Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was shot Saturday morning while hosting an event in her Tucson district. She remains in intensive care following surgery, but a hospital spokesman told a news conference Saturday that Giffords was alive and responding to commands.
At least 18 people were shot by a gunman outside a Safeway, and at least five have died, according to officials speaking at news conferences. Giffords' district director is reportedly among the dead, while a U.S. district court judge was wounded.
Giffords was talking to two constituents at a "Congress on your Corner" event in Tucson when the gunman ran up to her and fired from approximately four feet away, said Peter Michaels, the news director of Arizona Public Media, according to an NPR report. Five others, including members of Giffords staff were also shot.
"Gabrielle Giffords' condition was very optimistic and she was following commands," a surgeon at the hospital told a news conference. "I'm about as optimistic as I can get in this situation." Ten patients were admitted to the hospital from the shooting, the surgeon said: five are in surgery; five, including the congresswoman, are in critical condition. One patient, described as a young child, died.
The suspect, a 22-year old male identified by the Associated Press as Jared Laughner, was firing indiscriminately into the crowd and is in custody, according to the news reports.
The Tucson Citizen newspaper reported that Giffords was shot in the head. She was taken to University Medical Center in Tucson. Rep. Raul Grijalva and his staff have reportedly been put on alert. About three hours after the shooting, the Capitol Police issued a warning to members of Congress.
"Federal, state and local law enforcement authorities in Arizona are investigating a shooting in Tucson, Arizona in which Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot. Multiple others were shot as well. Congresswoman Giffords has been transported to a local medical facility with serious injuries. The suspect is in custody. No further details on the motive or other victims are available at this time," the e-mail from Capitol Police read.
"The U.S. Capitol Police are directly involved in this investigation. As more information is developed, it will be provided. In the interim, all Members and staff are advised to take reasonable and prudent precautions regarding their personal security."
The "Congress on your Corner" event was advertised on Giffords' official website and was scheduled to be held from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at a Safeway in Tucson. Congressional staff were attending the event to help constituents with casework.
According to the press release for the event, it was intended to allow "residents of Arizona’s 8th Congressional District to meet their congresswoman one-on-one and discuss with her any issue, concern or problem involving the federal government."
Giffords won election in 2006 and was narrowly re-elected to a third term in 2010.
In brief remarks in which he called Giffords a personal friend, President Obama said he had dispatched FBI director Robert Mueller to Arizona to direct the investigation. Obama also said at least five people were killed in the shooting, including Federal Judge John Roll and a young girl who was barely nine years old.
The President was notified of the shooting shortly after 1:20 p.m. EST. He began making a number of phone calls, including one to Giffords' husband, and getting various briefings at 3 p.m. Obama also asked FBI Director Robert Mueller to travel to Arizona to personally oversee the coordination of this investigation.
"There has never been one unkind, angry or cross word come between us," Rep. Trent Franks, a Republican who also hails from Arizona, said on MSNBC. "This tragedy is beyond my ability to articulate."
A candlelight vigil will be held tonight at 6 p.m. MST at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix.
President Obama's statement from Saturday afternoon: