This is an undated handout photo of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona Democrat. Source: Giffords for Congress via Bloomberg News
U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, was one of 18 people shot today in Tucson, six fatally, by a man who opened fire on her meeting with constituents outside of a grocery store.
Giffords survived a single gunshot to the head and underwent surgery at University Medical Center in Tucson, Dr. Peter Rhee said in a press conference. U.S. District Court Judge John Roll was among those attacked, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in an e-mailed statement.
Five people died at the scene and one died at a hospital, said Richard Kastigar, a bureau chief for the Pima County Sheriff’s Office. Alex Villec, 19-year-old volunteer for Giffords’s campaign, told reporters at the scene the unidentified shooter is a male. He was taken into custody, U.S. Capitol Police said in an e-mailed statement.
“Violence has no place in a free society,” the president said in a statement e-mailed from the White House.
Two people wrestled the gunman to the ground, Kastigar said. “Some very brave folks during this horrific event tackled the shooter and sat on him.” Kastigar said there was no known motive.
Account of Shooting
Villec was just feet away when the man opened fire, he told reporters just outside the police cordon. The man barged through a line of people waiting to meet Giffords and asked to speak with her. Villec, a sophomore at Georgetown University, said he told the man to go to the back of the group and wait his turn. He did, and then when he returned several minutes later he opened fire.
“It was clear who he was going for, he was going for the congresswoman,” Villec said. He hid behind a pillar as the shooting continued, then ran. “I’m lucky,” he said.
John McCain, the Republican Arizona senator who ran against Obama for the presidency, called the assailant “a disgrace to Arizona, this country and the human race.”
Representative Giffords, 40, was first elected in 2006 from Arizona’s 8th Congressional district, which includes a 114-mile (183-kilometer) border with Mexico. She previously served in the Arizona Legislature and was chief executive officer of her family’s tire and automotive business.
Giffords is married to Mark Kelly, a U.S. Navy pilot and NASA astronaut and is the only congresswoman with a military spouse on active duty.
Meeting With Constituents
The congresswoman was holding a “Congress On Your Corner” event at a grocery store when a gunman appeared and started shooting. Jason Pekau, a witness at the event, told CNN 15 to 20 shots were fired. Pekau, an employee at a store near the shooting, said there were two to three bodies on the ground after the shooting, CNN reported.
The attack was condemned also by the current and former speakers of the House of Representatives.
“I am horrified by the senseless attack,” House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said in a statement. “An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve.”
Boehner’s predecessor, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, said in an e-mailed statement the shooting was “a national tragedy.”
“It is especially tragic that she was attacked as she was meeting with her constituents,” said Pelosi, a Democrat from California.
-With assistance from Shobhana Chandra in Washington. Editors: Chris Thompson, Mark Rohner