2011 Tucson shooting

2011 Tucson shooting

First responders at the crime scene outside the Casas Adobes Safeway

Location of the shooting
Location Casas Adobes, Arizona (part of Tucson metro area)
Coordinates 32°20′9.5″N 110°58′30.5″W / 32.335972°N 110.975139°W / 32.335972; -110.975139Coordinates: 32°20′9.5″N 110°58′30.5″W / 32.335972°N 110.975139°W / 32.335972; -110.975139
Date Saturday, January 8, 2011
10:10 am MST[1] (UTC-7)
Target US Representative Gabrielle Giffords
Attack type shooting
Weapon(s) 9mm Glock model 19 pistol
Death(s) 6[2]
Injured 14 (13 by gunfire)[3]
Suspected perpetrator Jared Lee Loughner[4]

On January 8, 2011, a mass shooting occurred near Tucson, Arizona. Nineteen people were shot, six of them fatally, with one other person injured at the scene[3][5] during an open meeting that U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords was holding with members of her constituency in a Casas Adobes Safeway supermarket parking lot.[6][7] Those killed in the incident include United States District Court for the District of Arizona Chief Judge John Roll and one of Rep. Giffords's staffers.[2][6][7][8] News reports identified the target of the attack as Giffords, a Democrat representing Arizona's 8th congressional district.[6] She was shot through the head[5] at point-blank range,[9] and her medical condition was initially described as "critical".[6][7]

A 22-year-old Tucson man, Jared Lee Loughner, was arrested at the scene.[4] Federal prosecutors have filed five charges against him, including the attempted assassination of a member of Congress, and the assassination of a federal judge; both of which carry the death penalty.[8][10][11] Court filings include notes allegedly handwritten by Loughner indicating he planned to assassinate Giffords.[10] The motive for the shooting remains unclear, as the suspect refused to cooperate with authorities and has invoked his right to remain silent.[7] Loughner was found by a judge to be incompetent to stand trial based on two medical evaluations.[12]



Roadside sign for the "Congress on Your Corner" constituent meeting.

The shooting took place on January 8, 2011, at 10:10 am MST (UTC-7).[1][13] A United States Representative from Arizona, Gabrielle Giffords, was holding a constituent meeting called "Congress on Your Corner"[11][14] at the Safeway supermarket in La Toscana Village mall, which is in Casas Adobes, an unincorporated area north of Tucson, Arizona.[15] Giffords had set up a table outside the store and about 20 to 30 people were gathered around her when the gunman drew a pistol and shot Giffords in the head.[16][17][18] The shooting was caught on video by a store security camera.[13][19]

He then allegedly proceeded to fire apparently randomly at other members of the crowd.[2][20] The weapon used was reported to be a 9mm Glock 19 semi-automatic pistol with a 33-round magazine.[21][22] A nearby store employee said he heard "15 to 20 gunshots".[23] After the gunman ran out of ammunition in the first magazine, he stopped to reload, but dropped the loaded magazine from his pocket to the sidewalk, from where bystander Patricia Maisch grabbed it.[24] A bystander clubbed the back of the assailant's head with a folding chair in the process injuring his elbow and representing the 20th injury.[25] The gunman was then tackled to the ground by 74-year-old retired US Army Colonel Bill Badger,[26] who himself had been shot, and was further subdued by Maisch and bystanders Roger Sulzgeber and Joseph Zamudio.[27]

The first call from the scene to emergency services was received at 10:11 am.[1] While waiting for help to arrive, Giffords' intern Daniel Hernández, Jr. applied pressure to the gunshot wound on her forehead, and made sure she did not choke on her blood. Hernández was credited with saving Giffords' life.[28][29][30] David and Nancy Bowman, a married doctor and nurse who were shopping in the store, immediately set up triage and attended to nine-year-old Christina-Taylor Green.[31] Police arrived on the scene at 10:15 am, with paramedics arriving at 10:16 am.[32] Badger observed the assailant attempting to discard a small bag containing money and identification, which was recovered by the officers.[33]

Five people died at the scene,[34] including Chief Judge John Roll and Giffords' community outreach director Gabe Zimmerman.[2][8] Most of the injured were taken to University Medical Center in Tucson.[35] Christina-Taylor Green was later pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.[7][36]

image of La Toscana Village mall, where the shooting occurred
La Toscana Village mall. The attack occurred near the Safeway main entrance, which is below the gable-end.[37]

Target of the attack

U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona 8)

Gabrielle Giffords was reported to be the target of the shootings.[6] Some news organizations initially reported that she had been killed, but these statements were quickly revised to reflect that she had survived with a gunshot wound to the head.[38][39] Daniel Hernandez Jr. an intern to U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords assisted Giffords after she was wounded and is credited with saving her life.[40][41][42] Giffords was taken to University Medical Center in critical condition,[2][43] though she was still conscious. Within 38 minutes,[44] Giffords underwent emergency surgery,[45] and part of her skull was removed to prevent further brain damage caused by swelling.[44] She was placed into a medically-induced coma to allow her brain to rest.[46] During a memorial ceremony on January 12, President Barack Obama announced that earlier that day Giffords had opened her eyes for the first time since the attack.[47]

As Giffords' status improved, she began simple physical therapy.[48] On January 21, less than two weeks after the attack, her condition was deemed sufficiently stable for her to be released to Houston's Memorial Hermann Medical Center. A few days later she was moved to the center's Institute for Rehabilitation and Research to undergo a program of physical therapy and rehabilitation.[49][50] After examination, her Houston doctors were optimistic, saying she has "great rehabilitation potential".[51] Medical experts expect Giffords' recovery to take from several months to more than one year.[52]

On August 1, she made her first public appearance on the House floor to vote in favor of raising the debt limit ceiling. She was met with a standing ovation and accolades from her fellow members of Congress.[53] Giffords engaged in intensive rehabilitation treatments in Asheville, North Carolina from October 25 through November 4.[54] In Kelly's memoir, Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope, released in November 2011, he reports that Giffords vows to return to Congress, although she continues to struggle with language and has lost 50 percent of her vision in both eyes.[55]


Police investigate the crime scene, seen here around two hours after the attack

The suspect, described as a white male in his mid-20s with short hair and "dressed in a shabby manner", was arrested after being detained by bystanders.[6][56][57][58]

Police identified the suspect as Jared Lee Loughner, born on September 10, 1988.[56] The FBI attempted to question the suspect, but he reportedly refused to cooperate with authorities and invoked his Fifth Amendment right.[6][7][59] Authorities have said the alleged shooter's motivation was unknown.[7] However, evidence seized from a safe in the suspect's home included an envelope marked with notes reading "I planned ahead", "My assassination", and "Giffords", as well as a letter from Giffords's office thanking him for attending a similar event in 2007.[10][60]

Federal officials charged Loughner on the next day with killing federal government employees, attempting to assassinate a member of Congress and attempting to kill federal employees.[61][62][63]

As the shooting occurred outside the Tucson city limits in unincorporated Casas Adobes, the Pima County Sheriff's Department started the initial investigation with assistance from the Tucson Police Department and the Arizona Department of Public Safety.[64] Federal Bureau of Investigation director Robert Mueller was ordered to the location by President Obama, and the FBI is ready to take over the investigation.[65] The United States Capitol Police are also conducting an investigation.[6]


Photograph of Loughner taken by U.S. Marshals

Jared Lee Loughner, the primary suspect, was 22 years old and lived with his parents in Tucson, about 5 miles (8.0 km) from the site of the shooting.[56][66] Caiti Parker, who claimed she knew the suspect in high school four years earlier, described him as a politically radical loner.[67]

Little was initially known about the suspect,[4][68] but his online presence was soon discovered, as he had accounts on both Myspace and YouTube. His Myspace profile included a pistol on a photograph of an American history textbook. Hours before the incident, Loughner's Myspace page was updated with posts from his account stating, "Goodbye," and said to friends: "Please don't be mad at me."[66][69][70][71][72] Long before the shooting, Loughner had posted numerous text and videos on the Internet.[66] He briefly discussed terrorism saying[66] "If I define terrorist then a terrorist is a person who employs terror or terrorism, especially as a political weapon. I define terrorist ... If you call me a terrorist then the argument to call me a terrorist is ad hominem. You call me a terrorist."

A YouTube channel under an account called "Classitup10" was attributed to Loughner.[73][74][75] The profile of this account stated among other things that some of the subject's favorite books were Mein Kampf, The Communist Manifesto, Animal Farm, Plato's Republic, and We the Living; one video told viewers that they "don't have to accept the federalist laws", called for a return to the gold standard, and accused the government of mind-controlling and brainwashing the citizenry with language.[66][67][75][76] The YouTube profile also listed works such as The Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, Gulliver's Travels, and Through the Looking-Glass.[72] Sheriff Clarence Dupnik stated that there was no evidence that the shooting was a result of anything in particular that Loughner might have read or heard.[77]

Loughner attended Pima Community College until school authorities suspended him after receiving complaints of his inappropriate behavior in class.[66][78] He had also posted a video on YouTube on September 23, 2010, in which he described the college as "one of the biggest scams in America".[79] Loughner chose to drop out in October 2010, rather than having the mental health evaluation and clearance which would have been required for him to re-enroll.[66][78] The question of whether Loughner could have been forced to undergo a mental health evaluation is a matter of controversy.[80]

According to court records, Loughner had two previous offenses, one of which was for drug possession.[67] U.S. Army officials said that Loughner had attempted to enlist, but his application had been rejected as "unqualified" for service in 2008.[78] They declined further disclosure due to confidentiality rules,[56][66][81] although an administration official indicated to the media that this was due to a failed drug test.[82]

Bryce Tierney, a friend of Loughner, received a voice message from Loughner eight hours before the shooting. Tierney stated that Loughner held a grudge against Giffords for failing to answer a question sufficiently, in his view.[83] Loughner previously met Giffords at a "Congress on your Corner" event in a Tucson mall on August 25, 2007, where he asked the congresswoman, "How do you know words mean anything?"[84]

Pima County Registrar of Voters records show that Loughner registered as an independent on September 29, 2006, and voted in 2006 and 2008 but not in 2010.[85][86]

Police reports reveal he had purchased a Glock pistol at a Sportsman's Warehouse store less than six weeks before and attempted to buy additional ammunition for the pistol at a Walmart on the morning of the shooting.[87] News reports indicate that the clerk at the first Walmart where Loughner attempted to buy the ammunition may have refused to sell it to him based on his appearance and demeanor.[88][89] Walmart declined requests to confirm or deny the incident.[90]

Earlier on the day of the shooting, Loughner is reported to have had an altercation with his father, who had watched his son take a black bag from a car trunk. After being confronted about the bag, Loughner mumbled and ran away, resulting in his father chasing him in a car.[91] A bag matching the description was later found in a nearby desert area containing 9mm ammunition, and according to a Pima County Sheriff's Deputy it is believed to belong to Loughner.[92] Later that morning, at approximately 7:30 am, Loughner was stopped by an Arizona Game and Fish Department officer after running a red light, but was released with a warning after it was determined that there were no outstanding warrants against him.[91]

Legal proceedings

Federal Correctional Institution, Phoenix, where Loughner is being held.[93]

Loughner is being held in the Federal Correctional Institution at Phoenix without bail.[93][94]

All federal judges based in Arizona recused themselves from the case[95] because of their ties to Judge Roll, who was killed in the attack.[96] The federal case will be heard by a San Diego-based jurist, Judge Larry Burns from the United States District Court for the Southern District of California.[97] Public defender Judy Clarke (also based in San Diego) was appointed to represent Loughner in federal court.[98][99][100]

On January 19, 2011, a federal grand jury handed down an indictment for three counts against Jared Lee Loughner for the attempt to assassinate Representative Giffords, and attempting to kill two federal employees, Ron Barber and Pamela Simon.[101] Loughner was indicted on additional charges of murder and attempted murder on March 3, for a total of 49 counts against him.[102] Prosecutors representing the State of Arizona announced they intend to file murder and attempted murder charges on behalf of the victims who were not federal employees. Under Arizona's speedy trial statutes, Arizona state prosecutors normally have ten days from the time a suspect is taken into custody to file charges, but time spent in federal custody does not count toward this limitation.[103] On May 25, 2011, Loughner was found by a judge to be incompetent to stand trial based on two medical evaluations.[12]

If convicted in either federal or state court, Loughner could face the death penalty. The United States federal laws governing defendants with mental diseases or defects were reviewed and resulted in the Insanity Defense Reform Act of 1984, after John Hinckley, Jr. was acquitted by a court over the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan in March 1981.[104] Arizona law does not permit a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity, but does allow for a verdict of guilty but insane.[105]


Chief Judge John Roll
Chief Judge John Roll
Gabe Zimmerman
Gabe Zimmerman

Six people were killed in the attack;[106] all but Christina-Taylor Green died at the scene of the shooting.[107] The deceased are (in alphabetical order by surname):

  1. Christina-Taylor Green, 9, of Tucson.[108] Green was accompanied to the meeting by neighbor Susan Hileman.[36][109] Because her date of birth was September 11, 2001, she had appeared in the book Faces of Hope: Babies Born on 9/11 (page 41).[110][111][112] She was the granddaughter of former Major League Baseball player and manager Dallas Green.[111][113]
  2. Dorothy "Dot" Morris, 76, a retired secretary from Oro Valley; wife of George, who was wounded.[106][114]
  3. John Roll, 63, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for Arizona, named to the federal bench by President George H. W. Bush in 1991.[36][115][116][117]
  4. Phyllis Schneck, 79, homemaker from Tucson.[106][118]
  5. Dorwan Stoddard, 76, retired construction worker, died from a gunshot wound to the head; his wife Mavy was wounded.[106][119]
  6. Gabriel "Gabe" Zimmerman, 30, community outreach director for Giffords,[6][36] and a member of Giffords' staff since 2006. Mr. Zimmerman was the first Congressional staffer killed in the line of duty.[120]

Thirteen people were wounded in the attack; a fourteenth person was injured at the scene, but was determined not to have been shot. Gabrielle Giffords and two other members of her staff were among the surviving gunshot victims.[3]

Aftermath and reactions


Following the shooting, the roads surrounding the shopping center were shut down until late in the day. The intersection was cordoned off and most of the businesses in the shopping center were closed throughout the weekend during the initial investigation.[121] The Safeway store reopened a week later, with a makeshift memorial erected near the front of the store.[122]

Loughner's family

On the day of the attack Loughner's parents arrived at their home after a shopping trip, unaware of the shootings, to find police tape and police cars around their house. Neighbor Wayne Smith told them what happened. Smith said Loughner's mother "almost passed out right there," while his father sat in the road and cried. Smith described the family as "devastated", feeling guilty, and wondering "where did they fail?"[123] Loughner's parents released a statement on January 11, 2011, expressing remorse for the victims and saying "We don't understand why this happened."[124]

Political figures

Memorial at site of shooting

President Obama called the shooting an "unspeakable tragedy", adding that "such a senseless and terrible act of violence has no place in a free society".[125] Arizona Governor Jan Brewer called the attack "senseless and cruel violence"[126] and House Speaker John Boehner said, "An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve. Acts and threats of violence against public officials have no place in our society".[127] Chief Justice John Roberts issued a statement noting, "we in the judiciary have suffered the terrible loss of one of our own", with the death of Chief Judge John Roll.[128]

Arizona's United States Senators Jon Kyl[129] and John McCain,[130] House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi[131] and many others issued statements.

Numerous foreign politicians commented on the shooting including Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon,[132] British Prime Minister David Cameron,[131] Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero,[133] and Cuba's Fidel Castro.[134]

Senator Chuck Schumer called for a fresh look at gun control laws in the United States, including the possibility of prohibiting the sale of high capacity magazines, and prohibiting a person who has been rejected for military service due to drug use from owning a gun.[135] Homeland Security Committee chairman Peter T. King announced that he would introduce a bill to ban the carrying of firearms within 1,000 feet (300 m) of certain federal officials.[136] Representative Carolyn McCarthy announced that she would introduce legislation to ban the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines to civilians.[137]

On the night of January 11, Governor Brewer signed emergency legislation to prohibit protests within 300 feet (91 m) of any funeral services, in response to an announcement by the Westboro Baptist Church that it planned to picket the funeral of shooting victim Christina-Taylor Green.[138][139]

In light of the Tucson shooting, Senator Mark Udall of Colorado proposed that members of both houses sit together during the 2011 State of the Union Address regardless of party, breaking with tradition.[140] Sixty members of the House and Senate signaled their support for the plan.[141] One seat was left empty in honor of Representative Giffords.


U.S. flags flown by the federal government were displayed at half-staff from January 9, 2011 until sunset on January 15, 2011 in honor of the victims of the Tucson shooting.[142] A national moment of silence was held at 11:00 am EST on January 10, 2011 on the South Lawn of the White House as well as the steps of the United States Capitol.[143]

President Obama went to Tucson on January 12 where he met with the families of the victims and visited Giffords at her bedside in the medical center before attending the evening's televised memorial ceremony where he delivered a condolence address.[47][144] Obama spoke of Giffords' improving condition, recalled and praised the victims of the attack, and held up Christina-Taylor Green and her interest in civics and leadership as examples for how American politics should function.[144] "I want us to live up to her expectations," stated Obama. "I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it. All of us—we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations."[145] Obama's speech was widely praised across the American political spectrum,[146] but a few critics felt that applause and cheering from the audience created an inappropriate pep rally-like atmosphere at the service.[147]

The 2011 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, played at Chase Field in Phoenix, was dedicated to the Tucson shooting victims. Daniel Hernandez, credited with saving Giffords' life, threw out the ceremonial first pitch to National League starting catcher Brian McCann. Hernandez was accompanied to the field by the families of the shooting victims.

Speculation on causation

In the wake of the shooting, Democrats and Republicans both called for a cooling of political rhetoric and a return to bipartisanship.[148] On the eve of the shooting, Giffords herself had written to a Republican friend, Trey Grayson, Secretary of State of Kentucky, saying, "we need to figure out how to tone our rhetoric and partisanship down."[149] In March 2010, Giffords had expressed concern about the use of crosshairs on a national midterm election map on Sarah Palin's campaign webpage denoting targeted congressional seats including Giffords's, in Arizona's 8th district. Shortly after the map's posting and the subsequent vandalizing of her office that month, Giffords said, "We're in Sarah Palin's 'targeted' list, but the thing is that the way she has it depicted, we're in the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they've got to realize that there are consequences to that action."[20][150] The image was removed from Palin's "takebackthe20" website following the January shootings.[150][151][152]

The political climate in the United States and in Arizona in particular was pointed to by some observers as a possible contributing factor for the violent act. For example, Clarence Dupnik, Pima County Sheriff, initially expressed concern that overheated political rhetoric and violence may be related, observing, "When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous." He felt that Arizona had unfortunately become "the capital" of such feelings. "We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry," he said.[153][154] However, Dupnik later said that he had no evidence that the alleged murders were a result of anything particular Loughner may have read or heard.[155] International media had referred to the political climate in the United States and the Palin map in particular.[156][157][158][159][160] The French newspaper Le Monde said that the attack seemed to confirm "an alarming premonition that has been gaining momentum for a long time: that the verbal and symbolic violence that the most radical right-wing opponents have used in their clash with the Obama administration would at some point lead to tragic physical violence."[161] In the Netherlands, historian Maarten van Rossem mentioned that "a strong political polarization in the United States has led to a poisoned political climate".[162]

Some media commentators, such as Howard Kurtz and Toby Harnden, criticized what they perceived as a rush to judgment about the shooter's motivation, disputing suggestions that the shooting was the result of the Tea Party movement or anything in connection to Palin.[163][164][165][166] Paul Krugman wrote an op-ed piece arguing that political rhetoric had become toxic.[167] With renewed calls to tone down political rhetoric after the shooting,[168][169][170] Keith Olbermann apologized for any of his own words that might have incited violence saying, "Violence, or the threat of violence, has no place in our Democracy, and I apologize for and repudiate any act or any thing in my past that may have even inadvertently encouraged violence."[168] Jon Stewart stated that he did not know whether or not the political environment contributed to the shooting, but, "For all the hyperbole and vitriol that's become a part of our political process—when the reality of that rhetoric, when actions match the disturbing nature of words, we haven't lost our capacity to be horrified. ... Maybe it helps us to remember to match our rhetoric with reality more often."[170]

Palin responded to her critics in a January 12 video, rejecting the notion that anyone other than the actual gunman could bear any responsibility for the Tucson shooting and accusing the press of manufacturing a "blood libel" to blame her and the right wing for the attacks.[171][172][173]

On Sunday, January 16, eight days after the shooting, Vietnam War veteran James Eric Fuller, who had been shot in the knee during the Loughner attack, was arrested for disorderly conduct at a town hall meeting. After Tucson Tea Party figure Trent Humphries, who had faulted Giffords for not having enough security, stated that gun control measures should not be discussed until all those killed in the shooting were buried, Fuller allegedly took a picture of Humphries and shouted, "You're dead." In an interview during the week after the shooting, Fuller had criticized Palin and what he called the "Tea Party crime-syndicate" for promoting a divisive political climate before the attacks.[14] The police then committed him to an undisclosed medical facility to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. A police spokesman stated that the hospital will determine when he will be released.[174] Meanwhile Humphries said that he was worried about Fuller's threat, and the dozens of other angry e-mails he received from people blaming right-wing political rhetoric for contributing to the assassination attempt on Giffords.[175]

See also

  • List of United States federal judges killed in office
  • United States Congress members killed or wounded in office
  • List of massacres in Arizona


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