A federal grand jury indicted Jared Lee Loughner on Wednesday on charges of attempting to assassinate Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and two aides in a Tucson shooting rampage that killed six and wounded 13.
The indictments are the first of many expected against Loughner, who could face the death penalty if convicted of killing a federal judge in the Jan. 8 rampage.
Indictments on charges that he killed U.S. District Judge John M. Roll and a Giffords staff member could be issued soon. Federal prosecutors filed charges on those killings last week, but grand jury indictments would replace them.
"Today's charges are just the beginning of our legal action," U.S. Atty. Dennis Burke said in a statement. "We are working diligently to ensure that our investigation is thorough and that justice is done for the victims and their families."
Loughner's next court appearance is scheduled for Monday in Phoenix. The case was moved from Tucson because Roll was the presiding judge of the federal court there. All of Arizona's federal judges have recused themselves from the case, which is being heard by U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns of San Diego.
Loughner, 22, is expected to face charges in both federal and state court. If convicted of attempting to kill the congresswoman, he could face a maximum of life in prison.
In his statement, Burke noted that there was a process for determining whether prosecutors would seek the death penalty, as they could do in the judge's slaying. "We are in the early stages of this ongoing investigation," he said. "We have made considerable progress in a short period of time."
Wednesday's indictment is spare, declaring: "On or about Jan. 8, 2011, at or near Tucson, in the district of Arizona, the defendant, Jared Lee Loughner, with the intent to kill, attempted to kill Gabrielle D. Giffords, a member of Congress."
It also charges him with trying to kill two of Giffords' aides, Ron Barber and Pam Simon. Both were among the 13 wounded in the shooting at a shopping center in northwest Tucson, where the congresswoman was meeting constituents.
Another Giffords staff member, Gabriel Zimmerman, was killed in the rampage. The others killed were Roll, Dorwan Stoddard, Dorothy Morris, Phyllis Schneck and Christina-Taylor Green, 9.