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Congresswoman Shot: Tragedy in Tucson

Aired January 9, 2011 - 20:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congresswoman Giffords is able to communicate with us.


KING: A suspect in an attempted assassination faces justice.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He'll be charged with the assault on the congresswoman, with the killing of Judge Roll.


KING: A shaken country looks inward.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Such acts of violence have no place in our society.


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


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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."

Good evening. I'm John King in Washington. Tonight, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords remains in critical condition in a Tucson, Arizona, hospital. A 22-year-old stands charged with the unthinkable, attempting political assassination. And from coast to coast, our politics have changed tonight. The political agenda here in Washington -- are public officials now talking openly about public safety and their safety and perhaps, some say, the very nature of our political discourse?

In the next hour, we'll go through the latest in the investigation. We'll introduce you to some remarkable heroes in this drama. And to help us explore these changes and much, much more tonight, Jessica Yellin joining us from Tucson -- Jess.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. You know, here in Tucson, there is a mix of shock, sadness and some real anxiety. I've been talking to various groups of people today, and it's hard to go anywhere without running into someone who has a connection to this tragedy. They were either in church choir with one of the victims or someone lives around the corner. It is a relatively small community.

But there's also this anxiety because we still don't know the motive for this shooter? Was it politically motivated? It leads to the questioning of our political rhetoric and the way we engage with one another, all those questions leaving people here feeling very, very uncertain and somewhat tense, John. We will get to all of that, of course, in the hours ahead.

I'm joined, though, by Randi Kaye. As you know, Randi has been working this story quite aggressively. And you have spoken now with a new eyewitness.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have. As you know, we got our first glimpse of the 911 tapes just being released today by authorities, chilling tapes from the scene yesterday. And one of the people who was there while all of this unfolding was a woman named Patricia Maisch. She's this eyewitness. She said that everything was happening so fast. She didn't know if she was going to be injured or killed or what she should do.

And she was eventually credited as one of the people, one of the heroes, if you want to call them that, who helped tackle the suspect. She was told to grab the gun. She helped grab the magazine, which was already empty, while he was trying to reload and did reload that second magazine, which had 31 bullets in it. And just by chance, the spring didn't work, and there was a malfunction of the gun, so there were no more bullets fired.

But if you listen to her as she spoke with us today, you can hear just how modest she is about all that unfolded.


PATRICIA MAISCH, EYEWITNESS: The two men that secured him were the heroes. I just was an assistant in being able to get that magazine or clip -- I'm not a gun person, so I'm not sure I'm using that right words. But I was able to hold onto the clip. And another gentleman that was standing up, not the two that were securing him, was able to get the gun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Patricia, the sheriff said that your actions might have saved countless lives.

MAISCH: I don't think so. I think -- I think the other two men saved countless lives.


KAYE: And you know, Jessica, you said that everybody here has a connection. This woman, she refers to the congresswoman as Gabby. Everybody feels very close to her. She said that she came to talk to Gabby about the so-called job-killing bill. But she really said that she considered running away, but then she thought she might be a target. So what did she do instead? She actually stayed and not only really helped tackle this shooter -- alleged shooter -- but she also helped one of the victims who was bleeding from the head.

Listen to what she told us about that.


MAISCH: When I saw the man with the head wound, I was a little panicky. And then I decided that wasn't -- that wasn't going to help. And so I just asked another man to sit on his ankles, and I went to get a compress for him. And I stayed there until they -- I held the man -- held the compress on the man's head until the police secured the shooter.


KAYE: She actually said that the woman who was right next to her at this event was shot. She said that she saw the suspect actually aim and fire. He was aiming down, so the woman might have been on the ground, and she watched him fire that gun at the woman sitting next to her.

YELLIN: You know, it's amazing what people are capable of in these extraordinary moments. That remarkable woman. Now, you also have an update on the status of the congresswoman.

KAYE: Right. We've been here at the hospital. We've been getting updates from the hospital. She is still sedated. What they're doing is they're keeping her sedated, and then bringing her out of that sedation every once in a while to check her brain function. They say they're extremely optimistic, very encouraged, but they're also cautiously optimistic at the same time.

She is the only one still listed here in critical condition. She's still in the intensive care unit. There are nine other victims here at this hospital. Three are in serious condition. Six of them are in fair condition. Their greatest concern right now is the possible swelling of her brain. So they did remove part of her skull, as you know, during the surgery in case there is pressure, in case the brain does swell.

But they say that, you know, if you're going to be shot in the head, the way she was shot is actually the best way to be shot, if you can even say that.

YELLIN: Unbelievable. OK, thank you, Randi. And keep us posted with developments. I know you'll be back. Thanks. John, a remarkable story that she is still alive and doctors here are optimistic. I'll toss it back to you in Washington.

KING: Jess, back to you in just a moment. But first, important details here. The criminal complaint filed today contains disturbing new information about what the shooting suspect apparently was thinking.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve is here with the latest. When you read through this, it's pretty stunning.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and what it lets you know is that if this document is accurate, this was targeted. This was an attempted assassination. The document I'm referring to is the statement of probable cause that was filed today in court. And what it says is that when they executed a search warrant at the home where Jared Loughner, the suspect, lives, they found in a safe an envelope with writing on it. And what it said -- and I'm quoting here -- "I planned ahead, my assassination," the name Giffords, along with what appears to be Loughner's signature.

In addition, there was another letter in there addressed from 2007. This was a letter from Congresswoman Giffords addressed to Jared Loughner. And it appeared to be inviting him to a "Congress on the Corner" event. Of course, it was a "Congress on the Corner" event yesterday where she was shot, but this was a different one held at a different location and back in 2007. It's tantalizing. We'd love to know more about what's here, but that's all they've included in this document.

KING: And that's what makes it hard because you can't read through this and find a motive.

MESERVE: No. No. You don't find a motive here, but I suspect part of the explanation may be right here. What we also got today were the five counts that were filed against him, one for attempted murder of a member of Congress, one for first degree murder of a federal judge, Judge John Roll, first degree murder of a congressional Aide, Gabriel Zimmerman, and attempted murder of two other aids to the congresswoman, Pamela Simon (ph) and Ron Barber (ph). But the FBI director made it clear that there could be additional charges coming, John.

KING: Do we know his disposition right now? He was not cooperating. Have they had any luck in getting him to be more conversant?

MESERVE: Indications -- indications from the sheriff that he's not talking, but I've asked a number of law enforcement forces sources today whether he is or isn't. They're not saying much about it.

KING: And one piece of new information is when he bought the Glock, the gun.

MESERVE: Yes, he bought it back in November. He bought it legally. He bought it from a store called Sportsmen's (ph) Warehouse. Another new piece of information -- we have known that the Army turned him away when he tried to apply there. We now know that that was because he failed a drug test.

KING: Jeanne Meserve, all over this investigation. Jeanne, thanks so much. More in a little bit.

Next, a teacher who had the suspect in class and who says he was trouble from day one. And later, we'll hear from an intern who's worked for Congresswoman Giffords less than a week and helped save her life.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A kind of shady-looking gentleman came up, asked me if he could talk to the congresswoman. So just like anybody else, I redirected him to the back of the line. Came back about 30 seconds later, and before I knew, he was barging through the tables toward the congresswoman.


KING: CNN has some new details tonight about suspected gunman Jared Lee Loughner. We get the details from someone who taught him a class at community college. Back out to Jessica Yellin in Tucson for that -- Jess.

YELLIN: Hey, John. You know, one of the big questions here is motivation, and since we don't know that, we are still asking many questions about the suspect himself. Our own Drew Griffin was able to sit down, talk to someone who actually knew the suspect. It was his math teacher. And he sensed trouble.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT: Trouble from the very beginning, Jessica. Ben McGahee (ph) is the teacher of math 092 (ph) at Pima County Committee College, and on June 1st, the day the class started, at 8:00 AM, Loughner came into class and immediately began creating a disturbance. Take a listen.

YELLIN: I don't -- we don't have the sound, so tell us what he said, if you would.

GRIFFIN: He would be making outbursts in the class. It happened over and over again. He would say random things. He would argue with the teacher. He would scream out answers that were obviously wrong. And when the teacher tried to gain control of the class, the student was very disruptive. At times, he would come into class with an iPod on, not listening to anything that was said.

Eventually, it got to the point where the professor and the students, the other 15 or 20 students in the class, were frightened, extremely frightened that something like this very thing would happen. They mentioned guns and were afraid that he was going to come back with a gun and kill them all.

YELLIN: Now, had he written something disturbing? GRIFFIN: On one test, the math teacher said, he wrote "mayhem fest" in exclamation points. That apparently -- we haven't had time to check it out -- was a reference to a heavy metal band with some kind of violence in tone. But they were very disturbed. They had called the campus police. They had called the dean. And eventually -- eventually -- after two or three times of the police being called to that classroom, the student was removed and he was told he could not come back to Pima County Community College until and unless he had a psychiatric evaluation.

YELLIN: Now, do you know if this was because of the behavior in this one class, or did he say was it indicative of how he was with other teachers?

GRIFFIN: He only had -- Ben McGrahee -- again, the math instructor -- only had him for this one class. First time he ever met him was this summer. And this class met four times a week. He said afterwards Loughner went to a weight training class across the street at the YMCA. He's not sure if there were any disturbances there. But he says it was based on his complaints, his, actually, calls to the campus police, which is why Loughner was kicked out of his school.

And again, some of the other students -- they wrote e-mails, We have a seriously disturbed student in class. He scares the crap out of me, one student wrote on June 14th.

YELLIN: Oh! It's so upsetting because, clearly, there were signs that there seemed to be some sort of mental issue here that could have been addressed.


YELLIN: That could have been addressed.

GRIFFIN: Now, according -- this is according to the observations of the math instructor, teaching elementary algebra, he said he seemed at times to be high on some kind of drugs, was completely unresponsive at times. Then at other times, he would just blurt things out. So he was clearly disturbing the class, talking about the Constitution, that the class itself was violating his constitutional rights.

Another thing we learned is, apparently, he had flunked this class already and was coming back to take it again and was really concerned and complaining about that.

YELLIN: He was clearly a very, very disturbed person, and there were signs.


YELLIN: There were signs early. All right. Thank you, Drew.

All right, and we are going to turn now to a happier story, a story of an intern who was able to tend to her (SIC) boss, Gabrielle Giffords. Our own Ted Rowlands has that story.

Ted, you were able to speak to this intern, another actual hero on this day, this terrible, tragic day.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely, Jessica. Daniel Hernandez is a 20-year-old college student here, and what an impressive young man he is. He was at this event. He was an intern for the congresswoman. And you're going to hear in his own words exactly what happened. But after you hear him, it's very clear that this young man helped save the congresswoman's life.


DANIEL HERNANDEZ, GIFFORDS'S INTERN: I heard the gunshots, and I knew that people had been injured, most likely. So I ran towards where the congresswoman was.

When I got there, I saw that there were people who had been injured. I then tried to see who had a pulse still, see if people were still breathing. I was only able to check two or three people before I noticed that Congresswoman Giffords had been injured severely. So then she became my first priority -- not just because of her position but also because of the severity of her wounds.

She had a shot to the head, so I tried to make sure that I picked her up so that she wasn't in a position where she could asphyxiate on her own blood because of the position that she was originally in. I then started applying pressure to her wound to try and kind of stem some of the blood loss.

People from the Safeway came outside with smocks from the meat department which were clean, that we were able to then use to cover her wound.

She was alert and conscious, but she wasn't able to speak. So the way that she was communicating was by grabbing my hand and just squeezing.

My main thing was just trying to keep her as alert as possible and just keep trying to interact with her so that she was still acting with some response.

ROWLANDS: And she was?

HERNANDEZ: She was. The entire time that I was with the congresswoman, she was still responding. She was obviously in a lot of pain, so I just let her know to squeeze my hand as hard as she needed to.

Once the emergency services came and I no longer was providing the care, my main concern was trying to sure that she knew that someone was there with her, no matter what happened, that she knew that someone was there holding her hand.

ROWLANDS: Did you save her life?

HERNANDEZ: I don't think that I did. I think it was emergency services. People have been referring to me as a hero. I don't think that that's something that I am. I think the people that are heroes are people like Gabby, who are public servants and who have dedicated their lives to public service. So it just makes me happy that I was be able to help her in any way that I could.


ROWLANDS: And Jessica, unbelievably, he got his first aid training during a class in first aid when he was in high school. And he said it just instantly came back to him and he jumped into that mode. Clearly, this young man helped save the congresswoman's life. He has heard from the family, including her husband. They have called him, expressing their gratitude for his actions in those precious moments before the ambulance arrived.

YELLIN: A remarkable story, Ted, a story of heroism amidst the tragedy. John, a really remarkable tale from here in Arizona.

KING: And a humble hero, Jess, but a hero nonetheless. Remarkable. Remarkable. Remarkable. We're going to talk again to Mr. Hernandez in our next hour. We'll continue an interview with him -- have a new interview with him, so please stay with us for that.

When we come back, all of Congress is now asking the question. This was a horrible, horrible, horrible incident. But is it an isolated incident, or does Congress need to rethink congressional security? Just ahead.



ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: Given this tragedy, all logical precautions are in place to best ensure the safety of other public officials.


KING: The gunshots in Tucson have stirred sadness but also a big debate here in Washington -- whether Congress needs to do more to beef up its security.

Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, joins us now. A debate, questions -- where are we headed?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The debate and the questions are going on actively as we speak. You said it perfectly. Obviously, people are very sad and very concerned for Gabby Giffords, but they're fearful for themselves, as well.

There was a conference call today with -- bipartisan conference call, in fact, very rare -- one member said that it hasn't happened in 22 years since he's been there -- talking from the Republican speaker to the Democratic leader, but also it was about security. Not a lot of new instructions, if you will. The only thing that I was told that they were told was a designated district staff member to be in touch with law enforcement. They said they were going to talk more about it later on.

But listen to what the number two Democrat in the House, Steny Hoyer, said about how members are feeling.


REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), MINORITY WHIP: I don't think there's any doubt but my colleagues are very concerned about the environment in which they're now operating. It's been a much angrier, confrontational environment over the last two or three years than we have experienced in the past. And I think there is worry about that. I will tell you also that the staffers -- we should not forget that a staff member was lost here.


BASH: And we should underscore that members of Congress, all of them that I talked to, they say that they understand that at least now that this looks like an isolated incident. But many of them say, Look, this is our job. This is what we do. We're not going to change. We're not going to not go and talk to our constituents. One member I talked to said maybe he already had stopped putting his schedule on his Web site because he was a little bit fearful. He said maybe other members are going to do that. But look, the bottom line is that you can't protect 435 members of the House, 100 members of Senate every day, like you have -- like we see every day for somebody like the president.

KING: Well, stay with us. Let's continue the conversation and bring in Congressman Jason Chaffetz. He's a Republican. He joins us from Salt Lake City.

Congressman, let me ask you straight up this. Are you fearful now. When you're home in your district and you want to interact with your constituents, the best way is to find a public place, like Congresswoman Giffords did, a supermarket, a mall, some place open like that. Are you fearful that that's a mistake?

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Well, no, I don't think it's a mistake. I think it's a necessity. But it does strike a chord. It does send a shiver down your spine, and we relate to it. We're touched by it. It is a little -- little frightening that there's some whacko out there that'll do some unthinkable thing, as we saw with our friend in Gabby. So -- but we've got to keep doing it. We got to keep being out there.

KING: You heard your Democratic colleague, Mr. Hoyer, say that he thinks the last few years, the environment is worse, that it is more threatening, that there is sharper language, more threatening language. Have you received specific threats against you?

CHAFFETZ: Well, I just completed my first term in Congress. I've only been there 24 months. But unfortunately, I've had my share of threats. And I've had to engage sergeant-at-arms and the Capitol Hill police, and I think they've done a good job. I think every single member of Congress on both sides of the aisle has felt the heat, has really felt people have stepped over the line and been a threat. And it's just part of the reality of being in Congress. KING: You have a permit to carry a weapon, a concealed weapon. You have that permit. It's perfectly legal. And you were quoted in a news article today as saying perhaps -- perhaps you'll take advantage of that right to protect yourself more often. Is that true?

CHAFFETZ: I do not carry a weapon when I go to Washington, D.C. We have great security there. When I'm home here in Utah -- I was a concealed carry permit holder before I was in Congress. I've continued with that practice, and I will probably make it even more regular in my routine moving forward. It's just a personal security thing for me. I think it's a smart thing. Not everybody could or necessarily should do this, but I've always felt comfortable with it and did it before I was in Congress and will continue moving forward.

BASH: Congressman, it's Dana Bash. You and I spoke earlier by phone, and you were talking to me about the fact that you feel safe in Washington and the Capitol, but not so much at home in the district or your residence. Talk a little bit about that and about some of your ideas for how you and your fellow members of Congress could get better security when you're back home.

CHAFFETZ: Undoubtedly, the security in Washington, D.C., the number one terrorist target in the world, is very, very secure. My personal residence, my two district offices, I have some question marks about. And I think we need to explore the idea of allowing the sergeant-of- arms to really coordinate, I think, with the U.S. Marshals, who are already tasked with protecting federal judges, U.S. prosecutors. These people are protected, and there's threat assessment done by the U.S. Marshals. Perhaps that role and responsibility ought to be expanded out to include members of Congress to make those types of assessments.

I also think we need to look very closely at the Internet because we get a lot of threats via, you know, Facebook and Twitter, e-mails that are just unacceptable. And I think we're going to have to take those much more seriously than we have in the past.

KING: Well, Congressman, as you take those threats much more seriously than in the past, there are some, as you know -- you're well aware, in the last 24 hours -- who have said that that commentary, the threatening language, the tough language in the social network, is encouraged by politicians who have used increasingly sharp language, military terms. Do you believe that a coarsening of the political discourse is contributing to this environment?

CHAFFETZ: Look, what makes America the greatest country on the face of the planet is that we can disagree on issues, that we stand up for truth (ph), for principle and we debate those issues. But at the end of the day, we're still all on the same team. We're still all Americans, and we ought to be able to shake -- you know, put our hands out there and shake hands. And nobody has ever advocated to move to violence, to step over that line and do the unthinkable that we just saw play out in Tucson.

So it happens on both sides. I do worry about it. Here in Utah, one of the local television stations, local newspapers, got rid of the comment boards because they got so out of control. People were being so aggressive, really stepping over the line. And I think that is a legitimate thing we should look at moving forward.

KING: Congressman Chaffetz, appreciate your time and insights this evening. Dana Bash, your reporting, as well.

When we come back, Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us to explain just how -- just how -- we could be so hopeful tonight that Congresswoman Gabby Giffords could survive despite being shot point-blank in the head. Stay with us.



911 OPERATOR: Was somebody shot then, sir?

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


KING: The 911 call there. The shooting happened about 10:10 Saturday morning Tucson time during an outdoor town meeting event called "Congress on Your Corner." There was a big banner with Representative Giffords's name on it. She was there to answer questions and talk with anyone, anyone who showed up. Nobody expected this.


DANIEL HERNANDEZ, GIFFORDS'S INTERN: I heard the gunshots, and I knew that people had been injured, most likely. So I ran towards where the congresswoman was.

When I got there, I saw that there were people who had been injured. I then tried to see who had a pulse still; see if people were still breathing. I was only able to check two or three people before I noticed that Congresswoman Giffords had been injured severely. So then she became my first priority -- not just because of her position but also because of the severity of her wounds.

She had a shot to the head, so I tried to make sure that I picked her up so that she wasn't in a position where she could asphyxiate on her own blood because of the position that she was originally in. I then started applying pressure to her wound to try and kind of stem some of the blood loss.

People from the Safeway came outside with smocks from the meat department which were clean, that we were able to then use to cover her wound.

She was alert and conscious, but she wasn't able to speak. So the way that she was communicating was by grabbing my hand and just squeezing.

My main thing was just trying to keep her as alert as possible and just keep trying to interact with her so that she was still acting with some response.


HERNANDEZ: She was. The entire time that I was with the congresswoman, she was still responding. She was obviously in a lot of pain, so I just let her know to squeeze my hand as hard as she needed to.

Once the emergency services came and I no longer was providing the care, my main concern was trying to sure that she knew that someone was there with her, no matter what happened, that she knew that someone was there holding her hand.

ROWLANDS: Did you save her life?

HERNANDEZ: I don't think that I did. I think it was emergency services. People have been referring to me as a hero. I don't think that that's something that I am. I think the people that are heroes are people like Gabby, who are public servants and who have dedicated their lives to public service. So it just makes me happy that I was be able to help her in any way that I could.


KING: Remarkable accounts from the scene there about the injuries, the shooting and the trauma suffered by Congresswoman Giffords.

CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is, of course, a neurosurgeon. He joins us now. Sanjay, from everything you've been able to hear and report, how is the congresswoman doing?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, "cautiously optimistic" is the term that I've heard over and over again by the doctors who are taking care of her. In fact, they talked about yesterday, John, really pretty soon after the operation, about how they were as optimistic as they could be, which I was actually a little bit surprised by, John, that soon after an operation, doctors saying that. Usually, surgeons hold their cards a little closer to the vest.

But they had a lot of good reason to be, it sounds like, as we've collected more information. First of all, she was able to get to the operating room quickly after this, and that's obviously something that helped her. But also, when she got to the hospital originally, John, one of the things doctors do immediately is see now -- what is her neurological status. And is she able to demonstrate some evidence of high brain function?

You know, Dr. Friese is one of the doctors who saw her immediately. I had a chance to talk to him earlier and asked what he -- what that exam was like when he first saw the congresswoman. Here's what he said.


DR. RANDALL FRIESE, TRAUMA SURGEON: One of the first things I wanted to do was assess her ability to understand what was going on, and I also wanted to reassure her. So one of the first things I did was I held her hand and I leaned in close to her and told her that she was at the hospital, that we were going to care for her. And I wanted to see if she understood what was happening, and I asked her to please squeeze my hand. She gave me a great, big squeeze at that point, and I was very encouraged, as a good finding, that she understood what I was asking.


GUPTA: And after the operation, John, still able -- they say she's still able to follow commands, hear something, process it, and execute a function based on what she's hearing. They have her in what they're calling a medically-induced coma, giving her lots of medications to sort of keep her brain at rest, obviously try and sedate her and diminish her pain. But John, they wake her up periodically, almost every hour usually, and make sure that that neurological exam that we just described hasn't changed, John.

KING: And Sanjay, a lot of what we're getting from viewers and seeing in the social networks is people just saying, Wow, how could she possibly have survived a shot to the head from such close range? How rare is that?

GUPTA: Well, it is rare. I mean, you know, it happens, and there are certainly variables that can determine that, the type of munition that is used, exactly the type of trajectory in the brain.

What we know, John -- let me just show you if I can here quickly, looking at this brain model. What we know is that the bullet entered the back of the left side of the head and exited the front left side of the head. It did not cross from one side of the brain to the other. If it had, that would be a very poor sign, and patients are much less likely to survive that.

It also, John, as you know, I'm sure you heard, was what's known as a "through and through" injury. So the bullet enters and then it leaves, but a lot of the velocity, the energy of the bullet actually is dissipated in the air, as opposed to all of it being dissipated within the skull cavity. And that was really important.

Also, the type of operation that's performed on her, as well, involves lots of things, including stopping the bleeding that, you know, is a big concern here, and also anticipating swelling of the brain and trying to diminish the impact of that. Here's how the surgeon put it to us earlier.


DR. MICHAEL LEMOLE, CHIEF OF NEUROSURGERY, UNIV. OF ARIZONA: Once in the OR, we went through our routine procedure for this kind of injury. And that consisted of controlling the bleeding, which thank goodness, was not severe or excessive. Our next objective was to take the pressure off the brain. And that was by removing the bone fragments that were caused by the bullet fracture, as well as some additional bone to allow the brain to relax. And lastly, we removed any small parts of devitalized brain, and I'm happy to say we didn't have to do a whole lot of that.


GUPTA: So just again, quickly, John, what he was describing there is the bullet enters back here in the skull. Some of the bone fragments almost act as little missiles themselves, pushing into the brain. They have to go and remove some of that bone, stop that bleeding, clean up some of the tissue that is actually damaged by the brain.

But it was that last part he was talking about, John, removing some of the other bone on the left side of the head here and removing that so that the brain has a place to swell. Because of the hard casing of the skull, the brain would have no place to swell, and that can be catastrophic. But taking that bone out, leaving it out for the time being, that's sort of anticipating the problems with swelling.

KING: And as you look ahead, Sanjay, is this a case -- and we're praying for a successful recovery here -- where there will necessarily have to be one additional surgery, two additional surgeries, several? Do we know?

GUPTA: Well, you know, I mean, as far as the acute period now, they're really hoping that there are no more operations necessary. You know, the things that would require another operation are to stop -- you know, if there's some increased bleeding, for example. Because that bone is removed, hopefully, the swelling, which is almost anticipated after an injury to the brain like this -- that's going to be more easily controllable.

The operation in the future, which could be weeks if not a couple of months down the road, would be to place that bone back on the left side of her head, you know, when clearly, there's no evidence of swelling and she's ready to have that done. But hopefully, no more operations in the acute aftermath. They always plan for one, if necessary, but none planned now.

KING: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks for your help tonight. Stay in touch throughout the hour ahead and the days ahead.


KING: Sanjay, thanks.

When we come back: After this horrific shooting -- this is a question being asked in Washington and across American politics -- will this tragedy tone down our political rhetoric?



GABRIELLE GIFFORDS (D-AZ), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: My background is I'm a moderate. You know, I'm a businesswoman. I've done a variety of work in this community. Again, being a third generation southern Arizonan I think really makes a difference. I think people understand that it's important to have someone who's truly from here and represents the interests of the people, you know, who had to live and work here. And I would be proud to represent this district.


KING: That was from an interview I conducted with then candidate Gabrielle Giffords in her first race for Congress back in 2006. Congresswoman Gabrielle "Gabby" Giffords is a relative newcomer to Washington, but she's been in politics for quite a while. Last Wednesday, she was sworn in to her third term representing Arizona's 8th congressional district. It's a border district in the southeastern corner of the state. It was a close and a bruising race.

According to her official biography, solar energy, immigration reform and issues affecting military families are her top priorities in Congress. Prior to coming to Washington, she served in both houses of the Arizona state legislature. She also ran her family's tire and automotive business. She's a native of Tucson, and Giffords is married to NASA astronaut Mark Kelly.

Ever since this tragic shooting unfolded, the Pima County sheriff, Clarence Dupnik, has railed against what he calls excessive vitriol. Now, we have to be very, very clear here. We do not know a motive yet in this tragedy, nor do we have any official clinical assessment of the gunman's mental state. But the sheriff clearly suggests that he sees that an unstable person could be provoked to violence by hateful rhetoric on the airwaves and the Internet.

So let's have a conversation about, is our political rhetoric contributing perhaps, or at least should we, after an episode like this, dial it back? Let's bring in our senior political analyst David Gergen, and Jessica Yellin is back with us from Tucson.

David, I want to go to you first because you have served four presidents. You have been around a long time. You were in the White House the day Ronald Reagan and Jim Brady were shot. And there's a conversation happening in the wake of this shooting. Some of it is thoughtful. Some of it is necessary, about security preparations. Some of it I find, frankly, a little dangerous and risky, about trying to assign blame.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: John, it's that last point that I think is -- we should focus on for a moment here, and that is the way that accusations are being hurled by one side against the other, charges and countercharges. In the absence of definitive evidence about what the motives were here for this shooter, I think do run a heavy risk of only further embittering us, further poisoning the system and making it more difficult to go on and to conduct a civil, decent political discourse.

KING: And Jess, we do not want to encourage irresponsible conversation, but it is also our job to cover politics and to cover the wake of a tragedy like this. And you see it in your experience firsthand there. There are people saying this is because of the haters in our society. Some have blamed Sarah Palin. Some have blamed the Tea Party. And as I toss to you, I want to be very, very clear. As David just said, we know nothing, nothing about this shooter's -- alleged shooter's motives. And we need to be careful. However, this conversation is happening, whether we like it or not.

YELLIN: Absolutely. We've both been inundated with e-mails, and it's all over social media. And you talk to people here, and they ask about the political discourse and what it may have done. It's really something that does come up when you approach people.

But I have -- I met with one of the Tea Party activists, the head of the Tea Party of Tucson, who's feeling very, very frustrated and upset that the Tea Party has been invoked in any way because the shooter -- the alleged shooter has not in any known way mentioned the Tea Party in any of his writings or his musings on the Internet.

I just wanted to play a piece of sound from the Tea Party activist. Maybe David wants to react, or you, John.


TRENT HUMPHRIES, TUCSON TEA PARTY ORGANIZER: I've seen nothing to convince me that had that been John McCain or Jon Kyl at that same area that the same thing wouldn't have happened.

YELLIN: But Gabrielle Giffords was put in crosshairs by Sarah Palin on her Sarah PAC, and that's something that a lot of people on the left have been pointing to. And also, the sheriff has raised the discussion of violence.

HUMPHRIES: And both of those are absurd! I'm sorry, but it is -- it's -- it's even sick, the fact that people were premeditating making this into a political issue, when it's a tragedy for our community, you know? And it's a horrible thing, but don't compound it, especially when you're the sheriff, by going around and trying to drag people into it that just don't belong in the discussion at this point.

There's people -- and it's not -- there's not a lot of people -- I'll go that -- that were kind of hoping this would be a Tea Party -- because they don't agree with the Tea Party, and they want -- they want a cudgel to go beat the Tea Party with. They've been waiting for something like this. So if it fits or not, they were going to try to make it fit. Now, obviously, the details of the case have kind of blunted that.


KING: It's an interesting conversation. And David, a couple things. Number one, I think that reinforces the idea that it is reckless to try to assign blame for any political purpose absent any details. However, to Jess's questions about the Palin crosshairs and other things -- could we use this moment perhaps as a teachable moment for politicians to be more careful about what they do, the symbols they use, the language they use, so that you don't then, after some tragedy, have them drawn into a reckless conversation?

GERGEN: John, I think you're on exactly the right track. And that is, there are two parallel points here. One is we do not have evidence that there's any link at all to the rhetoric and what this deranged young man did. After all, he may have been heavily influenced by movies, by television violence. And far be it from us in the media to say, Oh, it's the politicians who are creating a climate of violence in this country, when there's so much violence on television and in the movies. So we don't know and we ought to hold the accusations about this case.

At the same time, there is no doubt that our rhetoric has gotten much, much worse over the last few years. It has become villainous. It has become poisonous. And whether or not this happened, we needed to get calmed down because it does create an atmosphere in which people hate each other. We don't go forward as a united people, and it's very hard for anybody to govern.

KING: And Jess, is it worse there? We've both been through Arizona many times in the last couple years. It is the frontier, if you will, in the politics of division right now, with the big debates over immigration and all that. When you get back on the ground -- I remember being there in 2006, 2008, again in 2010 -- back on the ground now, is it exacerbated there? Is the volume higher in Arizona?

YELLIN: You know, the difference is we're in Tucson here. Pima County is not as overheated as Maricopa, where all those immigration debates are really taking place. And that's why so many -- so many of the people I've talked today, John, say they're surprised this happened here because they think of this -- one person described it as the Berkeley of Arizona, a much more sort of liberal community, in their mind, or a much more -- I shouldn't say liberal in this context, but a different kind of open -- more open community. They were really surprised, John.

KING: And David, in this essay you wrote on today, you say, "We can do better, a lot better." Explain.

GERGEN: Well, John, I think we are a country that was founded in a lot of tumult. We've always had a rough and tumble politics. But generally speaking, the leaders of this country since the founding have been people who've looked for ways to overcome disagreements, have looked -- have understood that it's the unity of the country that drives us forward. Our national motto, E pluribus Unum, is "From many, one." And we can do better now in cooling the rhetoric, cooling the accusations about this particular case, but at the same time, renewing our efforts to get the poison and the vitriol out of our politics and, indeed, out of the media.

KING: Give a big amen to that. David Gergen, Jess, we'll be back to you in just a few minutes. And when we come back, stay with us. We will reflect on the youngest victim, the youngest victim, a 9-year-old girl.


YELLIN: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of "A Congresswoman Shot." There are so many questions, but no one must have more questions than the family of Christina Green, the 9-year-old who was so tragically gunned down in this violent episode. Our own Casey Wian had an opportunity to talk to her parents. Casey, it must be difficult to even be with them. They must be in shock. But they were able to share some of their memories with you.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They really were. It's amazing. Little Christina Green, 9 years old, was born on 9/11. And she died nine years later in this tragedy in Tucson. And her parents wanted to make sure that those tragedies were not what she was remembered for. Let's listen to what she had to say.


JOHN GREEN, 9-YEAR-OLD'S FATHER: It 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'S MOTHER: She was a great friend, a great sister, a great daughter. I was 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 (ph), that you know, we got robbed, she got robbed of a beautiful life that she could have had.

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


WIAN: Now, John is obviously a big guy. He's a scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He's an athlete. His father won a World Series as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. A very tough individual. But it was so difficult to see him reduced to tears barely 24 hours after his little girl died, Jessica.

YELLIN: Did he have anything to say about the shooter?

WIAN: We asked them about that, and both of them said they haven't really given a moment's thought to the shooter. They don't want to take away from the memory of their daughter. But it's very clear they're very angry, especially the father, very angry and struggling to understand why this happened.

YELLIN: Well, I was able to speak to one of her pastors, the little girl's pastors, who said it's an unexplainable loss and a devastating tragedy for this community.

And we will, of course, bring you continuing coverage here from Tucson and from Washington, D.C., of all the breaking news on the crime front, on the investigation, and also on the political, the ongoing discussion of the political environment and whether that could have contributed to this tragic event here in Tucson, Arizona, on the other side of this break.