The shooting was found justified by law enforcement officials, who discovered that the shooter, a mentally ill man, had stabbed his father to death that day. Carmona hit the man with three of the seven bullets he fired, two others lodged in the cars of passersby, one striking inches from a driver. His actions "saved the lives of innocent bystanders" according to the National Assn. of Police Organizations which named him a "Top Cop" in 2000.
But for some doctors who say the Hippocratic Oath to "Do no harm" prohibits a doctor from intentionally taking a life, Carmona's lack of a medical role in these operations is troubling.
"It is patently clear that Sheriff Carmona ... not Dr. Carmona, was at center stage," Putnam said of the shootout in his letter to Kennedy. "Could not a physician have recognized the behavior of a mentally ill individual and responded in kind?" The shootout fueled Carmona's reputation in Tucson as a charismatic cowboy. And despite his controversial past, even some former adversaries here have said they think the bully-pulpit nature of the surgeon general's job may well suit him.
Others say that if Carmona is confirmed, his tenure should prove interesting.
"He's sort of a Wild West type," said Meister, the former health commissioner.Carmona, he said, truly believes he can accomplish anything.
"The downside of that is that none of us can do anything and everything," Meister said. "And it's always hard to admit that you can't, especially if you're a self-made man."
Garvey is a Times staff writer; Pedersen is a freelance reporter in Tucson. Freelance reporter Maureen O'Connell also contributed to this report.