Ariz. Tea Party Leader Worried About Threats

Pima County sheriff's deputies escort James Eric Fuller after he allegedly made threats at a town hall meeting discussing the shootings in Tucson Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011. He was later charged with a misdemeanor and involuntarily committed for psychiatric examination.
Updated at 3:30 a.m. ET

TUCSON, Ariz. - The co-founder of the Tucson Tea Party is worried about the threats he is receiving, including the remark he says a shooting victim made to him at a televised town hall meeting.

Trent Humphries told The Associated Press on Sunday he was surprised when shooting victim James Eric Fuller took a picture of him and said, "you're dead."

CBS News has confirmed that Fuller was charged with threatening and intimidation, and disorderly conduct. The 63-year-old Fuller was arrested Saturday and taken for a psychiatric exam.

Authorities say he began ranting at the end of ABC News' forum.

"Deputies made contact with him, attempted to remove him, and he turned around and yelled at everybody and called them all whores," Pima County sheriff's spokesman Jason Ogan told The Associated Press.

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Ogan said deputies decided he needed a mental health evaluation and he was taken to a hospital, which will determine when he will be released.

Fuller was still at the hospital psychiatric ward late Sunday evening, but a friend contacted CBS News to deliver an apparent message from the man, saying he was "very remorseful" for his behavior at the town hall event.

Fuller was one of 19 people shot when a gunman opened fire Jan. 8 at a meet-and-greet for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The congresswoman was critically injured and six people were killed.

Fuller was shot in the knee and back.

Fuller said in an interview with The New York Times last week that he had trouble sleeping after he was wounded. Fuller repeatedly denounced the "Tea Party crime syndicate" in the interview, saying he placed some of the blame for the shooting on Sarah Palin and other Republican leaders for creating a toxic atmosphere. Palin has denounced the attack.

Humphries told the AP he was worried about Fuller's threat, and the dozens of other angry e-mails he has received.

"I had nothing to do with the murders that happened or the shooting of Gabriel Giffords," Humphries said. "And I wonder, if he (Fuller) is crazy or is he the canary in a coal mine? Is he saying what a lot of other people are holding in their hearts? If so, that's a problem."

Humphries believes the heated political rhetoric that ignited shortly after the shooting should be toned down, and was trying to express that at the event when Fuller began booing.

"I said I don't know if now is the time to start being political about this, that we still need to bury the dead," said Humphries, who was on his way Sunday to attend services for his friend Dorwin Stoddard, 76. He was killed in the rampage after he dove to the ground and laid atop his wife to protect her.

Earlier this week the Guardian posted an interview and video in which Humphries decried remarks by officials and politicians that sought to blame right-wing political rhetoric for the shooting.

"A lot have taken as gospel that the sheriff says that this was caused by talk radio, by Tea Party extremists, that that must be the case," Humphries told the Guardian. "I think it's done a lot of damage. It's given people the idea that somebody like my wife and I caused this murder. There's no evidence. And there's no evidence Sarah Palin caused this murder."

Humphries continued: "The Democrats are using this opportunity to bludgeon their opponents. People don't want to hear that it was just some stupid, evil act that had no bearing in rationality. They want it to make sense."

Humphries said the political fallout from the shooting will hurt the Tea Party. "That's the tragedy for my family and what we're trying to do politically," he said. "There's a city election coming up next year and I'm sure this'll be used as a club and a hammer at that point to say: 'Well, you're all just gun-crazy nuts and we can't listen to a word you say, you killed Gabby Giffords.'"

Meanwhile, Giffords was continuing to progress, with doctors replacing the breathing tube that connected her to a ventilator with a tracheotomy tube in her windpipe. They could soon know if she can speak, but they didn't offer a timeframe. Doctors also inserted a feeding tube.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, close friend of Giffords who was at her bedside when she first opened an eye Wednesday, said the congresswoman understands what she's hearing and seeing.

"It's an extraordinary amount of progress for a woman who sustained such a horrific injury that she did," the Democratic senator said on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday.

As Tucson attempted to heal, the Safeway supermarket reopened and a memorial of flowers grew outside.

Randy Larson, 57, came by to shop Saturday but instead found himself sitting quietly on the curb choking back tears.

"I wanted to come here now and see it now and not two weeks later when it's just a grocery store. I honestly kind of thought, 'Well, I'll come and patronize them and shop' but it's really hard to, because by doing that it's going about your day as usual," said Larson, who runs a sandwich shop in the same shopping center.

"I can't come here and go about my day as usual," he said. "Why should it be usual for me when it's not for the victims?"

Also Saturday, Pima Community College released a video - first to a Los Angeles Times public records request and then to The Associated Press - that shows suspected shooter Jared Loughner, 22, giving an improvised nighttime campus tour and rambling about free speech and the Constitution.

Loughner's voice provides an angry narration that includes statements such as, "I'm gonna be homeless because of this school," and calling Pima "a genocide school." College officials confirmed that the video, discovered on YouTube, led them to suspend Loughner from school Sept. 29.