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Tucson shootings: How Gabrielle Giffords's event for constituents turned to tragedy
Steven Rayle, a Tucson doctor, came to the event with a friend, eager to meet Giffords. "She's pretty moderate. I like the way she's done things," he said.
When he walked up, Giffords was standing on the sidewalk in front of the Safeway, talking with two constituents. Only about 20 people had gathered near the two folding tables, under the flags of Arizona and the United States and a banner with Giffords's name.
Giffords, dressed in a red blazer, black slacks and black pumps, "said 'Good morning' to everyone, gave each of us who work for her a hug, and she started talking to people," said Mark Kimble, 57, her media aide. He saw that no news reporters were on hand and went into the Safeway to get some coffee.
A man spoke to Giffords for a few minutes about a military issue. He wanted his photo taken with the congresswoman, and they posed. Then a couple came forward.
A moment later, at 10:11, Rayle saw a young man wearing sneakers and what appeared to be navy-blue sweats approach Giffords with a semiautomatic handgun raised. The man shot Giffords once in the head, Rayle said.
"I walked up, passed by the table, and when I came around the corner, I saw the gunman," he said. "I was about 10 feet away. There was a concrete post I was able to duck behind. The whole thing beginning to end was probably 10 or 12 seconds. It sounded like a pop, like pop, pop, pop rather than in movies where it's a deep roar. He didn't pause at all. He shot her and just continued shooting - pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop - like rapid fire. People had no chance to get away at all."
Rayle's friend Laura Tennen had gone into the supermarket to get towelettes to wipe off her hands after pumping gas on the way to see Giffords. She heard the noise and thought someone must have been making popcorn for the event.
The shooter "came dashing through the area," Kimble said. "Even before he got to the table, he fired one shot. He ran up, three or four feet from the congresswoman and district director, fired several shots at them and anyone close to him, and then he ran by the people waiting in line and fired at everyone."
The man said nothing, Rayle said, but law enforcement sources said several witnesses told them the shooter was yelling something as he fired. After Giffords fell, several people near her sought to flee but were trapped - boxed in by the tables and a concrete post.
"There was nowhere easy to run," Rayle said. "So most of the crowd got it, you know. People that were there were just sitting ducks. I don't think he was even aiming. He was just firing at whatever."
Jared Lee Loughner, 22, lived day after day filled with dreams about a world that should be, but wasn't. He had learned about a mystic tradition in which people across different cultures sought to manipulate their dreams through a method known variously as conscious dreaming or lucid dreaming. The idea was that even as you sleep, you can force your consciousness into your dreams, directing characters in your dreams almost as a stage director instructs actors.