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Shooting in Tucson, AZ: Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords Among Those Shot; Six Reported Dead, More Than a Dozen Injured
Aired January 8, 2011 - 13:35 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Martin Savidge at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. We interrupt "YOUR MONEY" because news is what we're about and news is what we have.
Several people have been shot at a grocery store in Tucson, Arizona. A spokesman for the Pima County Sheriff's Department says that among the victims or included in the victims are at least 12 people. They described them as injured they do not use the word wounded. The shooting reportedly took place around 10:00 a.m. local time. That would have been noon Eastern Time.
Now we have heard from the Tucson "Citizens Newspaper" that among those who may have been wounded was Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who is a Democrat with the House of Representatives. The reason this is noted is she had an event taking place at this grocery store, which is a Safe Way in Tucson, Arizona. It was described as a congressperson on your corner kind of gathering. These are often held by people in Congress where they go back to meet with their constituents.
What's notable here is that an event like that would have been posted. In fact, it was on the congresswoman's website and it was stated that this was her first Congress on your corner of the year to be held Saturday, January 8th at the supermarket in northwest Tucson. So it appears that shots have been fired. According to the public information officer of the Pima County Sheriff's Department, a dozen people have been injured and there have been people transported to the Northwest Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona.
We do not have the conditions of any of those who have either been injured or who have been shot. We are continuing to get information into the CNN Center.
Dana Bash is joining us now on the telephone.
Dana, what do we know about the condition, if at all, whether the congresswoman was wounded at this event?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Unfortunately I don't have information about her condition right now. I just got off the phone with a Democratic congressional source though who did say that she was, in fact, shot, she being Gabrielle Giffords, congresswoman from Arizona. And this source told me that unfortunately it sounds like these are preliminary reports but sounds like some of her staff might have been shot.
You've been reporting, Marty, that she was doing a congressional event so she did have staff at this event in Tucson. We do not know her condition right now but I was told by this source who called me that it was, quote, pretty serious. Again, preliminary reports but waiting to get more information from her office and obviously from the authorities on the scene.
SAVIDGE: These kind of Congress on your corner events, these are pretty common, I would imagine. Typically this is where a congressperson goes back to their district and makes themselves available to their constituents.
BASH: Exactly. Every member of Congress handles it in a different way. But most members of Congress make it a point of going back to their district and taking questions and having conversations with their constituents about what's concerning them, what Congress is working on, sort of anything at all that's out there. Interesting, Gabby Giffords she is a Democrat from a pretty conservative district. She's from a border district in Arizona. She just was elected to her third term in an atmosphere where Democrats weren't re-elected. She was re-elected. She's young. She's just 40 years old. And so you know, obviously everybody is hoping and praying that she is OK.
I can just tell you a quick anecdote. I just happened to have a conversation with her in the hallway right off the House Chamber yesterday, Marty. She was just so relieved that the election was behind her. She was telling me a story about how she and her husband went on a last-minute trip to Rome for Christmas. She said they were able to get in for midnight mass at the Vatican. She was just elated about where she was and what she was doing. Obviously she, like most members of the House, were finishing their votes and getting ready to head home to do what she did, which is to meet with their constituents.
SAVIDGE: Let's just remind viewers who may be tuning in right now as to exactly what we're following. That is breaking news, a story out of Tucson, Arizona, at this hour where several people were shot at a Safe Way grocery store. According to the public information officer with the Pima County Sheriff's Department, 12 people have been injured and according to the Tucson "Citizen Newspaper," among those who were injured or wounded was Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords as we were just talking on the phone to Dana Bash about.
I'm wondering here when these events are made public. Are their security concerns, Dana when we're talking about Congress people putting on their website, I will be here at this time. There has to be some concerns.
BASH: You know there should be some concerns. What the rank and file members of Congress, typically unless there's some known threat don't get the kind of security that you might see around the leadership in Congress, it just doesn't happen. I think that they probably take every event as it comes. There are times when rhetoric is heated, whether because of something going on in Congress, or a piece of legislation before Congress, the capitol police know you have to look at.
But look this is so common. This is what members of Congress say that their job really is, is to get out there and talk to the people. I don't know the circumstances here but for the most part it is, you know it is done without security around. But you know, in terms of where, we don't know any of the circumstances of where this person was or beyond that. Where this particular district is, it's important to point out that it is, as I mentioned, a border district. Emotions are always raw there, whether it is on immigration, whether it is on any of those issues that really are hotbeds in Washington. You know, you feel it even more so in that particular district. That's something to keep in mind.
SAVIDGE: Right. This is the Arizona Eighth Congressional District I believe we're talking about. And we are referencing Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who according to authorities was at a Safe Way grocery store this morning when around 10:00 a.m., that's Mountain Standard Time, a shooting broke out.
According to the public information officer of the Pima County Sheriff's Department, 12 people have been injured. The Tucson "Citizen Newspaper" is reporting among them is the congresswoman.
We have an eyewitness who is now joining us on the telephone is Jason Pekau.
Jason, you're a Sprint employee who was across the street apparently when this happened. Tell us what you saw.
JASON PEKAU, EMPLOYEE AT SPRINT STORE NEAR SAFEWAY (via telephone): Actually, I work in the same parking lot as the Safe Way about 40 to 50 yards away from where it happened. I heard about 15 to 20 gunshots, did not actually eyewitness it. I did get a lot of information from people that did.
SAVIDGE: What do you see happening there now?
PEKAU: Right now, we have multiple authorities here. They actually have two sheriff officers going through cars with assault rifles just checking. They have the entire parking lot taped off doing their investigation.
SAVIDGE: What do we know of the shooter, has that person been apprehended or are they still on the loose?
PEKAU: From my understanding they have not been apprehended from close sources Tuscan Police Department but I know the total of I believe 15 wounded and possibly six dead unconfirmed.
SAVIDGE: You are saying that you've heard there are fatalities but you have not seen and cannot confirm there are fatalities?
PEKAU: I see two bodies laying on the sidewalk in front of the Safeway. Other than that I can't see much further than that. They have it blocked off. SAVIDGE: All right. That would seem to be confirmation that people have been killed. We'll wait to get further confirmation on that specifically from law enforcement. What did you hear? And when you talked to witnesses afterwards, what do you know about what happened?
PEKAU: From my understanding, what I first heard, I heard about 15 to 20 gunshots in the parking lot. I came outside immediately, did not see a vehicle or any people fleeing. I just saw people running, screaming towards where the shooting happened. Everyone screaming that it was Gabrielle Giffords. I did see them take her away on a stretcher to the life flight. She was moving, from what I saw with my own eyes. And right now I've just seen a bunch of people leaving on stretchers and life flights flying out of here at the moment.
SAVIDGE: And I imagine that people there including perhaps yourself, are in a state of shock.
PEKAU: Yes. From what I'm being told from the people that had seen it, that she was shot point blank in the head by the shooter. After that, basically all chaos broke loose. There was some bullets that went through the window into the Safe Way that I could see. How many people were hurt, I have no idea.
SAVIDGE: All right. Stay with me, Jason. We are talking to Jason Pekau. These are photographs that Jason has taken that he has supplied here to CNN. Let me remind the audience what it is we're looking at. There has been a shooting at a Safe Way grocery store in Tucson, Arizona. The Pima County Sheriff's Department is acknowledging that 12 people were injured.
Now Jason, you are saying that you actually can see that there are bodies on site, which would indicate, of course, there are fatalities. We do not know the exact number of how many have been wounded and we do not know anything about those that may have been killed, but we do know -- you say, Jason, 15 to 20 shots were fired?
SAVIDGE: And that was just bang, bang, bang or was it drawn out over sometime?
PEKAU: No, it was consistent. It was consistently 15 to 20 all at once.
SAVIDGE: You say that you don't believe that the shooter has been taken into custody and I'm just wondering what gives you that indication.
PEKAU: The only indication that I'm going off of there is the fact they are still searching cars here in the parking lot. Also my source that knows the Tucson Police Department over here saying that they have not apprehended a suspect.
SAVIDGE: The description you gave us regarding the congresswoman and the shooter firing point blank, first of all do we know is the shooter male or female or anything about them?
PEKAU: I don't know anything about them.
SAVIDGE: OK. The fact that this was point-blank, where did you hear that from and how do you know?
PEKAU: I heard it from the source that talked to the Tucson Police officer saying that she was shot point-blank in the head.
SAVIDGE: Then you say that life flight, which is an emergency medical evacuation helicopter, was brought into the scene.
PEKAU: There are three of them total.
SAVIDGE: That is a clear indication any time you come to a scene of trauma where you have life flight then you've had serious injuries and life threatening injuries that have occurred. In this parking lot where you took those photographs, had people taken shelter? Did people run? There must have been a large crowd there given the fact it's Saturday morning and going to the grocery store is a pretty common thing to do.
PEKAU: Absolutely. The minute that I stepped out of my building there were people actually sprinting right in front of me running from where the shooting happened screaming that Gabrielle Giffords had been shot.
SAVIDGE: And where is everyone now? Have they been sequestered, I mean are people being held, are buildings evacuated? Do we know anything about that?
PEKAU: Actually the entire complex has been shut down. I did see them pull away some people that were distraught, that under my assumption had seen what happened. Other than that they are not letting anybody in or out of this parking lot.
SAVIDGE: Let me make sure that you yourself are not in jeopardy and you are in someplace they you believe you are safe.
PEKAU: Yes, I'm actually standing right outside of my store basically right across the parking lot from the Safe Way.
SAVIDGE: All right. I want you to stay with us, Jason. Dana, as you've just heard, you've probably been listening to Jason's account and it's extremely troubling.
BASH: Beyond troubling. It's absolutely chilling to hear what happened. It's an absolute nightmare. An absolute nightmare, especially for any reason but especially given what she was doing, which was, you know, basically trying to follow the basic tenets of democracy to talk to her constituency. We don't know the circumstances of who it was or what the reason for this absolute horrible, horrible thing. It's mind boggling. I want to go back to what the Democratic source that I talked to earlier said is that it seems as those and these are preliminary reports, it wasn't just the congresswoman but apparently her staff as well that and to be injured by this shooter.
SAVIDGE: Jason, can you confirm? Do you know if other members of her staff in fact had been wounded or injured in some way in this attack?
PEKAU: I could not confirm that they were injured. I did see a couple of gentlemen that looked like they might have been a couple of her representatives that were standing there distraught on their telephones.
SAVIDGE: Because you are there, you're our eyes on the scene, I want you to just sort of look out at the scene and describe what it is you're looking at now.
PEKAU: Right now I am looking at a large group of law enforcement gathered around one area. I'm assuming talking about the investigation. On the other side is a large group of firemen and paramedics. There are two Pima sheriffs actually standing guard where the shooting actually happened next to it looks like two to three bodies at the moment.
SAVIDGE: I'm sorry, Jason. They were talking in my ear at that moment. That's the scene. And you say you do see what appear to be bodies on the ground.
SAVIDGE: All right. We're going to take a break here for a moment. Jason, we ask that you stay with us, but just so you know what it is we're dealing with. We're talking about breaking news coming out of Tucson, Arizona, at this hour. We know that several people have been shot. There have been unconfirmed -- actually, I should say there are confirmed reports from the public information officer from the Pima County Sheriff's Department that a dozen people that were injured, unconfirmed reports of fatalities but our eye witness says that he can see them on the ground.
And we have Dana Bash that is also joining us from Washington because it is feared that among those who have been wounded is Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who is from the Eighth Congressional District in Tucson, Arizona. We'll take a break, be back in a moment with more.
SAVIDGE: Martin Savidge here at CNN Center in Atlanta. We're following breaking news a story out of Tucson, Arizona, at this hour. Several people have been shot we're told by the Pima County Sheriff's Department there could be at least 12 people that have been injured.
And a Democratic source has told CNN's Dana Bash that the U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords is among the victims. This is a shooting that took place around 10:00 a.m. local time in Tucson, Arizona at a Safeway grocery store. This was an event that Representative Gabrielle Giffords was routinely going to hold, it was her first Congress on the corner. This is her chance to speak with constituents and this had been planned for some time and reportedly gunfire erupted.
Jason Pekau is joining us on the telephone. He is an eyewitness. Well, he heard the shots fire and then came out and saw eyewitness to the aftermath. Jason, I know you've been asked this before, but I'm going to ask you again, tell us initially what you heard and then what you saw.
PEKAU: Yes. First I had heard at least 15 to 20 gunshots happen, all randomly. There were no breaks in between. Multiple people running from the scene screaming that Gabrielle Giffords had been shot. Then about two minutes later multiple authorities showed up, fire trucks, police, helicopters, everything and then unconfirmed from a source, the Tucson Police Department had told me that six dead 15 wounded possibly. I can actually see from where I'm standing at least 2 possibly 3 bodies lying on the sidewalk with sheets over them.
SAVIDGE: All right. Jason is on the scene, he is an eyewitness. He is reporting that he has heard as many as perhaps six killed. We cannot confirm that. We have not any official confirmation but of course Jason is actually seeing something. I'm just reminding our viewers Jason as to what the circumstances is with you.
Please hold on the line for a moment. I want to bring in John King because Congresswoman Giffords was and has been interviewed by John King a number of times.
John, I'm just wondering your thoughts here as you hear this obviously horrendous news.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Marty, it is horrendous news. As you well know often the information you get from the scene and you have an excellent witness on the scene there often you get conflicting information and things change as the authorities learn more later. But we do know that she was among those who are there and we have at least one source saying she is among those who was shot.
So as we wait to find out exactly what happens, as you were talking with Dana earlier, I was there in 2006 when she was first elected to Congress, it is a very competitive district. Gabby Giffords is what they call her in the district. She is very personable, very outgoing. She is among the members of Congress, members of Congress who continues to do these small town hall style events.
If you remember the health care debate a couple of years ago a lot of members of Congress stopped doing the events in informal ways, they became much more structured. But she doesn't believe that is the way to go about her business and she likes interacting with her constituents. It's a very tough district. I was there in 2006 and back in that district again in 2008. I've spoken to her several times in the last few years because Arizona is on the cutting edge of so many over our most volatile political debates right now. The state's own immigration law was a huge issue, all the candidates whether they were running for state office or federal office got caught up in the Arizona immigration law debate, the border security debate has been huge there.
She of course has also been right in the middle among the Democrats in the big health care debate. So a tough -- she was surprised in some ways to survive this year's political climate. She had a very tough race. Being back and in touch with her constituents is part of her way in these -- whether Democrats or Republicans in these tough swing districts this is how they keep their job, Marty. They go home and they get involved in the give and take with their constituents even though often these events are feisty and this one apparently today has taken just a horrendous turn.
SAVIDGE: It is going to be wondered by many as to whether any of the controversy that has been coming out of the state of Arizona, immigration being just one aspect, if in any way it played into this. We don't know the circumstances or the motivations by who may have been the shooter here. But that certainly is going to be on the minds of members of Congress, John.
KING: It will be on the minds of members of Congress and of course will be the initial questions asked by law enforcement when they try to get into the motives. But we do need to be careful. We know that Arizona has been a big part of our national debate on many, many issues. We do need to be very careful obviously for someone to take whatever complaint or grievance they had against her to this level, we need to be very careful in connecting any dots right now.
But it is one of the most competitive congressional districts in the country. She just survived a very, very tough campaign and it is an odd thing to say at this moment it is to her credit that in the first break of the new Congress on the first Saturday morning she was out to talk to her constituents.
SAVIDGE: All right. John, hold on. Mike Brooks I want to bring you into the conversation. You've got information for us. Go ahead.
MIKE BROOKS, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST (via telephone): Hey, Marty. I'm hearing from my federal law enforcement sources that apparently yes that the information we're reporting, we're hearing also from people at the scene that she was shot in the head. Also apparently one of her staffers was also shot. Do not know the condition of that particular staffer.
But law enforcement right now still does not know a motive. We are hearing, though, also that the shooter is in custody. We don't have any identification on the shooter again these are initial reports right now from the scene, Marty.
I was also talking to law enforcement sources in Washington. There were no threats that they had gotten in reference to Congresswoman Giffords, any threats against her life that they know of. They're looking into that right now because, as you know, U.S. Capitol Police provide protection for members of Congress. If that had been the case, there would have been members of the U.S. Capitol Police for her protection on the scene with her. But right now it's very, very early in the investigation and we're going to try to find out the identity of this perpetrator who they say is in custody -- Marty.
SAVIDGE: Mike, you're saying that even when they go home to their constituents they would have the same security force they would have around them in Washington?
BROOKS: They would make a threat assessment. Let's say they got a number of letters, somebody coming to one of her offices there in Arizona. If they thought there was going to be a credible threat they would provide a protection detail. Usually not, but it's up to the dignitary protection division of the U.S. Capitol Police that would make that call.
But what I'm hearing from sources is that there was no threat against her that would merit a protection detail.
SAVIDGE: All right, well, again, you're confirming to us that you're saying you're hearing from authorities there that the suspect or shooter has been apparently taken into custody. Is that right, Mike?
BROOKS: That's correct. That's what I'm hearing from law enforcement sources close to the investigation.
SAVIDGE: And that would seem to be reflected by what our eyewitness on the scene, Jason Pekau -- I know he was describing what they were searching through vehicles. It didn't sound like the frantic concern there was still a gunman on the loose. Jason, you still with us?
SAVIDGE: What is happening now? I've seen your photographs that are coming in. Thank you. We're seeing that clearly the parking lot has been marked of and I presume we're seeing also the early stages of an investigation here. Correct?
PEKAU: Yes, that's correct.
SAVIDGE: And the attitude of people around there. Can you tell? What are people saying? What are people doing?
PEKAU: From what I can tell, multiple people I've talked to in the area, they are obviously somber. A lot of them have known her for a long time, distraught. A lot of the law enforcement officers seem to be kind of walking around feeling a little down about it. It's pretty traumatizing to everybody here.
SAVIDGE: Did you know this event was taking place today? Was it widely publicized? Did you have any idea the congresswoman was going to be present?
PEKAU: Yes, as a matter of fact I did. We were told in the actual shopping center here it was going to be happening today and I saw it on her web site.
SAVIDGE: Dana Bash, I want to bring you back because you were actually spoke to the congresswoman this week, of course. Congress was sworn in. It was a big day. She was held office for a while but she's still young and still relatively new and she's probably still very optimistic. Dana, tell us about when you spoke to her last.
Obviously Dana Bash is not still with us. We'll try to reconnect with her. She was discussing how she was actually speaking in the halls of Congress with Representative Gabrielle Giffords.
Let me remind our views that we are talking about a shooting that has taken place, breaking news out of Tucson, Arizona, this hour. Several people perhaps a dozen or more have been shot at a Safeway grocery store, including a U.S. congresswoman.
According to the public information officer at the Pima County sheriff's department, 12 people were injured. There are unconfirmed reports that there are fatalities. That is coming from eyewitnesses on the scene. Democratic sources told CNN's Dana Bash that U.S. representative Gabrielle Giffords is among the victims.
Dana, I know you're back with us. You actually spoke to the congresswoman this week, correct?
BASH: Just yesterday, Marty. You know, it was the first week back, the first week the new congress. Lots of buzzing in the hallways. I just happened to bump into her coming off of the house floor, really this time yesterday. She just stopped to chat, to talk about how the break was and she really seemed as though she was re- energized.
As we've been mentioning over the past several minutes, she's always somebody who is in a very tough reelection battle. She is a moderate Democrat in a pretty conservative Arizona district, and it's never easy for her. She had just won her third term in Congress, and she was telling me about a wonderful trip that she and her family took. She actually it took her parents to Rome on a last-minute trip. They were able to get into the Vatican for midnight mass.
She was just talking about how wonderful that was, and she was also making clear she was looking forward to going back to her home district as most of the members of Congress do for the weekends, long weekends, to reconnect with her constituents. That's where she was as she was heading.
I just wanted to mention one thing. You were talking to our eyewitness and others about whether people knew that she was having this event. Obviously that was kind of the whole point. She wanted her constituents to come out and have conversations with her about what their concerns are. Again, that's one of the basic tenants and pillars of democracy and many of these members of Congress take it very seriously.
Lisa Desjardin, Our CNN radio correspondent just e-mailed the tweet from Giffords' office right before this advertising this event. She said, quote, "My first Congress on your corner start now. Please stop by to let me know what is on your mind or tweet me later." So it's absolutely public. And as Mike Brooks was saying and you and I were talking about earlier, for most of the members of Congress, they walk around like you and I do. It is only if there is a specific threat that capitol police and other security officials know about that they get the extra protection.
I will mention one other thing on that note. You remember last year during the health care debate, there was some violence and many Democrats had their offices vandalized by people who were pretty angry about the health care situation. She was one of them. She had her district office in Arizona vandalized.
SAVIDGE: All right, just a moment here, Dana, if you would. We want to recap as to what we have been revealing to you.
There has been a shooting that has taken place at a grocery store in Tucson, Arizona. A dozen people according to the public information officer with the sheriff's office out there in Pima County, says they have been injured. We have unconfirmed report that there are fatalities. We also know that among those reportedly who have been wounded is Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of the eighth congressional district.
Mike, back to you. Dana brought up a good point. We know that the emotional issues and issues in Congress have been ratcheting up with, well, emotion. I'm wondering if this has triggered concerns within the security community as to members of Congress and how they would be protected and whether them meeting with their constituents goes back to the very beginning, something that has to be looked at once again.
BROOKS: Well, it's always a concern, Marty. And you know it's looked at and any threats, any communication of any veiled threats are taken very seriously, looked at by a threat assessment group with the U.S. Capitol Police, also with the FBI because we do have Capitol police people in the FBI task force that I used to be in in Washington.
So these are all taken a look at, and they make an assessment of the credibility of that threat, if it's serious or not.
SAVIDGE: All right. I want to go back to Jason Pekau because he's our eyes on the scene. Jason, you're still there?
SAVIDGE: So what is being done as far as you said you saw those bodies in the parking lot? How is that being handled?
PEKAU: Right just about three minutes ago as you guys were talking they had a photographer out there actually uncovered one of the bodies. I can see one where I'm standing now. They still have about three or four sheriffs standing at that particular crime scene kind of standing guard at it at the moment.
SAVIDGE: Jason Pekau is eyewitness, actually an ear-witness to the shots fired this morning at this Safeway grocery store in Tucson, Arizona. He's been recounting over the telephone as to what he saw and what immediately came thereafter.
And just so our viewers understand, you say that you heard 15 to 20 shots that were fired this morning and then came out to an obvious scene of chaos.
PEKAU: Yes. It was continuous shooting. There was no break in between. They walked up and I'm assuming just kept firing. It sounded like tons of pots and pans falling down on the ground right next to my ear. It was so loud.
SAVIDGE: And then clearly people would have been shot, terrified, running away from the scene. When did the first law enforcement get there?
PEKAU: I was standing outside when they arrived. It felt like forever but probably a minute and a half to two minutes after it happened.
SAVIDGE: Did you know if there was any law enforcement on the scene at the time? In other words, somebody acting as security.
PEKAU: From what I can see and I actually asked that question to some of the people that were standing over there, they did not see any law enforcement next to her or around her or in the parking lot.
SAVIDGE: Mike Brooks is reporting to us through his sources that he has heard the suspect may have been taken into custody. I'm just wondering now hearing that whether there was something you saw that might reflect in your memory, oh, yes, maybe they were taking that person away. Anything like that? Jason?
SAVIDGE: I was asking, did you see anything that looked like a person being taken into custody?
PEKAU: No, I actually have not seen anything like that.
SAVIDGE: OK. Ed Henry is joining us on the telephone line, I believe. Ed? Are you there?
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Marty, I'm here.
SAVIDGE: What have you got?
HENRY: I want to be careful to say that the White House has not put out any sort of official statement. They're being very careful in releasing information as should be in this case.
But I've spoken to other administration officials who are saying that the White House is monitoring this very closely, trying to get as much as they can. The preliminary reports they have were that the congresswoman was shot but that she was responsive at first. But I literally just heard from an administration official saying that they are hearing very bad reports from the scene about the congresswoman's position and also that a congressional staffer as I think Dana has been reported was shot and possibly, I stress possibly, has died.
And this is why the administration is going through this very, very carefully to get as much information as they can so they're not dealing with speculation. They're dealing with what exactly they can find out.
But I can tell you from several different people throughout the Obama administration I've been speaking to at various layers, they are in complete shock and trying to jump on this as quickly as possible to get, first of all, some sort of sense of the congresswoman's condition, her staff's condition, the other people who may have been just innocent people and connected to the congresswoman and figure out their condition, but also obviously get a handle on the law enforcement situation to see what exactly is behind this, Marty.
HENRY: Right. And you point out, just because we are focusing in our conversation on the congresswoman, that is in no way to say we are not concerned -- we are gravely concerned about others who could have been wounded or possibly even killed in the shooting that has taken place at a grocery store, Safeway, in Tucson. That happened about 10:00 local time. We understand that perhaps a dozen people or more have been shot.
Your account at least coming through the White House as to the condition of the congresswoman as she was taken away matches that with our eyewitness who is on the scene, Jason Pekau, because he said when he saw the congresswoman I believe being transported to a life flight helicopter it appeared that she was moving, at least in some way.
SAVIDGE: We'll take that, even as small as it is, as some sort of optimistic sign.
Exactly, are the resources or the White House, are they just monitoring? Any action they can take?
HENRY: It's a good question. To be honest with you, all I know they're go 'doing right now is monitoring because they're doing what we're doing, trying to find out the best information they can to get on top of the situation.
So I would not expect them to be deploying something specifically right now in terms of resources until they fully understand the situation. Obviously you can expect that all different layers from the department of Homeland Security, Justice Department, in addition to the White House are going to be looking at anything they can do to help obviously.
But it certainly in the situation stages seems like a local law enforcement matter and I'm certain the White House won't interfere in that.
I just want to caution that the White House has not put out any official statement and is not itself speculating on anyone's condition. They are being extremely careful.
But I've been speaking to other people in the administration who are getting similar reports as we are in terms of the congresswoman and whatnot. And like I said, the initial reports that folks I spoke to in the administration suggested that while the congresswoman had been shot that she was responsive on the scene.
But then literally just before you came to me, I spoke to another person in the administration who said that they were suddenly getting information that it was getting or more grim about the congresswoman's condition. They did not want to speculate because they want to find out exactly what the truth is on the ground before anybody gets ahead of that.
SAVIDGE: As it should be. Ed Henry joining us on the telephone. Kate Bolduan is in our D.C. bureau. She, too, like the rest of the team has been following developments there. Kate what are you hearing?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm getting this from CNN producer Carol Kratty (ph). She's getting information from FBI. FBI spokesman Manuel Johnson saying that FBI agents have gone to the scene there in Tucson, Arizona, but they didn't have any information to provide beyond that in these early stages.
Just a point of caution, when you hear the FBI is going to the scene, Marty, as you well know, the FBI will go to the scene to assist and try to help in the event of some big shooting, for lack of a better term, or if there is a big event whether or not there would be an elected official there.
But we are told from an FBI spokesman that FBI agents have gone to the scene and they are there assisting. Of course, obviously we're looking for more information.
I'll tell you early on when we started getting these reports Marty, and you were on air I was reaching out to the congresswoman's office. I spoke to a spokesman for her office who was actually not in Tucson at the time, was in the car. I think I was even on speaker phone. She was in a car headed to the scene.
It seems that this person was very focused, very serious, and did not have any information to provide at the moment.
SAVIDGE: Kate, let me interrupt you for a second, because I think we want to go to one of our affiliates that has some information, at least eyewitness looking at the suspect. We have this now?
JESSICA CHAFFIN, KGUN REPORTER: My photographer and I were actually headed up to cover the opening of a fire station up here when we saw just several sheriffs' officers switch on her lights and rush to this intersection. We turned around to see what had happened.
In minutes they had the entire intersection closed of about a block on each side and they did that so that they could land three life-evac helicopters in the middle of that intersection. We saw all of that happen.
There were about ten ambulances here. There were those three choppers. They loaded people into them as soon as they could and got those 12 injured victims off and to the hospital. We are told that Gabrielle Giffords was one of those injured.
Still no update on her status or anyone else's status as of now, but definitely still a very busy scene. We have about eight fire trucks on scene. We still have a couple of ambulances and definitely it's swarming with sheriff's officers, medical personnel, several people on scene still questioning.
They went around and they did search all the cars. The officers were making sure there were no other shooters involved. We are told from the bureau chief of Pima County sheriff's office Richard Castagar (ph) there was one shooter. He is now in custody uninjured.
And they were searching to see if anybody else may have been involve. Again, we are not sure yet if they have reason to believe that somebody else is out there.
SAVIDGE: All right, you've been listening to a reporter for KGUN out there in Tucson, Arizona. She was describing aloft the information that we had brought to you earlier. A suspect is now in custody, and those that have been injured, the life flight helicopters have been brought in.
Again, recapping for you, a dozen people or more have been shot and there are unconfirmed reports of a number of people killed. Among those that may have been wounded in this attack is Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Eyewitnesses say that is so and she has been transported to the helicopter, that she was responsive at the time.
However, doubly troubling is the account by eyewitnesses that say she was shot at very close range and perhaps more than once and that could be true of other victims.
We're going to take a break. We'll be back with more in a moment.
SAVIDGE: Hello. I am Martin Savidge at the CNN center in Atlanta. We are following breaking news coming out of Tucson, Arizona. We understand Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is among 12 people shot at a grocery store just hours ago. That is according to a Democratic source.
There are unconfirmed reports that there are fatalities. I should tell you that NPR is now reporting that the congresswoman, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, has, in fact, died as have six other people.
This was a scheduled event on the part of the congresswoman's office. It was a Congress on the corner event as described by her website. She was letting people know, her constituents, that she would be at this grocery store. She had just been recently sworn in as had all members of Congress. She had returned and she was having her first get-to-know-you session with her constituents for this particular term.
But again, NPR reporting that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is in fact dead and six other people have been killed. These are images that we have been getting from an eyewitness who was on the scene, that is Jason Pekau. He was actually working at a store that is right in the parking lot of where this all transpired.
He reported hearing 15 to 20 shots in very close succession, and then coming out to a scene of absolute chaos. He could see bodies on the ground. He did also see as the congresswoman was being transported to a life flight helicopter. Three were brought into the scene. He said she was still responsive at the time, but, again, NPR is reporting that the congresswoman and six other people have died.
I want to bring in Jacqui Jeras because she's been following and looking at the maps for us. Jacqui, give us sort of the layout here of this particular scene.
JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. We're trying to give people a better idea of where this location is. There you can see downtown Tucson area. It's the Safeway grocery store up there on the north side of town.
This is a pretty busy area we're talking about. Safeway a big grocery store in a shopping center within this area, a very busy intersection, right on Oracle Road. There are a lot of businesses around here. We've been getting iReports in from people who have been at the bagel store nearby, the honey ham store nearby, saying the area is locked down and this intersection is locked down as well.
Now, we don't have confirmation just yet as to exactly where she is. We were told -- sorry, Google Earth is going crazy on me there. We were told she was potentially taken to the university medical center. We do have confirmation that two were taken to the Northwestern Medical Center. This will show you the location is just south of there. There you can see the university medical center in relation to where the Safeway is.
SAVIDGE: Jacqui, thank you very much as we get a look from a bird's-eye view to the layout here.
CNN has confirmed as you see that the congresswoman has been killed and we also know, according to NPR, that at least six other people have been killed in a shooting that took place at a Safeway grocery store in Tucson, Arizona, this morning. And we are continuing to follow developments in this story.
We're going to listen in to our affiliate KGUN in Tucson. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They certainly have their hands full this morning with as many as 12 people we understand who were shot earlier today.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely. And we're still waiting for word from Congresswoman Giffords' spokesperson, we understand C.J. is out of town, I'm sure just reacting to the news. We've received dozens and dozens if not hundreds phone calls here in the KGUN newsroom, people not only want to know what's going on but just saddened and devastated as to what happened.
I don't think it matters what side of the aisle you're on. This is just tragic. When you have someone who represents the people, whether you voted for her or not, coming out to meet the people and really make their voices heard encounters this kind of situation, it's just devastating.
SAVIDGE: We're continuing to monitor. That's our affiliate KGUN in Tucson, Arizona. We'll go back to them as soon as we find they have information we need.
I want to get to Sylvia Lee, a very close friend. She's joining us on television, a close friend of the congresswoman. For those of you tuning in, CNN has confirmed that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was killed at a shooting that took place at a grocery store. A number of others killed, NPR reporting up to six others. and a number of others have been shot. This story continues to unfold.
Sylvia Lee, are you there with us?
SYLVIA LEE, PRESIDENT, PIMA COUNTY COMMUNITY COLLEGE (via telephone): Yes, I am.
SAVIDGE: As a friend, want to expresses to you we are very sorry of this news. I'm wondering what it is you're hearing where you are.
LEE: Well, I'm actually listening to CNN, but I've gotten phone calls from close friends that knew and loved Gabrielle. And we are just devastated. This community is devastated. Her constituents are devastated.
And I think you're right, this is a -- no matter what side of the political realm you're on, this is just a tragedy that is unspeakable.
SAVIDGE: Sylvia, I was wondering whether you could tell us about the congresswoman's family. She is obviously a young woman, and she is very excited about being in Congress. We heard that from Dana Bash. So what do we know of her family?
LEE: Well, we know that she married Mark Kelly, who is a decorated serviceman and astronaut. She had no children except that he had children, so she was a stepparent. She was newly married, and I served on several boards with her.
She is just an incredibly dedicated community servant. She was always willing to talk to her constituents, to be very visible. We know that the Congress just got sworn in and started back, and she's already out the very first weekend talking to her constituents.
So she was very dedicated, and she was what I would consider one of the moderate Democrats who was willing to negotiate, talk to both sides. And we think this is really a tragedy beyond words. And we have known that there have been threats against her office in the past.
SAVIDGE: I wanted to ask you that, whether she had ever expressed to you concern for her personal safety as a result of the job she does?
LEE: No, no, not to me personally. But we do know that there have been threats.
SAVIDGE: And getting out and meeting the public, that was something she enjoyed and looked forward to doing?
LEE: Absolutely. She, again, was just incredibly caring, loyal, hardworking, and a very caring -- she's just -- if this is true that she has been killed, it is just a tremendous loss for the nation and for our community.
SAVIDGE: We've been talking to Sylvia Lee, a close friend of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who CNN is now confirming among those killed at a shooting at a shopping center, a grocery store, in Tucson, Arizona. Thank you very much, ma'am. I'm sure we'll be back in touch with you.
I want to turn to David Fitzsimmons who is with the "Arizona Daily Star," a political cartoonist. He is on the scene at Safeway. David, are you there?
DAVID FITZSIMMONS, "ARIZONA DAILY STAR" (via telephone): I'm pretty shaken, frankly. This is a very surreal dream-like experience.
SAVIDGE: David, were you there when this happened?
FITZSIMMONS: I was not. I live nearby. In fact, I would say it's my neighborhood Safeway so I sped up here and here I am trapped alive behind the yellow tape and fire engines and sheriff's vehicles with the press corps. We're on our cell phones and trying to guess what happened because we are waiting for the information officer to hold another informational meeting.
SAVIDGE: And the mood of people there -- clearly you are all in a state of shock even though you didn't see it happen, to come up on such a scene must be horrible.
FITZSIMMONS: Yes, indeed it is horrible. I must tell you as a columnist who has covered politics in this state it was inevitable from my perspective.
SAVIDGE: Why do you say that?
FITZSIMMONS: Because the right in Arizona -- and I'm speaking very broadly -- has been stoking the fires of heated anger and rage successfully in this state.
And you know it's just stunning when you consider Congresswoman Giffords' positions on the issues. She is a centrist, she is a moderate. I don't know who the shooter is, have no idea who the shooter is, but what could possibly motivate an individual to be enraged against or to take down a moderate centrist? To me it just paints a picture of how off the mark the politics of this state has grown.
SAVIDGE: I just want to -- David, hold on as I talk with the audience a bit with the audience. What we're talking about here is a shooting that has taken place in Arizona. And we know among those who have been killed and CNN has confirmed this, is Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
And joining us on the television is David Fitzpatrick. David, as a person who is on the scene and obviously a journalist -- Fitzsimmons. Excuse me.
FITZSIMMONS: Thank you.
SAVIDGE: You've made very strong statements here. I should point out none of this has been confirmed.
FITZSIMMONS: That is correct.
SAVIDGE: We do not know the motivation ever the individual who may have been involved.
FITZSIMMONS: That's correct.
SAVIDGE: Politics in the state of Arizona has become so tumultuous this was inevitable.
FITZSIMMONS: So tumultuous. And this is a gun-happy state. I myself enjoy guns from time to time. I'm not opposed to guns. But for this state it has become a fetish. This is an intense gun culture here in Arizona.
The politics of the state does tend to be far to the right, I would say even rabid right. So I was amazed that Congresswoman Giffords survived this last election. It was very close, and she had a Tea Party candidate running against her, but she managed to survive and win a second term.
SAVIDGE: When you say survive, of course you were talking about a political aspect here.
FITZSIMMONS: Oh, yes, yes, indeed. I want to correct you. I would not describe myself as a journalist. I am a cartoonist, and I am an opinion columnist.
SAVIDGE: Understood. I understand that. Thank you.
FITZSIMMONS: Don't expect unbiased truths from me. You'll just get -- SAVIDGE: What we expect is your opinion and what you're seeing on the scene. And we do appreciate your insights as well.
And this has been an issue raised. And again, I just underline that nothing has been proving here as to motivation, but the atmosphere in Arizona as a person who lives there, you say that you see politics that has become very emotional and apparently very controversial.
FITZSIMMONS: Very emotional, yes. I grew up in Arizona, spent all spent all of my life here. And it has evolved into a state that generates a lot of political heat. That's as kind as I think I'll be today.
It's really tough for me because I knew Congresswoman Giffords. And she is one with individual who held great promise as a blue dog Democrat, a very intelligent, articulate, informed congresswoman who thought a great deal about the future for Arizona. It's just heartbreaking to me that such an individual would be struck down.
SAVIDGE: David Fitzsimmons is a political cartoonist, and he is one of those who came up on the scene after the shooting occurred. And as he has expressed about himself and many other people, there is a state of shock there.
CNN confirming of course that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is among those who have been killed. NPR reporting perhaps as many as seven people have been killed.
And I want to go back to Dana Bash because, as David brings up -- and this is something we were starting to talk about with John King -- the concern that the heated nature of politics might in some way -- I'm sorry. We've lost Dana?
All right, so what we were speculating here is perhaps the heated nature of politics, the way it has evolved recently, may have had some play into this. We do not know at this point. Let's stick with what we do, and that is that there are at least a dozen people according to the sheriff's office in Tucson, Arizona, that have been wounded. Unconfirmed reports -- or NPR is reporting seven dead. CNN has confirmed that among them is congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. And we have been monitoring through our affiliate KGUN as to events taking place on the scene.
We'll take a break and be back with more right after this.
SAVIDGE: Here is what we know. A shooting has taken place in Tucson, Arizona. It was an event that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was taking part. Eyewitnesses say she was shot as were up to a dozen people or more according to the sheriff's office.
There are -- and I stress -- conflicting reports whether or not the congresswoman has in fact died. We have been told a number of different things. Right now we will -- if we are wrong, we hope it is wrong in the sense she is alive and in surgery, which is the other report that is coming in at this particular time.
So conflicting reports as she has been taken to the hospital. We do know eyewitnesses saw her transported in a life flight helicopter and that she was responsive at that time. So we will say that we hope these new reports that she's in surgery are absolutely correct.
Unfortunately, other reports say there are fatalities. Eyewitnesses confirm that, bodies seen at the site of the grocery store. The congresswoman was appearing for what was described as a Congress on the corner, typical interaction with constituents. It would have been posted ahead of time. In other words, made public and known that she was going to be there.
Tom Fuentes is joining us on the line. Tom, I'm wondering how does the investigation begin here and who leads?
TOM FUENTES, CNN SECURITY ANALYST (via telephone): In this case, it's a federal violation to attack or murder a member of Congress just as it would be to attack the president of the United States. The lead agency would be the FBI in this case. They have an office headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, and an additional office in Tucson. So I'm sure they're at the scene right now beginning that part of the investigation.
But they'll be very concerned with obviously what was the motivation behind this. Did the person act alone? Is there a greater conspiracy involving other people with this attack? Or are there possibly other attack that's could occur against other members of Congress or other political figures? So that's -- the investigation will proceed on that basis.
SAVIDGE: Right. And I suppose that at this point, being so fresh and just after the event, whether we are talking about a domestic crime or somebody here in the United States or whether there is a broader implication, say terrorism -- and there is nothing to affirm that has happened -- but these are all considerations that have to be taken into account, right?
FUENTES: Yes, they absolutely are considerations. And I know that there's a tendency for people to want to jump to the conclusion that it's someone on the far right or it's someone on the far left. But keep in mind that being a member of Congress also makes a person a celebrity. You could have somebody from the far left that maybe thought she wasn't liberal enough. You could have someone from the right saying she was too liberal. You could just have somebody who is a nut wanting to attack a celebrity member of Congress to get their 15 minutes of fame.
So you know, there's a tendency to want to conclude early why someone would do this. But from the investigative standpoint, the FBI and the state and local police that all will be working together on this will be avoiding that at the moment, unless of course the person in custody immediately says that's why he did it.
SAVIDGE: We understand there is going to be a news conference coming up next hour from the hospital, and we believe that is it northwest medical center in Tucson, Arizona.
Tom, I'm sure that some sort of all-alert would have gone out to all members of Congress or their offices or staff to let them know this had happened and to, I guess, alert them to be aware, correct?
FUENTES: Absolutely. Members of congress, of course, have their blackberries and they would know immediately that an attack has happened on one of their colleagues.
But, you know, all members of Congress, everyone in the public arena, is aware of the potential for these kind of attacks, the kind of hate mail that comes in to all members of Congress comes in on a continuing basis with people who disagree with the position they take on any number of policies.
Obviously Arizona has been at the center of the immigration discussion over the last year or two, but there are many other federal policies that are up for discussion now, especially with the new Congress taking office. So, you know, the possibilities are many for why someone or some group of someones would want to commit this act.
SAVIDGE: And for security purposes, members of Congress going out and interacting with the public, it's necessary, but it also has to be troubling if you are a person in charge of protecting that congressperson.
FUENTES: It is because you're always worried about an attack like this. And especially members of Congress, the president, other senior officials want to meet with their constituents, want to be in public places, you know, not hide behind locked doors in ivory towers. And this of course is always everybody's worst fear, that somebody will come out of the woodwork and commit an attack like this.
SAVIDGE: Can you tell me how often does this happen? Is this an extremely rare event?
FUENTES: I think the killing of a member of Congress is, fortunately, a rare event. But the threats or the ideas of people who may want to do that, you know, they stream in on a continuous basis. The Supreme Court -- the Secret Service, I'm sorry, will tell you that they receive a continuous stream of threats on the president and other senior officials.
And yesterday we just had this incident in Washington, D.C., where a package that ignited had been addressed to Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
So people in high positions of government, whether it be federal, state or local, are vulnerable to this type of thing. And it is something -- the threats are constant. It's just whether or not someone actually takes it upon themselves to carry it out. Fortunately, it doesn't happen any more often than it does.
SAVIDGE: All right, Tom Fuentes, stand by if you would.
Just recapping, there has been a shooting in Tucson, Arizona, at a grocery store. There was an event that was taking place. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was meeting with constituents, it was made public. People would have known she was there. She is a Democrat from the eighth district, and this was first of such a meeting that was taking place since the new Congress has been sworn in.
And there are conflicting accounts. We do know that there are fatalities. We know that from eyewitnesses who have been on the scene. And one of those who has been on the scene is Jason Pekau. We spoke to him earlier. Let's listen again to what he described.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PEKAU: What I first heard, I heard about 15 to 20 gunshots in the parking lot. I came outside immediately and did not see a vehicle or any people fleeing. I just saw people running, screaming towards where the shooting happened. Everyone screaming that it was Gabrielle Giffords.
I did see them take her away on a stretcher to the life flight. She was moving from what I saw with my own eyes. And right now I just see a bunch of people leaving on stretchers and life flights flying out of here at the moment.
SAVIDGE: I imagine people there, including yourself, are perhaps in a state of shock.
PEKAU: Yes. From what I'm being told from people that had seen it, that she was shot pointblank in the head by the shooter. And then after that basically all chaos broke loose. There were some bullets that went through the window into the Safeway that I can see. How many people were hurt I have no idea.
SAVIDGE: All right, stay with me Jason.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PEKAU: Jason Pekau, that was a recording played back. We spoke to him earlier. He heard the shots and saw the immediate aftermath.
And Mike Brooks is joining us. Mike, before we begin, I want to point out there will be a news conference next hour. We're told from the hospital where many wounded have been taken. We hope to get an update on their conditions.
Mike, what more have you learned?
BROOKS: Marty, I was speaking with my federal law enforcement sources. They have confirmed that Congresswoman Giffords has died along with five other people so far. That's -- so that's a total of six people killed in that horrific shooting there at the Safeway.
I'm also hear that the person that law enforcement has in custody is a 21-year-old male. Now, they're not saying where he lives, not giving any other information for obvious reasons because they're I'm sure in the process of getting search warrants and those kind of things to go to this person's residence, wherever they live.
The FBI is on the scene. The Phoenix office is the lead office for this area for Pima County. They have a resident agency there in Tucson. But the FBI is on the scene.
And, Marty, whatever you have a federal officer or a member of Congress who is killed it will be an FBI investigation. So FBI will be working with local law enforcement, with Tucson, pima county sheriffs, along with the U.S. capitol police. And I'm hearing that they are ramping up now --
SAVIDGE: Mike, let me stop you there. We want to move on with some other coverage. Thank you very much for that.
We also want to reiterate that there are conflicting accounts at this particular time as to whether or not the congresswoman has indeed died. There are other reports that say she is in surgery and being treated at this time.
As we point out, we expect to hear next hour a news conference from the hospital hopefully that will clarify the circumstance. We're going to err on the side that hopefully she is alive.
And our concern is of course for the other victims as well who have been wounded. There are reports that as many as perhaps other six people have died as well and with we do know from talking to our eyewitness on the scene there are some fatalities. But there certainly is a lot of heartbreak and heartache coming out of Tucson. We'll take a break, be back with more right after this.
SAVIDGE: I'm Martin Savidge at the CNN center in Atlanta. We're following breaking news coming out of Tucson, Arizona, a shooting at a grocery store there. And we understand that congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is among 12 people who were shot. That was just hours ago.
There are reports of fatalities. Right now the condition of the congresswoman -- well, we've received conflicting accounts. We'll leave it at that.
We do know that an investigation is under way. A number of people were transported by life flight. We are expecting a news conference next hour coming to us from the Northwest Medical Center in Tucson to give us an update.
We also understand that the shooter has been taken into custody. According to mike brooks, it's a 21-year-old person. We do not know anything beyond that.
Something else. Mark Kelly is an astronaut, also the husband of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. And he was on his way to Edwards Air Force Base. We understand he has released this photograph via Twitter. That is from a family vacation I think at the Grand Canyon.
This is a photograph of Congresswoman Giffords with her family and friends presumably on a vacation recently at the Grand Canyon. That was coming via Twitter from Mark Kelly, her husband, who is an astronaut.
Let's bring in Tom Fuentes. Tom, going back to what has taken place here, admittedly we do not know whether she is alive or dead, we're hoping alive of course, but these shootings of congressperson, you say that is actually still rare, fortunately.
FUENTES: Absolutely it's rare, but the plots to do it are not as rare as you might think. So these kinds of threat situations occur on a regular basis with public officials. They occur with celebrities, with movie stars, with rock stars, you name it.
SAVIDGE: With members of Congress, who monitors that and who updates members of Congress? Do they actually tell them, you should be concerned?
FUENTES: Yes. Congress itself has an agency that works with them to try to protect them, to try to pass on that information. But, again, any threat information that would come in would certainly be relayed back and forth with the FBI, shared with the FBI because the bureau would have jurisdiction in the event something actually occurs as it has in this case.
So whether or not her condition turns out to be she's been killed or still alive is it's still a federal violation. And I'm sure during the press conference they'll announce that the FBI will be the lead agency but they'll be working with Pima County and the other state and local authorities together to investigate the matter.
SAVIDGE: The other voice you're hearing I believe is John Kluver. Are you there?
JOHN KLUVER, FREELAND PHOTOGRAPHER (via telephone): Yes, Martin, I am here.
SAVIDGE: John is on the scene. Why don't you describe what you are seeing now at the scene?
KLUVER: Well, I'm at the shooting scene right now, actually across the street from the shopping center, the pretty typical strip mall, Martin. You've seen millions of them in America.
But they've got the media across the street. The entire shopping center as you can imagine is basically cordoned off with the yellow crime scene tape. And there's a lot of sheriff's cars, a lot of ambulances. I presume everybody's been med-evaced to UMC by this point, the University Medical Center, which is in the center of town.
We're about three miles outside the center of Tucson here in the outskirts. That's about it, Martin.
SAVIDGE: What are people doing? What's their demeanor there? Are they in a state of shock?
KLUVER: You know, pretty grim actually. I was able to talk to a couple Republican ladies from her district, and they looked absolutely -- they looked really sad. They looked very sullen. They said very kind words about her, that she was doing what she's supposed to be doing, meeting with the people, that she always fought for the state of Arizona. Like I said, these were a couple of Republicans from her district.
You know, Martin, she wasn't a firebrand. I think she was always very conciliatory in her rhetoric. Just my opinion, of course, I think she was quite popular if Tucson, despite the politics and whatnot. The campaign with her opponent got pretty ugly, as they always do. But I would describe her as a very popular congresswoman here.
SAVIDGE: Well, and she is a Democrat and not many Democrats got reelected, so that would suggest to her popularity in the eighth congressional district there.
There were reports that store s in the area had been in lockdown. I'm wondering if that's been lifted. Is there a sense they're still perhaps looking for someone or something, or is it now just matter of fact investigation work?
KLUVER: Nothing that would lead me to believe they are actively searching for anyone. People are outdoors a cafe having their coffee at a coffee shop. You don't have any sort of a manhunt going on at all, at least not right here at the crime scene.
SAVIDGE: And I presume this a popular gathering place? Go together grocery store on a Saturday morning is pretty typical everywhere. I presume that's the same where you are.
KLUVER: Well, yes. Like I said, it's a fairly typical shopping center. It was at a Safeway. There's honey-baked ham, a Bank of America, you know, a typical, typical shopping center.
We're here in the foothills adjacent to the foothills here in Tucson. It's quite a beautiful scene all things considered. It could not be more ordinary as far as that goes.
I know Congresswoman Giffords holds these events quite often, and, yes, like I said, she was a somewhat conservative Democrat. I believe, Martin, her husband was a pilot stationed here at Davis Mountain, the Air Force base here in Tucson. At least he was, perhaps he still is, stationed at the air force base. And so -- but otherwise it's fairly quiet here.
SAVIDGE: A horrible scene in a typical place. John Kluver, thank you for joining us on the telephone describing the area where the shooting took place.
Speaker John Boehner has issued a statement. I'll read that for you now. He says, quote, "I am horrified by the senseless attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and members of her staff. An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve.
Acts and threats of violence against public officials have no place in our society. Our prayers are with Congresswoman Giffords, her staff, all who were injured, and their families. This is a sad day for our country." That coming from the speaker of the House John Boehner. He is Republican, she is a Democrat. That has no meaning at a time like this. I just point out the obvious facts.
Giffords' husband as we pointed out is an astronaut, and as you just heard John talking about, he's also been a pilot in the Tucson area. He released this photograph a short while ago on Twitter. It is the family on vacation in the Grand Canyon.
Joining us now on the telephone, Darci Slaten, a hospital spokesperson. Darci, are you with us?
DARCI SLATEN, UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER, TUCSON (via telephone): Yes, I am.
SAVIDGE: You're with which hospital?
SLATEN: University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona.
SAVIDGE: What can you tell us of those you have there?
SLATEN: I can tell you right now that Gabrielle Giffords is currently in surgery. There were nine patients brought here. Of all the others there was one child. All are either in critical or serious condition at this point.
SAVIDGE: All right, let's begin with the congresswoman and the news you bring us is good. You say that she is alive and has gone into surgery. Do we know anything about how she with was wounded or injured?
SLATEN: We're having a briefing in about 40 minutes, but I can confirm that she was shot in the head.
SAVIDGE: And the others that have come to you, once again, you said -- was there a child as well?
SAVIDGE: And do you know anything of the conditions of those that have come in?
SLATEN: At this point, I can only report that they're either in critical or serious condition.
SAVIDGE: And are they all victims of gunshots?
SLATEN: As far as I know.
SAVIDGE: And did you go to some sort of emergency staffing procedure? In other words, how were you alerted as to what had happened and what to expect?
SLATEN: I was paged and we set up an incident center here.
SAVIDGE: I presume the hospital, like many, trains and is prepared, when notified, to get ready for emergencies of this nature.
SAVIDGE: And what is typical? What would you do?
SLATEN: I checked in with the security and police officers and the administrators of the hospital and we coordinate a place where we gather to get -- we organize the media that arrives here. Like I said, we're going to be having an official briefing in about 40 minutes at 1:30 Tucson time.
SAVIDGE: And do you know who's going to take part in briefing and what it is we'll be informed about?
SLATEN: We'll bring you up-to-date with as many details as possible. I don't know who will be the primary spokesman for that.
SAVIDGE: And I presume this is going to be a medical update, in other words nothing about an investigation. This is about the conditions of those people brought to you.
SLATEN: I don't know that for sure. Definitely a medical update for sure.
SAVIDGE: All right, well, please repeat for us because there are people who constantly tune in and we want to get it from you directly. Regarding Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, she was brought to your medical facility. What do you know of her now?
SLATEN: At this point in time, we know that they is currently in surgery for a gunshot wound to the head.
SAVIDGE: And that surgery is ongoing at this time, correct? And that you have others that have been brought in with gunshot wounds as well?
SLATEN: And are also in surgery, yes.
SAVIDGE: Very good. Thank you for joining us on the telephone.
SLATEN: Thank you.