'This Week' Transcript: Tragedy in Tucson

Transcript: Tragedy in Tucson

WASHINGTON, Jan 9, 2011 — -- AMANPOUR (voice-over): This morning, we are live from the scene, as the nation absorbs the horror of a gun attack in broad daylight on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

(UNKNOWN): Gabrielle Giffords was going out practicing that First Amendment right that she had, and some bastard shot her down.

AMANPOUR: Six are killed by an Arizona gunman, and Congresswoman Giffords is fighting for her life. Twelve more are shot and wounded, and the questions have started: How did this happen? And why did this happen?

(UNKNOWN): I hope that all Americans are saddened and as shocked as we are.

AMANPOUR: We have the latest details on the search for the alleged accomplice, the eyewitness accounts, and all the analysis of a shocking crime.


ANNOUNCER: A special edition of "This Week" with Christiane Amanpour, "Tragedy in Tucson," starts right now.

AMANPOUR: This morning, we come to you live from the University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona. Yesterday, in this desert town, a gunman opened fire during a meet-and-greet political event at a local supermarket not far from here.

Six people are dead. Among them, a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl.

The primary target was Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. She was shot in the head and is still in critical condition after surgery in the building behind me.

The gunman is in custody. Police are searching for a possible accomplice. And now the questions mount: What triggered this tragedy in Tucson?


AMANPOUR (voice-over): It started just after 10 a.m. Saturday, Tucson time. Congresswoman Giffords had been holding a town meeting with constituents in this parking lot of a local Safeway.

Alex Villec, a young volunteer, was standing about three feet away from her.

VILLEC: Kind of a shady-looked gentleman came up, asked me if he could talk to the congresswoman. So just like anybody else, we directed him to the back of the line. He came back about 30 seconds later, and before I knew, he was barging through the -- through the tables toward the congresswoman.

AMANPOUR: Steven Rayle was there, too. A local doctor, he had come to meet Giffords and saw a man with a blank expression on his face.

RAYLE: I looked up and saw a man with a gun shoot her in the head and then continue firing, rapid-fire, with just point blank at everybody who was in the area. And there's really nowhere to -- to run. I laid on the ground as if I had been shot in order to -- to not be a target.

AMANPOUR: Rayle says that, when the shooting stopped, many who weren't hurt leapt into action.

RAYLE: The shooter was actually tackled by one of her aides, and several people were holding him down.

AMANPOUR: Rayle, a former E.R. doctor, started treating the wounded.

RAYLE: It was very apparent that -- that at least three of the people were mortally wounded right away. One guy was on his face and unresponsive.

AMANPOUR: He saw a young girl. It turns out she was 9-year-old Christina Taylor, who had come to the event with a neighbor.

RAYLE: She was unresponsive. And, as a medical person, it did not look good.

AMANPOUR: Also shot and bleeding, federal Judge John Roll and several of Giffords' aides. Dr. Rayle went over to check on the congresswoman.

RAYLE: She appeared to be conscious. She was -- had a head wound that was covered with blood. One of her aides had her propped up against -- was holding his arm around her, had her propped up kind of against the wall of the Safeway and was comforting her, and had most of her face covered with a jacket.

AMANPOUR: In the end, five people were pronounced dead at the scene, as Giffords and the others were airlifted to the hospital. As news of the shooting spread, so did speculation about what might have provoked the killer.

(UNKNOWN): It feels very, very eerie, very uncomfortable, very unsettling, and right now, we really don't know the full extent of this story.

AMANPOUR: Last year, with the immigration and health care battles at a fever pitch in this state, Giffords' office had been vandalized. And today, as the congresswoman's father rushed to her bedside, a reporter asked him if his daughter had any enemies. "Yes," he said, "the whole Tea Party."

But, in fact, the suspect in custody, 22-year-old Jared Loughner, has no known ties to the Tea Party or any conservative group.

At the White House, President Obama huddled with his advisers in the Situation Room. As FBI Director Robert Mueller headed to the scene of the crime, the president went to the podium to address the nation.

OBAMA: It's not surprising that today Gabby was doing what she always does, listening to the hopes and concerns of her neighbors. That is the essence of what our democracy is all about.

That is why this is more than a tragedy for those involved. It is a tragedy for Arizona and a tragedy for our entire country. What Americans do at times of tragedy is to come together and support each other.

AMANPOUR: At 2 p.m. Tucson time, four hours after the shooting, the congresswoman's surgeon emerged with an update.

(UNKNOWN): The congresswoman is not deceased.

QUESTION: Could you tell us her condition currently?

(UNKNOWN): She is in critical condition.

AMANPOUR: The bullet had passed straight through her brain, but after hours of grueling surgery, Giffords was still alive.

(UNKNOWN): I'm about as optimistic as it can get in this situation.

AMANPOUR: For 6 of the other 19 victims, there was no hope. Among them, 9-year-old Christina Taylor, pronounced dead at the hospital; 30-year-old Gabe Zimmerman, Giffords' director of community outreach -- he was engaged to be married; and Judge Roll. The Tucson sheriff, Clarence Dupnik, was a friend of his.

DUPNIK: This morning, he got up like he does on every Saturday morning, went to mass, because he knows Gabrielle very well, decided to come around the corner and say hi. Unfortunately, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

AMANPOUR: The sheriff also says that he's not convinced the shooter acted alone.

DUPNIK: We have an individual that we are actively in pursuit of, but I can't tell you who he is at this point.

AMANPOUR: And a few hours later, authorities released a photo of the person they said they were seeking: a white male, 40 to 50 years old. An individual, police believe, came to Congresswoman Giffords' town meeting with the shooter, Jared Loughner.

In Arizona, the flags are flying at half-mast in front of the medical center where the congresswoman is being treated. Governor Jan Brewer's voice cracked with emotion as she addressed reporters.

BREWER: I am just heartbroken. Gabby is more than just a colleague; she's actually a friend. She's always been a noble public servant, and my thoughts and my prayers are with Congresswoman Giffords and her family, the congresswoman's staff and their families, as well as other victims of this senseless and cruel violence. It's an unbelievable tragedy that the people of Arizona experienced today.

AMANPOUR: Last night, this was the scene outside the hospital in Tucson, as supporters and friends of the congresswoman and the other victims gathered and stood vigil, waiting for news.


AMANPOUR: And the sheriff has just come out within the last 15 minutes or so saying that, in fact, in total, there were 20 victims dead and wounded, 20, not 19, so that's the latest figure that we have.

I'm joined now by George Stephanopoulos, anchor of "Good Morning America," and obviously longtime friend of "This Week."

There's no motive yet. The perpetrator is silent so far. No connections yet to what happened. What does this mean for the -- really, for the story of this nation?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, we should say there's so much we don't know yet about the killer, about -- you know, we know he was unhinged in some way. We don't know whether he was politically motivated in an active way.

But we do know this. This is a moment for the country. You saw the sheriff there talk about a time for a little soul-searching, and that has already begun, I think, in this country, questions about, has the political debate gotten too hot? Has all this anger boiling over in the country in some way reached out and touched people in a way that might in some way motivate violence?

It's going to lead to big questions, Christiane, for Congress. How will their security change in the wake of all this?

AMANPOUR: Do you think that debate can actually be had? Because already you're seeing that debate itself being polarized.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, and that's the world we live in right now. And, again, to stress, we don't know if this is more like Columbine and Virginia Tech -- just a crazy person, unhinged -- or Oklahoma City, where the bomber was much more politically motivated, he was very conscious of his political motivations.

But this is something that people were already worried about. This is not the first time that we've seen attacks against government officials, even though it's the first attack against a member of Congress in 30 years, already this week, those two package bombs to the government offices in Maryland and Washington, D.C.

AMANPOUR: And we're going to be delving into this all throughout this hour, and you're going to stay with us, George, so thank you so much.

And right now, we're joined by a close friend of the congresswoman's family, Tillman Fertitta from Houston.

Mr. Fertitta, thank you so much for joining us. You have just spoken to the family overnight. Can you tell us the latest on Congresswoman Giffords' condition, please?

FERTITTA: I mean, she's in critical condition, and it's going to be very tough for the next few days and then even after that. And I think that the family's prepared for it, and they know that Gabby's one of the toughest fighters there is out there, and everybody's praying for her.

AMANPOUR: As people do pray for her -- and she's obviously galvanized the thoughts of this whole nation and internationally, as well -- what are the doctors telling you? What is her husband telling you about her actual level of consciousness? You know, there were so many reports that she was conscious before and after this all happened.

FERTITTA: She was conscious, you know, before the surgery, and -- and Mark called me right before he got on the plane and took off, and then she went into surgery, but she is in an induced coma right now, and she'll be in the induced coma for the next few days. That's what the doctors feel like is best. They've got to make sure she's not -- I'm not a doctor, but they've got to make sure that, you know, they control the, you know -- that the brain continues to operate well.

And so this is what's best. And they're keeping the family close by and just telling them, you know, we're going to keep her like this and see what happens.

AMANPOUR: And how is her husband holding up? He's obviously the next commander for the shuttle mission. He was training in Houston. You provided the plane, I believe.

FERTITTA: Yeah, Mark and Gabby are very good friends. And when Mark called me yesterday morning and said, "Hey, I've got to get to Tucson," of course, we worked it out very quickly.

And it's a struggle. It's a struggle for his brother in space. He's on the space station right now, and we've had conversations with him, because he's trying to get information, and the whole family is struggling. Mark's very upset and, you know, very bitter right now that something like this would happen.

You've got to understand, Gabby is one of those people that doesn't offend anybody. She likes everybody, Republicans, Democrats. She's so accessible. Here it is. Remember, the election is over, and she's -- she's not with her husband. She's meeting all her constituents in Tucson yesterday, hundreds of them. And she's not running for re-election right now.

And that's what, I guess, is -- has affected all of us, is of all the people out there, not that anybody deserves this, but for this to happen to Gabby and for this to happen to all those poor people who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, and it's so unfortunate for everybody.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Fertitta, thank you so much for joining us on this morning.

And when we come back, who is Jared Lee Loughner? Inside the mind of the shooter, after this.


AMANPOUR: Twenty people shot, several at point-blank range. Many of the survivors are being treated behind me here at the University Medical Center. And now authorities want to know what caused the alleged gunman, Jared Lee Loughner, to snap.

ABC News senior justice correspondent Pierre Thomas has the latest on the investigation into this troubled young man.


THOMAS (voice-over): The suspect is identified as 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, young, angry, increasingly unstable, the last person you'd want to see with a gun. Eyewitnesses say Loughner was coldly detached as he shot the congresswoman and victim after victim.

(UNKNOWN): He was very young, dressed in dark navy sweats, and he just began shooting, and there was a sense of unreality to it.

THOMAS: And sources say his postings on the Internet suggest his murderous rampage was premeditated. Only hours before the shootings, he allegedly posted a MySpace message entitled "Good-bye, Friends." It begins, "Dear friends, please don't be mad at me."

But why would a young man from suburbia slaughter so many? Loughner appears to have been obsessed with violence and was apparently at the government. He listed this YouTube posting as one of his favorites, "Let the Bodies Hit the Floor."

He appears paranoid, suggesting the government was monitoring his communications. "I know who's listening," he wrote. He also discusses mind control and brainwash methods.

DUPNIK: I have no reason to believe that the person was insane. Was he unstable? I would agree with that.

THOMAS: His neighbors, Vick and Amelia Cruz (ph), were horrified.

V. CRUZ (ph): I thought it was just a total disgrace. I mean...

A. CRUZ (ph): Especially to...

V. CRUZ (ph): ... what, a 9-year-old child? That was -- that hurt.

A. CRUZ (ph): A 22-year-old kid just through his life away and took how many with him?

THOMAS: They wondered, had signals been missed?

V. CRUZ (ph): There's got -- there should have been red flags, you know?

A. CRUZ (ph): The things he put on the Internet, and nobody noticed that there might be a concern?

THOMAS: Former high school classmates say Loughner never fit in.

(UNKNOWN): He is just off to himself and more of an outcast.

(UNKNOWN): A lonely kid just off to himself.

THOMAS: One friend he did manage to make, Caitlin Parker, said he became more peculiar in recent years. She recalled a strange encounter he once had with a wounded congresswoman.

PARKER: As I knew him more and more after high school, he got a little bit more odd. I mean, he was obsessed with the 2012 prophecy. I mean, he met Gabrielle Giffords once in '07 and told me he asked her some question that made absolutely no sense to me, but he said, "I can't believe she doesn't understand it. Politicians just don't get it."

THOMAS: Life for Loughner was punctuated by failure. After high school, he tried to enlist in the Army, but was rejected. Police say he toyed with drugs in 2007. In college, he made classmates uncomfortable.

COOROUGH: One woman had a poem that had something to do with an abortion, and he made a comment to the effect of she was like a terrorist killing the baby, and then laughed about that.

THOMAS: Last fall, he was suspended from college after school officials found a rambling incoherent YouTube video posted by Loughner. They told him, if he wanted to return, he would need to obtain a mental health evaluation.

By then, Loughner was known to police.

DUPNIK: There have been law enforcement contacts with the individual where he made threats. When you look at unbalanced people, how they are -- how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government, the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And, unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become sort of the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.

THOMAS: The FBI has begun to dissect Loughner's background, and a massive manhunt has been launched to look for the potential accomplice in the surveillance photo. The investigative task force includes not only the FBI, but local and state police and a cadre of federal agencies.

Police plan to trace the firearm used in the shooting. Sources describe the weapon as a semiautomatic pistol with an extended clip.

DUPNIK: He probably would have shot other people had he not been tackled by two people.

THOMAS: Saturday's shootings reflect a disturbing trend. Mass shootings have become commonplace since the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007. There have been dozens of incidents where three or more people have been fatally wounded. Hundreds have died.

The image is always the same: innocent lives lost; police tape; sirens. And Loughner, like so many suspects before him, young, angry, troubled, and with a gun.

For "This Week," I'm Pierre Thomas in Washington.


AMANPOUR: There have also been so many stories of courage and fortitude around this tragedy, the person who tackled Loughner to the ground and also a young intern, 20-year-old Daniel Hernandez, who held Congresswoman Giffords as he saw her go down, running towards the gunfire. He joins us right now on the phone.

Daniel Hernandez, thank you for joining us. It must have been an incredible moment as you ran towards the gunfire when it all broke out. Tell me what happened yesterday.

HERNANDEZ: Of course, because there is a pending investigation, we're trying to make sure that everything that we talk about is just details regarding the incidents after the shooting.

Yesterday, I was helping Congresswoman Giffords at Congress on Your Corner, which was an event to try and meet with her constituents. And before the shooting happened, we had a lot of excited constituents who were very happy to get the opportunity to speak to their congresswoman, because everybody was going to get a chance to speak with her one on one for about three to five minutes.

However, as you know, there was a tragic shooting where we ended up having 19 victims and 6 fatalities.

But when the shooting started, my first instinct was to try and make sure that the congresswoman and her staff were OK. I have limited experience in triage and training, so when I heard gunshots, my first instinct was to head towards the congresswoman to make sure that she was OK.

Once I saw that she was down and there were more than one victim, I went ahead and started doing the limited triage that I could with what I had, so checking for pulses and then also making sure that -- covering and applying pressure to the wounds.

AMANPOUR: It must have...

HERNANDEZ: Yeah, go ahead.

AMANPOUR: It must have been a terrifying experience for you. And then to have the presence of mind to know what to do -- and you saw her head was severely wounded, is that correct?

HERNANDEZ: Yes, yes. When this happened, I kind of just shut off all emotion, because I knew I wouldn't be any good to anyone if I had a breakdown or if I ran away or if I did anything other than try and help those who needed help, so that was the congresswoman and her staff and several constituents.

AMANPOUR: And once -- you were able to hold her, you got bandages. There were really sort of pieces of cloth, I think, that were given to you. What then happened? How long did it take before the ambulance or the airlift came?

HERNANDEZ: We -- I had to lift up the congresswoman, because she was severely injured, and I wanted to make sure that she was able to breathe OK because there was so much blood. We had to grab whatever we could. And because we were outside of a grocery store, the employees from the grocery store brought out smocks that are used by the meat department that were clean, so that we may use them as bandages, because that was really the only clean cloth that we had.

I don't know how much time it took. It seemed like it took an eternity, but that's just because of the way that the events were unfolding, because I was trying to make sure that I was holding the congresswoman so that she could still breathe well, but also make sure that I was holding her wound so that she didn't -- so that she was in good enough condition to be able to be transported by ambulance to a hospital.

AMANPOUR: Daniel, was she -- was she conscious, in that was she able to communicate with you? Were you able to communicate with her?

HERNANDEZ: The congresswoman was alert and conscious. She was able to hold my hand when I asked her if she could hear me. I wasn't able to get any words from her. She may have been trying, but because of the way that I was having to hold her, it was a lot easier just to, "If you can hear me, Gabby, just grab my hand to let me know that you're OK." So it was just communication that she was doing by -- by grabbing my hand and acknowledging that -- that she could hear me.

AMANPOUR: Well, Daniel, thank you so much. It must have been an incredible day. And many people are saying that you really helped at that critical moment, so thank you for joining us today.

And when we return, could the tense political climate here in Arizona and across the country have played a role in the shooting?

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