'We don't understand why this happened,' parents say

Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, January 12, 2011

TUCSON - Three days after their son allegedly killed six people and left a congresswoman critically wounded, Jared Lee Loughner's parents issued their first public comments Tuesday night, saying that they, too, cannot comprehend what had motivated the shootings.

"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," said their statement, signed "the Loughner family." The parents made no mention of their son.

Hours after the statement's release, two law enforcement sources said that FBI agents had found a 2007 letter from Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) to the shooting suspect, with the words "Die, bitch" and "Die, cops" scrawled on it.

The letter, which thanked Loughner for attending an event of hers, was found in a safe in his Tucson home, the sources said.

On Tuesday, this grief-stricken city began to turn its attention away from the shock and frenzy of the crime toward healing the wounded and burying the dead. President Obama plans to fly in Wednesday and deliver remarks at an evening memorial service, one of at least half a dozen such events planned over the next several days.

The president is expected to focus on the victims and what he has learned about them from family members over the past few days, White House officials said.

The president will also pay special tribute to Giffords, who doctors said Tuesday was showing signs of improvement.

"She has no right to look this good. We're hopeful," said Michael Lemole, chief of neurosurgery at University Medical Center.

Giffords is still heavily sedated, the doctors said, and has not completely opened her eyes. She is able to breathe on her own, though she remains on a breathing tube. And she has been able to follow commands: squeezing a hand, wiggling toes, giving a thumbs-up sign.

Her congressional office released photos Tuesday night that showed Giffords holding her husband's hand.

Even the simple act of scratching her nose, doctors said, was encouraging. To a neurosurgeon, that is an indication of brain function: the ability to sense an itch, process that signal and respond with movement.

Peter Rhee, chief of the hospital's trauma division, said he thinks Giffords has a "101 percent chance" of surviving. But there are difficulties ahead: the risks of infection and pneumonia, and new tests to determine the damage to her brain.

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