Obama leads moment of silence after shooting
Mon, 10 Jan 2011 16:42:35 GMT —
A somber President Barack Obama led a moment of silence on Monday for a nation stunned by an attempted assassination against an Arizona congresswoman that left her seriously wounded, several other injured and six people dead.
On a frigid Washington morning, the president and first lady Michelle Obama walked out of the White House to the sounding of a bell at 11 a.m. Both wearing overcoats, they stood next to each other on the South Lawn, each with their hands clasped, heads bowed and eyes closed.
After a minute of silence, they walked inside, the president's hand on the first lady's back.
Here in Central New York flags were flying at half staff outside the James Hanley Federal Building, and outside the state office building and Syracuse City Hall. Inside, members of the council who were taking part in a committee meeting held a moment of silence before its session.
The moment was marked on the steps of the U.S. Capitol and around the nation on the direction of the president, who called for the country to come together in prayer or reflection for those killed and those fighting to recover. In total, 19 people were shot in the shooting rampage in Tucson, Ariz. on Saturday. Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot point-blank in the head, and she remains in intensive care. Among the six people killed were Arizona's chief federal judge, a 9-year-old girl interested in government, and one of Giffords' aides. Giffords' orbiting brother-in-law, astronaut Scott Kelly, called for a moment of silence aboard the International Space Station and at all the flight control centers around the world.
"We have a unique vantage point here aboard the International Space Station. As I look out the window, I see a very beautiful planet that seems very inviting and peaceful. Unfortunately, it is not," Kelly radioed to Mission Control in Houston. "These days, we are constantly reminded of the unspeakable acts of violence and damage we can inflict upon one another, not just with our actions, but also with our irresponsible words. We're better than this. We must do better."
Kelly, the space station commander, described Giffords as "a caring and dedicated public servant."
As for the suspect, he's a 22-year-old man described as a social outcast with wild beliefs steeped in mistrust faces a federal court hearing Monday on charges he tried to assassinate Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in a Tucson shooting rampage that left six people dead.
A military official in Washington said Jared Loughner was rejected from the Army in 2008 because he failed a drug test. The official spoke Monday on condition of anonymity because privacy laws prevent the military from disclosing such information about an individual's application.
The official did not know what type of drug was detected in the screening.
Public defenders are asking that the attorney who defended Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Timothy McVeigh and "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski defend Loughner, who makes his first court appearance Monday at 2 p.m. MST (4 p.m. EST).
Sheriff Clarence Dupnik told ABC's "Good Morning America" the suspect had said "not a word" to investigators since his arrest. Dupnik said authorities were all but certain Loughner acted alone, saying "he's a typical troubled individual who's a loner."
The hearing in Phoenix comes just a few hours after President Barack Obama standing with first lady Michelle Obama on the White House South Lawn presided over a national moment of silence for Giffords and the other victims.
The moment was marked at the U.S. Capitol and elsewhere around a nation still coming to grips with the tragedy.
Arizona Sen. John McCain, in Brazil on Monday as part of a five-nation congressional delegation trip to Latin America, said he was praying for the recovery of Giffords and grieving the loss of lives but he did not think the shooting should influence gun laws.
"I don't think it's a matter of gun control, I think it's a matter of making sure people who are deranged, that this kind of behavior pattern that apparently was displayed by this individual, is recognized early on," the Republican lawmaker said. "We really don't know enough details to reach any conclusion yet."
Prosecutors allege Loughner scrawled on an envelope the words "my assassination" and "Giffords" sometime before he took a cab to a shopping center where the congresswoman was meeting with constituents Saturday morning.
A federal judge, a congressional aide and a 9-year-old girl, Christina Taylor Green, were among the six people killed, while Giffords and 13 others were injured in the bursts of gunfire outside a Tucson supermarket.
At Christina's Mesa Verde Elementary School Monday morning, a memorial of ribbons across a fence in front of the school was slowly growing as students arrived. Flowers, candles and cards signed by classmates and students at other schools also surrounded the fence.
Associate Superintendent Todd Jaeger said Monday that teachers would meet with a team of psychologists to discuss how to talk to kids about the third grader's death.
"One of the things we know is that we have to be honest with kids and answer their questions. We need to answer those questions without adding to their angst," Jaeger said.
At a Tucson hospital, Giffords, 40, remained in intensive care Monday after being shot in the head at close range.
Neurosurgeon De. Michael LeMole of Tucson's University Medical Center, appearing Monday on CBS's "The Early Show," said, "the best way to describe her this morning is that she's holding her own."
LeMole said he removed a portion of her skull in order to perform the surgery but likely will replace it at some point.
"We don't close the book on recovery for years," he said, "so it'll take as long as it takes. I think the real question will be how long it will take before she's out of the woods."
Authorities weren't saying where Loughner was being held, and officials were working to appoint an attorney for him.
The federal public defender in Arizona has asked that San Diego attorney Judy Clarke be appointed. The former federal public defender served on teams that defended McVeigh, a coconspirator in the 1995 Oklahoma bombing and other high profile cases.
Loughner is charged with one count of attempted assassination of a member of Congress, two counts of killing an employee of the federal government and two counts of attempting to kill a federal employee. More charges are expected.
Discoveries at Loughner's home in southern Arizona, where he lived with his parents in a middle-class neighborhood have provided few answers to what motivated him.
Court papers filed with the charges said he had previous contact with Giffords.
Comments from friends and former classmates bolstered by Loughner's own Internet postings have painted a picture of a social outcast with almost indecipherable beliefs steeped in mistrust and paranoia.
"If you call me a terrorist then the argument to call me a terrorist is Ad hominem," he wrote Dec. 15 in a wide-ranging posting.
Police said he purchased the Glock pistol used in the attack at Sportsman's Warehouse in Tucson in November.
Giffords, a conservative Democrat re-elected in November, faced threats and heckling over her support for immigration reform and her office was vandalized the day the House, including Giffords, approved the landmark health care measure.
It was not clear whether those issues motivated the shooter.
The six killed included U.S. District Judge John Roll, 63; the third grader, Christina, 9; Giffords aide Gabe Zimmerman, 30; Dorothy Morris, 76; Dorwin Stoddard, 76; and Phyllis Schneck, 79.
Christina was featured in a book called "Faces of Hope" that chronicled one baby from each state born on Sept. 11, 2001. Recently elected to student council, she went to the event because of her interest in government.
Amanda Stinnett, a parent who got teary upon seeing the memorial, said her two kids sometimes played together.
"My youngest said, 'She was so nice Mommy. She always let me play with her,"' Stinnett said.
At the same time, she said Christina seemed mature for her age and with a sharp vocabulary.
"It seemed like she was a grown adult."
Associated Press writers Pauline Arrillaga, Justin Pritchard, Terry Tang in Tucson, and Marco Sibaja in Brasilia, Brazil, Anne Flaherty in Washington contributed to this report.