TUCSON, Ariz. — The condition of a U.S. congresswoman wounded in a Jan. 8 assasination attempt improved to serious Sunday after procedures to remove a ventilator were successful.
Doctors decided to upgrade Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ condition from critical because the tracheotomy done a day earlier went well, and Giffords was breathing on her own, hospital spokeswoman Katie Riley said.
Giffords was one of 19 people shot at a Safeway store Jan. 8. Six people were killed.
Meanwhile, a week after the Tucson supermarket massacre, a shooting victim became distraught during a televised town hall meeting and was arrested, authorities said.
James Eric Fuller, a self-described liberal and military veteran, started ranting at the end of the program. He took a picture of a local tea party leader and yelled “you’re dead” before calling others in the church a bunch of “whores,” authorities said.
Deputies arrested him and called a doctor. They decided he should be taken to a hospital for a mental evaluation, said Pima County sheriff’s spokesman Jason Ogan said.
No one answered the door Sunday at Fuller’s home.
In media interviews and on the Internet, Fuller, a former limousine driver and Census worker, has said he worked hard to get Giffords re-elected in her conservative-leaning district. He was going over questions he had prepared for the congresswoman, wondering whether they were worthy, when the shooting began, he said in an interview with the television show “Democracy Now.”
He was shot in the knee and back and drove himself to the hospital, where he spent two days.
“I didn’t know how to calm myself down,” he said on the TV show, “so I wrote down the Declaration of Independence, which I memorized some time ago. And that did help to organize my thoughts.”
He also lashed out at conservative Republicans for “Second Amendment activism,” arguing it set the stage for the shooting.
Fuller returned to the Safeway supermarket Friday, telling KPHO-TV he had always considered trauma a figment of imagination until the events of Jan. 8.
“Today I’m back on my feet, more or less, and I’m in a combative mood,” Fuller said as he limped across the store parking lot. “It’s helping me. I’ve never had any trauma like this in my life.”
Later, he showed up at the home of accused gunman Jared Loughner, who lived within a half-mile of Fuller.
“He said he was going to forgive him for shooting him,” Richard Elder, 86, a retired medical mechanic who lives next door to Fuller, told The Associated Press Sunday. “If anyone shot me, I don’t think I’d say, ’Hey feller, that’s alright.”’
Fuller posted about eight campaign signs in front of his house during the last election, including one for Giffords. And although Fuller was friendly, he acted odd sometimes, Elder said. Once, Fuller asked him if he was going to vote.
“I told him there are two things I don’t talk about: politics or religion. I told him that, and he walked off without another word.”
He said Fuller had shown him his bullet wounds and seemed to be dealing with the shooting well.
The man Fuller is accused of threatening, Tucson Tea Party co-founder Trent Humphries, said he was worried about the threat, and the dozens of other angry emails he has received.
“I had nothing to do with the murders that happened or the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords,” Humphries said. “And I wonder, if he (Fuller) is crazy or is he the canary in a coal mine? Is he saying what a lot of other people are holding in their hearts? If so, that’s a problem.”
Humphries believes the heated political rhetoric that ignited shortly after the shooting should be toned down, and was trying to express that at the event when Fuller began booing.
“I said I don’t know if now is the time to start being political about this, that we still need to bury the dead,” said Humphries, who was on his way Sunday to attend services for his friend Dorwin Stoddard, 76. He was killed in the rampage after he dove to the ground to cover and protect his wife.
At the Safeway, the makeshift memorial of flowers, teddy bears, candles and cards was growing, more than a week after the tragedy.
Becky Chowning laid a rose and stepped back. She put her hand over her heart and began to sob.
“It’s just so moving. I wanted to pay my respects,” Chowning said, barely able to get the words out. “Seeing these people here today, and all the flowers, it’s just amazing. I hope it helps the families to heal.”
Eduardo Ibarola sat quietly off to the side with a colorful beaded rosary in his hand. He had been praying all week but drove from Phoenix with his 5-year-old grandson to set his heart right.
“We came just so I could say my rosary. All I want is for those upstairs to hear my prayers,” Ibarola said, adding that he had been thinking all week about the youngest victim, 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green.
The girl’s father told The Boston Globe some of her organs were donated to a young girl in the area there, but he didn’t have any other details.
He said they were once again proud of their daughter, “who has done another amazing thing.”