While details are trickling in, what we do know is that earlier today, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and ll others were shot by one or more assailants at a town hall-style meeting in the parking lot of a Safeway supermarket, in Tuscon, Arizona. So far, reports indicate that five of the injured have died. The condition of Rep. Giffords is unknown, but each of the surviving victims is in critical condition, and are undergoing surgery. Three of the dead were Congressional aides. One of the victims is an Arizona state judge.
Giffords recently won re-election to a third term, in a very tight race against a candidate backed by the Tea Party. She has described herself as a “former Republican and Blue Dog Democrat,” but was on the receiving end of criticism for her support for the Obama Administration’s Health Care plan. The day after the vote, her office was vandalized.
A shooter is in custody, although early reports indicate that law enforcement officials are seeking an additional suspect.
Reports from news wire sources indicate the suspect in custody began shouting loudly at the rally, spraying the crowd with bullets from an “automatic weapon.” TTAG readers are aware that early reports are often inaccurate, and the mainstream media has difficulty in telling the difference between “auto” and “semi-auto” weapons. If the shootings were (as some reports indicate) were at close range, it’s far more likely that the suspect used a handgun.
UPDATE: 3:20PM CST – Among the fatalities at the rally were the Arizona state Judge and a nine-year-old girl. Rep. Giffords has emerged from surgery and is “following verbal commands” and is in the recovery room. Her prognosis is guarded but optimistic. She was shot in the head in what the surgeon called a “through and through” trajectory, at “point blank range.”
UPDATE: 3:45PM CST – Eye-witnesses say that they heard 15 to 20 shots fired. Giffords serves on the Science and Technology committee and is married to Astronaut Mark Kelly, who is scheduled to fly on a mission to the International Space Station via NASA’s space shuttle. The judge who died was a Federal judge, and not a state judge. I’m not an expert on the law, but I suspect, the fact that two Federal officials were shot will give the FBI jurisdiction over this case.
UPDATE 5:49 EST – [RF] – msnbc.com is reporting that Rep. Giffords faced threats of violence before the shooting. “Just a few hours after legislators – including Giffords – voted to approve Obama’s controversial health care bill in March 2009, the front door of Giffords’ office in Tuscon was smashed in by vandals. Last August, Giffords aides called the police after a man dropped a gun at a similar town hall style event at a Safeway . . . She was among at least 10 congressional Democrats who expressed concern about their personal security in the face of anonymous threats after voting in support of the health bill.”