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Jared Lee Loughner, Arizona shooting suspect, appears in court

Alleged shooter Jared Lee Loughner faces five counts of murder and attempted murder of federal employees in the Tucson shooting spree that targeted U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The judge calls Loughner 'a danger to the community.'

January 10, 2011|By Sam Quinones and Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times
  • Security officials stand at the entrance to the the Sandra Day O'Connor United States Courthouse in Phoenix, where Jared Lee Loughner, 22, appeared before Magistrate Judge Lawrence Anderson Monday.
Security officials stand at the entrance to the the Sandra Day O'Connor… (Charlie Riedel / Associated…)

Jared Lee Loughner, accused of murder and attempted murder of federal employees including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, appeared on Monday in federal court in Phoenix and will continue to be held for future hearings.

Loughner, 22, appeared before Magistrate Judge Lawrence Anderson on a five-count complaint that alleged he attempted to assassinate Giffords, who remains hospitalized in critical condition after Saturday's shooting spree. Two of the counts allege that Lougner killed a federal judge and a congressional aide, charges that could include the death penalty if he is convicted.

Monday's appearance was pro forma, but it was the first time Loughner had appeared in public since the Saturday attack that left six dead and 14 injured including the congresswoman. He wore handcuffs and a tan inmate uniform.

"Mr. Loughner is a danger to the community," Judge Anderson said.

As expected, Loughner will be represented by Judy Clarke, who defended Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Timothy McVeigh. The next court appearance was set for Jan. 24.

Loughner's appearance came hours after President Obama called on the nation to work together in the wake of the Arizona shooting rampage, an act the president called "mindless violence."

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Obama also praised the courage of the people who helped apprehend the suspect. Although Giffords was in critical condition, doctors were guardedly upbeat on Monday in describing her condition after Saturday's shooting spree in Tucson.

"Obviously, all of us are still grieving and in shock from the tragedy that took place," Obama said.

"I think it is important for us to also focus, though, on extraordinary courage that was shown during the course of these events," the president said, citing the wounded woman who helped secure the ammunition, the college student who ran into the line of fire to rescue his boss and those who wrestled the gunman to the ground during the attack.

"That speaks to the best of America even in the face of such mindless violence," Obama said.

The incident has become a lightning rod for the ongoing debate on civility at a time of highly partisan and divisive politics. Obama and Republican leaders have stressed the need for comity.

"In the coming days, we are going to have a lot of time to reflect," Obama said. "Right now the main thing we're doing is to offer our thoughts and prayers to those who have been impacted, making sure we're joining together and pulling together as a country."

Earlier, Obama led the nation in mourning. Accompanied by staffers and First Lady Michelle Obama, the president stood, head bowed, observing a national moment of silence on the South Lawn of the White House, a symbol of the outpouring of grief and shock as the political world reeled from an attack on one of its own.

Three chimes were sounded as a memorial. Then, his arm around the first lady's waist, the pair returned to the White House.

The House has delayed much of its usual business, including a proposed repeal of the healthcare overhaul, but will consider special resolutions this week honoring Giffords and other victims. The House also honored its own as staffers gathered in a memorial at the Capitol and House Office Building.

Giffords is one of two people who remain in the intensive-care unit at University Medical Center, doctors said at a televised news conference Monday morning. Two patients from Saturday's shooting have been discharged, and five are listed in serious condition.

"At this phase in the game, no change is good, and we have no change," said Dr. Michael Lemole Jr., chief of the division of neurosurgery. "She is still following those basic commands, and on top of that, the CAT scans are showing that there is no progression of the swelling.

"We're not out of the woods yet," he said. "That swelling can sometimes take three days or five days to maximize. But every day that goes by and we don't see an increase, we slightly more optimistic."

Investigators have painted a picture of Giffords' suspected shooter as an outcast who mistrusted government. Over the weekend, an FBI agent described a search of Loughner's Tucson home, where he found an envelope scrawled with the phrases "I planned ahead" and "My assassination," along with the name "Giffords." The envelope also had what appeared to be Loughner's signature on it.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said Loughner was being uncommunicative with investigators.

Over the weekend, officials said they were continuing to look for any connections between Loughner and hate groups as part of their background check on the suspect. But Dupnik told ABC's "Good Morning America" that it was doubtful that Loughner was part of any conspiracy.

"He's a typical troubled individual who's a loner," the sheriff said.

Giffords, a moderate Democrat, had faced threats before for her positions in favor of Obama's healthcare overhaul and for her support of immigration reform, a touchy issue in Arizona. But she continued to meet constituents in open settings like the one Saturday.

Authorities said that Loughner had legally purchased a semiautomatic pistol, which he allegedly fired at Giffords and the crowd.

Those killed included U.S. District Judge John M. Roll, 63, and 9-year-old Christina Green, born on Sept. 11, 2001. Green's parents have repeatedly called for end to the type of violence that killed their 9-year-old daughter.

Others killed were Giffords' aide Gabe Zimmerman, 30; Dorothy Morris, 76; Dorwan Stoddard, 76; and Phyllis Schneck, 79.

michael.muskal@latimes.com

sam.quinones@latimes.com

Quinones reported from Phoenix and Muskal from Los Angeles. Richard Serrano of the Washington Bureau contributed to this report.

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