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Capps Calls Giffords a ‘Courageous Fighter,’ Prays for Recovery

Alleged gunman in custody, FBI investigating attack that killed 6, wounded congresswoman and 19 others

In the aftermath of a deadly rampage that critically wounded a congresswoman in Tucson on Saturday, Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, described her colleague as “a courageous fighter” and expressed prayers and support for her, the other victims and their families.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz. (Rep. Gabrielle Giffords photo via Facebook)

Rep. Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords, D-Ariz., was gunned down outside a suburban Tucson supermarket about 10 a.m. local time Saturday as she talked with constituents at a regular “Congress on Your Corner” meeting. Six people were killed in the attack, including a 9-year-old girl and a federal judge, and 20 people were wounded. Authorities said the alleged gunman was in police custody after he was tackled by a bystander when he ran out of ammunition.

“My thoughts and prayers are with Gabby, her family, and all of the innocent people affected by this terrible tragedy,” Capps said in a statement. “Gabby is a dedicated public servant, and I am so thankful for the warm friendship we share.

“She has proven herself to be a courageous fighter on behalf of her constituents, and I hope and pray for her swift recovery.”

Capps was in Santa Maria on Saturday morning to attend the funeral of former Santa Barbara County Supervisor Harrell Fletcher, who died Jan. 6 at age 91. It was Capps’ only scheduled public appearance in the district over the weekend, said Ashley Schapitl, her spokeswoman.

Giffords, 40, is a small businesswoman and former state legislator who was first elected to Congress in 2006, representing the 8th District, a 9,000-square-mile region that stretches east from Tucson along the Mexican border to New Mexico.

She and her husband, Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, an astronaut, have two children. Kelly is the scheduled commander of NASA’s Endeavour space shuttle flight, which is to launch April 1 and will be the shuttle program’s final mission.

The Los Angeles Times reported that a suspect, identified as Jared L. Loughner, 22, of Tucson, was in custody after the rampage. He allegedly used a pistol with an “extended magazine” in the attack, and witnesses said 15 to 20 shots were fired in rapid succession.

Giffords was shot in the head at point-blank range but physicians said they were optimistic she can recover. The bullet penetrated her skull but apparently made a clean exit.

“I can tell you at the current time period, I’m very optimistic about recovery,” the Times quoted Dr. Peter Rhee, director of trauma at University Medical Center in Tucson, as saying.

“We cannot tell about full recovery, but I’m about as optimistic as I can get in this situation.”

Giffords reportedly was responding to doctors’ instructions after surgery Saturday afternoon.

Early media reports from Tucson, Arizona’s second largest city, were incomplete and unreliable. Initial accounts said Giffords, who was shot first, had been fatally wounded in the rampage.

The Pima County Sheriff’s Department said six people were confirmed dead, including Christina Taylor Green, the 9-year-old daughter of Los Angeles Dodgers baseball scout John Green and granddaughter of former Philadelphia Phillies manager Dallas Green; U.S. District Judge John Roll, 63; and one of Giffords’ top aides. Giffords and 19 others were wounded.

The FBI and local authorities are investigating the shooting as well as a possible motive. A YouTube site alleged to belong to Loughner contained a largely incoherent video with seemingly paranoid statements alluding to political anarchy, mind control, currency and grammar. A MySpace page linked to Loughner was quickly taken down after the shooting. There was no immediate indication that additional suspects were involved.

In a statement issued in Washington, President Barack Obama called the attack “an unspeakable tragedy ... a senseless and terrible act of violence that has no place in a free society.”

Obama said he had sent FBI Director Robert Mueller to Arizona to coordinate the investigation.

Santa Barbara residents Susan and Claude Case are longtime friends of Giffords and were guests at her “fairy-tale event” wedding to Kelly in 2007. The Giffords and Case families were friendly competitors in the auto parts and tire business in Arizona and the Cases hosted her first fundraiser for Congress in Phoenix in 2006. Last summer, they hosted another in Santa Barbara.

“Lois Capps came and told me she had no idea how well Gabby could handle herself on stage with strangers,” Claude Case told Noozhawk. “It is a long way from the Arizona-Mexico border but 20 of our friends attended and all were impressed and actually wrote checks.

“She is a warm, engaging person and a great speaker,” Case said of Giffords. “She has more energy than you can imagine. She holds mini-constituent events very frequently. Even her opponents said she was a master of constituent services.”

Case said Giffords and Kelly had visited Rome over Christmas. He said Giffords, who is Jewish, was excited to attend Midnight Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica with her Catholic husband.

Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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