Marcie Pearson was walking her dog when she heard the helicopters.
“I was shocked. It was horrifying when you’re a quarter-mile away from a mass shooting,” she said.
Many Tucsonans are still in shock over the mass shooting Jan. 8 that killed six and injured 14, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, whom police believe was the gunman’s intended target. Around 10:10 a.m. Saturday, an armed gunman mingled with Giffords’ constituents gathered for one of the congresswoman’s “Congress on Your Corner” events at a Safeway at Ina and Oracle roads in northwest Tucson.
According to reports, the man walked up within four feet of Giffords, who was speaking to her constituents, and shot her in the head. He then began shooting randomly at others until tackled by two men, who were later identified as Bill Badger and Roger Salzgeber. From nearby, Joe Zamudio ran over to help pin the shooter to the ground, while Patricia Maisch knelt over the shooter and grabbed his gun before he could reload the extended magazine that would give him up to 33 more shots.
“I woke up hearing ambulances,” said Raquel, a 15-year-old who lives near the shopping center. “I go to the Safeway every day; I could have been there.”
Roads around the intersection were shut down until late into the day, backing up traffic in all directions most of the day. The corner was cordoned off and most businesses in La Toscana Village shopping center were shut down Saturday and Sunday while law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, state and local police, conducted a thorough investigation of the crime scene.
Police arrested Jared Loughner, 22, a Northwest Tucson man who resides with his parents in the 7700 block of North Soledad Avenue, near North Thornydale and West Magee roads. He has five federal charges filed against him.
Authorities also searched for a person of interest, who was later cleared of any wrong-doing.
“I felt utter shock,” said SaddleBrooke resident Janet Sage. At Sage’s church the next morning, the sermon addressed compassion, “to remind us that’s what we should feel,” she noted.
The tragedy stunned Tucsonans and attracted a worldwide audience. The Explorer fielded calls and e-mails from national and international news gatherers, including the Oprah Winfrey Network and news shows from England, Ireland and Australia.
With so many hands competing to report news of the shooting, conflicting information was bound to occur. The most serious was an early report that Giffords had died. The report was quickly updated that the congresswoman was critically injured. Surgeons at University Medical Center in Tucson are “very optimistic” about Giffords’ recovery. Following surgery, Giffords was following commands, said Dr. Peter Rhee.
“It hit me right in the guts. Some of the worst was the reporting she had died,” said Foothills resident Martin Bacal, a longtime friend of the congresswoman who serves as corresponding secretary for the Pima County Democratic Party. “We went into mourning, so to speak, and were so relieved when we heard she was alive.”
Six people were slain. They are: U.S. Judge John M. Roll, 63; Christina Taylor Green, 9 (see related story); Gabe Zimmerman, 30, Giffords’ constituent services director (see related story); Dorothy Morris, 76; Phyllis Schneck, 79; and Dorwan Stoddard, 76.
The tragic shooting has left residents questioning if they would attend a political gathering in the future.
“I probably would worry but even though what happened was so horrific, it’s quite rare,” said Jeff Rogers, chairman of the Pima County Democrats.
“I don’t think this would stop me from attending a political gathering. We can’t give in to these types of thoughts. If we do, this type of people win,” Bacal said.
How do you feel about this event? Will you think twice about attending a political gathering in the future? Share your thoughts by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting our Facebook and Twitter pages.
President Obama and his wife, Michelle, are scheduled to attend a memorial for the victims at 6 p.m. today, Wednesday, in the McKale Center at the University of Arizona. The “Together We Thrive” event is open to the public.