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Crowd members took gunman down

Two men tackled the shooter and a woman took away his ammunition clip before kneeling on him. Authorities also credit a staff member for helping the wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

January 09, 2011|By Sam Quinones and Nicole Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times
  • Patricia Maisch, 61 (shown with her husband, John), was standing in line to meet Rep. Gabrielle Giffords when the gunman opened fire. She snatched an ammunition magazine from him and helped pin him to the ground.
Patricia Maisch, 61 (shown with her husband, John), was standing in line… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)

Reporting from Tucson — Patricia Maisch watched a gunman shoot a woman who was using her own body to shield her teenage daughter.

"I thought: 'I'm next. I'm next to her. He's going to shoot me. I'm next,' " she said in an interview Sunday.

But two men tackled the gunman when he stopped to reload, and Maisch, 61, restrained his hand as he reached for an ammunition clip, helping stop the attack in a Tucson shopping center that killed six people and wounded 14, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Maisch did not get a good look at the gunman's face as she struggled with him. "I was too busy in the outcome, that things not go any further," she said.

Maisch arrived at Giffords' Congress on Your Corner event about 9:30 a.m. Saturday because she wanted to thank the three-term representative for voting for the economic stimulus package.

Maisch, who co-owns a heating and cooling company in Tucson with her husband, said the bill gave her incentives of up to $1,500 for each high-efficiency air-conditioning unit she installed, allowing her to expand and hire two employees.

"I think [Giffords] is a brilliant person. I think she's very level-headed, a centrist," she said.

Maisch said she was fourth or fifth in line waiting to speak to Giffords. She went into the nearby Safeway to buy a banana and water. When she came out, she was 25th, Maisch estimated.

Standing in line, Maisch heard a pop. "I'm not a gun person, but it sounded like a gunshot," she said.

She considered running but decided that would make her a target, and instead dropped to the ground.

The attacker, whom authorities said was Jared Lee Loughner, fired a series of shots and began moving down the line of people who had been waiting for Giffords. He paused to reload after shooting the woman directly in front of Maisch.

"She was shot at least two times, once in the back and once in the arm," Maisch said.

Two men tackled the gunman, and they fell close to Maisch. She saw the shooter reach into his pants pocket for another ammunition clip, and she grabbed his hand. Then she knelt on his ankles to help subdue him.

"He said, 'You're hurting me' or something to that effect," said Maisch, a petite, gray-haired woman who served blueberry tea during an interview at her Tucson home, decorated with African ceramics.

Maisch, originally from St. Louis, moved to Arizona in 1983 for the climate, she said.

Maisch said she never found out the names of the men who tackled the gunman, but she saw that one was bleeding heavily from a gunshot wound in the back of his head.

She returned to the Safeway to get paper towels to make a compress for the man, who was eventually treated by paramedics.

"I'm lucky I had to go into the store for a banana or I would've been" shot, said Maisch, who was not injured.

Maisch said she agreed with Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik, who has railed against what he believes is a poisonous political climate in Arizona that has contributed to violence. "I think he is right about the far right inciting people," Maisch said.

The wounded tackler was apparently Bill Badger, 74, who was about 40 feet away when the gunman began firing. Badger was grazed by a bullet in the back of his head.

Badger said another man slammed a folding metal chair into the shooter's head, knocking him to the ground. Badger, a retired Army colonel, put his knee on the gunman's arm and held his neck and rear to keep him pinned down.

"It was natural to not let this guy shoot any more people," Badger said in a phone interview.

Badger remained on top of the gunman until sheriffs arrived. Then his nerves kicked in.

"I stood up and my knees were shaking," he said.

Badger, who works out three times a week but said, "I've lost a lot of muscle," was treated at a hospital and released.

Pima County sheriff's officials said Roger Salzgeber and Joseph Zamudio also helped subdue Loughner. Zamudio could not be reached for comment Sunday.

"Gabby was my friend," Salzgeber said in a brief interview in front of his northwest Tucson home.

Authorities also singled out Daniel Hernandez Jr., one of Giffords' interns, for his efforts during the shooting.

Hernandez, 20, a junior at the University of Arizona majoring in political science, had joined Giffords' office last Monday and was working at Saturday's event.

After shots were fired, Hernandez, who was certified as a nursing assistant in high school, checked on several victims before seeing Giffords slumped, contorted, on the floor.

He put her head in an upright position against his chest and applied pressure to her wound to stanch the bleeding. He also asked Giffords questions, wanting to know whether she understood that help was on the way, and she would respond by squeezing his hand.

"My job came to be trying to make sure she knew there was someone there with her," he said.

Dupnik said he was grateful for citizens' interventions. "It's a possibility we might have double the victims we have now" if they had not acted, he said.

Times staff writers Rick Rojas and Jason Song in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

nicole.santacruz@latimes.com

sam.quinones@latimes.com

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