Click to viewA gunman shot U.S. congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords during an event outside a Safeway in Tucson Arizona this morning. At least 12 others were wounded. Following is an eyewitness report from a man who helped hold the suspect down.
Giffords is currently in critical condition at University Medical Center after being shot once in the head. At a press conference, her doctor said she is out of surgery and he is "optimistic" about her prospects for recovery. (Early reports said Giffords had died.)
We spoke to an eyewitness, Steven Rayle, who was on the scene at the time of the shooting and helped to hold the suspect down while waiting for police. Here's what he said:
The event was very informal: Giffords had set up a table outside the Safeway and about 20-30 people were gathered to talk to her. The gunman, who may have come from inside the Safeway, walked up and shot Giffords in the head first, "point blank". According to Rayle, who is a former ER doctor, Giffords was able to move her hands after being shot.
After shooting Giffords, the gunman opened fire indiscriminately for a few seconds, firing 20-30 rounds and hitting a number of people, including a kid no older than 10 years old. Rayle hid behind a concrete pole and pretended to be dead. When the gunman apparently ran out of ammunition he attempted to flee, but a member of Giffords' staff tackled him. Rayle helped hold the gunman down while waiting for the sheriff to arrive, about 15-to-20 minutes later. The EMS came about 30 minutes later. Rayle said he was "stunned" by how long it took medical help to arrive.
The gunman was young, mid-to-late 20s, white, clean-shaven with short hair and wearing dark clothing and said nothing during the shooting or while being held down, although he struggled at first. He was "not particularly well-dressed"; he didn't look like a businessman, but more of a "fringe character," Rayle said. The sheriff's department arrived, arrested the gunman and cordoned off the parking lot.
[Video: Giffords criticizes the violent rhetoric of the Tea Party and Sarah Palin on MSNBC last year.]