Arizona Congresswoman Shot Outside Grocery Store
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is married to West Orange native Mark Kelly.
U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) is in critical condition after being shot in the head outside a Safeway grocery store in Tucson, Ariz., Saturday morning. Giffords is the wife of NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, who grew up in West Orange and whose parents both served on the West Orange Police Department.
Giffords was meeting with constituents for the first "Congress on Your Corner" when she was shot, according to her website. She was one of 19 people allegedly shot by 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, of Arizona, according to Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik. Six are confirmed dead. Dupnik said authorities also are seeking a second "person of interest" in the shooting, but would not elaborate.
Kelly and Giffords married in November 2007. Kelly is scheduled to fly as commander of Endeavour — mission STS-134 — on April 1, according to information provided by the Kennedy Space Center. The Kelly family remains well known in West Orange, where elected officials, locally and nationally, were reeling with the news.
West Orange Police Chief James P. Abbott said he worked with Kelly's parents.
"I am shocked and saddened by this terrible news," said Abbott. "I worked for many years with both Capt. Richard Kelly and police officer Patricia Kelly. I watched the Kelly twins grow up and followed their careers as they became astronauts."
Abbott said both Richard and Patricia retired from the police department more than 10 years ago.
Mark Kelly's twin brother, Scott Kelly, has been commander of the Endeavour for the last six months.
New Jersey Assemblyman and former West Orange Mayor John McKeon said the Kelly family has always been willing to help the township.
"They've participated in various events in our schools and had given the time to come back and work with the township," he said. "My thoughts and prayers are with the congresswoman, the Kelly family and all the victims of this tragedy."
One of Mark Kelly's accomplishments in West Orange included participating as a volunteer with the township's first aid squad.
"It's absolutely tragic. Our hearts go out to them," said Deborah Herr, spokeswoman for the West Orange First Aid Squad. "They started as youth squad members and have always kept in touch with us and other West Orange organizations. They come back and tell us what it's like to be an astronaut."
West Orange Mayor Robert Parisi called the incident a "sad day" for the township.
"Our hearts go out to Congresswoman Giffords and the Kelly family, who have been a big part of our community for decades," he said. "Our prayers are with them during this very tragic time. This is a sad day for West Orange."
U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ11) said he was "shocked and heartbroken to hear the news about the attack" on his colleague.“Gabby is a good friend. Married to Mark Kelly, one of Kelly twins who are NASA astronauts originally from New Jersey," Frelinghuysen said. "I was Gabby’s guest for one of their shuttle launches in Florida and she represents my brother and his family in Tucson." Butch Williams, who works at Goodyear Tire in Tucson, said he's known the Gifford family for 10 years. Goodyear bought El Campo Tire, the company Giffords' family used to own, in 2000.
"I was absolutely devastated and shocked. It was unbelievable," he told Patch. "It's an unbelievable thing."
U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-NJ-8) said he's worked with Giffords.
"My thoughts and prayers are with my friend and colleague, Congresswoman Giffords, as well as her husband, Capt. Mark Kelly and their family and her staff who stood with her during this terrible attack," he said. "My deepest sympathies go out to the family of the deceased. I pray for the healing of those who were wounded, for the healing of the Tucson community and for all of us to have the resolve to never allow one violent person to interfere with the relationship between the American people and their government.”
President Barack Obama issued a statement Saturday afternoon.
"We do not yet have all the answers," Obama said. "What we do know is that such a senseless and terrible act of violence has no place in a free society. I ask all Americans to join me and Michelle in keeping Rep. Giffords, the victims of this tragedy and their families in our prayers.”
House Speaker John Boehner also issued a statement Saturday.
"I am horrified by the senseless attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and members of her staff," he said. "An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve. Acts and threats of violence against public officials have no place in our society. Our prayers are with Congresswoman Giffords, her staff, all who were injured, and their families. This is a sad day for our country."
Authorities said little about Loughner, except that he was arrested and was from Arizona. But, it appears he had a YouTube page under the name "Classitup10," which showcases videos he allegedly created, including one called "America: Your Last Memory in a Terrorist." The seven-minute, 16-second video plays to the song "Bodies" by Drowning Pool and shows an American flag on fire.
In another video called "Introduction," Loughner allegedly writes, "If I define terrorist then a terrorist is a person who employs terror or terrorism, especially as a political weapon. I define a terrorist."
Kelly's biography on NASA's website says he "still considers West Orange, New Jersey, to be his hometown." It also says he and Giffords have two children.
Giffords took the oath of office for her third term Wednesday. Some of her main campaign issues include immigration and the border.
McKeon said the shooting "brings to light" gun control in the U.S.
"We do know that an automatic weapon was involved and, as a result, we need to review the way we regulate gun control," he said.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
— Marilyn Lehren contributed to this report.