner as he attempted to reload, the sheriff said.

"He was definitely on a mission," according to event volunteer Alex Villec, former Giffords intern.


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