TOPICS > Politics

Arizona Shooting Suspect Makes First Court Appearance

January 10, 2011 at 12:00 AM EST
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Tom Bearden reports from Tucson on the aftermath of Saturday's shooting massacre, which killed six and left Rep. Gabrielle Giffords gravely wounded.

TRANSCRIPT

JIM LEHRER: The aftermath of the Tucson massacre unfolded on two fronts today.The accused gunman was in court, while Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords lay gravely wounded in a hospital.

NewsHour correspondent Tom Bearden begins our extended coverage.

TOM BEARDEN: Mourners gathered again today at a makeshift memorial in front of the University Medical Center in Tucson for wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of the shootings.

Inside, her doctors continued to express guarded optimism.

DR. G. MICHAEL LEMOLE JR., chief of neurosurgery, University Medical Center:With regard to Congresswoman Giffords’ recovery at this phase in the game, no change is good.And we have no change.That is to say, she is still following those basic commands.On top of that, the CAT scans are showing that there is no progression of that swelling.We’re not out of the woods yet.

TOM BEARDEN: During the evening, a steady stream of well wishers came to add to the memorial, leaving flowers, lighting candles.

WOMAN: I mean, it’s just an absolutely profane act.It’s shocking.It’s been surreal.And, you know, it really has, you know, obviously taken a toll on everybody here in Tucson.It’s very, very saddening, deeply saddening.

TOM BEARDEN: Giffords remains sedated three days after being shot in the head at point-blank range.

She had been greeting constituents at a supermarket in her Tucson area district when a lone gunman shot her, then opened fire on the crowd.The suspected shooter, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, was apprehended at the scene.

Six were killed and 14 others were injured, including Giffords — among the dead, Gabe Zimmerman, Giffords’ director of community outreach, who had organized the day’s event, federal Judge John Roll.He had just left church and stopped by to support Giffords, a good friend.Phyllis Schneck, a retired librarian, Dorothy Morris — her husband is also among the wounded — Dorwin Stoddard, a retired construction worker, and 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, recently elected to her school’s student council.She was there because of her interest in government.

In Phoenix, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer pronounced her state grieving, but strong.She appealed for unity in her annual state of the state address.And she praised the young intern who applied pressure to Giffords’ head wound soon after the shooting.The young man used his bare hands on a spot where a bullet entered her head and applied pressure to stem blood loss.

GOV. JAN BREWER (R-Ariz.):Daniel Hernandez, a University of Arizona junior, showed no fear in the face of gunfire.His quick action in going to Gabby Giffords’ aid likely saved her life.

Daniel is here today.And I’m going to ask him to stand and receive the thanks of a very grateful state.

Daniel.

(APPLAUSE)

Arizona is in pain, yes.Our grief is profound.We are yet in the first hours of our sorrow, but we have not been brought down.We will never be brought down.

(APPLAUSE)

TOM BEARDEN: In Washington, President Obama led the nation in a moment of silence to remember the victims.

Down Pennsylvania Avenue, members of Congress and staff filled the steps of the Capitol, and, at the Supreme Court, justices paused between arguments on two cases.And in Earth orbit, Giffords’ brother-in-law, Commander Scott Kelly, led NASA ground control in a moment of silence from his position aboard the International Space Station.

SCOTT KELLY, NASA commander:As I look out the window, I see a very beautiful planet that seems very inviting and peaceful.Unfortunately, it is not.

The crew of ISS Expedition 26 and the flight control centers around the world would like to observe a moment of silence in honor of all the victims, which include my sister-in-law Gabrielle Giffords, a caring and dedicated public servant.

TOM BEARDEN: And, at the White House this afternoon, President Obama again expressed remorse.

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:Obviously, all of us are still grieving and in shock from the tragedy that took place.Gabby Giffords and others are still fighting to recover.Families are still absorbing the enormity of their losses.

We have a criminal investigation that is ongoing, and charges that no doubt will be brought against the perpetrator of this heinous crime.

TOM BEARDEN: The shopping center where the shootings took place partially reopened this morning, but the crime scene itself is still surrounded by yellow tape.

FBI agents used metal detectors to comb through the gravel in the parking lot median looking for more evidence.The accused shooter is maintaining his silence, according to police.He made his first appearance in federal court in Phoenix.

Loughner made no statement, but answered questions from the judge and said he understood the charges against him.He was ordered held without bail.Authorities filed five counts against Loughner yesterday, including attempted assassination of a member of Congress.More charges are expected.

Meanwhile, more details emerged about Loughner’s life before the shooting, with friends and fellow students painting the picture of a disturbed and paranoid social outcast.He had a history of drug use and was rejected by the Army for failing a drug test when he attempted to join after high school in 2008.

This fall, he spiraled deeper, dropping out of community college after being cited for multiple disruptions and receiving a suspension in September.Loughner was told he would need a mental health review before returning.

In a June 14 e-mail, a classmate wrote: “We have a mentally unstable person in the class.He is one of those whose picture you see on the news after he has come into class with an automatic weapon.”

Prosecutors also said a letter found in a safe at the home where Loughner lived with his parents indicated he planned the rampage ahead of time.The note contained the words, “I planned ahead, my assassination and Giffords’.”There was also a letter from the congresswoman thanking Loughner for attending an event at a Tucson mall in 2007, indicating they had had previous contact.

CAITLIN ANN PARKER, friend of Jared Lee Loughner:He asked her some question that made absolutely no sense to me.But he said: “I can’t believe she doesn’t understand it.Politicians just don’t get it.”

TOM BEARDEN: Also providing clues, several YouTube videos posted by Loughner featuring rambling text against a dark background.In one, he described inventing a new U.S. currency and complained about illiteracy in Giffords’ Arizona congressional district.And versions of MySpace page since pulled from the Internet included a mysterious “Goodbye friends” message published hours before the attack.He also added, “Please don’t be mad at me.”

Saturday’s deadly shooting spree was not a surprise to one of Loughner’s neighbors.

MAN: I told my mother I thought he was a serial killer the first time I saw him.

TOM BEARDEN: Back in Washington, congressional business was postponed, including a vote scheduled this week to repeal the president’s health care law.

Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy of New York said she planned to introduce legislation in the coming days to limit access to the type of gun Loughner legally purchased, a Glock .9-millimeter handgun.

Nine-one-one calls released from the scene describe that weapon.

CALLER: Looks like the guy had a semi-automatic pistol.He went in.He just started firing.And then he ran.

CALLER: She’s hit.I do believe she’s breathing.There’s multiple people shot.

911 OPERATOR: OK.Oh, my God.

TOM BEARDEN: There was beefed-up security at Giffords’ office today, and federal law enforcement officials are planning a security briefing for members of Congress on Wednesday.