By David Nakamura and Sari Horwitz
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, January 18, 2011; 8:46 PM
TUCSON - Safeway store surveillance videos clearly show Rep. Gabrielle Giffords being shot in the face above the left eye from about two to three feet away by accused gunman Jared Loughner, who moments later killed U.S. District Judge John Roll as he tried to take cover under a table, two sources who have viewed the footage said Tuesday.
Authorities have recovered nearly two dozen surveillance videos from inside and outside the Tucson grocery store that was the site of the shooting rampage on Jan. 8 that killed six and wounded 13. The videos are likely to provide critical evidence as Loughner faces trial on murder charges.
Investigators believe Loughner entered the store bathroom to put on earplugs minutes before the rampage. He is seen on video talking to a clerk while pointing toward his own ears.
"He's going, 'Can't you see I've got ear plugs on,' " said one source who viewed the video. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.
In addition to watching the videos, investigators also have interviewed a friend of Loughner's who told them that sometime between Christmas and New Year's Day, Loughner showed the friend his gun. When the friend asked why he needed a firearm, Loughner responded, "For protection around the house," the sources said.
The friend did not report the incident at the time. He told his father about the episode after hearing that Loughner had been arrested Jan. 8, and the father contacted law enforcement officials, the sources said.
The videos create a vivid picture of Loughner's movements through the Safeway store, which he entered sometime after 9:54 a.m., until he opened fire on the crowd at about 10:10 a.m., the sources said. The footage is now in possession of the FBI, which has declined to release it and is holding it as evidence for a potential trial.
In the clearest of the Safeway videos, Loughner is seen emerging from the south entrance, then looping around a table that was set up outside for Giffords's "Congress on Your Corner" event with constituents. He is "hurriedly walking," one source said, then approaches Giffords head-on and shoots his first bullet into her face, where it struck her just above the left eye and exited out the back of her skull.
"He walks up, goes bang. It's very clear," one source said. "He is maybe 24 to 36 inches away. You can see her go straight down."
Loughner then turns to his left and begins firing on a crowd of people who were sitting in seats and standing in line for the event. They are not seen on this video, but the camera captures muzzle flashes from the gunfire, the source said.
The video then shows Loughner turning back to his right, where 65-year-old Ron Barber, Giffords's district director, and Roll are standing. He is seen shooting Barber, who reaches for his left shoulder, the sources said.
At that point, Roll and Barber "start to scamper under the table," one source said, adding, "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. It took out his aorta, is what the autopsy showed."
That particular video cuts off at that point, the source said, though other videos from the store show Loughner continuing to fire until he has expended his entire magazine. At that point, he was tackled by bystanders.
Loughner shot 32 bullets, the sources said, one more than had been previously reported. A woman who had been at the scene found a spent casing in her purse a couple of days after the incident and reported it to police, the sources said. Though the extended magazine clip Loughner used holds only 31 bullets, investigators now believe he had an additional bullet loaded in the chamber when he began the attack.
The sources also said that investigators interviewed Loughner's parents, Randy and Amy, shortly after the attack and do not believe they had any knowledge that their son was planning it.
Though investigators were forced to break down the rear door of the Loughners' house while serving the warrant shortly after the attack, the parents told them they had barricaded the doors because of unwanted attention from reporters. The parents have cooperated with the investigation and have sought refuge away from their house because of the intense media presence there, the sources said.
Also, sources provided more details about photographs that Loughner dropped off at a Walgreens store and picked up the morning of the shooting. The pictures included one of the gun and others of him holding the gun and wearing a red G-string. The sources said that Walgreens policy is to make copies of suspicious-looking photos, which the store clerks did with Loughner's pictures.
He posted one of them on MySpace at about 4 a.m. the morning of the shooting with a message that began, "Goodbye friends," investigators have said. Walgreens turned over the photos to authorities after learning of the shooting. The photos are in the custody of the FBI, which has declined to release them publicly.