1.9.11 ---Rep. Gabrielle Giffords remains in critical condition Sunday as investigators attempt to understand what motivated a gunman's shooting rampage that killed six.
UniversityMedicalCenter spokeswoman Darci Slaten told The Associated Press that Giffords remained sedated after undergoing a two-hour surgery Saturday and has not been conscious since the shooting.
Authorities said Gifford, 40, was targeted at a public gathering by a man with a semiautomatic weapon around Saturday outside a busy Tucson supermarket. Arizona's chief federal judge and five others were killed and 13 people were wounded, including the Democrat lawmaker.
He also fired at her district director and shot indiscriminately at staffers and others standing in line to talk to the congresswoman, said Mark Kimble, a communications staffer for Giffords.
"He was not more than three or four feet from the congresswoman and the district director," Kimble said, describing the scene as "just complete chaos, people screaming, crying."
Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said the rampage ended only after two people tackled the gunman.
"He was definitely on a mission," said Villec, a former Giffords intern.
Police say the shooter was in custody, and was identified by people familiar with the investigation as Jared Loughner, 22.
His motivation was not immediately known, but Dupnik described him as mentally unstable and possibly acting with an accomplice.
The assassination attempt has left some Americans questioning whether divisive politics had pushed the suspect over the edge.
A shaken President Barack Obama called the attack "a tragedy for our entire country."
Strong reaction came from overseas, as well.
Fidel Castro denounced the attack as atrocious. "Even those of us who don't share at all the politics and philosophies (of the Obama administration) sincerely desire that no children, judges, legislators or citizens of the United States die in such an absurd and unjustifiable way," Castro said in an opinion piece titled "An Atrocious Act," published in Cuban state-controlled media.
Giffords is a moderate Democrat who narrowly won re-election in November against a tea party candidate who sought to throw her from office over her support of the health care law. Anger over her position became violent at times, with her Tucson office vandalized after the House passed the overhaul last March and someone showing up at a recent gathering with a weapon.
Authorities said the dead included U.S. District Judge John Roll, 63; Christina Greene, 9; Giffords aide Zimmerman, 30; Dorothy Morris, 76; Dorwin Stoddard, 76; and Phyllis Scheck, 79.
The sheriff blamed the vitriolic political rhetoric that has consumed the country, much of it occurring in Arizona.
Giffords expressed similar concern, even before the shooting. In an interview after her office was vandalized, she referred to the animosity against her by conservatives, including Sarah Palin's decision to list Giffords' seat as one of the top "targets" in the midterm elections.
"For example, we're on Sarah Palin's targeted list, but the thing is, that the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action," Giffords said in an interview with MSNBC.
In the hours after the shooting, Palin issued a statement in which she expressed her "sincere condolences" to the family of Giffords and the other victims.
During his campaign effort to unseat Giffords in November, Republican challenger Jesse Kelly held fundraisers where he urged supporters to help remove Giffords from office by joining him to shoot a fully loaded M-16 rifle. Kelly is a former Marine who served in Iraq and was pictured on his website in military gear holding his automatic weapon and promoting the event.
"I don't see the connection," between the fundraisers featuring weapons and Saturday's shooting, said John Ellinwood, Kelly's spokesman. "I don't know this person, we cannot find any records that he was associated with the campaign in any way. I just don't see the connection.
"Arizona is a state where people are firearms owners — this was just a deranged individual."
Law enforcement officials said members of Congress reported 42 cases of threats or violence in the first three months of 2010, nearly three times the 15 cases reported during the same period a year earlier. Nearly all dealt with the health care bill, and Giffords was among the targets.
The suspect Loughner was described by a former classmate as a pot-smoking loner, and the Army said he tried to enlist in December 2008 but was rejected for reasons not disclosed.
Federal law enforcement officials were poring over versions of a MySpace page that included a mysterious "Goodbye friends" message published hours before the shooting and exhorted his friends to "Please don't be mad at me." In one of several YouTube videos, which featured text against a dark background, Loughner described inventing a new U.S. currency and complained about the illiteracy rate among people living in Giffords' congressional district in Arizona.
"I know who's listening: Government Officials, and the People," Loughner wrote. "Nearly all the people, who don't know this accurate information of a new currency, aren't aware of mind control and brainwash methods. If I have my civil rights, then this message wouldn't have happen."