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Obama leads moment of silence for victims of Tucson shooting rampage

President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and staffers appear on the South Lawn of the White House for the symbolic moment in honor of the six killed and 14 wounded in Saturday's shootings in Arizona. Later Monday, suspect Jared Lee Loughner is scheduled to appear in court.

January 10, 2011|By Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times

Led by President Obama, the nation on Monday officially mourned the deadly events over the weekend in Arizona and awaited the first public glimpse of the man accused of murder and attempted murder in the shooting rampage that left six dead and 14 injured, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

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 the critically injured Giffords and other victims. The House also honored its own as staffers gathered in a memorial at the Capitol and House Office Building.

Jared Lee Loughner, who has been in custody since the Saturday morning shooting outside a Tucson supermarket where Giffords was greeting constituents, is scheduled to appear in federal court in the early afternoon. Loughner, 22, faces five counts of murder and attempted murder of federal employees.

Loughner is expected to be represented by attorney Judy Clark, who defended Timothy McVeigh in the Oklahoma bombing case and "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski. Both of those cases are similar to the Arizona case, where extreme violence took place against a background of some form of politics. But Clark also has defended non-political cases, including representing Susan Smith, a South Carolina woman who drowned her two sons in 1994.

Investigators have painted a picture of Loughner 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.

Meanwhile, Giffords, 40, remains in intensive care after surgery to deal with her head wound. Doctors remained guardedly optimistic in appearances on the morning news shows and were scheduled to give a formal briefing later.

"The best way to describe her this morning is that she's holding her own," neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Lemole of Tucson's University Medical Center, said on CBS' "The Early Show." Lemole described how a portion of Giffords' skull was removed during treatment to help prevent brain swelling.

"We don't close the book on recovery for years," he said, "so it'll take as long as it takes. I think the real question will be how long it will take before she's out of the woods."

Giffords, a moderate Democrat, had faced threats before for her positions in favor of President 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

twitter.com/LATimesmuskal

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