TUCSON, Ariz. — A 20-year-old intern to U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords said Sunday he used his hands to apply pressure to a gunshot wound to her head while holding her in his lap. A 61-year-old Tucson woman grabbed the magazine from the gunman, and two men tackled him.
All four are being hailed as heroes in the shooting that killed six and gravely injured the lawmaker during an event at a Tucson grocery store. The sheriff said the woman, Patricia Maisch, likely saved dozens of life.
"We could have had 31 more people shot," Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said.
Maisch was waiting in line with her husband to get a photo with Giffords at the meet-and-greet on Saturday morning.
Two men tackled the suspect — they were identified as Roger Sulzgeber, who was also in line, and Joseph Zimudie, who was at a nearby Walgreens and heard the shooting. The shooter reached for a magazine as he struggled with the men, Maisch said.
"Somebody said ‘Get the magazine!’ so I got the magazine, and I was able to secure that," Maisch said. "That’s what needed to be done."
The intern — Daniel Hernandez — started working with Giffords just five days ago. He’s a political science major and a junior at the University of Arizona, and his job on Saturday was to sign in people and control traffic at Giffords’ event.
When the shooting started, he was more than 30 feet away around a corner.
"When I heard someone say ‘gun,’ I knew there was likely a gunman and she was likely the target because of her position. So I rushed to" where I knew she would be, Hernandez said Sunday.
After the suspect — identified by authorities as Jared Loughner, 22 — was subdued, Hernandez said he started checking the pulses of those hurt. Then he noticed Giffords had been shot in the head, and he rushed to help the congresswoman.
"I’ve known them for a few years, and I consider them personal friends. So it wasn’t just the person I was working for. It was, this is my friend Gabby and this is my friend Ron. And I needed to make sure that they were OK," he said.
He hugged her up against his chest and sat her upright. He tried to stop the blood loss with his hands and some frocks provided by butchers.
Giffords was conscious and alert, Hernandez said.
"She wasn’t speaking however, she was letting me know that she understood what I was saying by grasping my hand and squeezing when I would ask her to.
He went with Giffords in an ambulance to the hospital, where she is in critical condition but expected to survive.
"I don’t consider myself a hero," Hernandez said. "This is something that I’ve only done once and I hope I never have to go through again."
Associated Press Writer Amanda Lee Myers contributed to this report.