Gabrielle Giffords Able to Communicate With Doctors; Jared Loughner Charged With First-Degree Murder

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Candles surround a portrait of Giffords in Tucson, Arizona. Photo: John Morre/Getty Images

Yesterday, Jared Lee Loughner opened fire on U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords and at least seventeen other people at a Tucson grocery store. Six people have been confirmed dead. This morning, authorities said Giffords underwent surgery and doctors are cautiously optimistic about her recovery. Meanwhile, authorities are searching for a possible accomplice to the shooting. Here are the latest updates on the story:

Representative Gabrielle Giffords is able to communicate with doctors by following simple commands. "We are very encouraged by that," said Dr. Michael Lemole Jr., chief of neurosurgery at University Medical Center in Tuscon, Arizona. "I am cautiously optimistic." Giffords remains in critical condition. "This is about as good as it is going to get," said Dr. Peter Rhee, a trauma surgeon. "When you get shot in the head and the bullet goes through your brain, the chances of you living are very small and the chances of you waking up and actually following commands are much smaller than that. Hopefully it will stay this way." [CNN]

Suspected gunman Jared Lee Loughner has been transferred to federal custody, FBI Director Robert Mueller said Sunday. Loughner was described by authorities as "mentally unstable." [NYP, CNN] Update: Jared Loughner has been charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, and attempting to kill a member of Congress. [CNN]

Police believe Loughner may have been acting with an accomplice. This morning they were looking for a second suspect who was seen in the Safeway grocery store shortly before the shooting. The man, believed to be associated with Loughner, was photographed by a security camera. He is described as white with dark hair and between 40 and 45 years old. [NYP] Update: Investigators have identified and ruled out the "person of interest" they were seeking in connection with the shooting, a law-enforcement official said Sunday. [CNN]

This morning, authorities questioned a second person in connection with the case. It is unclear what connection the person may have to the case and unknown whether it is the same man seen in a surveillance photo released by investigators. [CNN]

Nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green is among the six people confirmed dead as a result of the shooting. She is the granddaughter of Dallas Green, manager of the Phillies when they won the World Series in 1980, a man who also managed both the Yankees and the Mets. "We're all hurting pretty bad," Green said. "This is the worst thing to ever happen to us. Our beautiful Christina." The young Green had been brought by a neighbor to meet the congresswoman yesterday. [NYDN]

U.S. District Judge John Roll has died as a result of the shooting. Roll had served as the chief judge for the U.S. District for Arizona since 2006. In 2009, he received death threats while presiding over a case in which illegal immigrants were suing an Arizona rancher. At the time of his death, Roll was presiding over a federal court challenge to ban ethnic studies in a school district in Tuscon. [NYDN]

New York politicians have offered condolences to the Giffords family. Giffords, a Democrat, frequently visits New York for fund-raisers. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand had dinner with Giffords last week. "It is an honor to be able to call her a close, personal friend. My thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims and their families," Gillibrand said. [NYP]

Arizona's senior senator, Republican John McCain, currently traveling in South America, said he was "horrified" by the violence in his home state. "Whoever did this, whatever their reason, they are a disgrace to Arizona, this country and the human race," said the former presidential candidate. "I pray for Gabby and the other victims, and for the repose of the souls of the dead and comfort for their families." [NYP]

Giffords was placed on a map of Sarah Palin's "targets" after Obama's health-care reform passed. At the time, Giffords warned that violent rhetoric could have physical consequences. Now, lawmakers are calling for toning down of political rhetoric. "We live in a world of violent images and violent words, but those of us in public life and the journalists who cover us should be thoughtful in response to this and try to bring down the rhetoric, which I'm afraid has become pervasive in our discussion of political issues," Senator Dick Durbin said on State of the Union. Republican Senator Lamar Alexander said, "We ought to cool it, tone it down, treat each other with great respect, respect each other's ideas and even on difficult issues like immigration or taxes or health care law, do our best not to inflame passions." Giffords's husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, is "very angry about the level of angry rhetoric that he believes incites people." [CNN]

Jared Lee Loughner wrote on his YouTube page, "I define terrorist." He attended Pima County Community College and Northwest Aztec Middle College. He had enlisted for Army service but was rejected. [Yahoo, NYT]

Within seconds after the shooting began yesterday, a man who was grazed by a bullet grabbed the gunman, a middle-aged woman wrestled ammunition away from him, and a group of people held him down while another man grabbed the gun out of his hand. [CNN]