By David Nakamura, Dana Hedgpeth and Sari Horwitz
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, January 19, 2011; 12:00 AM
TUCSON - Authorities have analyzed nearly two dozen surveillance videos in the massive investigation of accused Tucson killer Jared Lee Loughner, some of which clearly show a gunman shooting federal Judge John Roll in the back as he and an injured congressional aide try to scramble under a table, officials who have viewed the footage said Tuesday.
It also shows the gunman walking toward Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and firing his first bullet into her face from two to three feet away, the officials said; he then blasts 31 more shots in a span of no more than 15 seconds. Doctors initially said the bullet entered Giffords's head from the back, but they have since said it struck her above the left eye, and the footage leaves little doubt of that.
The videos taken by cameras stationed inside and outside a Safeway where six died in the Jan. 8 rampage offer the most detailed picture yet of the mayhem that left Giffords gravely wounded and 12 others injured. The images, which have not previously been described in detail, offer glimpses of Loughner inside the store, where investigators believe he made final preparations for the shootings. They also show him walking toward the area outside where Giffords was staging a constituent event, said Richard Kastigar, chief of operations and investigations for the Pima County Sheriff's Department.
Kastigar's account was confirmed by a second law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing criminal probe.
One video shows Loughner talking to a clerk while pointing to his ears to signal that he cannot hear, the officials said. Authorities believe he went into the store bathroom and put on earplugs before the shootings.
"He's going, 'Can't you see I've got ear plugs on'?" Kastigar said.
The videos are considered powerful evidence in building a criminal case against Loughner, 22, but state and federal authorities are working on numerous fronts. More than 250 federal agents and 130 local detectives have conducted more than 300 interviews since the rampage. They have carefully tracked bullets misfired into the Safeway window and the store's 7-Up display, and even found one in a woman's purse, authorities said.
The FBI also has confiscated two hard drives and a safe found in Loughner's room, but Kastigar and the other official declined to say what was found on the computer drives.
Authorities have interviewed Loughner's parents after breaking down a barricaded rear door to gain entry into the low-slung suburban home where they have largely been in seclusion since the shootings.
They've also heard from friends who suspected that Loughner was becoming unhinged and were fearful. One friend of the suspect recently told investigators that, between Christmas and New Year's Day, Loughner showed him a gun and told him he needed it "for protection around the house," Kastigar said. The friend did not report the incident until he heard of Loughner's arrest.
Yet despite 11 days of extensive work, authorities remain stumped about the suspect's possible motives, according to dozens of law enforcement officials, witnesses, victims and Loughner associates interviewed by The Washington Post.
Loughner's parents, Randy and Amy, have told investigators that they had little recent contact with their son. Authorities are looking into an incident the morning of the shooting, when Randy Loughner chased his son into the desert after spotting him with a black bag believed to hold ammunition. They also are examining whether the parents provided money that Loughner used to buy a gun and ammunition.
With little help coming from the immediate family, investigators are probing associates and witnesses for details that could help them fill out the "jigsaw puzzle" of Loughner's life, as one source described it.
It could take weeks for investigators to fully determine Loughner's state of mind in the days before the rampage, officials said. Virtually every member of the FBI's 200-person Phoenix field division, along with 50 additional agents from Washington and Tucson, and more from the Capitol Police and the U.S. Marshals Service, have fanned out across southeastern Arizona. About 130 detectives from the Pima County Sheriff's Department are also involved.
"Did you notice anything that made the hair on the back of your neck stand up?" an FBI agent asked Steven Rayle and his companion, Laura Tennen, who were at the scene.
During the interview in their house, Rayle recalled, the federal agent and a Pima County deputy wanted to know "anything that was odd or spooky" about Loughner's behavior that day.
The videos create a fairly vivid picture of Loughner's alleged movements through the Safeway, which he entered sometime after 9:54 a.m. on Jan. 8, Kastigar said. The footage is now in possession of the FBI, which has declined to release it.
In one video, the gunman, whom police believe is Loughner, emerges from the store's south entrance, then loops around a table set up outside for Giffords's "Congress on Your Corner" event with constituents. He is "hurriedly walking," Kastigar said, then approaches Giffords head on. The first shot struck her just above the left eye and exited through the back of her skull.
"He walks up, goes bang," the Pima County lawman said. "He is maybe 24 to 36 inches away. You can see her go straight down."
The gunman then turns to his left and fires on a crowd of people who are seated or standing in line. They are not seen on this video, but one camera captures muzzle flashes, the source said.
Next the gunman turns back to his right, where 65-year-old Ron Barber, Giffords's district director, and Roll are standing. He shoots Barber, who reaches for his left shoulder.
Then, "Judge Roll starts to push Barber down and lay on top of him, and they start to scamper under the table, but Roll is on top," Kastigar said. "At that point, you can see the suspect shoot Roll. Roll gets shot in the back, then he sort of appears halfway on the other side of the table. He starts to look over his right shoulder, and then he lays back down."
Witnesses have given differing accounts of whether Roll was trying to protect Barber.
Giffords's communication director, C.J. Karamargin, said he could not comment on the sources' description of the video. "We're not going to comment on something we haven't seen," he said.
Roll died at the scene, and Barber was released from the hospital in time to attend the judge's funeral. Giffords remains in serious condition.
Peter Rhee, the medical director at University Medical Center, confirmed Tuesday that the bullet entered Giffords's head from the front.
Other videos from the store show the assailant firing until he has expended his entire magazine. At that point, he is tackled by bystanders.
In all, authorities believe that Loughner shot 32 bullets, one more than had been previously reported. A woman who was at the scene found a spent casing in her purse a couple of days after the incident, law enforcement officials said. Though the extended magazine clip that Loughner allegedly used holds only 31 bullets, investigators believe he had another bullet loaded in the chamber when the attack began.
Two of the bullets went through the Safeway's windows, said assistant store manager Javier Rivas. One traveled through a wall, hit a ceiling tile and ended up on the meat department floor.
The other landed in a pack of 7-Up on display in the front of the store, Rivas said in an interview. The manager found that bullet after noticing liquid on the floor and soda leaking out of a bottle.
Staff writers Philip Rucker in Tucson and Jerry Markon in Washington and staff researchers Lucy Shackelford and Alice Crites contributed to this report.