Giffords Improves As Shooting Investigation Continues

January 17, 2011

Jeff Brady

Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' condition has been upgraded from critical to serious, primarily because she was taken off a ventilator over the weekend and is breathing on her own.

Surgeons performed a tracheotomy on Saturday and inserted a feeding tube. Doctors say her recovery is still going well, considering her injuries. Two other shooting victims remain in the hospital in good condition.

Meanwhile, the investigation continues into what motivated a gunman to shoot 19 people -- killing six of them. Jared Loughner, the 22-year-old accused shooter, is in federal custody and faces charges that include killing federal employees and trying to assassinate a member of Congress.

The Washington Post is reporting the federal trial will be moved to San Diego because of pre-trial publicity. But in a written statement, the Justice Department says it plans to bring the case in Arizona and will oppose any change of venue motions.

Pima County Sheriff's spokesman Jason Ogan says federal agents have control of the evidence now. But there is still the matter of state charges that could be filed against Loughner.

"We have meetings with the county attorney here later this week to discuss what charges are we going to pursue," says Ogan. "Can we mirror the federal charges? Is it going to be a double jeopardy kind of deal? Or do we have to, you know, scale back a little?"

At the Safeway where the shooting happened on Jan. 8, the store reopened this weekend. Shoppers gingerly pushed carts past a memorial near the front door. Amid the piles of flowers, lit candles and stuffed animals is a sign that reads "United against hate and violence."

Peg Anderson lives just about a quarter-mile from here and she stopped by to take a picture.

Thinking back to a week ago, she remembers all the talk -- prompted by Sheriff Clarence Dupnik -- that a nasty political environment might have led to the shooting. At that time Anderson agreed, but now she's not sure. She wonders how anyone could know what was happening in the gunman's mind.

"I think it's dangerous to attribute it to anything that has been said or happened," Anderson says. "But I can understand why there's that reaction, I had that reaction myself. And I do think this has made everybody sit up and pay attention to how they treat each other."

As for Sheriff Dupnik, it's hard to tell if his thinking has changed. He's pretty much stopped making media appearances. Spokesman Jason Ogan says he can't speak to why, but says the sheriff may be available to talk with reporters later this week. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.