RAPID CITY, S.D., Jan. 12, 2011 — A retired South Dakota National Guard officer was one of the bystanders who subdued the gunman who allegedly killed six people and shot U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Ariz., Jan. 8.
Bill Badger, 74, a former Army colonel who now lives in the Tucson area, tackled suspect Jared Loughner, although Badger himself was wounded by one of the rounds fired during the shooting.
Badger said his military training took over after he was shot and then faced the suspected shooter. While living in Pierre, S.D., from 1965 to 1973, he served in the South Dakota National Guard, flying helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. Three of his children — sons Tim and Brady Badger and daughter Jody Hardwick — still live in Pierre, and another, Lonnie Badger, lives in Sioux Falls, S.D.
The former Guard member said he communicates regularly with Giffords and her staff, and he was invited to attend the event the congresswoman was holding in a supermarket parking lot. He said he was waiting to speak with Giffords and was talking with other people when he heard the shots, he said.
Giffords, a federal judge, and a 9‑year-old girl already had been shot when he saw what was happening, Badger said.
“He was just coming right down the line. He wasn’t walking. He was just aiming and just shooting everybody that was sitting in a chair there,” Badger said. “Some of them who were being hit were falling over, and the rest started to hit the pavement.”
As he tried to get to the ground, Badger said, he felt “a burning sensation” in the back of his head and knew he had been hit by a bullet. Once he heard the shooting stop, he added, he stood up and saw the suspect standing in front of him, going right to left.
As the suspect walked past by him, Badger said, someone hit the alleged assailant with a folding chair. At the same time, he recalled, Badger and another man grabbed the suspect by the arms and shoulders, pushing him to the pavement, and kept him there until police arrived.
During the takedown, Badger said, he saw the suspect try to throw away a small plastic bag full of money and personal identification, Badger said, and he pointed out the bag to law enforcement officers.
Badger, one of 19 people injured in the shooting, said he didn’t have time to worry about being killed, and that his military training took over. He stressed that he doesn’t consider himself to be a hero, and just did what anyone would have done.
“I have to be the luckiest person in the world,” he said. “Some individual told me I should go and buy a lottery ticket. I said, ‘I just won the lottery by not being killed.’ ” Tim Badger said he and his siblings are proud of their father and thankful he was not seriously hurt.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)