Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is responding to simple commands and is in critical condition after suffering a gunshot wound to the head yesterday, according to her doctors.
"She is able to communicate through simple commands," said Dr. Michael Lemole, a surgeon at the University Medical Center in Tucson, Ariz., who treated Giffords. "And we're very encouraged by that."
"But she's still in critical condition and brain swelling can occur at any point, but I'm cautiously optimistic," he added. "We don't know what her deficits will be in the future."
Giffords, 40, was shot in the back of her head, the bullet crossing the left side of her brain and exiting just above her left eye, said Dr. Peter Rhee, the director of Trauma and Critical Care at the University Medical Center. She is breathing with the help of a ventilator.
Fourteen other people were wounded and six killed during the assassination attempt on Giffords at a political event outside a Tucson grocery store Saturday morning.
The alleged gunman, 22-year-old Jared Loughner, is in the custody of the Pima County Sheriff's Office.
A second man whom authorities had been searching for as a person of interest in the case turned himself today in and has been released. Pima County Sheriff's Office Bureau Chief Richard Kastigar said the individual was a cab driver who had driven Loughner to the grocery store. He was caught on camera when he entered the grocery store after there was an issue with Loughner paying for the ride.
Some of the terror of that moment was evident in the 911 calls that were released today.
"Oh my god," exclaims a 911 operator who got the first report of the carnage.
A man who identified himself as Manuel Hernandez told the operator, "There was a shooting at Safeway…Where Gabrielle Giffords was…and I do believe Gabrielle Giffords was hit."
"She's hit. And I do believe she's breathing," he said. "She is breathing. She still has a pulse."
"He went in and just started firing and then he ran," said Hernandez, prompting the operator's exclamation.
A woman named Sally Badger frantically called seeking information about her husband.
"My husband just called me and told me he was shot. He was going to the Gabrielle Gifford event and I don't know where he is," Badger told 911. "He called me and then the phone went dead."
Her husband Bill Badger, a retired Army colonel, was grazed on the back of his head. He is cited by some as one of the heros who tackled Loughner to stop the slaughter.
A criminal complaint filed in federal court this afternoon charges Loughner with one count of attempted assassination of a member of Congress, two counts of killing an employee of the United States and two counts of intent to kill employees of the United States.
During a search of Loughner's home, authorities found an envelope with handwriting that read "I planned ahead," and "My assassination" and the name "Giffords," as well as Loughner's signature.
Loughner is scheduled to appear in court on Monday.
Rhee described Giffords' injury as a "devastating wound."
"Right now she's in a very good situation, and hopefully it will stay that way," he said.
Giffords is unable to open her eyes and cannot speak because of the ventilator, according to Rhee, but she is able to respond when asked to squeeze her hand or hold up her fingers.
"We take those simple commands for granted but they demonstrate high functioning in the brain," said Rhee.