The heroism of the late Judge John M. Roll

Posted by: ST on January 19, 2011 at 7:05 pm

President Obama talked last week about the stories of some of the heroes of the Tucson tragedy, including husbands who either died or were injured trying to shield their wives from Jared Loughner’s rampage, but not mentioned – because it wasn’t known at the time – was the heroism of the late US District Court for Arizona Judge John M. Roll. Video footage from the scene of the killings indicates Judge Roll shielded a staffer for Rep. Giffords at the expense of his own life. Via the NYT:

TUCSON — The chief investigator for the sheriff’s department here has for the first time publicly described the brief and gory video clip from a store security camera that shows a gunman not only shooting Representative Gabrielle Giffords just above the eyebrow at a range of three feet, but then using his 9-millimeter pistol to gun down others near her at a similarly close range.

The video, according to Richard Kastigar, the investigative and operational bureau chief of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, also reveals that Judge John M. Roll appears to have died while helping to save the life of Ronald Barber, a Giffords employees. Mr. Barber, who was near Ms. Giffords when he was shot twice, has left the hospital.

Mr. Kastigar said Tuesday that the video shows Ms. Giffords standing with her back a few inches from a wall when she was shot by the gunman, who approached in “a hurried fashion” with the gun at his side and then raised it and fired a single bullet above her eye at a range of no more than two or three feet.

Jared L. Loughner, 22, has been arrested in the shootings. In the video, the pistol “is down near his right side, but it is visibly out from where he was keeping it, presumably under his clothing, and then he raises it and fires,” Mr. Kastigar said. “It happens in a matter of seconds.”

The gunman “was very deliberate in my estimation, very calculated,” said Mr. Kastigar, who viewed the video as part of the extensive investigation by the Sheriff’s Department that involves close to 250 people. About 200 F.B.I. agents and analysts are also on the case. The video, he said, is now in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Describing the video, Mr. Kastigar said the judge was “intentionally trying to help Mr. Barber,” adding, “It’s very clear to me the judge was thinking of his fellow human more than himself.”

The judge guides Mr. Barber to the ground, shields him with his body, and then tries to push himself and Mr. Barber away from the gunman, who was no more than three to four feet away as he fired, Mr. Kastigar said.

“He pushes Mr. Barber with his right hand and guides him with his left hand. The judge was on top of him and is covering up Mr. Barber, literally lying on top of him, and his back was exposed,” Mr. Kastigar said.

The judge was shot in the back. Ms. Giffords remains in the hospital in serious condition, and doctors said Tuesday that she continued to improve.

Rep. Giffords will be transferred out of the hospital on Friday and into a rehabilitation center in Houston.

Judge Roll was laid to rest last Friday. Aaron Worthing, guestblogging at Patterico’s, writes:

We call judges “your honor” or “the honorable _______” as a matter of habit, occasionally believing that this person is anything but honorable. But in his last moments of life, Judge Roll proved he deserved to be called that:

Amen.

Please continue to keep Judge Roll’s family, those of the others who lost their lives, and the injured and their respective families in your thoughts and prayers.

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4 Responses to “The heroism of the late Judge John M. Roll”

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  1. Lorica says:

    God Bless him and his family. – Lorica

  2. Phineas says:

    This will be one case where a building named in someone’s honor will be well-deserved.

  3. Tango says:

    ….greater love hath no man than he who lay down his life for another. RIP