At a news conference this evening, Puma County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik made no effort to mask his sadness or anger about today’s assault that left U.S. Rep. Gabreille Giffords (D-Ariz) fighting for her life after brain surgery at a Tucson hospital, and injured 18 others, six of whom died.
The sheriff spoke of the 22-year-old man in custody, and said the man had a “troubled past,” and had invoked his rights, and thus was not talking to law enforcement. Dupnik added that law enforcement is “not convinced he acted alone.” Authorities are looking for another person of interest in the crime, a white male in his 50s. He would not elaborate, other than to say “we are pursuing this very aggressively.”
The sheriff was very clear in criticizing “vitriolic radio and some TV” that provokes “unbalanced” people to this sort of violence.
Dupnik spoke of his friendships with the Congresswoman, as well as U.S. District Judge John Roll, who died at the scene. He called Roll, a former prosecutor, sincere and fair minded and “one of the finest human beings in my life.” He explained that Roll, a Catholic, attended daily mass, and it was after mass this morning that the judge decided to “go around the corner to say ‘hi’,” to Giffords.
Giffords, he said, was brilliant, nice, and “worked from dawn to dawn” for her constituents.
He said the pistol used in the shooting had “a substantial number of rounds” and still had bullets in it when two “brave individuals” wrestled the shooter to the ground and took the gun.
If they had not done that, Dupnik said there would have been more casualties. He estimated two to three dozen people were at the event.
Also at the news conference, Dr. Richard Carmona, former U.S. Surgeon General addressed the “extraordinary response by emergency personnel,” saying a triage was set up at the scene was “a seamless, integrated system that surged” to meet the emergency, which he compared to combat in a war zone.
He also said although he was not the attending physician, he had reviewed the Congresswoman’s wound, which he said was devastating, and cautioned that she is in critical condition, but “there is a possibility she could survive,” but it would be a “difficult path to recovery.”