'Arizona gunman' appears in court

Eyewitness Patricia Maisch: "Somebody said, 'Get the gun.'"

Details have been emerging of how four people, including a 61-year-old woman and a retired army colonel, helped restrain the gunman who seriously wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killed six people in Tucson, Arizona.

Jared Loughner, 22, has been charged with shooting Ms Giffords then firing into the crowd near a Safeway supermarket where the congresswoman was holding an open-invitation meeting with constituents.

Four people who reacted to avert a potentially greater tragedy have been hailed as heroes.

One of those was Bill Badger, 74, who told the Republican-Herald that he was standing next to a row of chairs leading to Ms Giffords when he heard firing.

He said he only realised that someone had opened fire when a bullet grazed the back of his head.

'Hit with a chair'

"I turned and saw [the gunman] running down the line of people on the chairs," Mr Badger said.

"He ran between me and the store. Someone hit him with a chair and he flinched a little. That's when I grabbed his left arm. Someone grabbed his right arm and we got him to the ground.

"The other guy put his knee into the back of his neck and I grabbed him around the throat. We held him until police got there. While we had him on the ground I saw blood running and it wasn't until then I realised it was coming from the back of my head."

Suspected gunman: Jared Loughner

Man identified as Jared Loughner at the 2010 Tucson Festival of Books in Tucson
  • Aged 22; lived with parents in Tucson
  • Described by former class-mates as "disruptive" drug-user and a loner
  • Reportedly posted series of rambling messages on social networking websites
  • Online messages show deep distrust of government and religion, calling US laws "treasonous" and calling for creation of a new currency
  • Attempted to enlist in US Army but was rejected

Local Sheriff Clarence Dupnik named Roger Salzgeber as the other man who had helped tackle the suspect and restrain him.

He said a third man, Joseph Zamudio, had assisted in restraining the suspect's legs.

He also praised the contribution of Patricia Maisch, a 61-year-old who was queuing to have a photo taken with Ms Giffords when the firing started.

"[I] knew right away it was a gun... I heard a continuation of shots," she said. "I could see him coming. [He] shot the lady next to me."

Ms Maisch lay down to take cover, then described suddenly seeing the gunman next to her on the ground, after he had been knocked over.

As the gunman paused to reload, witnesses described how Ms Maisch wrestled his next ammunition magazine from his hand.

"I kneeled over him," Ms Maisch was quoted as saying on ABC. "He was pulling a magazine [to reload] and I grabbed the magazine and secured that. I think the men got the gun, and I was able to get the magazine."

Police have said the gunman did manage to put another magazine into his firearm, but its spring failed.

Mr Badger, a retired army colonel, told WNEP television how he talked to the gunman as he held him down: "I asked him when we were holding him down, 'Why in the world would you do something like this?' and he wouldn't answer.

"He was only 22-years-old. He looked like a young kid to me when I saw him and just why would he do something like this?"

Mr Badger described his reaction as a natural one. "Once you're in the military, you never retire," he said. "You're always there to help the community and the people who are in danger."

Sheriff Dupnik hailed Ms Maisch's reaction as heroic.

But she played it down. "I am not a hero," she said. The other guys are. I just assisted getting the clip."

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