U.S. Rep. Gabrielle "Gabby" Giffords (D-AZ) was shot in the head outside a grocery store in Tucson while holding a public event Saturday morning. Numerous national news outlets reported earlier she had died, but a doctor said during a press conference Saturday afternoon that she is alive and he expects her to live after undergoing surgery. The most updated reports from the Associated Press say 13 people were injured, while 6 additional people have died, including a 9-year-old girl and a federal judge.
"I'm very optimistic about her recovery." Dr. Peter Rhee said at an afternoon news conference at University Medical Center in Tucson. "She was shot one time in the head through and through,"
According to the Arizona Republic, the bullet entered one side of her head and exited the other after passing through her brain, Rhee said.
(Video from the scene)
The Hill reports the shooting happened around 10 a.m. local time as Giffords was speaking at an event called "Congress on Your Corner" at a Safeway grocery store in northwest Tucson.
A gunman reportedly ran up and started firing at Giffords as she was talking to constituents, reportedly shooting her in the head at point-blank range. An employee of a nearby business, Jason Pekau, tells CNN that he heard "15 to 20 gunshots." The man then fled, but was tackled by a bystander and then arrested. Witnesses described him as in his late teens or early 20s.
The Associated Press says the gunman has been identified as Jared Loughner, 22. A source told the news outlet he used a pistol to carry out the attack, and CNN reports the gun as a 9mm Glock 19 with an extended magazine.
Federal law enforcement officials were poring over captured versions of a MySpace page that belonged to Loughner and over Youtube videos published to the Internet weeks ago under an account "Classitup10" and linked to him. The MySpace page, which was removed within minutes of the gunman being identified by U.S. officials, included a mysterious "Goodbye friends" message published hours before the shooting and exhorted his friends to "Please don't be mad at me."
His motivation was not immediately known, but Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik described him as mentally unstable and possibly acting with an accomplice. His office said a man possibly associated with the suspect who was near the scene was being sought. The man, who was photographed by a security camera, was described as white with dark hair and 40-45 years old.
The U.S. Capital Police issued a statement telling members of Congress to take "reasonable and prudent precautions regarding their personal security.” The statement also said there is no indication of the Laughner's motives at this time.
A spokesman for University Medical Center said 18 people have been injured. One person died at the hospital -- a 9-year-old child -- while five are in critical condition and five more are currently in surgery. That spokesman, a doctor, said he was optimistic the Congresswoman was going to live.
There are conflicting reports from earlier as to how been injured. Local news outlet KOLD -- as well as the Associated Press -- is reporting that at least 19 total people were injured. Six people have reportedly died so far, with two of those reported dead being an aid of Gifford's as well as a federal judge. Victims were reportedly taken to two separate hospitals, which may be adding to the confusion.
CNN says six have died and 12 have been injured.
According to AP reports, a 9-year-old girl was murdered and Arizona U.S. Marshall David Gonzales confirmed the death of Federal Judge John Rolls.
Rolls was the chief judge in Arizona, appointed in 1991 by the first President Bush. He became chief judge in 2006.
The aide has been identified as Gabe Zimmerman, the director of community outreach in the congresswoman's Tuscon office, according to CNN and the Associated Press.
KOLD reports he was put under federal protection by U.S. Marshalls in 2009 after he received death threats in connection with a civil rights case he presided over.
“I am horrified by the senseless attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and members of her staff," House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said in a statement Saturday. "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. Our prayers are with Congresswoman Giffords, her staff, all who were injured, and their families. This is a sad day for our country."
President Barack Obama issued a statement Saturday morning calling the shooting "an unspeakable tragedy" and saying such "a senseless and terrible act of violence has no place in a free society." At the time of a press conference he hosted later in the afternoon, he said five had died. That number has since been updated.
"It's not surprising that today Gabby was doing what she always does, listening to the hopes and concerns of her neighbors," Obama said in a nationally televised news conference. "That is the essence of what our democracy is about."
"Congresswoman Giffords is a brilliant and courageous Member of Congress, bringing to Washington the views of a new generation of national leaders," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in a statement. "It is especially tragic that she was attacked as she was meeting with her constituents whom she serves with such dedication and distinction."
Sarah Palin responded to the tragedy via her Facebook page:
My sincere condolences are offered to the family of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of today's tragic shooting in Arizona.
On behalf of Todd and my family, we all pray for the victims and their families, and for peace and justice.
- Sarah Palin
Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips condemned the shooting, but also expressed concern that the right and the Tea Party movement would be blamed for the incident.
"While we need to take a moment to extend our sympathies to the families of those who died, we cannot allow the hard left to do what it tried to do in 1995 after the Oklahoma City bombing," he said, according to The Hill.
Before the event, Giffords sent out a tweet encouraging people to come and meet her:
On some issues, Giffords is considered a moderate. For example, she opposed the Washington, D.C. ban on handguns in 2008, and is even the proud owner of a Glock handgun. At the time of the ban controversy, she said she considered gun ownership a constitutional right and an "Arizona tradition."
"As a gun owner, I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment," she said in a statement after the Supreme Court struck down the D.C. handgun ban. "In February, I was proud to sign the Amicus Brief in District of Columbia v. Heller asking the Supreme Court to uphold the lower court ruling that overturned the long standing DC gun ban.
"This is a common sense decision that reaffirms the Constitutional right - and Arizona tradition - of owning firearms. I commend the Court for ruling in favor of restoring our right to bear arms."
This week, she appeared on Fox News proposing a 5 percent pay cut for lawmakers:
"You know, actually as a former Republican, you know, I consider myself someone who is pretty in the middle, I'm a blue dog Democrat, and one that is interested in making sure that our country maintains our prosperity and frankly, our superiority over other countries and that's where we look at these threat, obviously our defense budget, our level of education," she said in the interview with Fox.
Giffords was elected to a third term in November, defeating Republican Jesse Kelly. She is married to Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, a NASA astronaut and Desert Storm veteran who is scheduled to lead a space shuttle mission to the International Space Station. They have two children.
This is a breaking story. Updates will be added. The Associated Press contributed to this report.