Loughner family expresses sorrow for 'heinous' attack; doctors say Giffords making progress

Doctors in Tucson, Arizona, say Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is now breathing on her own and that they remain hopeful. But they caution recovery from this point forward will depend on her.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 11, 2011; 7:27 PM

The parents of the troubled young man who allegedly shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 19 other people in Tucson issued their first public statement Tuesday, expressing incomprehension and sorrow over the "heinous" attack three days ago.

The statement from "the Loughner family" came hours after doctors treating Giffords (D-Ariz.) said she was showing progress and was able to breathe on her own as she recovers in a Tucson hospital from a gunshot wound to the head.

Giffords, 40, remains in critical condition after the shooting Saturday at an event she was holding to meet constituents outside a Tucson supermarket. Six people were killed - including a federal judge, a Giffords aide and a child - and 14 were wounded when a man with apparent mental problems opened fire on the gathering with a handgun. The suspect, Jared Lee Loughner, 22, was arraigned in federal court in Phoenix on Monday. He faces federal charges of murder and attempted murder and is likely to face a raft of state charges as well. His family did not attend the arraignment.

After remaining silent since the shootings, Loughner's parents issued a brief written statement that was handed to reporters by an intermediary outside their home Tuesday afternoon.

"This is a very difficult time for us," it said. "We ask the media to respect our privacy. There are no words that can possibly express how we feel. We wish that there were, so we could make you feel better. We don't understand why this happened. It may not make any difference, but we wish that we could change the heinous events of Saturday. We care very deeply about the victims and the families. We are so very sorry for their loss."

As President Obama prepared to visit Tucson on Wednesday ahead of a series of funerals for the victims of Saturday's shootings, state lawmakers in Phoenix quickly approved emergency legislation to bar protests within 300 feet of funeral or burial sites. The Arizona House and Senate acted unanimously in a bid to head off a plan by a Kansas church to picket the funeral Thursday of a 9-year-old girl who was killed in the Tucson rampage. Gov. Jan Brewer (R) intends to sign the bipartisan bill immediately once it reaches her desk, her spokesman said.

The Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., said Monday it plans to picket the funeral of Christina Taylor Green because "God sent the shooter to deal with idolatrous America," the Associated Press reported. A spokeswoman for the church said it would not be affected by the ban because it plans to picket at an intersection 1,000 feet from the funeral service. The church previously has picketed military funerals, asserting that the service members' deaths were punishment for America's tolerance of homosexuality.

In Washington, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Tuesday that the shooting spree shows that threats to public officials "continue to be cause for concern and vigilance."

Holder plans to accompany Obama and first lady Michelle Obama to Tucson on Wednesday afternoon for a memorial service at the University of Arizona. The president is scheduled to speak at the event, dubbed "Together We Thrive: Tucson and America."

On Capitol Hill, the House of Representatives scheduled a vote Wednesday on a resolution condemning the attack on the Giffords event and affirming the chamber's "belief in a democracy in which all can participate and in which intimidation and threats of violence cannot silence the voices of any American." The House called off other legislative business this week, postponing a planned vote on repealing Obama's health-care law.

Doctors at University Medical Center in Tucson said six patients remain at the hospital, two having been discharged since Monday. Besides Giffords, who remains in intensive care, three patients are in serious condition and two are in fair condition, said Peter Rhee, director of the hospital's emergency care unit.

"Everything is currently going well with all of those patients, and they're progressing as expected," Rhee said.

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