5 Seconds of Horror: Video Captured ‘Calculated’ Gunman in Tucson Attack
By RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr. , DENISE GRADY and JENNIFER MEDINA
Published: January 18, 2011
This article is by Richard A. Oppel Jr., Denise Grady and Jennifer Medina.
In Tucson, a Staff Mourns While Asking, ‘What Would Gabby Do?’ (January 19, 2011)
Times Topics: Arizona Shooting | John M. Roll | Gabrielle Giffords
TUCSON — The chief investigator for the sheriff’s department here has for the first time publicly described the brief and gory video clip from a store security camera that shows a gunman not only shooting Representative Gabrielle Giffords just above the eyebrow at a range of three feet, but then using his 9-millimeter pistol to gun down others near her at a similarly close range.
The video, according to Richard Kastigar, the investigative and operational bureau chief of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, also reveals that Judge John M. Roll appears to have died while saving the life of Ronald Barber, one of Ms. Giffords’s employees. Mr. Barber, who was near Ms. Giffords when he was shot twice, has since left the hospital.
Mr. Kastigar said the video shows Ms. Giffords standing with her back a few inches from the wall when she was shot by the gunman, who approached in “a hurried fashion” with the gun at his side and then raised it and fired a single bullet above her eye at a range of no more than two or three feet.
Jared L. Loughner, 22, has been arrested in the shootings. The pistol “is down near his right side, but it is visibly out from where he was keeping it, presumably under his clothing, and then he raises it and fires,” Mr. Kastigar said. “It happens in a matter of seconds.”
The gunman “was very deliberate in my estimation, very calculated,” said Mr. Kastigar, who viewed the video as part of the extensive investigation by the Sheriff’s Department that involves close to 250 people. The video, he said, is now in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In describing the video, the most detailed account yet of the initial five-second burst of fire, Mr. Kastigar said Judge Roll was “intentionally trying to help Mr. Barber,” adding, “It’s very clear to me the judge was thinking of his fellow human more than himself.”
The judge guides Mr. Barber to the ground, shields him with his body, and then tries to push both of them away from the gunman, who was no more than three to four feet away as he fired at both men, Mr. Kastigar said.
“He pushes Mr. Barber with his right hand and guides him with his left hand. The judge was on top of him and is covering up Mr. Barber, literally lying on top of him, and his back was exposed,” Mr. Kastigar said.
The judge was shot in the back.
More than a dozen video clips recorded from cameras at the scene and recovered from the hard drive of a security system at the Safeway grocery store outside which the shootings occurred on Jan. 8 provide other new information about the minutes before the shootings, which left six dead and 13 wounded, including Ms. Giffords. Some of their contents were first described in an article on The Washington Post’s Web site on Tuesday afternoon.
When a deputy sheriff arrived minutes after the shooting started and took control of Mr. Loughner, who was being held down by two people at the scene, the deputy removed a set of earplugs from Mr. Loughner.
Minutes earlier, a surveillance photo also shows Mr. Loughner inside the Safeway talking to a store clerk and “pointing to his ears because he’s telling the individual that he can’t hear what she’s saying because he’s got earplugs in,” Mr. Kastigar said.
He said that about 15 minutes elapsed between the time Mr. Loughner arrived by cab at the Safeway — and had to go inside to get change to pay the driver — and when the shooting started at 10:10 a.m.
The crucial video showing the shooting of Ms. Giffords, Judge Roll and Mr. Barber only lasts about five seconds before the gunman steps out of the frame.
At the start of the clip, it shows the “suspect coming from just outside of the frame of the video toward the parking lot,” Mr. Kastigar said. “He goes around a table set up for part of that gathering and walks up to Gabby and shoots her directly in the forehead.” It was not clear from this video, he said, whether Ms. Giffords realized what was happening.
The gunman “then turns to his left and indiscriminately shoots at people sitting in chairs along the wall,” he said. The video does not show those people being shot, he said, because the gunman has stepped out of the frame.
But quickly the gunman is back in the video, which shows him turning to his right and shooting Mr. Barber, who had been with Judge Roll “standing side by side with the table to their backs.”
Ms. Giffords remains in the hospital in serious condition, and doctors said Tuesday that she “continues to improve physically and neurologically.”
In an exuberant e-mail to family and friends early Tuesday morning, Ms. Giffords’s mother described remarkable progress by her daughter.
According to the e-mail, the congresswoman, whose husband, Capt. Mark E. Kelly, a naval officer and astronaut, was by her side, scrolled through photographs on his iPhone, tried to undo his tie and shirt and even began trying to read get-well cards and pages of large-print text from a Harry Potter book.
“Every day Gabby improves and shows higher levels of comprehension and complex actions,” Gloria Giffords wrote in the e-mail.
Members of Ms. Giffords’s staff said they worried that the message, from a distraught mother looking for hope, might paint an overly optimistic picture of the congresswoman’s condition. They caution that she is severely injured and faces a very long road to recovery.
Recipients forwarded the e-mail to others and a copy was later sent to The New York Times.
In another passage, Gloria Giffords wrote: “They are even now having her move limbs on command. So now comes the ‘true grit’ part ... and won’t be a stroll in a park although Mark predicts she’ll be up and walking around in 2 weeks.”
Ms. Giffords also said in the message that her daughter would be released from the hospital in Tucson on Friday and flown to a rehabilitation center in Houston to begin aggressive physical and occupational therapy. But Ms. Giffords’s staff said no final decision had been made about when or where she would begin rehabilitation.
Ms. Giffords’s doctors have said that although they are encouraged, they urge caution. Ms. Giffords is not yet trying to speak, they said, and the most difficult challenges are still weeks or months away.
Dr. Randall S. Friese, a trauma surgeon who has operated on Ms. Giffords, said Monday that Captain Kelly told him he believed Ms. Giffords was now smiling.
“I wasn’t there,” Dr. Friese said. “Mark told me that he thought he may have seen her smile. We’re all very optimistic so we could be wrong. So we all want to see the best, but sometimes we see what we want to see. But if he says she’s smiling then I buy it.”