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Bitter politics loom over shooting

posted 9 Jan 2011, 02:50 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 9 Jan 2011, 02:52 ]
A local sheriff says political rhetoric helps create dangerous atmosphere in Arizona. Deborah Lutterbeck reports
USA-SHOOTING UPDATE - Even before the shooting of a U.S. congresswoman on Saturday, the state of Arizona was in the throes of a convulsive political year that had come to symbolize a bitter partisan divide across much of America.

The motives of the alleged shooter, who wounded Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killed six people in Tucson, are not known and they may not be political.

But in the wake of the shooting a local sheriff is blaming political rhetoric.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, saying:

"When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And, unfortunately, Arizona I think has become sort of the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry."

A federal judge and a 9-year-old girl are among the dead. Officials say 12 people were wounded.

The suspected gunman, identified by a federal law enforcement official as 22 year old Jared Lee Loughner, opened fire with a semi-automatic pistol at point-blank range. The suspect was tackled to the ground by two bystanders after the shooting and is in custody.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, saying:

"He has kind of a troubled past and we're not convinced that he acted alone,"

The shooting prompted lawmakers in Washington to postpone their agenda for next week, including a vote to repeal President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul.

The new Congress convened this week after Nov. 2 elections in which the Republican Party gained control of the House.

Giffords narrowly won her reelection in November over a candidate backed by the Tea Party.

Deborah Lutterbeck, Reuters