The 22-year-old Arizona man accused of shooting 20 people while trying to assassinate a U.S. congresswoman has made his first court appearance to face federal charges.
Jared Loughner was in shackles Monday as he entered a Phoenix courtroom under heavy security. With his head shaved and wearing a prison uniform, he told the court he understood his rights.
Loughner’s court appearance came two days after the mass shooting in Tucson that killed six people and left U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona critically wounded. Thirteen others also were wounded.
White House officials say President Barack Obama will travel to Arizona Wednesday to attend a memorial service for the shooting victims. He also is expected to meet with the families of those killed and wounded in the shooting rampage.
Earlier Monday, President Obama said the nation is still grieving and in shock from the shooting. Mr. Obama spoke at the White House, hours after leading the nation in a moment of silence to honor the victims of the attack.
The president and first lady Michelle Obama paused at the White House, while staff and visitors gathered on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. The New York Stock Exchange and other public institutions also fell silent.
Doctors treating the 40-year-old Congresswoman Giffords say they are slightly more optimistic about her condition. The doctors say she has been responding to simple commands, but they warn she is not out of danger. They say her condition has stabilized.
Giffords was shot in the head Saturday as she met with constituents outside a grocery store.
Loughner faces one count of attempted assassination of a member of Congress, two counts of killing an employee of the federal government and two counts of attempting to kill a federal employee.
Those killed included a federal judge, one of Giffords’ aides, and a nine-year-old girl.
Also Monday, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said the state is in pain and that its grief is profound.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking in Abu Dhabi, called the alleged shooter an “extremist” and described Giffords as a “wonderful, incredibly brave young woman.”
The speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, said House votes scheduled for this week have been postponed. Flags at the White House and other government buildings are to be flown at half-staff all week. Giffords’ brother-in-law, International Space Station commander Scott Kelly, paused for the moment of silence with the rest of the ISS crew Monday.
Doctors said that of those hospitalized, only Giffords remains in critical condition.
In several videos on theYouTube website, a person who posted under the name of the alleged shooter, 22-year-old Jared Loughner, criticizes the government and calls for a new currency. Law enforcement officials say they are investigating the videos.
Last March, Giffords was one of at least 10 House Democrats harassed for their support of U.S. health care reform legislation. The front door of her office in Tucson was shattered in an act of vandalism.
In November, Giffords was re-elected to a third term in the House of Representatives. She was first elected to Congress in 2006.