BISBEE, Ariz. — A former Bisbee resident was one of the people who jumped in the deadly fray of the shooting involving Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and was on hand Jan. 12 for a handshake and a "thank you" from President Barack Obama before the memorial service for the victims began.
"He thanked all of us," Joseph Zamudio said. "This was a group effort of all those people who helped take the shooter down. I don't consider myself a hero at all. This is what you're supposed to do."
The 24-year-old Tucsonan, still shaken, spoke frankly in an interview Jan. 13 about the bloody scene around the site of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' "Congress on Your Corner" event in front of the Safeway at La Tuscana Mall.
"I have nightmares about it," he said.
He did say he and his mother, Jane Hamilton, owner of Tucson gallery Jane Hamilton Fine Art, sat down for some breakfast that morning at the La Tuscana Mall. She was going to go to Safeway to get some cookies, but changed her mind and went on to the gallery. He decided to stop at Walgreens to get some cigarettes.
"I'm glad she didn't go in Safeway," he said.
As he entered the store, he noticed a gathering of people near the Safeway and almost went to see what it was all about. He did not know it was Giffords talking to her constituents. Instead, he just went into the store.
While at the checkout counter, Zamudio heard the shots and ran to see what was going on. The shots came so rapidly that he wasn't sure how many shooters there were.
"At first, I thought there was some sort of gunbattle going on," he said.
In seconds, he found himself involved with the heroes trying to hold down the gunman who ended up killing five adults and one child and seriously wounding 14 other people, including Giffords.
As he came around a pillar, he saw a man being held on the ground and a man with a gun. He immediately went for the man with the gun and wrestled with him.
"I told him to put the gun on the ground," Zamudio said. "Then I heard people telling me he wasn't a shooter. I told him to put it on the ground so that no one would get hurt. He did and then he put his foot over it."
One man pinning suspected shooter Jared Loughner to the ground was bleeding, and a woman asked him to take her spot holding down Loughner's legs so she could attend to the bleeding man. Zamudio, at 200 pounds, pushed down Loughner's legs and then put his knee in Loughner's back.
In the tussle, Loughner told the men holding him down that they were breaking his arm. )
"That's all he said," Zamudio said. "He didn't say anything about what had happened."
At one point, it was discovered that Loughner had two more clips and a pocket knife.
"We were lucky," Zamudio said. "He could have pulled that knife out."
When Loughner quit squirming, Zamudio began to look around.
"Everyone was crying; people were hurt; people were bleeding" he added. "It was intensely horrible. And I still can't and don't want to talk about it. It was crazy."
Now, he thinks about the others who were hurt and killed, and all of those who tried to help. The people who tackled the shooter. The people who helped the wounded.
"The medics moved in immediately after the police took the shooter away," he said." I watched them work on the victims. Watched them give CPR and chest compressions. I saw such horrible things there."
He laments the fact that 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green was among those killed so senselessly.
When asked what should be done to fulfill Obama's message of "making our democracy as good" as the girl imagined it, Zamudio replied, "Our legislators need to get something done. We pay these guys to represent us, but they don't. They've done nothing to try to fix the economy. Not one thing. ... This is America. It's not supposed to be like this."
Zamudio said he is not particularly politically motivated and did not vote in the last election, but this tragic incident has made him care more.
He went on to say that politics, especially campaigning, has gotten "degrading and horrible" on both sides.
He said: "They have portrayed each other as evil. It's got to stop. This isn't a game."