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A 22-year-old man described as a social outcast with wild beliefs steeped in mistrust faces a federal court hearing on charges he tried to assassinate Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in a Tucson shooting rampage that left six people dead.
Public defenders are asking that the attorney who defended Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Timothy McVeigh and "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski defend Jared Loughner, who makes his first court appearance Monday at 4 p.m. EST.
The hearing in Phoenix comes just a few hours after President Obama leads a shocked and saddened nation in a moment of silence for the victims and their families. Obama will observe the moment of silence at 11 a.m. EST with White House staff on the South Lawn.
As authorities filed the charges against Loughner Sunday, they alleged he scrawled on an envelope the words "my assassination" and "Giffords" sometime before he took a cab to a shopping center where the congresswoman was meeting with constituents Saturday morning.
The six killed included U.S. District Judge John Roll, 63, and 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, who was born on Sept. 11, 2001, and was featured in a book called “Faces of Hope” that chronicled one baby from each state born on the day terrorists killed nearly 3,000 people.
Others killed were Giffords aide Gabe Zimmerman, 30; Dorothy Morris, 76; Dorwin Stoddard, 76; and Phyllis Schneck, 79.
Giffords and 13 others were injured in the bursts of gunfire outside a Tucson supermarket.
Giffords, 40, lay in intensive care at a Tucson hospital, after being shot in the head at close range. Doctors said she had responded repeatedly to commands to stick out her two fingers, giving them hope she may survive.
About 200 people gathered outside Giffords' Tucson office Sunday evening for a candlelight vigil. Earlier in the day, people crammed the synagogue where Giffords has been a member, as well as the Mountain Avenue Church of Christ, which lost one member in the attack and saw another one wounded.
"I don't know how to grieve. This morning I don't have the magic pill, I don't have the Scripture... I can't wrap my head around this," said the church's Rev. Mike Nowak, his strong preacher's voice wavering.
Authorities weren't saying late Sunday where Loughner was being held, and officials were working to appoint an attorney for him. Heather Williams, the first assistant federal public defender in Arizona, said they're asking that San Diego attorney Judy Clarke be appointed.
Clarke, a former federal public defender in San Diego and Spokane, Wash., served on teams that defended McVeigh, Kaczynski and Susan Smith, a South Carolina woman who drowned her two sons in 1994.
Loughner is charged with one count of attempted assassination of a member of Congress, two counts of killing an employee of the federal government and two counts of attempting to kill a federal employee. More charges are expected.
Friends Paint Picture of Social Outcast
Comments from friends and and former classmates bolstered by Loughner's own Internet postings have painted a picture of a social outcast with almost indecipherable beliefs steeped in mistrust and paranoia.
"If you call me a terrorist then the argument to call me a terrorist is Ad hominem," he wrote Dec. 15 in a wide-ranging posting.
Two high school friends said they had fallen out of touch with Loughner and last spoke to him around March, when one of them was going to set up some bottles in the desert for target practice and Loughner suggested he might come along. It was unusual - Loughner hadn't expressed an interest in guns before - and his increasingly confrontational behavior was pushing them apart. He would send bizarre text messages, but also break off contact for weeks on end.
"We just started getting sketched out about him," the friend said.
Around the same time, Loughner's behavior also began to worry officials at Pima Community College, where Loughner began attending classes in 2005, the school said in a release.
Police said he purchased the Glock pistol used in the attack at Sportsman's Warehouse in Tucson in November.
An official familiar with the shooting investigation said Sunday that local authorities were looking at a possible connection between Loughner and an online group known for white supremacist, anti-immigrant rhetoric.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation, said local authorities were examining the American Renaissance website for possible motives.
The group's leaders said in a posting on their website that Loughner never subscribed to their magazine, registered for any of the group's conferences or visited their Internet site.
Gifford Faced Previous Threats Over Immigration, Health Care
Giffords, a conservative Democrat re-elected in November, faced threats and heckling over her support for immigration reform and the health care overhaul. Her office was vandalized the day the House approved the landmark health care measure.
It was not clear whether those issues motivated the shooter to fire on the crowd gathered to meet Giffords.
This program aired on January 10, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.
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