TUCSON, Arizona (Reuters) - Prosecutors have formally charged a victim of last week’s Arizona shooting rampage with threatening a Tucson leader of the Tea Party political movement during the taping of an ABC News town hall-style television program.
James Eric Fuller, 63, who was taking part in the televised forum, was involuntarily committed for psychiatric evaluation on Saturday after he grew agitated, stood up to snap a picture of Tucson Tea Party founder Trent Humphries and shouted, “You’re dead,” police said.
Fuller, a U.S. Navy veteran, will be held for at least 72 hours under observation at the hospital, authorities said.
The incident came during a taping of a special edition of the ABC News program “This Week” scheduled for broadcast on Sunday.
Charges of making threats, intimidation and disorderly conduct were filed against Fuller with the Pima County Attorney’s office, but it is up to Humphries to decide whether to press for prosecution, sheriff’s department spokesman Jason Ogan said.
Humphries could not immediately be reached for comment on Sunday.
Fuller’s outburst came exactly a week after he and others were caught in a hail of bullets fired by a gunman outside a Tucson supermarket. Six people were killed and 13 others were wounded, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot through the head and remains hospitalized in critical condition.
Fuller was struck twice — in the knee and back.
A 22-year-old college dropout, Jared Lee Loughner was arrested and has been charged with five federal offenses, including the attempted assassination of Giffords. What might have motivated the shootings remains unclear.
But the rampage intensified a national debate about gun control and civility in politics, and whether the vitriolic tone of partisanship in the United States may have contribute to violence.
In a raw televised interview on the CBS “Early Show” three days after the shooting, Fuller’s dazed description of the bloodbath touched on the debate over the right to own guns, enshrined in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
In Arizona, anyone at least 21 years of age is allowed to carry a gun in their pocket without special training or permits.
“It was a dream-like sequence, a bad dream-like sequence,” Fuller said. “I didn’t quite know how to react. I felt like we were in for more, and possibly to be given a coup de grace by this madman that was so vigorously exercising his Second Amendment rights.”
Fuller, who backed Giffords for her support of veterans and reportedly worked on her campaign, interrupted the town hall debate after Humphries rose to suggest that any conversation about gun control should be put off until after the funerals for all the victims.
The news and commentary program “Democracy Now” reported the day before Fuller’s arrest, how, after being hospitalized for his wounds, he stayed up most of the night, writing down the Declaration of Independence as he tried to organize his thoughts and reactions to the trauma.
“How many other people? How many other demented people are out there? It looks like (former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah) Palin, (radio and TV commentator Glenn) Beck, (defeated Nevada Senate candidate) Sharron Angle and the rest got their first target. Their wish for Second Amendment activism has been fulfilled.”
Editing by Steve Gorman and Jerry Norton