Tucson heroes tackled gunman

2011-01-10 22:48

Tucson - The gunman who allegedly attacked dozens here, including a US congresswoman, was reloading his weapon when bystanders, including a 74-year-old who had just been shot in the head, sprang into action to disarm him - and likely saved multiple lives.

Authorities are scrambling to piece together the events outside a supermarket here in which suspect Jared Loughner is believed to have fired a full clip of 31 bullets into a crowd, killing six people and wounding 14 including US Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

In the aftermath of Saturday's tragedy, a retired colonel and an older woman were being hailed as heroes for overpowering the gunman. So was Joe Zamudio, who was buying cigarettes nearby and raced toward the hail of bullets, his own weapon at the ready, eventually pinning Loughner to the ground until police arrived.

"When the shooting stopped, I started to get up, and when I raised up, why, I didn't realize it but he (the gunman) was standing right in front of me," Bill Badger, a retired colonel, told ABC's Good Morning America.

"Some individual there took one of the folding chairs that they had been sitting on while they were waiting to talk to the congresswoman, and hit him on the back of the head. And I was able to grab him," Badger said.

Badger hadn't realized it at the time, but he had actually been shot during the rampage. The bullet grazed the back of his skull but Badger remained conscious and alert, and put the suspect in a choke hold.

When he heard the shots, Badger said he "turned... and dropped to the ground, and when I did, I felt the sting in the back of my head, that's where he hit me."

Fully prepared

In a nearby drugstore, Zamudio heard the gunfire and, instead of fleeing to save his own life, raced across the parking lot to the action, fully prepared to use his own 9mm handgun to stop the carnage.

"I came out of that store and I clicked the safety off and I was ready," Zamudio told Fox News.

"Somebody was hurting somebody around me. I had my hand on my gun... in my jacket pocket."

Zamudio said he recognized that life could have played out far differently if he had wandered over from the store moments earlier to see why the crowd had gathered.

"Maybe I would have been able to stop him. Maybe I would have died," he said.

Zamudio insisted he did the right thing by taking matters into his own hands, and by preparing to use his own weapon if needed.

"This is how we need to react. We're Americans, and we shouldn't be afraid," he said.

Grabbed the magazine

White-haired Patricia Maisch, a 61-year-old businesswoman, had come to meet Giffords personally to thank her for voting for a major US stimulus package, but in an instant she was on the ground, "waiting to be shot," she told ABC.

Loughner, 22, had just shot the woman next to Maisch, but ran out of bullets. In the midst of the chaos, Maisch feared for her life but was level-headed enough to lunge forward and grab the magazine out his hands.

"Someone said 'get the magazine,' because he pulled the magazine out of his pocket with his left hand. Another gentleman gets the gun while I'm able to get the magazine," she said, deflecting praise to the other men who she said saved her life.

But Maisch was hailed as one of the heroes who defied the dangers and helped prevent a broader massacre.

"This is one of the most heroic acts I've ever seen," Pima County sheriff Clarence Dupnik said on Sunday.

Read more on:    jared loughner  |  gabrielle giffords  |  us  |  us shooting

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