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Tucson Tragedy Explained

On the afternoon of Saturday, January 8, 2011, Congresswoman Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords was meeting with her constituents at a Safeway grocery store in Tucson, Arizona, says Fort Lauderdale criminal attorney William Moore, recounting the now-infamous events. A large banner hung in the front of the store, announcing the weekend event. As the event got underway, according to law enforcement and media outlet reports, a taxi pulled up to the store carrying suspect Jared Lee Loughner. Loughner exited the cab, followed by the taxi driver, who apparently stated that Loughner did not pay the fare. Law enforcement officials initially sought the man to question him after he was seen with Loughner on Safeway surveillance footage, but cleared the taxi driver following their interview of him. After getting out of the taxi, Loughner is accused of opening fire on the crowd gathered there, possibly specifically targeting Congresswoman Giffords. A nine millimeter Glock was recovered at the scene.

As a result of these events, six people were killed and another 14 wounded. A federal judge, a nine-year-old girl, a 30-year-old employee of the Giffords office, and three elderly individuals were killed in the gunfire, notes Broward criminal attorney Moore. Originally, Congresswoman Giffords was widely reported among the dead. However, media outlets later retracted the story after her spokesperson and a hospital employee indicated that she was in fact in surgery after being transported to the hospital. Congresswoman Giffords was shot in the back of the head by a bullet that tore through the left hemisphere of her brain prior to exiting. Before emergency responders arrived on the scene, she was attended to by a 20-year-old intern who had medical training. He applied pressure on the exit wound on her head, stemming the flow of blood. The intern had started working for her office just five days prior to the shooting. Following surgery to remove bone fragments and dead brain tissue, GIffords remains in the intensive care unit, where she is heavily sedated and using a respirator. She entered surgery just 38 minutes after arriving at the hospital.

Loughner was detained at the scene by eyewitnesses to the attack. He was taken into police custody upon the arrival of law enforcement and later transferred to federal custody. Loughner faces federal charges including two charges of first-degree murder of a federal employee, two counts attempted murder of a federal employee, and one count of attempting to assassinate a member of Congress. He may also be charged separately by the state of Arizona. Loughner is presumed innocent at this time. Assassinations attempts on public officials are relatively rare in the United States. The most recent occurred in 1981, when former President Ronald Reagan was shot, says Broward criminal attorney Moore.

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