Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was critically wounded, a federal judge was killed and at least five other people died Saturday when a young gunman opened fire outside a supermarket in Tucson, according to authorities.
A total of 19 people were shot, including those killed, authorities said. The dead included a 9-year-old girl and Chief U.S. District Court Judge John Roll, who was appointed to the bench in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush.
Giffords, 40, a Democrat in the 8th Congressional District, was leading a "Congress on the Corner" meeting with constituents at a Safeway store when up to 20 shots rang out.
Giffords was shot in the head at close range and taken to the nearby University Medical Center. Doctors there said the bullet "went through" her brain.
She remained in critical but stable condition after surgery, according to Dr. Peter Rhee, who oversees the trauma department at the hospital. Rhee said he was "optimistic" she would survive, but added it would take time to evaluate her condition.
During a press briefing, Rhee said of the 11 people seen at that hospital, one - a young girl - died. Five, including Giffords, were in critical condition and the other five were still undergoing operations. The status of the other shooting victims or where they were being treated wasn't immediately known as authorities struggled to put together a comprehensive report in the shooting's aftermath.
"This clearly is a grave tragedy for our community, and a grave tragedy for the United States of America," said Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup.
The gunman was identified by sheriff's officials as Jared Laughner, 22, who had had only minor scrapes with Tucson authorities in the past. Authorities described him as a political extremist whose rambling postings on the Internet advocated destroying the United States.
Laughner carried out the shooting with a pistol equipped with an extended magazine that allowed him to fire many rounds without reloading his weapon, according to sheriff's investigators. That is sure to renew debate over Arizona's lenient "open-carry" gun law that permits citizens to carry weapons in public.
Earlier this week, as the new Congress read the Constitution, Giffords read the portion that guarantees citizens the right to peaceful assembly.
She won re-election to a third term in her seat during November in a close contest in an area of Southern Arizona where emotions run high over debates about immigration. Still, she has a reputation for working on a bipartisan level with colleagues in the House.
She is married to a NASA astronaut, Mark Kelly, and is stepmother to his two children. Kelly's twin brother is also an astronaut and is currently in space.
Roll presided over many high-profile cases and previously received death threats after ruling in an immigration case.