MIAMI (CBS4) – Florida’s Congressional representatives issued statements Saturday in reaction to the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona saying their prayers were with her and her staff and constituents.
Gifford has made it through surgery at University of Arizona Medical Center and is expected to survive the ordeal.
“Gabby had these meetings at grocery stores as part of her regular congressional work. This is just a real shock and a terrible, terrible situation. We pray for everyone who’s been injured in this. It’s just horrific,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).
“Gabby is one of my closest friends. I’ve never heard her raise her voice in anger or express anything but optimism for our future and our nation,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) in a statement.
Congressmen Allen West (R-FL) said his prayers are with family and people hurt in the shootings while Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) said “Gabby is truly a nice person, highly principled and tenacious. The attack on her, staff members, constituents and bystanders is incredibility senseless.”
The Democrat went on to say that “Gabby and all who were injured will be made whole” and offered condolences to everyone injured in the attack. Hastings also wants the attacker to be swiftly dealt with and encouraged Americans to come together on the issue of this type of violence.
“All persons in America should call for our society to teach tolerance, love, and civility,” Hastings said.
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL) echoed condolences and concerns.
“She’s a very kind person. She has a very nice spirit, soft-spoken, hard-working. It was not out of character for her to be at a grocery store doing constituent meet and greet because that’s what kind of person she is,” said Former Democratic Congressman Kendrick Meek.
Giffords was shot in the head Saturday and six others were killed, including a 9-year-old girl. Authorities are reporting that 18 people were shot when Jared Lee Loughner, 22, opened fire in an area where the lawmaker was meeting with about 25 constituents, officials said.
Hospital surgeon Dr. Peter Rhee is reporting that five people are in critical condition, five are in intensive care. The Associated Press is reporting that one of the dead is Federal Judge John Roll.Giffords, the surgeon said, was shot “through her brain” and that the bullet pass completely through her head. She is now sitting up, moving her limbs and responding to commands.
Giffords’ District Manager was among those killed. An unknown total number of others were injured, officials said, including additional aides to the lawmaker.
One official added the attack was carried out with an automatic weapon. The officials who described the events did so on condition of anonymity, saying they were not permitted to comment publicly.
“I am horrified by the senseless attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and members of her staff,” newly elected House Speaker John Boehner said. “An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve. Acts and threats of violence against public officials have no place in our society. Our prayers are with Congresswoman Giffords, her staff, all who were injured, and their families. This is a sad day for our country.”
They said the FBI and local law enforcement were investigating the attack, which took place while Giffords was greeting constituents outside a grocery store.
Giffords, 40, was re-elected to her third term last November. She was a member of the Arizona House and Senate before coming to Washington.
Giffords was elected to Congress amid a wave of Democratic victories in the 2006 election. The former state lawmaker won a narrow victory against a Tea Party favorite in the 2010 election.
The shooting comes amid a highly charged political environment that has seen several dangerous threats against lawmakers but nothing that reached the point of actual violence.
A San Francisco man upset with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s support of health care reform pleaded guilty to threatening the Democratic congresswoman and her family, calling her directly on March 25 and threatening to destroy her Northern California home if she voted for health care reform.
In July, a California man known for his anger over left-leaning politics engaged in a shootout with highway patrol officers after planning an attack on the ACLU and another nonprofit group. The man said he wanted to “start a revolution” by killing people at the ACLU and the Tides Foundation.
Giffords herself has drawn the ire of the right, especially for her support of the health care bill.
Former Republican presidential candidate and Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin urged conservative followers to take action against congressional members who supported President Obama’s health initiatives and listed Giffords among the congressional members to act against, according to Palin’s March 23, 2010 FaceBook post.
Giffords’ Tucson office was then vandalized a few hours after the House vote to approve the health care law in March, with someone either kicking or shooting out a glass door and window.
(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)