tv NBC Nightly News NBC January 9, 2011 5:30pm-6:00pm PST
>> think so? >> special edition of "nbc nightly news" is up next. tonight from tucson, the massacre that's left a nation stunned. six people are dead and a congresswoman fights for her life. >> he had a semi-automatic pistol and fired. >> among the victims is a 9-year-old girl. tonight, her parents speak out. the suspect is now charged with murder. what may have driven him to kill? and the heroes who stepped in and saved lives. as a country mourns and searches for answers.
good evening from tucson. what happened in the shoping center behind me yesterday left this community and this country awash in sorrow, grief and some deep soul-searching about the nation's political discourse. tonight 911 tapes capture the horror of the massacre as it happened. officials confirmed six died in the attack, 14 others were wounded. the dead include a federal judge and a little girl who came here excited to meet her congresswoman. the target of the lone gunman, representative gabrielle giffords, is said to be responsive. doctors say they're cautiously optimistic about her condition. late today federal charges were filed against the 22-year-old suspected shooter. he faces five counts including murder and attempted assassination. authorities have talked to a man some witnesses thought they saw arriving at the scene with suspect jared loughner. he has been cleared. investigators say that man had nothing at all to do with the shootings. this story is resonating from
tucson to washington and across the country tonight, and we start our coverage here with miguel alma gare. >> good evening. investigators were back at crime scene yesterday of the shooting. they were in the parking lot where so many were gunned down, and even today some say it's just too soon to go back. >> 911. where is the emergency? >> mrs. giffords. >> hello? hello? >> 911 there's been a shooting at safeway. >> 911 calls capture the terror. there's other people that are injured? >> not other people. there are multiple people that are shot. okay. oh, my god. >> a suburban shopping center is the backdrop for bloodshed and chaos saturday morning. today, federal charges were filed against the alleged gunman, 22-year-old jared lee loughner. >> he's charged with the assault
on the congresswoman, with the killing of judge roll and the assault on the other staffers. >> reporter: authorities say he approached congresswoman gabrielle giffords and shot her at point-blank range. >> as i looked up, a man was shooting her in the head, and he just continued shooting without hesitation at all. >> bullets sprayed into the crowd. >> just rapid fire point-blank at people just right in front of him, and people were just going down. >> two men tackled the shooter and others helped. >> there was a woman who had gotten his gun. apparently he was trying to reload when he was tackled. he had an extended clip. >> before emergency responders arrived, giffords' intern of five days, daniel hernandez, ran to help his boss. >> i tried to stop as much of the blood loss as possible. >> his actions may have saved her life.
>> congresswoman giffords can communicate with us this morning through following simple commands, and we're very encouraged by that. >> when the gunfire was over, at least 20 were shot and for six victims there was no help. one, a federal judge. another, a giffords' aide was engaged. the youngest victim was just nine years old. tonight police are learning more about the suspected gunman and the weapon he used. >> it was a glock 9 millimeter, model 19. >> the semi-automatic gun was purchased last november at a sportsman's warehouse in few son not far from saturday's shooting. tonight investigators have released no motive as a community searches for answers. yesterday police released the picture of a man wanted for questioning in the shooting. police say he was spoken to today. he's not involved in the incident. lester, officers say they have the sole gunman involved in the shooting. >> thanks very much. let's talk a bit more about what they're learning about the suspect tonight. we noted a moment ago jared lee
loughner was charged with five federal counts in connection with with the shooting of the federal employees. nbc's justice correspondent pete williams has more. pete, good evening. >> lester, tonight, federal officials say they found evidence in jared loughner's own handwriting indicating he intended congresswoman giffords to be the target of his shooting rampage. some of his former college classmates said they feared he would one day do something violent. when federal agents searched the tucson house where jared loughner lived, court documents say they found a safe with an envelope inside. written on it the fbi says were these words, quote, i planned ahead. my assassination and the name giffords along with what appears to be loughner's signature. linda sorenson of tucson says she's not surprised he's the suspect. six months ago when she was a classmate of his at pima college in tucson, she described him this way in an e-mail to a
friend. she's one of those whose picture you see on the news after he has come into class with an automatic weapon. >> he alarmed me. his behavior was bizarre. i thought he was mentally and emotionally unstable and i was very much afraid he was going to do something exactly like this. >> reporter: he was so disruptive that he was suspended last fall and told if he wanted to return he had to get a mental health clearance showing he did not present a danger. the following month he bought the gun, a legal purchase because he had no record to disqualify him. he talked with congresswoman giffords in 2007 at a meeting in a shopping center. >> he asked a question that made no sense to me and i can't recall it today. he said she didn't understand it. i don't understand what it is with picns. g it. >> in that safe in that house they found a letter from the congresswoman thanking him for attending the event. the fbi is also looking at his rambling writings on youtube.
one says the government is engaging in mind control and brain washing by controlling grammar. >> you see a portrait of somebody with a major mental illness of psychotic proportions and i think it's probably likely he suffers from schizophrenia. >> they say he showed interest in far right groups but his motive is unknown. what it is the fbi director says loughner apparently acted alone. >> there is no information at this time to suggest any specific threat remains. >> loughner will appear in court tomorrow to face charges of murdering federal judge john roll and a member of the congresswoman's staff gabriel zimmerman. those counts carry the federal death penalty. he's also charged with the attempted murder of three others, congresswoman giffords and two other staff members. pamela simon and rob barber. lester. >> those killed yesterday range in age from 9 to 79 years old.
nbc's kristen welker is at tucon's university medical center tonight with more on the as ten people continue to recover here at this tucson hospital, residents are just beginning to accept all that has happened in their quiet community. a steady memorial grows outside the hospital where the wounded are recovering. >> i'm just here to try to make some sense of this. >> at the mountain avenue church of christ, the grief was personal. 76-year-old dorwin stoddard is among the dead. witnesses say he jumped on top of his wife, his childhood sweetheart, saving her, sacrificing himself. >> i think dori would step up to the plate and throw himself on a grenade for anybody. >> reporter: as the sadness grows, so does the anger, especially over the death of the youngest victim, 9-year-old christina taylor green. her mother said she never imagined she could lose her
daughter like this. >> she's a face of hope, a face of change, a face of us coming together as a country to stop the violence and hatred and the evil words. >> the 63-year-old federal judge john roll also leaves a memorable legacy. roll, a father and grandfather, was a dedicated member of his church. he had just left mass when he stopped by the congresswoman's event to say hello. moments later, he was gunned down. sheriff clarence dupnik says the judge was one of his dearest friends. >> you'd never suspect that this guy was a judge. nothing pretentious about this ordinary individual who was anything but ordinary. >> gabriel zimmerman was just 30, an aide to the congresswoman. he was recently engaged. his friends still in disbelief. >> it's hard to bear losing him. it is.
>> 79-year-old phyllis schneck was a retiree who spent winters in tucson. her daughter, now struggling to understand how someone could shoot her mother in cold blood and why. >> i don't think she had an enemy in the world. everybody loved her. >> dorothy morris' loved ones also want answers. the 76-year-old's husband was wounded in the shooting spree. she was killed. the collective grief for the six victims a reminder what unfolded in a few minutes has changed this community forever. and six people are in fair condition here at the hospital, three people are in serious condition, one person is critical. that person, congresswoman giffords. lester. >> kristen, thanks. you mentioned the 9-year-old victim, christina taylor green. she was born on september 11th, 2001, a birthday that defined her life but in ways you might not expect. it's part of the reason she came here with the family friend to meet congresswoman giffords. today i sat down with her mom and dad who talked about the little girl they loved and
cherished and a little girl whose story might teach all of us a thing or two about hope. >> she was just very patriotic. she liked to wear red, white and blue. >> president obama mentioned her in his remarks and fbi director talked about a child trying to learn about how the government worked. to hear her name mentioned in that way, how does that make you feel? >> i'm proud of her, because president obama and his campaign is where she started to get interested in politics. at least to have him mention her makes me feel good. >> i just knew in my heart something bad, something really, really bad. they told me they tried their best to save her, but they couldn't. and that she had passed away. >> i think everybody paused when they heard christina's birth date, september 11th, 2001.
>> she was very proud of that. she began her life on a tragedy like 9/11, and her life was ended with a tragedy here in arizona. but there was nine good years in the middle. so the tragedy is where the book ends. the book of her life was wonderful, and we loved every minute of it. >> a remarkable family and a remarkable little girl. we'll have much more of that interview tonight on "dateline" at 8:00/7:00 central on nbc. the shooting of congresswoman giffords reverberated through washington today. kelly o'donnell is at the capitol tonight. kelly. >> reporter: good evening, lester. the fallout focuses in two directions. a full assessment of security for all members and staff with detailed briefings and plans are taking shape to formally honor giffords, her aides and other
victims this week on the house floor. >> we're sent here by our constituents to be their voices in washington. >> reporter: elected to congress three times, gabrielle giffords' last race was her toughest. >> we need you to help us get out the vote for tuesday. >> reporter: today house speaker john boehner ordered flagged lowered at capitol hill to honor gabe zimmerman shot and killed. >> an attack on one who serves is an attack on all that serve. >> we stand before you with the deepest sandness. >> reporter: members of congress and their families are deeply shaken. florida's debbie wasserman shuttz says her young daughter is anxious. >> she asked me, mommy, are you going to get shot? i was trying to reassure her and tell her, of course not. i'm going to be okay. don't worry. >> gifford's husband, shuttle
astronaut, mark kelly, has told some of her colleagues her condition is very grim. mark's twin brother, scott, is commander of the international space station and sent this twitter message from space. what is going on in our country that such a good person can be the subject of such senseless violence? well-liked and respected, giffords once a republican switched parties years ago. >> residents in my district are sick and tired of all of the partisan bickering and political games around securing the u.s.-mexican border. >> reporter: vandals damaged her tucson office last year and threats poured in. on msnbc giffords expressed concern about being on a tea party target list. an arizona congressman said she was not afraid. >> she didn't change her pattern of outreach and accessibility. we never felt we had a need to do that. >> 40 years old she loved motorcycles and has run her family's tire business. a full bright scholar, she told graduates about her decision to run for office. >> the highest calling in my own
life is service to others, and i have never looked back. >> reporter: gabrielle giffords is easy to talk to and accessible and two colleagues say they're prepared to carry their own guns in their home districts as a precaution. lester. >> kelly, thank you. as we mentioned earlier, doctors in tucson said today they're cautiously optimistic about congresswoman gabrielle giffords. they had a lot to say about how they treated her. we're joined by nbc's chief medical editor dr. nancy snyderman. how does someone survive this kind of injury? >> in this situation it was a little bit of everything. good luck and the trajectory of the bullet. it went through a portion of the brain. phenomenal work on the part of the people of the hospital staff to get her into the emergency room and within the o.r. within an hour. frankly the fact she's 40. right now in the first 72 hours what they're looking for is any changes in her neurologic status. the big concern is they know they have the bleeding under
control and to watch for infection and make sure that that brain isn't swelling, which it will. so with the bullet coming in over her ear here and out through her forehead, the doctors have taken off a piece of the skull to allow the brain to swell, and they long-term will watch for changes from damage to the speech area of the brain. but for right now in this first 72 hours it's all about stabilizing her, monitoring her hour by hour, then day by day. then we can talk about the long term. >> all right. dr. nancy snyderman, thank you. when "nbc nightly news" continues from tucson, how the killings are bringing new attention to the undercurrent of anger and extremism in american politics. bracing for another big winter storm. we'll tell you where this one's headed.
back now no tucson where investigators say they still don't know the suspect's motive in yesterday's shooting but regardless of whether it was politically motivated or not, it has sparked a debate about the political climate in this country. it's hard to separate what happened here from the increasingly heated rhetoric that turned political opponent into enemies. lee cowan has more on this. >> reporter: it didn't take long for the i told you sos to start flying. the chorus of those blaming yesterday's shooting on the loss of political civility in this country is only getting louder not only from both sides of the aisle but those with a badge.
>> to try to inflame the public on a daily basis 24 hours a day 7 days a week has impact on people, especially who are unbalanced personalities to begin with. >> reporter: the shooter's motives are unclear, but not since timothy mcveigh attacked the federal building in oklahoma city has a crime sparked such swift attention on anti-government rhetoric. >> i have every right -- >> wait a minute, wait a minute. >> reporter: those town hall meeting meltdowns are a symptom of a problem both parties are facing. political extremism with a voice louder than ever. >> we have to be careful not to blame one side or the other, because both sides are guilty of this. you have extremes on both sides. >> reporter: that fringe makes words and images vulnerable to abuse. sarah palin says she wasn't endorsing violence with that facebook map of cross hairs over arizona, but at the time congresswoman giffords wondered aloud why use that image in the first place? >> when people do that there's consequences to that action. >> reporter: that's what seems to have gotten loss. consequences and boundaries. interrupting the president with
an insult is now a reality. >> you lie. >> reporter: visitors shout condemnations from the normally hushed house gallery. and the cleanup some say has to start at the top. >> members of congress either need to turn down the volume, begin to try to exercise some high level of civility. >> reporter: it's not just congress. many blame those who profit from fanning the idealogical flames whether it's on tv, the radio, the internet. it's a vast echo chamber where everything is magnified. we have been been through tumultuous political environments before. if history teaches anything, it's that reasoned discourse rarely fuels the violence. perhaps those hell bent on bloodshed won't learn from history, but the rest of us certainly can. lee cowan, nbc news, los angeles. up next tonight, the latest
turning now to another story we're following closely tonight. parts of the south are getting ready for a new blast of winter weather. the weather channel's mike seidel joins us from grenada, mississippi. mike, good evening. >> reporter: good evening. tonight in the deep south it's snow and sleet. you can see it hitting me on my shoulders and freezing rain is sweeping in. many areas only see 1 to 2 inches of snow in an entire winter. the storm along the coast of louisiana spinning in a lot of moisture into this cold air. see that pink color on the radar? that's ice and freezing rain. that will likely lead to power outages. it's heading northeast towards atlanta. the metro area, 3 to 5 inches of snow and sleet tomorrow. that will cripple the world's busiest airport. there's hundreds of flights canceled tonight and tomorrow. this is heading up the east coast and will impact the northeast tuesday and wednesday. back to you. >> mike seidel watching it for us tonight. thanks.
tucson where i'm joined now by brian williams who will anchor a special edition of "dateline" tonight on the shooting rampage. you and i have covered way too many of these. this one is painful on so many levels. >> oh, my goodness. this whole area is hurting so badly and so deeply. such a dark tragedy, and as we learn more of these tentacles and original stories, it only gets worse. i keep going back to the quote from john mccain. this young gunman is a disgrace to arizona, his country and the human race. tonight on "dateline" after the first hour, which will be hosted by ann curry because believe it or not we're on the one-year anniversary of the tragedy in haiti, at 8:00/7:00 central we'll come on and do an hour's worst of coverage from here including our conversation with both surgeons, the head of trauma and brain surgeon who literally can be thanked tonight for sparing the life of this member of congress. lester. >>