A week has passed since America – and Tucson, Ariz., in particular – was horrified, revolted, and grieved by a mass shooting at a congresswoman’s routine event with constituents outside a Safeway supermarket.
In that time President Obama has three times spoken to the nation, in a bid to comfort and unite. In that time three of the six people killed in the shooting have been laid to rest. In that time the Safeway has reopened, with store spokeswoman Cathy Kloos on Saturday noting employees’ desire to “reconnect with their customers” and affirming, “We’re doing OK.”
The initial round of castigation – liberals and conservatives feuding over who’s more at fault for a climate of political “vitriol” and whether that played into the tragedy – has subsided. Lawmakers in Congress are considering whether Republicans and Democrats ought to intermingle in the audience at the upcoming State of the Union address, in a gesture of comity. Doctors say Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D), the apparent target of the attack, continues to improve after being shot in the head and is off a ventilator, raising hopes for her recovery, and 10 of the 13 wounded have been released from the hospital.
Things will never be the same, especially for families who lost loved ones. But for many they are starting to be manageable, if still not explainable.
The challenge of explaining what happened – and why it happened – falls to law-enforcement authorities, who have spent the past week trying to build their case against suspect Jared Loughner. The 22-year-old Tucson resident, who had been kicked out of community college and rejected by the Army, faces four federal charges, including killing an employee of the federal government. Federal Judge John Roll died in last Saturday’s rampage.
Authorities on Friday released a time line of Mr. Loughner’s activities in the 12 hours before the shooting. They say it shows an individual acting with deliberation and focus, posting a “Good-bye friends” bulletin and uploading a photo on his MySpace page, and driving to one Wal-Mart store and then another after he was not able to buy ammunition at the first.
According to authorities, Loughner was up most of the night before the shooting. By their recounting of his actions, he dropped off photos for developing at a Walgreens at 12:24 a.m., and checked into a Motel 6 minutes later. By 2:30 a.m. he had retrieved the photos and returned to the motel. His MySpace activity came at 4:21 a.m. He checked out of his room before sunrise, and drove to one Wal-Mart and then a Super Wal-Mart two miles away, where he bought ammunition and a back-pack style diaper bag, in black.
He was in his car at 7:30 a.m., stopped by an Arizona Fish and Game official after running a red light. Released, Loughner arrived at his parents’ home, where his father sees him remove a black bag from the car and tries to question him about it. Loughner runs away on foot, and his father drives after him in pursuit, but cannot find him. At 9:41 a.m., authorities say, a taxi picks up Loughner at a Circle K store and drives him to the Safeway near where Ms. Giffords is to hold her “Congress on Your Corner” event to meet constituents. Loughner and the taxi driver enter the Safeway to break a $20 bill, so Loughner can pay the fare. That and the subsequent shooting itself, they say, are captured on the store’s surveillance cameras.
Also on Friday, Pima Community College, where Loughner had been a student, released to the Los Angeles Times a video that offers a more nuanced window on the suspect. He is alleged to have made the video and uploaded it in late September to Youtube. It was the final straw for the college, which had already dealt with complaints about him and responded to several incidents in which he was disruptive in class or at the campus library. Loughner was immediately suspended from school pending a mental health clearance.
The video, shot on the campus, does not picture Loughner but is narrated by a voice that the Times says is his. Describing him as “rambling and agitated,” the Times notes that Loughner characterizes the college as a “genocide school,” says while walking past the bookstore that “they’re controlling the grammar,” and asserts that “all the teachers you have are being paid illegally and have illegal authority over the Constitution of the United States under the 1st Amendment.”
Loughner’s attorney is expected to try to save him from execution by arguing that he is mentally ill.