10 Jan 2011

Arizona shooting: heroine Patricia Maisch feels ‘humbled’

A 61-year-old woman who helped stop the Tucson gunman causing further deaths tells Channel 4 News she feels “humbled” after being praised by President Obama for wrestling ammunition from the killer.

Arizona shooting: hero 61-year-old Patricia Maisch.

Patricia Maisch described how she lay on the ground “waiting to be shot” during Saturday’s gun rampage at a political event for Democrat Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona.

Ms Giffords remains in a critical condition in hospital after being shot in the head. Six people died, including a nine-year-old girl, but many more could have perished without the quick-thinking of Ms Maisch who managed to grab spare ammunition from the gunman. Jared Loughner, 22, has been charged with murder.

Speaking in the Oval Office, President Obama praised the heroism on the individuals who helped tackle the gunman, including “the wounded woman who helped secure the ammunition that might have caused even more damage”.

“I was laying there on the concrete wondering how bad it was going to be and how it was going to hurt.” Patricia Maisch

Sixty-one-year-old Ms Maisch had come early to ask a question at the “Congress on Your Corner event at a Safeway supermarket and to say thankyou to Gabrielle Giffords for her “brilliant” work as congresswoman.

Ms Maisch told Channel 4 News that she had been waiting in line to meet the Congresswoman when she heard what she realised was a gunshot.

“In that split second I had to make a decision whether to run or to lay down on the ground,” she told our Washington Correspondent, Sarah Smith.

“I decided I would be a target if I ran because the gunman was now just steps from me and I lay down.”

A teenage girl next to her – being shielded by her mother – was shot three times.

“I was laying there on the concrete wondering how bad it was going to be and how it was going to hurt,” she said.

“And, instead of a gunshot , the shooter was now on the ground just on top of me nearly – and there were two gentlemen on top of him.

Somebody said ‘get the gun’, and I was already up on my knees and over his waist. The gun was out of my reach, but he was reaching into his pocket with his left hand and pulling out a magazine, which fell on the sidewalk.

“I managed to get the magazine before he could get it. I got it secure in my hand.”

While Ms Maisch knelt on the gunman’s legs and ankles to stop him flailing, she noticed that one of the men also helping hold him down was bleeding from a head wound

“I managed to get the magazine before he could get it. I got it secure in my hand.” Patricia Maisch

“So I asked another gentleman to sit on the knees while I went to the store,” she added. “They gave me some towels. I made a compress and held it on his head until the police came and secured the shooter.”

Ms Maisch said she did not let go of the magazine until she could hand it over to a sheriff’s officer. “I had such a grip on it that I didn’t let go of it even going into Safeway or holding the compress.”

The men who restrained the attacker were retired army colonel Bill Badger, Roger Sulzgeber and Joseph Zimudie whom Maisch has insisted are the “real superheroes”. When told of the President’s words of praise, she said she felt “humbled”.

But local sheriff for Pima County Clarence Dupnik said she had probably saved dozens of lives with her quick reactions, telling reporters “we could have had 31 more people shot”.

Arizona shooting victim: Christina-Taylor Green
Nine-year-old 'face of hope' among victims
One of the victims of the tragedy was schoolgirl Christina-Taylor Green who was born on 11 September 2001 - the day terrorists attacked New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

She appeared in a book titled Faces of Hope featuring babies born on 9/11 and, although just nine, had begun planning a career in politics.

Her mother Roxanna Green told the Arizona Daily Star. "She was very patriotic, and wearing red, white and blue was really special to her."

The third-grader had gone to meet Gabrielle Giffords with a neighbour who was shot four times and is recovering from surgery.