'This Week' Transcript: Tragedy in Tucson

Transcript: Tragedy in Tucson

ByABC News
January 9, 2011, 4:00 AM

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.