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Updated: January 13, 2011 21:41 IST

Tucson killer charged, Congresswoman still at risk

Narayan Lakshman
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People pay their respects at a makeshift memorial outside U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' office in Tucson, Arizona on Sunday. A gunman targeting Ms. Giffords opened fire outside a Safeway in Tucson on Saturday, killing six people.
People pay their respects at a makeshift memorial outside U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' office in Tucson, Arizona on Sunday. A gunman targeting Ms. Giffords opened fire outside a Safeway in Tucson on Saturday, killing six people.

Authorities brought two murder and three attempted murder charges against Jared Lee Lougher (22), in custody since he went on a deadly rampage in Tucson, Arizona, with a Glock semi-automatic pistol on Saturday, leaving six dead and one United States Congresswoman, Democrat Gabrielle Giffords, battling for her life after receiving a head wound.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, whose Director Robert Mueller was commissioned by President Barack Obama to manage the investigation, raided Loughner’s home and found evidence indicating that he had planned to assassinate Ms. Giffords, according to documents filed in Federal District Court in Phoenix.

The New York Times quoted FBI Special Agent Tony Taylor as saying in an affidavit that an envelope found in Loughner’s safe had the handwritten words: “I planned ahead,” “My assassination” and “Giffords.”

Media also reported that federal authorities said that their investigation of Loughner’s MySpace web page “included a mysterious “Goodbye friends” message published hours before the shooting and exhorted his friends to “Please don’t be mad at me.””

While in a December 15 YouTube video linked to Loughner he was said to have described himself as a “U.S. military recruit,” the Army released a statement this week saying that Loughner had not been accepted. Sheriff Clarence Dupnik of Pima County, where the fatal shooting took place, described the gunman as “mentally unstable.”

More than 48 hours after the shooting Ms. Giffords was still in a medically-induced coma at University Medical Center in Tucson, where doctors performed a two-hour surgery and succeeded in removing “debris from the gunshot, a small amount of dead brain tissue and nearly half of Ms. Giffords’s skull to prevent swelling that could transmit increased pressure to cause more extensive and permanent brain damage,” it was reported.

Yet doctors speaking at a news conference later expressed cautious optimism, saying “Things are going very well, and we are all very happy at this stage,” however adding, “Brain swelling is the biggest threat now because it can take a turn for the worse at any time.”

Reports said that after entering the back lower left section of Ms. Gifford’s head a bullet from Loughner’s gun had “cut clear across the brain, before exiting.” That section of the brain is responsible for controlling movement on the right side of the body, including speech and comprehension, it was noted.

Even as Ms. Gifford’s progress was watched by a nation in shock, Americans mourned those victims of the shooting, President Obama ordering flags to be flown at half-mast, and a moment of silence was observed at 11 a.m. eastern time on Monday.

Washington was also gripped by soul-searching questions on the divisive and bitter tone of rhetoric in U.S. politics, with many particularly focusing their ire on former Governor of Alaska and Vice-Presidential candidate Republican Sarah Palin, for calling on her followers to put some Democratic leaders in their “crosshairs.” Similarly the debate in the nation’s capital also touched upon the U.S.’ failure to control the proliferation of guns.

Tributes were paid also U.S. Judge John Roll and Christina Green (9), who were killed in the attack after being shot at point blank range. Judge Roll was said to have received “hundreds of angry calls and a number of death threats,” and U.S. marshals placed him and his family under protection for a month after he issued a ruling in 2009 to allow a civil rights case to proceed against a rancher who had targeted a group of Mexicans crossing his land.

Ms. Green, the youngest victim in the attack, was born on September 21, 2001, and the NYT quoted her mother saying Christina “lent a grace note of hope to that terrible day.” Ms. Green was said to have loved animals and volunteered at a children’s charity. On the last day of her life she had gone to watch government in action as Ms. Gifford held an interactive session on “Congress on Your Corner.”

Her mother, Roxanna Green said that she hoped that her daughter’s death would “bring not only justice in the jailing of her attacker but also a national awareness of the cost of a venomous political dialogue.”

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