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Bystanders who subdued Arizona gunman share their stories

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Patricia Maisch watched a gunman shoot a woman who was using her own body to shield her teenage daughter. "I thought: 'I'm next. I'm next to her. He's going to shoot me. I'm next,' " she said in an interview Sunday. But when the ...

Patricia Maisch
Patricia Maisch, 61, talks to the media outside her home in Tucson, Ariz. on Sunday. Maisch, attended the rally where U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., was shot in the head Saturday. Maisch was waiting in line with her husband to get a photo with Giffords. When the shooting started, she helped keep the suspect from reloading his gun. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Patricia Maisch watched a gunman shoot a woman who was using her own body to shield her teenage daughter.

"I thought: 'I'm next. I'm next to her. He's going to shoot me. I'm next,' " she said in an interview Sunday.

But when the man stopped to reload, two men tackled him and Maisch, 61, restrained his hand as he reached for an ammunition clip, helping stop the attack in a Tucson shopping center that killed six people and wounded 14 others, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Maisch did not get a good look at the gunman's face as she struggled with him. "I was too busy in the outcome, that things not go any further," she said.

Maisch arrived at Giffords' "Congress on Your Corner" event around 9:30 a.m. Saturday because she wanted to thank the three-term representative for voting for the economic stimulus package.

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Maisch, who co-owns a heating and cooling company in Tucson, said the bill gave her incentives of up to $1,500 for each high-efficiency air conditioning unit she installs, allowing her to expand and hire two employees.

"I think (Giffords) is a brilliant person. I think she's very level headed, a centrist," she said.

Maisch said she was fourth or fifth in line waiting to speak to Giffords. She went into the nearby Safeway food store to buy a banana and water. When she came out, she was 25th, Maisch estimated.

Maisch said she heard a pop and immediately knew there was trouble.

"I'm not a gun person but it sounded like a gunshot," she said.

She considered running but decided that would make her a target and instead dropped to the ground.

The attacker, alleged to be Jared Lee Loughner, fired a series of shots and began moving down the line of people who had been waiting for Giffords. He paused to reload after shooting the woman directly in front of Maisch.

"She was shot at least two times, once in the back and once in the arm," Maisch said.

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Two men tackled the gunman and they fell close to Maisch. She saw the shooter reach into his left pants pocket for another ammunition clip and grabbed his hand and then knelt on his ankles to help subdue him.

"He said 'you're hurting me' or something to that effect," said Maisch, a petite, gray-haired woman who served a visiting reporter blueberry tea during an interview at her Tucson home, which was decorated with African ceramics.

Maisch, originally from St. Louis, moved to Arizona in 1983 for the climate, she said.

Maisch said she never found out the names of the men who tackled the gunman but she noticed one was bleeding heavily from a gunshot wound in the back of his head.

She returned to the Safeway to get paper towels to make a compress for the man's wound, who was eventually treated by paramedics.

"I'm lucky I had to go into the store for a banana or I would've been (shot)," said Maisch, who was not injured.

Maisch said she agreed with Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik, who has railed against what he believes is a posionous political climate in Arizona that has contributed to violence.

"I think he is right about the far right inciting people," Maisch said.

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The wounded tackler apparently was Bill Badger, 74, who was about 40 feet away when the gunman began firing. Badger was grazed by a bullet in the back of his head.

Badger said another man slammed a folding metal chair into the shooter's head, knocking him to the ground. Badger, a retired U.S. Army colonel, put his knee on the gunman's arm and held his neck and rear to keep him pinned down.

"It was natural to not let this guy shoot anymore people," Badger said in a phone interview.

Badger remained on top of the gunman until sheriffs arrived and his nerves kicked in.

"I stood up and my knees were shaking," he said.

Badger, who works out three times a week but admits that "I've lost a lot of muscle," was treated and released at a local hospital.

Pima County sheriff's officials said two other men, Roger Salzgeber and Joseph Zamudio, also helped subdue the gunman. Zamudio could not be reached for comment Sunday.

"Gabby was my friend," Salzgeber said in a brief interview in front of his home in northwest Tucson.

Authorities also singled out Daniel Hernandez Jr., one of Giffords' interns, for his efforts during the shooting.

Hernandez, 20, a junior majoring in political science at the University of Arizona, had joined Giffords' office last Monday and was working at Saturday's event.

After shots were fired, Hernandez, who was certified as a nursing assistant in high school, checked on several victims before seeing Giffords slumped forward in a contorted position on the floor.

He put her head in an upright position against his chest and applied pressure to her head wound to stanch the bleeding. He also asked Giffords questions, such as if she understood that help was on its way, and she would respond by squeezing his hand.

"My job came to be trying to make sure she knew there was someone there with her," he said.

Dupnik said he was grateful for citizens' interventions, saying they may have prevented further bloodshed.

"It's a possibility we might have double the victims we have now (if they had not acted)," he said.

Related Topics: CRIME
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