Mourners recall Roll’s humor

SATURDAY, JAN. 15, 2011

People dressed as angels line up outside  St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church before the funeral of U.S. District Judge John Roll on Friday.  (Associated Press)
People dressed as angels line up outside St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church before the funeral of U.S. District Judge John Roll on Friday. (Associated Press)

Slain federal judge remembered as family man, friend

TUCSON, Ariz. – The federal judge killed in the Arizona shooting rampage was known for an immigration ruling that got him death threats, but on Friday he was remembered as a man devoted to his family, his basset hounds and his Irish-Catholic heritage.

U.S. District Judge John Roll had stopped by a supermarket meet-and-greet for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Jan. 8 when he was killed, along with five others. Giffords, recovering from a gunshot wound to the head, was still in critical condition, but progressing.

Documents released Friday showed that shooting suspect Jared Loughner, 22, bought bullets at a Walmart, posted “Goodbye friends” on the Internet and took photographs of himself partially clothed and holding a gun.

Walgreens turned the photos over to the police. Loughner took the 35 mm film to the Walgreens to be developed on Jan. 7, the day before the shooting, according to law enforcement.

Roll’s funeral Friday came amid tight security, as police officers and SWAT team members patrolled the neighborhood around St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church. About a dozen coach buses brought judges who knew Roll over the years.

The speakers focused less on Judge Roll and more on John Roll, tender and at times goofy, and largely hidden from those he served.

“It made it very personal,” said Carol Bahill, 61, whose husband knew Roll from his undergraduate and law school days at the University of Arizona. “You do feel like you knew something about him personally.”

The news media were barred from the event at the request of Roll’s family and for security reasons. The Associated Press interviewed mourners, such as Bahill, as they left the service and got an account of the funeral.

Roll’s older brother, Ed, told mourners that his family moved to Arizona from Pittsburgh when Roll was a child because their mother’s health was failing and doctors thought the weather might help.

When Roll’s mother eventually died, of a heart condition, the future judge was just 15.

Her death deeply affected him and he changed his middle name from Paul to his mother’s maiden name of McCarthy “to keep that part of the family alive,” Bahill said.

Before Jan. 8, Roll, 63, was known for the death threats he received after his ruling in a border-crossing case two years ago. He needed 24-hour protection after he said 16 illegal immigrants could file a civil rights claim against an Arizona border rancher.

Roll had stopped by Giffords’ event after attending Mass to see the Democratic lawmaker and thank her for her fight for more federal judges in southern Arizona to help with a dramatic increase in felony federal cases linked to illegal immigration.


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