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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Congresswoman Shot: Tragedy in Tucson

Aired January 9, 2011 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: A life hangs in the balance.

DR. MICHAEL LEMOLE, CHIEF OF NEUROSURGEON, UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA: Congresswoman Giffords is able to communicate with us.

KING: A suspect in an attempted assassination faces justice.

ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: He'll be charged with the assault on the congresswoman, with the killing of Judge Roll.

KING: A shaken country looks inward.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Such acts of violence have no place in our society.

KING: And some begin to question what all of us hear.

SHERIFF CLARENCE W. DUPNIK, PIMA COUNTY, ARIZONA: The rhetoric about hatred, about mistrust of government, about paranoia of how government operates.

KING: This is a CNN Special Report, Congresswoman Shot: Tragedy In Tucson.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: In Tucson, Arizona, a spray of bullets in a grocery store parking lot ended six lives, tore apart 14 others and sent shockwaves across the U.S. political system.

Tonight, Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords remains in critical condition and we have disturbing new details about the man now charged with trying to assassinate her.

With us from the scene in Tucson, Arizona, our national political correspondent Jessica Yellin -- Jess.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John.

I'm outside the hospital where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is fighting for her life. Her family, in some sense, is one of the luckier ones in this story because there are other families tonight in Tucson who are mourning the loss of their loved ones. And throughout this city, many people are feeling attacked and victims themselves as this is a small community where just about every group of people you encounter, somebody in there, knows or has a connection to one of the victims.

We will talk about them and we will talk about this investigation. But first we're joined by Randi Kaye who has been following the developments.

And you also have an update on Congresswoman Giffords' condition.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We do. She is still sedated here at the hospital right behind us. They're keeping her sedated so they can let her heal a bit while they -- every once in a while they bring her out to sedation so they can check her brain function.

But she's one of 10 victims here at the hospital as you know. Three others are in serious condition. Six are in fair condition. But still they are very encouraged by the fact that she's responding to simple commands. One doctor told us today that she actually squeezed his hand which is really remarkable.

But they're still very concerned about possible swelling in her brain. As you know they removed a bit of her skull during one of the surgeries so they could relieve some of the pressure in case the brain did swell.

But what they are happy to see is that they do think she has some high brain function actually but she does seem to be responding. And the bullet didn't hit any of the critical areas of the brain. They're very relieved about it.

YELLIN: It's just remarkable. Remarkable. Though she's not out of the woods yet. Clearly. Clearly.

KAYE: Right. Right.

YELLIN: Now the authorities did release the 911 tape, at least one of the 911 tapes. It's pretty chilling stuff.

KAYE: Very chilling. Very disturbing to listen to. And what you hear are some of the eyewitnesses, and some of the victims in the background, a lot of the screaming in the background. Over the last days, and including today, some of the eyewitnesses told us that the accused shooter had come there for war. That he was randomly shooting people and that the only reason he stopped shooting people was because he had ran out of bullets.

And he actually did get another magazine loaded with 31 bullets, according to the sheriff, into that gun, but it jammed and he wasn't able to fire anymore. But we do have the 911 tapes so just listen to a bit of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: Hello. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, 911. There was a shooting at Safeway.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: OK. What do you mean?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know (INAUDIBLE), where Gabrielle Giffords was. And I do believe Gabby Giffords was hit.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: At Safeway, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, Safeway.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You OK?

UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: Was somebody shot then, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, the guy who -- looked like the guy had a semi-automatic pistol and he went in and he just started firing and then he ran.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got pictures.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: Can you describe him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What?

UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: Can you describe him, sir? What was he wearing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was wearing a hoodie.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: What color was the hoodie?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was black.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: OK. What color were the pants?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looked like he was wearing blue jeans and he was wearing a black sweater.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: OK. Was anybody injured? Did you say Gabrielle Giffords was hit?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's hit.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do believe she's breathing. She was breathing. She still has a pulse. And we got two people and we got one dead.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they are injured. UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: Who -- OK. And there's other people that are injured?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's other people. There's multiple people shot.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: OK. Oh my god.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: What's so disturbing about that is you can picture the scene of that 911 call being made. Most of those victims were stuck behind a table that had been set up for this event. So they were sitting ducks as the suspect allegedly continued to fire. They were trapped.

YELLIN: Now I do know that tonight you've been able to go to -- there's a memorial service here. A vigil -- and a vigil by the congresswoman's office. What are some of these people saying to you?

KAYE: You know it's really interesting to just walk among them and listen to them whisper to each other and a lot of them had brought their children, their young children. I was there while some of the young children were kneeling down and lighting candles. There are signs for the federal judge who was killed. There's pictures of the congresswoman, and there's notes and cards that say, "Fight, Gabby, fight."

You can see the connection to her. And you just think about her in the intensive care unit here. And if she could see what is behind us and the outpouring of support and love for her, you can imagine how quickly she might be able to heal because you can just walking among these people you can feel the love. It's really something.

YELLIN: It's a nice point. Thank you, Randi.

And, John, you know, I'll add that when I have interviewed people here -- I have been talking to Republicans as well as Democrats. Everybody who's met Gabrielle Giffords says that they consider her a friend. Republicans say, she didn't share my beliefs but, god, she's a lovely woman. And I think she is going to come through this because we are pulling for her -- John.

KING: We can hope and pray that. Jess, Randi, thanks so much.

And disturbing details tonight in this document, the formal complaint against Jared Lee Loughner.

Our homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve has been poring over this sobering document and working her sources.

Jeanne, the document outlines a political assassination plot.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes. A targeted assassination attempt against the congresswoman according to the government's probable cause statement. They say they went into this safe in the residence, of course, with a search warrant and they found an envelope with handwriting on it, and the handwriting said, "I planned ahead," "my assassination,' the name Giffords, and then there was the signature which appears to be Jared Loughner's signature.

In addition there was in there a letter from Congresswoman Giffords to him that was written back in 2007 inviting him, interestingly enough, to one of these "Congress on the Corner" events. It was one of those events that was taking place yesterday when the shootings occurred, of course.

KING: I assume a letter contact with her some years ago will be part of their piecing together motive. But tonight were still murky, though.

MESERVE: Yes. They are not hazarding a guess as to what the motive might have been. This is still really in the early stages in the investigation. They are looking at these documents, of course. They are interviewing family, they're interviewing friends, they are looking at the cell phone, they are looking at the computer.

They are doing everything they possibly can to try and construct a picture of this man and also of his activities, not just yesterday but for some time in the past.

KING: Five counts laid out in the official criminal complaint.

MESERVE: That's right.

KING: A court appearance tomorrow? Monday?

MESERVE: Tomorrow.

KILMEADE: And what do we know about his representation?

MESERVE: Interestingly enough Judy Clark has been named to represent him. She's a public defender who's had a pretty high profile. She's sort of a roving public defender and has played a part in a number of very high profile cases including the Unabomber case. You remember Ted Kazinsky.

She also helped defend Zacarias Moussaoui. He was convicted of being a conspirator in the 9/11 attacks. So someone who's very familiar with high profile cases with very high stakes. This is certain to be another one of those cases.

KING: Great reporting. Jeanne Meserve, thanks so much. You've been working hard all weekend.

Let's go back now to Tucson and Jessica Yellin, because CNN has got some new details on the shooter -- Jess.

YELLIN: Hey, John.

Well, we still don't know the motivation, but our own Drew Griffin was able to speak to somebody who knew the suspect and had some insights. It was a teacher who said he was really having a breakdown.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Actually the teacher describes a classroom full of students who were scared literally of their lives from one student, and that student was Jared Loughner, who was taking an elementary algebra class this past summer at Pima County Community College.

And what Ben McGahee, the math instructor, says is he literally watched Jared Loughner just falling apart, becoming more and more mentally disturbed. And it began on day one of the class, Jessica, June 1st, 8:00 a.m. Jared Loughner came into that class and began disrupting the rest of the students.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN MCGAHEE, LOUGHNER'S FORMER COLLEGE PROFESSOR: Not every class, just the first day of class. And then the rest of the days he was very quiet and just kind of isolated and in his own little world. And didn't want to talk to anybody.

GRIFFIN: At one point did you try to get him removed from the class? Or did you --

MCGAHEE: I did. I tried two times at least. I think on the third attempt he had said something about the Constitution like violating his First Amendment rights and I think that was the straw that broke the camel's back that caused him to -- you know, be kicked out of the class. So --

GRIFFIN: Was he just being disruptive to your teaching and the rest of the students? Or did you feel in any way that this guy was becoming a threat?

MCGAHEE: He was a threat. He actually wrote something on the quiz that said "Mayhem Fest" and wrote that in big, bold capital letters.

GRIFFIN: Mayhem?

MCGAHEE: Mayhem fest. And then put three, like, exclamation points, drew some random scribblings, like pictures.

GRIFFIN: Violent pictures?

MCGAHEE: Not really. Just random stuff. But the mayhem fest is what got me very concerned.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: Concerned enough to get the school to actually kick Loughner out of his class. He had to be physically removed by a campus police officer and dean. That led to a meeting in which Loughner was excluded from the campus until and unless he got psychiatric evaluation.

But clearly the students and the teacher, they were scared of this guy. And Ben McGahee said yesterday when the name Jared Loughner came up, not surprised at all.

YELLIN: That's chilling.

Drew, was there any indication that the teacher had -- that he had thought that he sought any kind of mental health treatment? That he was on medication? That he had any treatment at all?

GRIFFIN: He didn't know of any. Obviously he's a math instructor. He knows that Jared Loughner was told you couldn't get back to campus --

YELLIN: Without it.

GRIFFIN: -- until you got mental help, and he obviously did not return to class.

YELLIN: Just so upsetting because there were signs, perhaps something could have been done.

GRIFFIN: I asked him, I said, what more could the school have done? He wished the school had intervened earlier just to get him out of the class. But he -- you know, there was no violence in the school.

YELLIN: Right.

GRIFFIN: Just odd behavior, threatening to the other students but not overtly.

YELLIN: Right.

GRIFFIN: So, you know, it's one of those situations. What are you going to do? We'll find out more and more details perhaps from the school about what they actually did and whether any psychiatric evaluation did take place. But pretty upsetting to know that nobody apparently in this class was shocked at what happened yesterday.

YELLIN: OK. Thank you, Drew.

John, those are the disturbing new details from here. Clearly signs that he was a disturbed man. But maybe no one found out quite soon enough. John?

KING: And so troubling when you hear that fascinating reporting from Drew. These concerns raised back in class in June playing out over months. Jeanne Meserve telling us a while ago the gun was purchased in November. So you wish, you can only wish that somebody had connected the dots to keep this suspect -- and we must stress he is suspect -- from buying that weapon.

Jess, we will be back to you in just a minute. When we come back, one congresswoman is shot and all 535 members of the House and Senate are asking this question -- are we safe?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS (D), ARIZONA: First Amendment. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievances.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Before we continue, a little breaking news just in to CNN. Our homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve has now confirmed that the parents of the suspected shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, the parents have been interviewed by law enforcement authorities.

You see the suspect there Jared Lee Loughner. He is being held. He's is due in court, federal court in Phoenix tomorrow. Our Jeanne Meserve now reporting that as part of this investigation which included a search warrant being served at his home where he lives with his parents. The parents have now been interviewed as part of the investigation.

The pictures you were just seeing there was Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords', reading of the Constitution. Members of Congress, they read the Constitution on the floor this week. Gabrielle Giffords read the First Amendment. The First Amendment. It was the freedom of assembly. The freedom of speech.

The Arizona shooting rampage changed this week's political agenda here in Washington. A contentious House vote on repealing health care reform is now off the table. Top priorities now, concern for Gabrielle Giffords, and the other victims and concern about lawmaker safety.

Our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash joins us now.

Let's focus on security first then we'll get to the agenda. Obviously, they asked questions, were there any threats against this congresswoman? Should she have had more security around her anyway? Where does this head?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This heads to every member of Congress. We're already there, asking those same questions about themselves. Obviously first and foremost, everybody is concerned about her welfare.

She is so well liked it's actually kind of remarkable. You sort of knew that beforehand but talking to Republicans and Democrats, that is their first concern. What was interesting is today, John, there was a conference call. Eight hundred people were on this call because it was members of the House, Democrats and Republicans, not just them but also their families, their spouses.

And that really is telling about where the security officials in Congress and where members of Congress see that they really to focus. Because they saw what happened out in Tucson. It wasn't just Gabby Giffords. If she was the target, she wasn't the only victim because of what happened. So they are looking at ways to potentially change things. There is a larger meeting when people get back to Washington on Wednesday. Again, a bipartisan meeting. All members who are going to have discussions about whether or not they can really change things. It's going to be hard to do.

KING: Stay with us. Let's bring in to the conversation one of Gabrielle Giffords' best friend in the Congress -- Representative Adam Smith is a Democrat from the state of Washington.

Congressman, thanks for spending some time with us. I want to talk in a moment about your friend, who she is, what kind of politics she represented. But I want to follow up first on the security issue I'm discussing with Dana.

I hate to ask the question, but as you know, sometimes when you have a tragedy like this, especially one that attracts so much public attention, the authorities get worried about a copycat. Somebody trying to say, aha, this is a way to get attention. Some deranged person.

Have you received any specific information or have you received sufficient information from the Capitol police and others essentially helping you protect yourself?

REP. ADAM SMITH (D), WASHINGTON: No, we haven't. I mean all members are thinking about this. We've been thinking about this for a long time actually. We do public meetings on very controversial and very passionate issues.

And I think every member of Congress from both parties has had very angry people in their face at meetings. And you wonder, you know, what you need to do to keep yourself safe. But we're public officials. And we have to be out there, accessible, and open to the public, and we're going to continue to do that. So, you know, certainly, you know, we all think about it, but we have to do our jobs.

BASH: Congressman Smith, it's Dana Bash in Washington as well. You know I spoke earlier by phone. And you were talking to me about the fact that obviously you're a member of Congress, but you're a parent, too. And how you've had to have discussions with your kids about this.

Talk to us about that.

SMITH: Well, you know, my children obviously, they understand the job I do. And they know Gabby. They've met her and talked to her. As I mentioned she's a good friend of mine. Just, you know, a great, great person who, as you've said, had a lot of good friends. Because that's just the kind of outgoing and open person that she is.

So, you know, yes, my children were wondering about this and, you know -- what, you know, what risk I am at. But in all of our lives we have risks. You have risk driving down the freeway and you have risks in a lot of your jobs in a bunch of different ways. And if you're going to do your job you have to meet the risk.

I mean the example I think of, you know, obviously with Gabby, she served on the Armed Services Committee. That's how I got to know her. Mostly traveling all over the world, visiting our troops in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. They have a job to do. And they face risks and they go out and they do their job every day, even knowing those risks.

And I think we're going to have to continue to do that as members of Congress and not let, you know, one incident, you know, cow us from doing what is a very important job.

KING: Tell us a bit about your friend, Congresswoman Giffords. I have met her back in 2006 when she was first campaigning. I went to her district because that was one of the districts Democrats were targeting saying, well, we can pick up this district because of the political dissatisfaction of the time.

A border district, immigration, obviously one of the big issues there. Tell us more about who she is as a person.

SMITH: Well, she's an incredibly outgoing person. She loves people and she is so open to everybody. I mean you cannot be in a bad mood around Gabby, no matter what's going on. I mean certainly the last two years haven't been easy for her. But she has always so bubbly, so positive and so outgoing and so inclusive of people.

And we'd go on these trips and I was looking through some pictures today that we've had, you know, from like a half dozen overseas trips with her and seeing her, you know, with Iraqi children, with soldiers, with people from -- you know, with elected officials from other governments, with our State Department people.

You know she reached out and connected with just about everybody she met in a way that is very rare and very special. And I think that's what made her such a great representative. You know it's hard to imagine someone caring more about the people she represents than Gabby.

BASH: And, Congressman, she's somebody who has eclectic interests. She obviously is a conservative, from a conservative district.

SMITH: Yes.

BASH: She is a for gun rights, she is also a co-chair of the motorcycle caucus in Congress.

SMITH: Yes.

BASH: But I got to read this quote because this is my favorite, my personal favorite. If you want something done your best bet is to ask a Jewish woman to do it.

You heard her say that?

SMITH: Yes. She's very -- and you're right. She has eclectic interests. In fact one of the other things I think of, on one of our trips we met and sort of became friends with a Navy SEAL team in Afghanistan. And they do dive training down in a base in her district.

And so Gabby has gone on a tandem jump out of an airplane just because she could and because she wanted to. And she always visited her district a couple of times and she's always telling me that I ought to do it.

I'm not jumping out of an airplane unless I absolutely have to. But Gabby, it was just great. It was a way to connect with people and she is absolutely fearless in everything she does.

KING: Does she ever talk about any specific security concerns with you? And did she ever talk about her state, Arizona, as one of the most volatile if not the most volatile state in our country right now when it comes to open and often emotional political debate?

SMITH: Yes. I traveled to her district and campaigned for her in this last election cycle. And she is -- you know, she's my closest friend in Congress. I know I think a lot of people feel that way as well. So I tracked her race very closely. And you -- you know, if you looked and saw what was online on the Web sites that were dedicated to attacking her.

The daily blog posts, the things that showed up on her own Facebook site. You know she'd show me some of that, you know, on the House floor as well. Yes, I mean there's no question that the level of hatred and vitriol that was going on down there, you know, had to make her think, but again, she did her job.

You know the risks are out there but she's absolutely dedicated to what she does. But yes, there's no question that there were threats coming in. It was a very, very hostile environment during this last election.

KING: Did she ever talk specifically about it? You mentioned the Facebook posts. But did she ever say anything to you about it, Adam, I'm worried about this, or, Adam, how can we turn this volume down?

SMITH: She did. It wasn't so much about turning the volume down. I think -- well, the biggest thing that I remember is it sort of hurt her personally. You know, she's like, I work so hard for these people. I do so much. And, you know, to see this level of hatred coming back just because she's doing her job and you know -- and also Gabby, who's like the nicest, most pleasant person you would ever come across.

I mean even when arguing, even when out there dealing with controversial issues, you would never see her angry, you'd never her snap at anybody. And I think it just -- it just took her aback that people, particularly people, you know, in her own district could be so vile and so filled with hatred for her.

But as I said, it didn't stop her for one second. I mean she wouldn't have won this election which was a very, very difficult election for her if she was not absolutely relentless and persistent.

KING: Congressman Adam Smith of Washington, appreciate your time and your thoughts and your memories tonight. Thank you, sir, very much. We'll keep in touch with --

(CROSSTALK)

SMITH: And thank you. And for everybody else down there, thank you for everybody else down there thinking about her and keep praying for her. She's going to pull through, but we have to keep her in our thoughts.

KING: Amen to that. Thank you very much, sir.

With each passing hour, more details are coming to light. Up next we'll talk with Congresswoman Giffords' intern. One week on the job and he is a hero.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MUELLER: And given this tragedy, all logical precautions are in place to best ensure the safety of other public officials.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: In times of tragedy you think first about the victims. Six people killed in this case including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl. You think about the 14 wounded. You also think about and celebrate the heroes.

And with us now, one of the heroes who helped Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot. Daniel Hernandez is one of the congresswoman's interns who'd been on the job less than a week. He's with our Jessica Yellin in Tucson.

YELLIN: Hi, John.

Daniel Hernandez, before becoming an intern for Congresswoman Giffords, was trained as a phlebotomist, person who takes flood and a certified nursing assistant. And it is a good thing because you were there, you were there during this unspeakable horror, but you snapped into action.

Tell us what happened when the gunshots rang out.

DANIEL HERNANDEZ, INTERN FOR REP. GIFFORDS: When I heard the gunshots and I heard someone yell out gun, I was about 30 to 40 feet away because I was in the back of the line trying to sign people in, make sure that everyone had the opportunity to speak with the congresswoman.

And from where I was, I couldn't see directly what was going on, so I had to run over to where the congresswoman and her staff were.

YELLIN: And you saw her -- bleeding?

HERNANDEZ: When I approached the congresswoman and her immediate staff, I noticed that there were a few people who were down. And so the first thing I did was to try to check for vitals on those who I got to first. But after the second or third person I saw that the congresswoman had been hit and then she became my first priority after I saw the severity of her wounds.

YELLIN: You staunched the bleeding in her brain. Tell us what you did.

HERNANDEZ: After I saw that the congresswoman had been hit in the head, I noticed that it was a pretty severe wound. So the first thing I did was try and pick her up so that it would be easier for her to breathe because in the position she was in originally, she was possibly at danger of asphyxiating by breathing in her own blood that she was -- that was coming from the wound.

So getting her out of that position and just having her sit upright. Also, using my hand to kind of put some pressure to make sure that we could stop the blood flow as much as possible.

YELLIN: What are your thoughts now? What was your experience during that time? Is it a blur for you?

HERNANDEZ: A lot of the things that were going on around me were a blur. However, because my main focus was Congresswoman Giffords at that point, those are the very details, just the time that I spent with her in trying to make sure that she was OK.

YELLIN: It's a remarkable thing you did. It must have been instinct and training both kicking in at the same time. And then as she was taken into the ambulance, I understand you just kept -- you stood there with her, stayed there with her.

HERNANDEZ: Yes. So after the EMTs came in, and they were the medical experts and I let them go ahead and take over all of that, I decided that my job was to make sure that I care for her emotional well-being. So staying with her and letting her know that someone was there with her, trying to keep her calm as much as possible, because she was in a lot of pain.

And even if that wasn't the case, just trying to make sure that she knew that someone was there with her and letting her know that someone was contacting her family so they could be here when she arrived.

YELLIN: Now you've done remarkable things for the congresswoman and for these other people. How are you now?

HERNANDEZ: I'm doing fine. My main concern right now is trying to make sure that everyone in the -- there are still a lot of other people who are wounded including the congresswoman. And then there's a lot of people who lost friends, family members. And we need to be sure that they are in our thoughts and our prayers.

YELLIN: Right. There are many, many victims in this tragedy. Well, Daniel Hernandez, thank you so much for what you've done there and for what you speak to in all of us -- the ability to rise to that kind of greatness in the moment. We all appreciate it.

HERNANDEZ: Thank you so much.

YELLIN: Thank you.

And John, I asked him earlier if he'd a chance to see the congresswoman since she was admitted to the hospital. He says he has not yet but he has been in touch with her family. And he was quite modest. I have a feeling they said their profound thanks to him.

KING: And I heard Mr. Hernandez say earlier in the evening that he does not consider himself a hero. And I applaud his humility, but, sir, you are a hero. You're a hero and we honor you for your service, and for your quick reaction. But tonight, we wish you the best as we go forward.

And as we go forward, one of the big questions in the wake of this tragedy is will these shootings, will these shootings bring a serious discussion about perhaps toning down our political rhetoric.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER: An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve. Such acts of violence have no place in our society.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Everyone recalls the white hot rhetoric, the presidential election and the health care debate. We all know how pop culture become saturated with graphic violence and many people are now speculating some of that might, might have been a factor of sorts in yesterday's bloodshed in Tucson.

Now we need to be very, very clear. We don't know if it was. We don't know much about the suspected shooter and his alleged motive, but we do owe ourselves in a time like this, perhaps a bit of soul searching after tragedies.

Jessica Yellin is back with us from Tucson. Also with us, our senior political analyst, David Gergen.

And, David, we had this conversation a bit earlier, I want to dig a little bit deeper today where you see, especially on the Internet, and the social media people trying to assign blame saying it is because of this political party or because of that political rhetoric.

The best thing, I think especially 24 hours later, a little more than that later, is to say, whoa, be careful.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. We need to cool the rhetoric. We need to cool the accusations, John, because 24 hours later, you know, this man who is charged remains a complete mystery to us. We don't know what he was motivated by.

We do live in a culture of violence, not just a politics of violence. But what we don't know what part of that culture contributed in some way to his derangement or possibly sparked him. And until we do, accusing each other of being responsible for going off -- you know there were a lot of charges coming on the Internet yesterday.

Right after the shooting, before we even knew basically anything about this man, from the left saying, well, it obviously traces back to Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, Glenn Beck and all the rest. And then the right countercharged and said, wait a minute. You know what about all the rhetoric that you all hurled at George W. Bush, the violent rhetoric that you had used against him?

And what about your malgovernance (sic) that has sparked a citizen revolt in this country, and the charges and countercharge that went back and forth. And what have they left us with?

We still don't understand what happened. And yet we're -- and even as we're deeply saddened tonight, we're even more divided than we were before this happened. So if we are going to pull back from the brink on this and we're not going to have met by it and interesting.

I thought a good piece in "The New York Times" today saying this may not be the single product of what's going on in our country. It may be the beginning of a period of violence as we saw in the '60s when there were many assassinations, as you and I recall so vividly.

So this is a time for us to cool the rhetoric, for everyone to take a second look. I think the sheriff, I didn't agree with everything that sheriff said yesterday, but I do think when he called for soul searching that was wise advice.

KING: And Jess, so tell us what the mood is on the ground there. To David's point if you look at the criminal complaint, they found "my assassination" written on a note at the alleged shooter's house according to the complaint. They found Congresswoman Giffords' name.

If you look at her record, she is a relative centrist in the Congress. She is not a polarizing political person by any means. Yes, she's voted with the Democratic leadership on many things but she was also among the 19 people who just last week would not vote for Nancy Pelosi to be the Democratic leader.

She is a centrist, not a firebrand.

YELLIN: That's right. And she's a Second Amendment Democrat, and one of the centrist recruits in the 2006 Congress.

I'll just make a few points, John. One, here, you'll hear Democrats talk about the race she just ran. The race she just won was an exceptionally heated one in which her Republican opponent did use language -- there was, for example, an ad in the newspaper which he invited people to a shooting range.

She would take out using guns, they're going to rally to take out Gabrielle Giffords. It was that kind of language that many felt was overheated that even led some Republicans in this district to say, that's not the Republican we want. And that's how she was able to win over some independent and Republican voters. This is a largely Republican district. Again, she's a Democrat who won.

On the other side there are Republicans in this town who are very angry that the sheriff, has politicized -- in their view, has politicized this at all by mentioning rhetoric. They think they're being unfairly scapegoated. And it shouldn't be a political discussion in any way. So the bottom is, it's fanning political flames party because we don't have so many answers. Maybe some answers to the motivation will quiet things down here a bit -- John.

KING: Jessica Yellin in Tucson, David Gergen with us from Boston tonight.

I think a very good lesson for everybody is let's not point fingers absent facts, and let's all try to be a little bit more careful about the language we pick.

One of the six people who died is a man who was shot while shielding his wife with his own body. We'll talk to his pastor next.

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KING: CNN's senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin joins us now from New York to discuss the charges filed so far and where he sees this investigation heading.

Jeff, good to see you. Five counts against Jared Lee Loughner. He will be arraigned in court tomorrow. When you look at the case so far, what does it tell you -- what questions does it raise, I guess, about what next?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, certainly there are two major possibilities here. One is a federal case based on the attempted assassination of a congresswoman, the murder of a federal judge who was, it turns out, meeting with the congresswoman and her staff about issues of crowding in the federal courts.

So that means he was in the course of his duties. The murder of one of her staff members. All of that puts this case into federal court. The murder also makes it potentially a death penalty case in federal court.

There have been no charges yet filed in Arizona state court in the other murders, particularly the murder of the young child would certainly make this defendant eligible for the death penalty in Arizona as well. So Arizona and the federal government are going to have to sort out who goes fist.

KING: And do you suspect in the early days with all this talk of mental instability that we are heading into a court process that might try to invoke the insanity defense?

TOOBIN: Well, it certainly seems like the defense here is not going to be, "you got the wrong guy." I mean it certainly doesn't seem like that's a plausible defense. So what defense is there other than the insanity defense?

This has often come up in political cases. Perhaps the most famous invocation of the insanity defense ever was by John Hinkley who shot President Reagan in 1981. That was successful. As a result of that case, Congress tightened the insanity defense. And insanity defenses are very rarely successful.

But given what we know about this defendant it certainly seems like something the defense is going to want to investigate very carefully whether he had the mental state to commit this crime in a conventional way.

KING: What does it tell you that the government has appointed an attorney and it is an attorney who, among others, helped defend Zacarias Moussaoui in a high profile terrorist case? Does it tell you that they are picking not only a criminal defense attorney but somebody who can deal with the media attention that is going to come with this case?

TOOBIN: Yes, Judy Clark is as good as it gets in American criminal defense law. She is just a sensational lawyer and she has expertise not just in high profile cases but cases where the death penalty is on the table. Perhaps her most famous case, even more than Moussaoui, where other lawyers were involved, was her representation of Ted Kazinsky, the Unabomber, where there was a lot of pressure to seek the death penalty and ultimately after long negotiations the government settled for a plea of life without parole.

Certainly looking at this case in these very initial stages it looks like that's going to be a similar challenge in this case to get the death penalty off the table. But when you look at the magnitude of this crime, when you look at the number of victims, when you look at the range of victims -- a federal judge, a 9-year-old girl -- there are going to be a lot of people who want to keep the death penalty on the table in this case.

KING: Jeffrey Toobin, grateful for your insight and expertise there. I want to go back to Jessica Yellin now in Tucson who has some breaking news on the gunman.

YELLIN: John, a little bit of developing, breaking news here. A -- I'm sorry, a law enforcement source in Arizona has told CNN that the suspect in this case tried to buy some ammunition at Wal-Mart a few weeks back but was denied, was turned down because of his behavior. He was then able to buy that ammunition at another Wal-Mart.

So apparently there were signs in some way that he was disturbed, but again he was able to buy that ammunition. Turned down at one Wal- Mart, able to buy it at another.

And, John, here we are gathered here in front of the hospital where Gabrielle Giffords and others are fighting for their lives. There is also a vigil going on behind me. And I am joined by one of the people who is also mourning tonight, mourning the loss of Dory Stoddard. Mike Nowak, a pastor -- Pastor Mike Nowak joining us. Was a pastor for both Dory and Mavy Stoddard.

MIKE NOWAK, DORY STODDARD'S PASTOR: That's correct.

YELLIN: A remarkable story. Tell us what happened at the site of this tragedy.

NOWAK: Well, Mavy and Dory were in line to see Gabrielle Giffords and they heard shots. They weren't quite sure where they were coming from. So Dory pulled Mavy down on the ground and he fell on top of her. And she was shot in the leg and he was shot in the head.

YELLIN: And he died.

NOWAK: And he died.

YELLIN: A husband died defending his wife.

NOWAK: That's correct.

YELLIN: Obviously heroic. Instinctive. What was he like as a man?

NOWAK: He was a big teddy bear. He was the kind of guy that would help everybody out, open his wallet and give whatever he had to anybody. And it wasn't unusual for him to do something like he did yesterday. He loved a lot of people. He was a benevolent man and he cared for a lot of people. And he thought of others before he thought of himself.

YELLIN: Have you been able to speak to Mavy, his wife?

NOWAK: I talked to Mavy about two hours ago. She's doing well. She had her surgery. They worked on her leg. She's doing some therapy now because a couple of the muscles were shot. But doctors hope that she'll be home tomorrow.

YELLIN: And how about her spirits? You are her pastor. Were you able to connect --

NOWAK: Her spirit is really good. I'm really surprised. She has a good network of family and church friends. But she knows that Dory is in a better place and she knows that she'll move on. She has moments of depression, but all in all she's doing a great job.

YELLIN: And how is your congregation doing with this news?

NOWAK: We just left about an hour ago. And everybody is doing good. We're supporting one another. We're concerned for each other. We know the kind of man that Dory was. He wasn't a healthy man. He had a lot of heart issues. And we figured he would die someday because of his heart issues, and this was probably a best thing for him.

YELLIN: What message do you give them about the shooting, how to make sense of this? NOWAK: I didn't tell them to make sense of it because we can't. I tried to encourage them to not make this a political issue, a vindictive issue. One of our soldiers has fallen from our ranks. And I try to tell people to encourage one another, and be uplifted and be ready to receive Mavy when she was coming out of the hospital. And it was a good, uplifting service today.

YELLIN: All right. Thank you, Pastor.

NOWAK: You're welcome.

YELLIN: So much for joining us and for what you have given them, too.

NOWAK: Thank you.

YELLIN: John, again, Pastor Mike Nowak, one of the many people here who is helping so many in this community get through this tragedy. A community that really has pulled together. I was actually around the corner from Dory Stoddard's house today and a bunch of kids had drawn messages on the sidewalk in pastel chalk. He was beloved by the kids of the neighborhood, John.

KING: A horrific, horrific tragedy, but it does bring out the best in a community.

Jess, thanks for that.

News that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords had been shot point blank in the head immediately led to fears that she would not survive. But not only did she survive the surgery, she is said tonight to be alert and responsive.

Let's bring in neurosurgeon and CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, when you hear those encouraging reports, what do we know about how she's doing?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's very encouraging, and especially so given that most doctors really are reluctant to say too much in the immediate aftermath of an operation like this. They said they were very optimistic. Yesterday after the operation they continued to say so.

What they say is that she's heavily sedated. They call it sort of a medical coma. Those are the -- that's the doctor's language. But it's -- the type of medicine, John, that you can give and then when you stop giving it the patient wakes up pretty quickly after. Important because you can examine the patient.

As you indicated, John, when she's examined she seems alert, she's able to follow commands. And those are very, very important, and good signs, especially after the type of brain operation that she had.

KING: And how rare is this and as you answer, what are the challenges as you get from day two to day three and day four? GUPTA: Well, you know, every patient is going to be different. Every injury is going to be different, as you know, John. But if you have to sort of look across the board you have to keep in mind that around two-thirds of patients who have a gunshot wound to the head don't survive long enough to make it to the hospital.

Of the third that do make it to the hospital, 50 percent of those patients don't survive long-term. So it's -- patients do survive these types of injuries although it is admittedly rare.

The biggest concern in the days and perhaps weeks that come is swelling of the brain. And let me just show you if I can, John, real quick here. What we know is that the bullet entered the left side of the brain in the back and exited the front. This entire area, you know, has a bullet track that went through it. And any of that area can swell over time. And I think that's one of the large concerns.

What doctors did, John, is in addition to stopping some of the bleeding and removing some of the bone fragments where the bullet entered, they also took off some of this bone on the left side of the head. Why? Because if the brain swells it has nowhere to go because of the rigid skull.

Remove some of that bone and you allow some extra room for that swelling. And so, you know, the swelling likely will occur given the nature of this injury, but because of that bone, it's called a craniotomy being performed, she's going to have more room and not suffer the catastrophic consequences as likely.

KING: It's fascinating. Fascinating. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks so much.

GUPTA: Thank you.

KING: We talk about the victims of this attack, this assault. We know about a federal judge who was killed. We about a congresswoman Sanjay just described to us hospitalized. When we come back, we reflect on the youngest victim, a 9-year-old girl.

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KING: Nine-year-old Christina Green had her life snuffed out in a senseless act of violence yesterday. All she wanted to do was to see grassroots American politics up close. Instead, she was caught in the sights of a gunman whose motives are as mysterious as his actions were heinous.

CNN's Casey Wian spoke with the girl's heartbroken parents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN GREEN, 9-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER KILLED IN SHOOTING: Does say something about our society that my daughter was born on a tragic day, and she went out on a tragic day.

ROXANNA GREEN, 9-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER KILLED IN SHOOTING: She was a great friend, a great sister, a great daughter. I'm so proud of her, and I just want everyone to know, and I think a lot of people that know us and knew Christina Taylor, that, you know, that we got robbed. She got robbed of a beautiful life that she could have had.

J. GREEN: There's going to be a lot of those kind of moments that you know, I had one this morning, just waking up and she -- she comes up and says, daddy, it's time to get up, and she didn't do that this morning.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: As a parent of two, you just know the pain that they are going through is the unthinkable. The unthinkable. And it is horrific.

Let's check back with our Jessica Yellin for a final thought.

YELLIN: John, you know, there'll be so many questions in the coming days about mental health issues and gun laws, but one of the things, so many unanswered questions. One of the things that remind us of is the fragility of life, but also the fragility of our democracy.

We have -- we are the envy of the world for impassioned debates here and the access we have to our politicians, and it is an important reminder of what we do have here in the U.S., something positive out of all of this, John.

KING: Amen to that. I first met Gabby Giffords in her first race for Congress in 2006 and she -- politics aside, we don't take sides on politics here, but she's a delightful, thoughtful, vivacious person. We pray for her tonight and we wish her well.

And on Jessie's final point, there was supposed to be a big debate about health care in the week ahead. We know it's a partisan issue. We know there are legitimate substantive divides on this issue. When they pick that one up a week or three down the road, maybe one lesson from this can be criticize each other's ideas. Fight the battle of ideas. Don't question the other person's integrity.

Jessica Yellin, my thanks to you for sharing the last two hours with me. I'm John King in Washington. Good night for now from here, but our coverage continues now with CNN's Don Lemon.

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