Holder calls shootings unspeakably tragic

By Alicia A. Caldwell

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The killing of a federal judge and attempted assassination of an Arizona congresswoman are an "unspeakable tragedy" that serve as a reminder that violence and cruelty persist more than 40 years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Attorney General Holder said Tuesday.

Threats against public officials "continue to be cause for concern and vigilance," Holder told a Justice Department memorial for the slain civil rights leader in advance of the holiday commemorating his birthday. "But I do not believe that these threats are as strong as the forces working for tolerance and peace."

The mass shooting in Arizona on Saturday was a reminder that "more than 40 years since Dr. King's own tragic and untimely death, our world has yet to run its course of cruelty," Holder said.

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was gravely wounded and six people were killed, including U.S. District Judge John Roll and 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green. Twenty people were injured, including 19 by gunshots.

"In times like these, in times of inexplicable loss and unprecedented challenge, the importance of the Justice Department's mission and the power of Dr. King's example are brought into stark focus," the attorney general added.

Giffords remains in critical condition at University Medical Center in Tucson. Her doctors have expressed hope for recovery, although she was shot through the head at close range.

The accused gunman, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, is being held without bail in a Phoenix jail. He faces 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 killing a federal employee, all federal charges.

He is likely to face additional charges.

Published: Thu, Jan 13, 2011