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Investigators probe Loughner's finances; Giffords continues recovery

By Sari Horwitz and William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, January 12, 2011; 3:50 PM

TUCSON - Federal and local investigators are trying to determine how Jared Lee Loughner came up with the money to buy the weapon and ammunition he allegedly used to kill six people and wound more than a dozen others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in a shooting spree that was captured on a supermarket security camera, law enforcement sources said Wednesday.

Giffords (D-Ariz.) continues to recover in a Tucson hospital from a gunshot wound to the head, and she is becoming "more and more spontaneous" as sedatives are decreased, a doctor said Wednesday.

About 21/2 hours before the attack, authorities said Wednesday, an Arizona state wildlife officer stopped Loughner for running a red light but had no reason to search the vehicle and allowed the young man to leave with a warning. The stop occurred several miles from the supermarket where the shooting later took place.

The officer from the Arizona Game and Fish Department, which has law enforcement authority, made the stop because Loughner ran a red light right in front of him, authorities said. At the time, Loughner was running errands, some of them associated with the subsequent shooting, law enforcement sources said. They said one of the errands involved a stop at a Wal-Mart to try to buy ammunition.

Authorities also disclosed that the shooting was captured on a security camera above the front door of the Safeway supermarket where Giffords was meeting constituents Saturday morning.

"While the video of the shooting was not perfect, it was pretty close," one law enforcement source said. The source said the video shows Loughner rushing forward, with his Glock at his side at first, and moving toward a table where Giffords was standing to one side of the Safeway's front door.

Law enforcement sources confirmed Wednesday that on the morning of the shooting, Loughner's father confronted him outside their home as he was removing a black bag from the trunk of a family car. Jared Loughner grabbed the bag and ran, and his father gave chase in his truck, the Associated Press reported. Law enforcement sources said the bag remains unaccounted for.

As investigators pressed ahead with the probe, President Obama headed for Tucson on Wednesday afternoon to attend an evening memorial service at the University of Arizona and deliver remarks on the tragedy.

At the U.S. Capitol, meanwhile, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers offered a resolution condemning the attack, gave floor speeches and attended a prayer service.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) struggled to contain his emotions as he told the chamber, "Our hearts are broken, but our spirit is not." He said it was time for the House to "lock arms, in prayer for those killed and wounded, and in resolve to carry on the dialogue of our democracy."

In Arizona, investigators believe that Loughner, 22, did not have sufficient income of his own to buy the Glock 19 semiautomatic handgun, the four magazines and the knife he allegedly carried to the gathering Saturday in front of a Tucson supermarket, the sources said. They estimated the cost at close to $1,000. Two of the magazines were extended ones capable of holding more than 30 rounds.

The FBI and Pima County Sheriff's Department investigators are examining the Loughner family's financial records, as well as Jared Loughner's telephone, Internet and e-mail records, as they try to ascertain where the money to buy the weapons came from, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk about an ongoing investigation.

When authorities searched the house of Loughner's parents on the day of the shootings, they also found a shotgun that Jared Loughner had bought the year before at the same gun store where he purchased the Glock.

In their first public statement since the shootings, Loughner's parents expressed incomprehension and sorrow Tuesday for what they called "the heinous events of Saturday." They did not mention their son by name. "We don't understand why this happened," the statement said.

Hours later, law enforcement sources said a search of the Loughner's home turned up a 2007 letter that Giffords had written to Loughner, thanking him for attending one of her events. The words "Die bitch" and "Die cops" were scrawled on the letter, the sources said.

Loughner was arraigned in federal court Monday on five charges of murder and attempted murder of federal employees. He is accused of killing U.S. District Judge John M. Roll and a Giffords staffer, Gabriel Zimmerman, and of attempting to kill Giffords and two other staffers, Ron Barber and Pamela Simon. In addition to the federal charges, Loughner is expected to face state charges in the shootings, which also took the lives of a 9-year-old girl and a man and two women in their 70s.

There have been discrepancies about the number of people wounded. Authorities lately have been saying a total of 20 were shot. But the Pima County Sheriff's Department issued a revised figure Tuesday night, saying a total of 19 people were shot, six of them fatally. Sheriff's Department spokesman Jason S. Ogan said, "There were other minor injuries as a result of people trying to flee from the scene."

Investigators recovered 31 spent rounds at the scene of the attack and said the Glock 19 had an extended magazine that held 31 bullets. "Loughner had an additional extended magazine and two standard magazines in his possession," Ogan said.

At the University Medical Center, where Giffords and five other wounded patients are being treated, doctors said their recovery was going as well as could be expected.

Giffords's recovery is " going as anticipated," said Peter Rhee, chief of emergency care at the hospital. "Things can go very slowly, and then the progress can occur very rapidly at some particular time and actually can also go in a negative fashion and a downward way as well."

Rhee told reporters, "I'm happy to state that none of the downward events have occurred at this time." He said doctors have "really decreased the amount of sedation that we're giving her, and as a result of that she's becoming more and more spontaneous all the time." He would not elaborate and declined to take questions about Giffords's status.

As families of the victims prepared to hold funerals for their slain loved ones, a fundamentalist church reconsidered its plan to picket the funeral of 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, scheduled for Thursday, in exchange for airtime on two radio stations to publicize its views, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported Wednesday. The paper said Shirley Phelps-Roper, a spokeswoman for the Westboro Baptist Church, would appear on a suburban Phoenix radio station Saturday morning. She was interviewed by a Canadian station Tuesday.

However, the church still plans to picket the funeral Friday of Roll, the federal judge who happened by Giffords's event and was slain in the gunfire. Phelps-Roper said she and three other church members would demonstrate at a Tucson high school and an intersection near the scene of the shooting before protesting near the judge's funeral service, the Capital-Journal reported.

But Phelps-Roper said the picketers would stay at least 1,000 feet away from the church service and would not be affected by an emergency law, passed by the Arizona legislature Tuesday night, that bars protests within 300 feet of a burial or funeral site. The Westboro Baptist Church has gained notoriety by picketing the funerals of U.S. service members, asserting that their deaths are God's punishment for America's tolerance of homosexuality.

Branigin reported from Washington.

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