Loughner gets life for Arizona rampage

Victims, families face man who killed 6, hurt 12

Gabrielle Giffords and husband Mark Kelly left court. The former congresswoman did not speak at the sentencing.
Gabrielle Giffords and husband Mark Kelly left court. The former congresswoman did not speak at the sentencing.

TUCSON — Jared L. Loughner was sentenced to multiple terms of life in prison Thursday at a court hearing punctuated by raw emotion as former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Mark E. Kelly, confronted the man who shot her in the head at close range during a rampage last year that left six people dead and 12 others wounded.

As a packed courtroom fell silent, Kelly, with Giffords at his side, told Loughner, 24, that he had failed in his effort to create a world as dark as the one he inhabited.

‘’You may have put a bullet through her head, but you haven’t put a dent on her spirit and her commitment to make the world a better place,’’ Kelly said about Giffords, who was gravely wounded and whose arm was in a sling Thursday.


Giffords, who resigned from Congress in January 2012, and who has difficulty speaking as a result of her injury, ‘‘struggles to walk, her right arm is paralyzed, she’s partially blind,’’ Kelly said.

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Giffords did not speak at the hearing, at which victims described the impact of Loughner’s January 2011 shooting rampage, but looked directly at Loughner as her husband read from a statement.

“After today, after this moment, Gabby and I are done thinking about you,’’ Kelly concluded.

With that, he and Giffords walked away.

Loughner was sentenced to seven consecutive terms of life in prison, nearly three months to the day after pleading guilty to 19 criminal counts in federal court, including murder and the attempted assassination of Giffords, the target of the attack.


Loughner waived his right to address the court, and when asked by US District Court Judge Larry A. Burns to confirm that decision verbally, he responded, ‘‘That’s true,’’ as he slurred his words — a hallmark of his speech patterns during recent court appearances.

One after another Thursday, Loughner’s victims took to the dais, at times addressing Burns but usually speaking to Loughner, on their right.

Representative Ron Barber, an aide to Giffords at the time of the shooting who was struck by a bullet in the leg, told him, ‘‘There’s no way to make sense of those senseless acts.’’ He said he would never forget seeing one of his colleagues, Gabe Zimmerman, 30, die by his side.

‘‘Now you must pay the price,’’ Barber said. ‘‘You must pay the price for the terror you caused.’’

Turning to Loughner’s parents, he said, ‘‘Please know that I and my family hold no animosity toward you.’’


While Loughner watched the parade of victims stoically, his mother, Amy Loughner, sniffled loudly and convulsed as people described the horror unleashed by her son. Randy Loughner, Jared Loughner’s father, was also in the courtroom.

Pamela Simon, another aide who was injured, taught at the middle school that Loughner attended. She said she remembered him as ‘‘a kid who loved music.’’

On Thursday, she told him, ‘‘You remind us that too often we either do not notice the signs of mental illness, or we just choose to look away.’’

Mavy Stoddard, who was shot three times, told Loughner she cradled her wounded husband, Dorwan, in her arms and whispered, ‘‘Breathe deeply, honey.’’

Ten minutes later, he was dead.

‘‘I wished the mental-health people could have known that you needed help,’’ Stoddard said, ‘‘but that gave you no right to take what we had.’’

Loughner sat staring at each one of them, his head tilted to the left, his body barely moving.

Loughner, who has been held at a federal hospital in Missouri for more than a year undergoing psychiatric examinations, has been given a diagnosis of schizophrenia but was deemed competent in August to agree to the plea deal, under which he is not eligible for parole or to appeal his sentence.

On Jan. 8, 2011, Loughner arrived at a public event being hosted by Giffords, then a member of the US House of Representatives, at a Tucson shopping center.

He was armed with a loaded Glock 9mm pistol and carried 60 rounds of extra ammunition.

In less than 30 seconds, he fired 31 shots, killing six people and injuring 13 others. He stopped shooting only when he paused to reload. He was eventually tackled and restrained by onlookers. He has never said what had compelled him.

Those killed included John M. Roll, 63, a federal court judge, and 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green.

Giffords was gravely wounded by a shot to the head.

On Thursday, Suzie Heilman, who had brought Christina to the event with Giffords as a way for her to learn about democracy, told Loughner in a voice trembling with anger, ‘‘You turned a civics lesson into a nightmare.’’

Loughner, a community college student, had originally pleaded not guilty to 49 charges in the shooting rampage. He had for years exhibited signs of mental illness, including yelling out in high school classes and complaining about voices in his head.

At a court hearing in May 2011, he interrupted the proceedings with an incoherent outburst and was removed from the courtroom. It was at that hearing that Judge Burns ruled Loughner incompetent to stand trial.

Loughner was initially being medicated by force, under orders of the Bureau of Prisons, but has been voluntarily taking his medication since this summer.