Nov. 07--The last time she saw Jared Lee Loughner, Patricia Maisch was sprawled on the pavement outside a Tucson grocery store holding Loughner's gun clip and sitting on his legs, desperate to prevent more casualties in a horrific shooting.
On Thursday, Maisch will face Loughner, 24, for the first time since Jan. 8, 2011, when he will be sentenced in a Tucson federal courtroom on 19 charges related to the shooting that killed six people and injured 13 others, including former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
Loughner pleaded guilty in August to the Tucson shooting and struck a deal that assures he will not get the death penalty. His change of plea came after more than a year of wrangling over his competence to stand trial -- Loughner's been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
His expected sentence is life without parole.
Survivors will have a chance to speak during the sentencing, and at least four are planning to do so, including U.S. Rep. Ron Barber, former Giffords staff aide Pam Simon, Mary Reed and Suzi Hileman. All four were seriously wounded by gunfire that day.
Some survivors like Maisch, who were at the scene but uninjured, will also attend and speak.
Giffords, who was shot through the head and continues to recover, has not publicly said whether she will be there, nor has her husband, Mark Kelly. The shooting occurred outside a Safeway during a constituent event hosted by Giffords called "Congress on Your Corner."
None of the survivors and family members contacted by the Star this week said they feel any happiness about the sentencing. But those interviewed agree it is the most acceptable outcome for a tragedy that for many has left infinite grief.
"Certainly for me this is the resolution that I wanted," said Simon, who was shot in the chest and wrist. "Every resolution is tragic. There is no way around it. But in this case I think for us not to drag everyone through a trial is a very good decision."
Maisch said since she is not a proponent of the death penalty, she's satisfied that life in prison with no chance for parole is the best outcome. She didn't attend any of Loughner's other court hearings because she was not injured and did not lose anyone. She needed to get back to a normal life. Also, none of the other hearings offered those affected a chance to speak.
"We have the opportunity to address the judge, and I plan to do that," Maisch said. "I think it will be fairly emotional. I am planning on it being emotional."
Maisch had been at the Giffords event to thank the congresswoman for voting for the economic stimulus plan, which helped the heating and cooling business she co-owns with her husband. Loughner stopped to reload right after he shot the woman standing next to Maisch.
Retired Army National Guard Col. Bill Badger and Roger Salzgeber tackled Loughner to the ground. Maisch is credited with pulling away Loughner's magazine of bullets before he had a chance to reload. Maisch credits Badger and Salzgeber with saving her life.
Others who plan to speak include Reed, who was shot in the back as she shielded her teenaged daughter from Loughner's line of fire. Hileman is expected to speak about her neighbor, 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green. Hileman brought Christina-Taylor to meet Giffords, and the third-grader was the youngest person killed in the gunfire.
Simon is planning to speak, though says she could change her mind if others have conveyed what she wants to say. Simon, who was shot in the chest and wrist, has found some comfort in going back to the Safeway, and to the trauma bay at the University of Arizona Medical Center.
"I've gone to all the hearings. I felt it was important to see the whole process and to understand it," Simon said. "I felt understanding the judicial side of the tragedy would help me in my healing process. I also wanted to be a support to the other survivors. Many have become close friends in the last year and a half."
While seeing the Loughner prosecution through its completion is important to many victims, others are choosing to stay home.
Ross Zimmerman, whose 30-year-old son Gabriel "Gabe" Zimmerman was the second youngest to die that day, will not be in attendance.
"What does it have to do with Gabriel?" Zimmerman said. "It's not like the guy even knew Gabe. ... I have followed the (court) process, and I know they have done a good job with it."
Gabe Zimmerman was Giffords' community outreach director, and was killed as he ran to Giffords' side after she was shot.
"We wanted the criminal justice system to do its job," Ross Zimmerman said. "Nobody in my family believes in the death penalty. Since we don't see any purpose in the death penalty my primary concern was getting a dangerous individual in an appropriate place so that he is not a danger to himself or others."
The family of federal court judge John Roll, who also died that day, does not plan to attend, family spokesman Michael Piccarreta said. Piccarreta said the family agrees with the plea agreement.
Jim Tucker, who was shot in the shoulder and leg, is looking forward to hearing if Loughner has anything to say. But he doesn't feel the need to say anything this time, having spoken out publicly before.
"I said what I wanted to say after the competency hearing and change of plea, and in my victim impact statement," Tucker said.
Salzgeber won't attend.
"Having helped tackle the guy, I've seen quite enough of him just that one time," he said. "I just don't need it. I need to move on."
Eric Fuller, who was shot in the leg and back, won't attend either. He has enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame, he said sardonically.
One reason, Fuller said, is "I'm afraid I would make an untoward statement about the NRA, one of the most powerful lobbies around, and also Walmart" -- the retailer that sold Loughner his ammunition.
"I think I've done plenty. I've raised plenty of hell," Fuller said.
Badger is one of a handful of survivors who will be at the hearing but will not speak. Badger has been to all the hearings in Loughner's case.
"This kind of puts a closure to this whole event. I've been really looking forward to this day," said Badger, who was wounded in the shooting when a bullet grazed his head. "I have mixed emotions about this, because of the fact that he was mentally disturbed, and nobody had helped him. He definitely needed some help that he didn't get."
Physically, Badger is not the same man who went to the Congress on Your Corner event that beautiful Saturday morning. He suffered a stroke in July and is facing a surgery to help him recover. But he still considers himself lucky -- " 'cause I'm still here."
Survivor Randy Gardner, who was shot in the foot, is also planning to attend but will not speak. He said the survivors of the shooting have become unified and try to support one another as much as possible.
"Different people have different valid reasons for wanting to be there or not," Ross Zimmerman said. "Everyone has to decide for themselves.
"There is no pat answer, but it's our society's best attempt to handle it. What would be really nice is if these sorts of horrific acts would stop happening."
TRIBUTE IDEAS SOUGHT
The public is encouraged to submit ideas for a tribute to the victims and heroes of the Jan. 8, 2011 Tucson shootings.
The Tucson Pima Arts Council is collecting ideas on how to capture the spirit that gave rise to the spontaneous memorials at University of Arizona Medical Center, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' district office and the northwest-side Safeway where the shootings occurred. Ideas may be emailed to: [email protected]
See also: www.rememberingjanuary8.org
"Having helped tackle the guy, I've seen quite enough of him just that one time."
Roger Salzgeber, who helped tackle the shooter
Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at [email protected] or 573-4134.
Copyright 2012 - The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson