(Blast Staff photo)

(Blast Staff photo)

TUCSON, Ariz. — The Safeway on the Southeast corner of Ina and Oracle is usually at the center of a peaceful upper-middle class neighborhood. But yesterday, on the exact spot where girl scouts can often be found selling cookies, a shooter started firing into a crowd gathered to see Representative Gabrielle Giffords at her “Congress on Your Corner” event.

So far six people have died from gunshot wounds. The deceased include: Gabe Zimmerman, 30, who was Gifford’s, director of community outreach and recently engaged; John Roll, 63, a U.S. District Judge for more than forty years; Christina Greene, 9, who was born on September 11, 2001; Dorwin Stoddard 76, who reportedly tried to protect his wife with his own body; Dorothy Morris, 76; and Phyllis Scheck, 79.

Twelve others who were wounded in the shooting, including Congresswoman Giffords, have been taken to hospitals around Tucson.

Giffords, recently elected to her third term as a democratic representative in Arizona, has been married to astronaut Mark E. Kelly since 2007. Her Tucson office was vandalized last March after she voted for President Barack Obama’s Health Care Plan. A suspicious package was found yesterday outside the Congresswoman’s office as worried constituents held a candlelit vigil for her. After a few hours, the bomb squad determined that the coffee can that was written on was not explosive, and they destroyed the can.

Gabrielle Giffords, 40, was preemptively declared dead by a few national news stations, including CNN, but doctors at Tucson’s University Medical Center (UMC) held a press conference to set the story straight. Giffords was shot point-blank in the head. The bullet traveled through her brain, but surgeons at UMC, including former Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona, are “cautiously optimistic” that she will survive.

The La Toscana Village, the shopping center where the shooting occurred, is still closed off Sunday while police and federal authorities investigate. The intersection of Ina and Oracle, a major intersection for the Northwest side of Tucson, is gridlocked as police try to piece the events together.

One suspect is currently in custody. Jared Lee Loughner, 22, shot the 18 victims before he was tackled by two men at the event. Loughner is now in custody of federal agents, who flew to Tucson at the behest of President Obama.

Loughner, who was rejected from the military and had discipline problems at Pima Community College’s West and Northwest campuses, recently posted “Goodbye friends, don’t be mad at me,” on his MySpace page.

Sheriff Clarence Dupnik is not convinced that Loughner is the sole suspect. The Sheriff’s department has released a photo from Safeway’s security camera of a man who appears to be in his 40’s or 50’s with dark hair and a blue jacket. The police ask anyone who has any information on this man to please come forward.

Dupnik said in a press conference that he blames the “vitriolic political rhetoric that has consumed the country,” for incidents like these. He believes that Arizona has “become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

In a nationally televised speech yesterday, Obama said, “Gabby was a friend of mine.” After a brief pause, he continued with, “she is not only an extraordinary public servant, but she is also somebody who is warm and caring. She is well-liked by her colleagues and well-liked by her constituents.” The president thinks this is “a tragedy for Arizona, and a tragedy for our entire country.”

Arizona governor Jan Brewer called the shootings, “senseless and cruel violence” and says that Giffords “has always been a noble public servant.”

Arizona Senator John McCain called them a “terrible, terrible tragedy.”

The state of Arizona is one of the most conservative in the nation when it comes to gun control. The state does not require a permit to purchase guns. A new law amends the former concealed weapon law, which now allows anyone over 21 to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.

Tucson recently updated an ordinance barring those carrying concealed weapons from city parks, but has since changed it to coincide with the state law. And as long as the establishment doesn’t say otherwise, people are allowed to have guns in bars.

About The Author

Beth DeMilt is a News Editor for the Blast Network

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