Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jared Loughner and the Shooting of Gabrielle Giffords

Terror at the Supermarket

Representative Gabrielle Giffords
Representative Gabrielle Giffords

For Gabrielle Giffords, her "Congress on Your Corner" event was just like many she had held before to meet with constituents. With a table situated in between the American and the Arizona State flags, Giffords would meet her constituents in front of the Safeway, starting around nine that morning. The Democratic Congresswoman had just been sworn in for the third time a few days before, following a close election. Giffords was in the midst of a conversation when Loughner walked up and allegedly opened fire, aiming directly at her.

The prosaic gathering at the supermarket of a moment before was turned into a killing zone with bodies scattered around the parking lot.

Loughner didn't stop shooting until his gun's magazine was empty. As he was attempting to load another clip, several eyewitnesses, including Patricia Maisch, Bill Badger, Roger Sulzgeber and Joseph Zamudio, were able to wrestle him down and put an end to the slaughter.

After Loughner was named a suspect, friends and former girlfriends came forward to attempt to make sense of his actions.

One of those friends, Caitie Parker, Tweeted in the immediate aftermath of the shooting that Loughner had met Giffords before, three years earlier in 2007.

"He was a political radical and met Giffords once before in '07, asked her a question and he told me she was 'stupid and unintelligent,'" she Tweeted.

Court documents detail that during the execution of a search warrant on his house later the day of the shooting, authorities seized a letter in a safe addressed to "Mr. Jared Loughney" from Giffords' office. Dated August 30, 2007, the letter thanked him for attending a Congress on your Corner event at the Foothills Mall in Tucson, the same type of event at which the shooting had occurred. Also recovered from the safe was an envelope with handwriting including phrases such as "I planned ahead," "My assassination," and the name "Giffords," along with what appeared to be Loughner's signature."

For authorities, the letter would serve as direct evidence of Loughner's premeditated intent to kill Giffords.

Though Giffords was the most high-profile victim of the shooting, she in fact survived a point-blank gunshot wound to the head. While she and the other wounded struggled to recover, six funerals for less fortunate victims were being planned. Perhaps the most poignant death was that of Christina Green, 9, who had been born on September 11, 2001.

According to The New York Times, the slender girl was participating in her school's student government and wanted to see real government in action. She went with a friend of her mother's to the meeting, and was fatally wounded when Loughner opened fire.

Another notable government figure, federal judge John Roll, was there to talk to Giffords about overcrowded courts. Roll, a George W. Bush appointee to the bench, was, like all the victims, in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the wake of Roll's death, a judicial emergency was declared in the federal judicial district of Arizona. Roll's sudden death greatly disrupted the already-congested dockets, which had prompted Roll's attendance at the meeting with Giffords in the first place.

Other victims killed included Dorothy Morris, Dorwan Stoddard and Phyllis Schneck. They were at the meet and greet specifically for Giffords; they were older, concerned and involved citizens. The sixth victim killed, Gabriel Zimmerman, was a member of Giffords' staff, and worked as her outreach director.

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