Hero emerges from the carnage in Arizona

2011-01-10 07:54

Tucson, Arizona – Authorities have hailed as a hero the woman who confronted a gunman as he attempted to reload his handgun after shooting 20 people, including a US congresswoman.

The gunman had already fired a full clip of 31 bullets from a Glock 9mm handgun into a crowd of people who had gathered in a shopping mall parking lot to meet Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

As he tried to insert a new magazine into the weapon, Patricia Maisch lunged forward and grabbed it out of his hands, said Pima County sheriff Clarence Dupnik.

“This is one of the most heroic acts I’ve ever seem,” he said in an interview with Fox News.

“This lady was standing in line to have her picture taken with Gabrielle when all hell broke loose,” he said.

“For whatever reason, she decided something had to be done. She came out of line and tackled the gun this guy was holding,” he said. “She might have saved many, many lives.”

Giffords (40), a Democrat who had won re-election in November, was shot through the head. Nineteen other people were wounded in the attack, including six people who died, among them a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl.

Dupnik had earlier said that Maisch was among those wounded in the attack, but later said she was unharmed and that he had been misinformed.

At a press conference earlier, Dupnik said that after the woman tore the ammunition magazine from the gunman’s hand, he pulled out another and succeeded in reloading the weapon.

“Fortunately, the spring in the magazine failed, and the two gentlemen were able to get it away from him and subdue him until the law enforcement people arrived,” Dupnik said.

The alleged gunman, who was taken into custody, has been identified as Jared Loughner, a 22-year-old local resident with a history of posting incoherent denunciations of the government on the internet.

Dupnik said Loughner had corresponded with Giffords’ office in 2007 and had been invited to attend an event similar to the one the congresswoman was hosting Saturday.

Investigators found an envelope in a safe at Loughner’s Tucson home that left no doubt as to his intended target.

“I planned ahead,” “My assassination” and “Giffords” were written on the envelope, along with the suspect’s signature.

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