The suspect in a Tucson shooting rampage was formally charged Sunday. But law enforcement officials say it's too soon to speculate on a motive. The attack killed six people and wounded 14 others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), who remains in critical condition.
Federal prosecutors filed murder and attempted-murder charges Sunday against the suspect in the shooting that killed six people and wounded 14 others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ).
Jared Lee Loughner is charged with one count of attempted assassination of member of Congress, two counts of killing an employee of the federal government and two counts of attempting to kill a federal employee.
Loughner will make his first court appearance on Monday.
FBI Director Robert Mueller said more state and federal charges could follow, including possible domestic terrorism counts.
Asked about possible motives, FBI said, "It's a bit too early to speculate."
Investigators said they searched Loughner's home and seized an envelope from a safe with messages including "I planned ahead," "My assassination" and the name "Giffords" next to what appears to be the man's signature. They said he bought the Glock semiautomatic pistol used in the attack in November at Sportsman's Warehouse in Tucson.
Court documents also show that Loughner had contact with Giffords in the past. In a letter addressed to him from Giffords' congressional stationery, she thanked him for attending a similar "Congress on your Corner" event at a Tucson mall in 2007.
Giffords, 40, remained in critical condition Sunday, a day after Loughner is accused of opening fire in a supermarket parking lot where the congresswoman was meeting with constituents. Among the six bystanders killed were U.S. District Judge John M. Roll, Giffords aide Gabe Zimmerman, 30, and Christina-Taylor Green, the 9-year-old granddaughter of former Philadelphia Phillies manager Dallas Green.
Pima County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Ogan said a second man who was caught on a surveillance video around the time of the shooting had been interviewed and cleared of any involvement.
Giffords, a Democrat who had just begun her third term in Congress, was shot once in the head. The bullet traveled through the left side of her brain, from back to front, said Dr. Michael Lemole, chief of neurosurgery at University Medical Center.
Trauma surgeon Peter Rhee said he was encouraged because Giffords was able to follow simple commands, but that she was unable to speak yet, because she is on a ventilator.
"Overall, this is about as good as it is going to get," Rhee said.
Wrestled To The Ground
Law enforcement officials and the Congresswoman's staff painted a dramatic picture of Saturday's events.
Giffords was greeting constituents outside a Safeway store in Tucson.
Mark Kimble, one of her communications staffers, said the suspect specifically targeted the congresswoman and her district director, and then shot indiscriminately at staffers and others standing in line to talk to her.
The shooter ran out of ammunition and tried to change magazines on the Glock, said Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik. A woman “went up and grabbed the magazine and tore it from him," the sheriff said. Two men then subdued the suspect.
Hours after the shooting, police in Tucson had to deal with a suspicious package at Giffords' office, but at the news conference, Mueller downplayed any connection.
As Mueller stood at his side, the sheriff used the news conference to criticize Arizona's gun laws, which are among the most lax in the country.
Saturday's shooting had made Tucson "the tombstone of the United States of America," said Dupnik, a Democrat. "I have never been a proponent of letting everybody in this state carry weapons under any circumstances whenever they want, and that's almost where they are."
Videos By The Accused Shooter
Earlier, Dupnik said there's reason to believe Loughner, 22, has "a mental issue" and described him as "unhinged."
"As we understand it, there have been law enforcement contacts with the individual where he made threats to kill," Dupnik said at a Saturday evening news conference. But he wouldn't say who had been threatened.
Loughner apparently was the source of six videos posted on YouTube in recent months that featured mostly rambling text that discussed the invention of a new currency and a distrust of the government. The most recent one, titled "America: Your Last Memory In A Terrorist Country!" shows a hunched-over man in a hooded sweatshirt burning an American flag in a desert landscape. The soundtrack is a song called "Let the Bodies Hit the Floor."
Other videos have long, written tirades against government, currency and grammar.
In one, he says, "The majority of citizens in the United States of America have never read the United States of America's Constitution."
In another, he says "I can't trust the current government because of the ratifications: The government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar."
Loughner described himself in one video as a U.S. military recruit, but an Army spokesman said he tried to enlist and was rejected.
The suspect "was a guy in high school who definitely had his opinions on stuff and didn't seem to care what people thought of him," high school classmate Grant Wiens, 22, told the Associated Press.
Wiens also said Loughner used to speak critically about religion and talk about how he liked to smoke pot.
"He wasn't really too keen on religion, it seemed like," Wiens said. "I don't know if floating through life is the right term or whatever, but he was really just into doing his own thing."
A MySpace page was removed within minutes of the alleged gunman's being identified by officials. It included a mysterious "Goodbye friends" message published hours before the shooting and said, "Please don't be mad at me."
Lynda Sorenson said she took a math class with Loughner last summer at Pima Community College's Northwest campus and told the Arizona Daily Star he was "obviously very disturbed."
"He disrupted class frequently with nonsensical outbursts," she said.
In October 2007, Loughner was cited in Pima County for possession of drug paraphernalia; the citation was dismissed after he completed a diversion program, according to online records.
In Washington, lawmakers from both parties were deeply shaken. The House's newly installed Republican leaders postponed Wednesday's scheduled vote on a repeal of the health care law. That divisive issue was at the center of the harshest criticisms of Giffords and many other Democrats for the past two years.
President Obama on Saturday called the attack "a tragedy for our entire country." He called for a moment of silence to be held Monday at 11 a.m. EST.
Giffords is among the group of centrist Democrats known as "Blue Dogs," and on her website she calls the federal debt "the single biggest threat to our economy and national security."
House Speaker John Boehner, speaking briefly on Sunday morning, asked for lawmakers and their staff to keep Giffords in their prayers.
He said the shooting of the Arizona Democrat was an "inhuman act" that "should not and will not deter us from our calling to represent our constituents and fulfill our oaths of office."
"An attack on one who serves, is an attack on all who serve," he said. "Such attacks have no place in our society."
Later, Connecticut Rep. John Larson, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, thanked the Republican leadership for its "great sensitivity" about the matter.
Larson described Giffords as an "incredible, gifted, sincere, gracious" individual and said her shooting is "the senseless kind of thing that leaves everyone aghast and asking why."
Arizona Democratic Party Chairman Don Bivens said words could not express his shock and devastation over the attack.
"If we can't keep our public servants safe we are a serious peril," he said.
Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva, who represents parts of Tucson as does Giffords, said the nation must assess the fallout of "an atmosphere where the political discourse is about hate, anger and bitterness."
NPR's Brian Naylor, Ari Shapiro and Audie Cornish and KUAZ’s Buzz Conover contributed to this report, which also contains material from The Associated Press
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