Read Brian Mori’s series coverage of the Spring 2011 UA undergrad scandal involving Daniel Hernandez Jr., the intern President Obama hailed as a hero for attempts to help Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the Tucson Mass Shooting earlier this year.
Daniel Hernandez Jr. was twice turned down for student body president of the University of Arizona by undergrad voters. The campaign was contentious, according to all parties during two rounds (four total) student court hearings on the UA Campus.
The student court hearings questioned powers of student officials to regulate student expression and campaign tactics as well as evoked memories of the 2000 Bush / Gore election
Federal and county authorities concluded a press conference Saturday night without releasing confirming the name of a man taken into custody after a mass shooting at a northwest Tucson supermarket that killed Federal District Judge John Roll, 63, and severely wounded AZ Dist. 8 Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, 40.
Authorities confirmed at least one gunman opened fire shortly after 10 a.m. on a crowd of at least a few dozen who were gathered at a meet-and-greet with the Congresswoman outside the Safeway at the Southeast corner or Ina and Oracle Roads.
Five other people were killed, including a 9-year-old girl who was pronounced dead at University Medical Center in Tucson earlier today.
12 others were shot and taken to area hospitals.
“In fifty years as a police officer in this community,” Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik began the conference which was held in a ballroom in the Westward Look Hotel just north of Tucson, “I’ve never been as shocked in my life as the events that happened today.”
A search is under way for another man police would not describe other than to say he may have been involved in transporting the shooter to the scene.
“We know the 22 year old in custody has a criminal background,” Dupnik told reporters. “We believe he was a Pima Community College Student and we have reports he had problems.”
Jared Lee Loughner is believed to be the man bystanders tackled and police arrested, though the Sheriff’s department refused to confirm his identity.
“I’m not a psychiatrist,” Dupnik said, “But I’d say he was definitely unstable.”
The Sheriff did not know the identities of two men who tackled the shooter but said deputies had their information.
Police confirmed they recovered a semi-automatic pistol that still had ammo inside the cartridge but would not describe the make of the gun.
They would not say to whom the gun belonged.
Though Dupnik and his staff said the suspect had made no statement to police other than to invoke his Constitutional right to silence, Dupnik said the incident may have been the consequence of emotional pandering by politicians and media in recent elections.
“When you look at unbalanced people and how they respond to what comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government, the anger, and the hatred,” he said and then paused reflectively. “The bigotry that goes on in this country is getting outrageous and unfortunately Arizona has become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”
Dupnik would not elaborate on specific incidents but repeated that he believed the shooter may have been motivated by recent political climates.
“This is a time when America is becoming a not so nice place,” he said. “Freedom of speech does not come without consequences.”
According to Dupnik, Judge Roll was on his way home from church at St. Augustine’s Cathedral in downtown Tucson and stopped by to say hello to Giffords.
“He was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Dupnik said holding back emotion.
“I’ve never met a more sincere, fair minded judge in my whole life,” Dupnik said, “He was one of the finest people I know.”
Dupnik said Giffords, who was re-elected in November, did not request security at the event Saturday though he recalled two recent threats to her safety during her last campaign.
“Someone in a very angry audience dropped a weapon from their pants and around the same time windows were broken in her headquarters,” he said.
The Tucson Police Department is currently investigating a suspicious package found outside the Congresswoman’s office after the shooting.
The Pima County Sheriff’s Department is working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Sheriff’s staff said the suspects family had been contacted.
Neither Dupnik nor the FBI’s Nate Grey would elaborate on the order in which victims were shot or their injuries.
University of Arizona Medical Center Chief Trauma Surgeon Dr. Peter Rhee confirmed earlier today that Giffords was shot in the head but was responding with her hands to commands by medical personnel.
She is in critical condition in the Intensive Care Unit.
“Surprise isn’t the word, I just can’t comprehend it,” said Pima County Supervisor Ann Day in whose district the incident took place. “I have the utmost respect for Gabby. She is the model public servant because she takes her duty seriously and makes herself accessible.”
Day said she also campaigned for election in the same Safeway shopping complex in which today’s shooting took place.
“My heart goes out to all the victims and their families,” Day said with tears in her eyes.
Video and photos of the press conference and crime scene will be available shortly.