President Barack Obama has called on Americans to come together and support each other after a member of Congress and up to 17 other people were shot outside an Arizona shopping center Saturday. The president called the attack “an unspeakable act.”
President Obama made a brief statement in the State Dining Room, hours after a gunman opened fire on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and more than a dozen other people.
Giffords had been holding a public forum outside a food store in Tucson, Arizona, when the suspect shot her in the head and fired on the others.
The president paid tribute to those who had been confirmed dead, including a U.S. district court judge. “Among them were a federal judge, John Roll, who has served America’s legal system for almost 40 years, and a young girl, who was barely 9-years-old," he said.
Congresswoman Giffords is a 40-year-old Democrat in a heavily Republican state, who began her third two-year term in Congress just days earlier.
Mr. Obama called her a friend. “She is not only an extraordinary public servant, but she is also somebody who is warm and caring. She is well liked by her colleagues and well liked by her constituents," he said.
The president was briefed by his homeland security team and numerous other top officials after the rampage occurred. He has ordered the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to go to the scene and lead the probe.
“A comprehensive investigation is currently underway. And at my direction, Director Bob Mueller is en route to Arizona to help coordinate these efforts. I have also spoken to the Democratic and Republican leaders in the House," said the president.
The president’s homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, is a former governor of Arizona.
The current state governor, Republican Jan Brewer, also called Representative Giffords a friend and ordered state flags to fly at half-staff for those killed.
The president tried but failed to contact Giffords’ husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, who was on his way to Tucson.
Mr. Obama was foremost among political leaders from both parties who have expressed outrage at the attack and called for prayer and support. “What Americans do at times of tragedy is to come together and support each other. So at this time I ask all Americans to join me and Michelle in keeping all the victims and their families, including Gabby, in our thoughts and prayers," he said.
Mr. Obama promised Americans that his administration would “get to the bottom of” the incident, and that America would “get through this.”