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"I will always be grateful to him for his selfless, brave actions," Giffords says

By Alexandra Zaslow
Updated March 11, 2015 11:30 PM
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Credit: AP

Bill Badger, who was hailed as a hero following the 2011 Gabrielle Giffords shooting in Tucson, Arizona, has died.

The 78-year-old retired Army National Guard colonel died Wednesday of complications from pneumonia, according to the Arizona Daily Star.

On Jan. 8, 2011, Badger went to a local Safeway for an event then-U.S. Representative Giffords was throwing to meet constituents. When Jared Lee Loughner opened fire on the gathered group, a bullet grazed Badger’s head and prompted him, along with fellow survivor Roger Salzgeber, to tackle the gunman.

“I’m so sad to learn that Bill Badger has passed away. Bill was not only a great man and a proud Army veteran, he was a hero. On Jan. 8, 2011, Bill was wounded in the head by a bullet from the gun of my would-be assassin. Not even pausing to realize he had been injured, Bill ran towards the shooter and towards danger so that he could help subdue him until the authorities arrived,” Giffords, 44, said in a statement.

“I believe that Bill helped save lives that morning. And I will always be grateful to him for his selfless, brave actions. My heart, thoughts, and prayers are with Bill’s loved ones as they mourn the loss of a great man.”

Badger received the Minuteman award from the National Guard Association of Arizona as well as the Valley Forge Cross for Heroism from the National Guard Association of the United States, according to Tucson Weekly. He met President Obama and attended the launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Following the shooting, he and his wife Sallie traveled across the country for three years fighting for stricter gun laws.

“After such a tragic event, one thing I’m trying to do is make something good come out of this,” Badger told Tucson Weekly in 2012.

On Wednesday, Badger’s wife spoke to his legacy.

“Bill was a hero to many, many people long before he became a hero on Jan. 8. He was very influential in many, many young lives in many ways,” she told the Associated Press.