Authorities on Sunday formally accused Jared Lee Loughner of murder and attempted murder of federal employees in connection with the Arizona shooting rampage that left six people dead and 14 injured, including the critically wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
The charges were in a federal complaint, announced by U.S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke. Loughner, who is in federal custody, is scheduled to make his first court appearance Monday.
The complaint allows officials to hold Loughner for 30 days, during which an indictment is presented, officials said.
The federal charges allege that Loughner attempted to kill Giffords and two of her assistants. A third assistant and a federal judge died in the attack.
Meanwhile, a man identified by Pima County authorities as a “person of interest,” who was photographed near the scene, has been identified. Officials say the man, who went to the sheriff’s station after seeing his picture on television, was a cab driver who had no involvement in the shootings.
At an earlier news conference, FBI Director Robert Mueller described Saturday’s shootings as “an attack on our institutions and on our way of life.”
Though officials were still looking at the motive for the shootings, Mueller confirmed that Giffords was likely the principal target of the attack, and an official said Loughner had attended a public event that Congresswoman Giffords held in 2007. But the FBI chief, speaking at the joint news conference with Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnick, downplayed any current danger.
“There is no information at this time to suggest any specific threat remains,” Mueller said but added that officials were continuing to investigate any possible ties between the suspect and any hate groups.
Mueller said the shooting involved a legally purchased Glock 9-millimeter, a semiautomatic pistol. Loughner allegedly fired all 31 bullets in the magazine and was reloading when a woman in the crowd, already wounded, attempted to grab the gun from him. He finally changed the magazine and tried to fire, authorities said, but the gun jammed. Meanwhile, two men from the crowd grabbed him and subdued him, according to officials.
Had Loughner been successful in firing the second magazine, “there would have been a huge, greater catastrophe,” Sheriff Dupnik said. The sheriff also said that the toll had climbed to 20, six dead and 14 injured, including the congresswoman. Just before Mueller outlined the latest investigative details, doctors treating the injured congresswoman gave an upbeat assessment about her condition after the attack, which shocked the nation and spurred a troubled country to reexamine its political culture.
At a televised news conference in Tucson, Dr. Michael Lemole, a surgeon at the University Medical Center, said Giffords had responded to doctors’ commands following surgery. In great detail, he described how the gunshot went through the left side of the congresswoman’s head and how doctors worked to remove bone fragments to help reduce the swelling and possible damage to the brain.
“This is about as good as it is going to get,” said Dr. Peter Rhee, a trauma surgeon. “When you get shot in the head and the bullet goes through your brain, the chances of you living is very small and the chances of you waking up and actually following commands is even much smaller than that.”
Though the news was positive, Giffords remained in critical condition, doctors said.
Among the dead was a 9-year-old girl, the granddaughter of noted former baseball manager Dallas Green and the daughter of Dodgers baseball scout John Green. In emotional appearances on several networks, Roxanna Green described her daughter, Christina Taylor Green, as an angel, born Sept. 11, 2001, the day of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
Noting that her daughter’s life began and ended in tragedy, Green called for an end to violence.
“I just want her memory to live on that she’s a face of hope, face of change, face of ? us coming together as a country to stop the violence and hatred and the evil wars,” Green said on MSNBC. “We have to protect our government officials and our innocent young children.”
Loughner, 22, was apprehended by people in the crowd after the midmorning shooting at a Tucson supermarket. Witnesses described how he sprayed the area with bullets. Also among his victims was Arizona’s chief federal judge, John M. Roll, 63, as well as Giffords aide Gabe Zimmerman, 30; Dorothy Morris, 76; Dorwan Stoddard, 76; and Phyllis Scheck, 79. Roll had just stopped by to see his friend Giffords after attending Mass.
Officials wouldn’t discuss the motive for the attack, but witnesses said it appeared focused.
“I feel like he knew what he came there to do, and he done it,” Joe Zamudio said Sunday morning on MSNBC.