AUTHORITIES are hailing as a hero a woman who stopped a rampage by a gunman who shot about 20 people, including a US congresswoman, by physically confronting him as he tried to reload his handgun.
The gunman had already fired a full clip of 31 bullets from a Glock 9mm handgun into a crowd of people who had gathered in a shopping mall parking lot to meet Representative Gabrielle Giffords.
As he tried to insert a new magazine into the weapons, Patricia Maisch lunged forward and grabbed it out of his hands, said Pima County sheriff Clarence Dupnik.
“This is one of the most heroic acts I’ve ever seem,” he said in an interview with Fox News today.
“This lady was standing in line to have her picture taken with Gabrielle when all hell broke loose,” he said.
“For whatever reason, she decided something had to be done. She came out of line and tackled the magazine and the gun this guy was holding,” he said.
“She might have saved many, many lives.”
Ms Giffords, 40, a Democrat who had won re-election in November, was shot through the head and 19 other people were wounded in the attack, including six people who died, among them a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl.
Sheriff Dupnik had earlier said Ms Maisch was among those wounded in the attack but later said she was unharmed and that he had been misinformed.
At a press conference earlier, Sheriff Dupnik said that after the woman tore the ammunition magazine from the gunman’s hand, he pulled out another and succeeded in reloading the weapon.
“Fortunately, the spring in the magazine failed, and the two gentlemen were able to get it away from him and subdue him until the law enforcement people arrived,” Sheriff Dupnik said.
The suspected gunman, Jared Loughner, a 22-year-old local resident, has been charged with with offences including including murder and attempted murder.