Shooting rampage victim arrested at ABC-TV town hall meeting
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Two things are clear from Saturday's ABC News town hall meeting in Tucson. One: Tucsonans are eager to move forward and recover from last week's horrible shooting rampage. And two: that process is going to be slow and painful.
ABC News Anchor Christiane Amanpour hosted a remarkable gathering of victims, heroes, witnesses and first responders. It was the first time most of them had been together since Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a Safeway parking lot, killing 6, and wounding or injuring 14 others -- a rampage that happened one week earlier almost to the hour.
On the platform with Amanpour were Col. Bill Badger, who helped tackle gunman Jared Lee Loughner; Daniel Hernandez, who ran to help wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords while most people were ducking for cover, Patricia Maisch, who grabbed a magazine away from Loughner; Bill Hileman, whose wife, Susan, is still recovering from gunshot wounds.
On the front row was Kenneth Dorushka, who was shot shielding his wife from Loughner's gunfire; and J. Eric Fuller, who was shot in the knee.
Among the dignitaries and community leaders present: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, who is a close personal friend of Giffords and who also sat on the platform with Amanpour; Tucson mayor Bob Walkup; Tucson Congressman Raúl Grijalva; former Tucson Congressman Jim Kolbe; and Father Richard Troutman of St. Odilia's Catholic Church, where the town hall took place.
Also on the platform: Pima County Sheriff's Bureau Chief Richard Kastigar, who gave an update on the investigation.
Most of the event was devoted to a recounting of what had happened that terrible morning. Amanpour gently led the witnesses and survivors through the events, getting them to tell what they saw and experienced, and to talk about how they are coping.
Probably the most emotional moment came when Bill Hileman talked about his wife Susan's dual struggle: physical and emotional. The youngest victim who died in the shooting, 9 year old Christina Taylor Green, was there because she wanted to meet Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. A neighbor took her to the "Congress On Your Corner" event. Susan Hileman was that neighbor. Bill Hileman said that his wife now struggles with the fact that she took a neighbor's child to the event, but was not able to bring her home again.
The theme of the event was "An American Conversation Continued" -- the idea being to continue the conversation that a madman's brutal rampage had interrupted. So it was inevitable that the conversation would eventually turn to politics. It did, toward the end, with Amanpour leading a discussion on a very touchy but obvious topic: gun control.
That's where the atmosphere turned tense. When Tucson Tea Party founder Trent Humphries rose to suggest that any conversation about gun control should be put off until after the funerals for all the victims, witnesses say Fuller became agitated. Two told KGUN9 News that Fuller finally rose, took a picture of Humphries, and said, "You're dead."
When State Rep. Terri Proud (R-Tucson) rose to explain and clarify current and proposed gun legislation in the state, several people groaned or booed her. One of those booing, according to several witnesses, was Fuller. Witnesses sitting near Fuller told KGUN9 News that Fuller was making them feel very uncomfortable.
The event wrapped up a short time later. Deputies then escorted Fuller from the room. As he was being led off, Fuller shouted loudly to the room at large. Several witnesses said that what they thought they heard him shout was, "You're all whores!"
A Pima County Sheriff's spokesman told KGUN9 News that they charged Fuller with one count of threats and intimidation, and said they plan to charge him with at least one count of disorderly conduct. Humphries told KGUN9 News that he does plan to press those charges.
The irony could not be more pointed, or painful. One of the issues discussed in the town hall meeting was the question of why no police or mental health professionals had ever intervened with Jared Lee Loughner, despite his increasingly bizarre behavior that had included disruptive outbursts.
Afterwards, several participants told KGUN9 News that they hoped the outburst would not overshadow what they saw as the true message of the meeting: that Tucson is filled with good and decent people, and the community will get through this.
ABC will broadcast the town hall meeting, entitled "After the Tragedy: An American Conversation Continued," Sunday. The network has given KGUN9-TV permission to air the broadcast twice. It can be seen at its regular time period of 7:00 AM Sunday (January 16) and also at 3:00 PM the same day.