Remarkable signs of life in shot Congresswoman

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The congresswoman shot in the head when a gunman opened fire at a political gathering in Tucson was said to be showing remarkable signs of life and mental activity last night, as the police search for a second suspect in the shooting intensified.

Doctors said Gabrielle Giffords had responded to simple commands after surgery to treat a bullet wound to the brain she suffered when her would-be killer opened fire at a supermarket event on Saturday, killing six people.

The chief suspect in the case, Jared Lee Loughner, 22, was charged last night with two counts of first degree murder, one count of attempting to kill a member of Congress and two other counts of attempted murder. He is due to appear in court in Phoenix this afternoon.

Police have still not determined Loughner’s alleged motive, which seems no clearer from the rambling manifesto he posted on social networking sites. Documents retrieved from his home, including a letter from Giffords suggest that he had at least a passing acquaintance with the Congresswoman.

FBI director Robert Mueller arrived in Tucson yesterday to lead an investigation into the attack, whose victims included a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl. Five others were in a serious condition and one more left hospital yesterday. A total of fourteen people were wounded.

Ms Giffords, a Democrat, won re-election in the November midterm elections by just 4,000 votes, after facing an ultra-conservative opponent with Tea Party backing, who posed with firearms in his campaign literature. Among those who vigorously advocated that she be voted out of office was former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, whose Facebook account once featured a map with bullseye symbols over the constituencies of Ms Giffords and other Democrats.

Victims of the rampage include an aide to Ms Giffords, identified as |30-year-old Gabe Zimmerman, as well as a federal judge, John Roll. Also dead were Christina-Taylor Greene, who was just nine years old, Dorothy Morris, 76; Dorwin Stoddard, 76; and Phyllis Scheck, 79.

The attack left Americans wondering if they were witnessing the start of a new period of political violence of a kind not seen since the assassinations of the 1960s triggered by passions associated with civil rights and Vietnam. At a candelit vigil outside Ms Giffords’s office, well-wishers carried placards with slogans such as “hate speech equals murder”, calling for an end to the inflammatory rhetoric which has characterised much recent public discourse.



For shocked members of Congress, the scale of the tragedy was too great to be easily digested. Flags were ordered at half-mast to mourn Mr Zimmerman. All legislative activity on Capitol Hill, where Republicans only last week took control of the House, was postponed, including a planned vote on a law to repeal President Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms.

Richard Durbin, the second most senior US Senator, echoed others last night in decrying “toxic rhetoric” which may, he added, lead individuals like the man in custody to believe that violence is an acceptable response. He did not overtly link the trend to the shootings, but did mention “Don’t retreat, reload”, paraphrasing the controversial slogan associated with ex-governor Sarah Palin.

Doctors at a large hospital next to Tucson’s University of Arizona said Ms Giffords had undergone emergency surgery after a bullet passed through the left side of her brain from back to front. It included a procedure to temporarily remove a large section of skull to help combat swelling of the brain, which remains the biggest threat to her long-term survival.

Ms Giffords had not yet spoken and was being moved in and out of an induced medical coma. However, the hospital drew encouragement from her ability to respond to simple commands to, for instance, squeeze her hand.

“This is about as good as good can get,” trauma doctor Peter Rhee said at University Medical Centre in Tucson, while warning that the patient remained in some danger.

The shock of the weekend’s events were felt especially strongly in Arizona, a state that has arguably the most relaxed gun laws in the country and recently allowed citizens to carry hidden weapons without holding a permit.

Over the past year, the state has been beset by political tensions because of a law signed by Governor Jan Brewer making it easier for police to challenge and incarcerate those suspected of being illegal immigrants. Ms Giffords had condemned the law. After the Congresswoman, who is mostly a centrist, voted last March to support the healthcare reform law, windows of her Tucson office were smashed.

Yesterday US officials noted there were 42 cases of threats or violence against members of Congress in the first three months of 2010, nearly three times the 15 cases reported during the same period a year earlier. Ms Giffords was among the targets.

Equally divisive was her campaign last year. Her opponent, Jesse Kelly, posted a picture on his website featuring him in military garb and brandishing an automatic weapon. He held fundraisers when he urged voters to join him in shooting a fully loaded M-16 rife.

However a spokesman for Mr Kelly denied a link with the killings. “I don’t see the connection,” said John Ellinwood. “I don’t know this person. We cannot find any records that he was associated with the campaign in any way. I just don’t see the connection.

“Arizona is a state where people are firearms owners – this was just a deranged individual.”

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Qualified Primary Teaching Assistant

£64 - £73 per day + Competitive rates based on experience : Randstad Education...

Primary KS2 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam