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Ariz. shooting victim recounts judge's heroism

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AMANDA LEE MYERS | January 20, 2011 11:26 PM EST | AP

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Ron Barber can remember the small details of the Tucson rampage: The gunman, the crackle of gunfire, lying on the ground, wounded, and the weight of a body on him.

A week and a half later, Barber found out that it was his good friend John Roll.

Then he learned the federal judge may have helped save his life.

"I feel terrible of course, that he was there to help me and that got him shot, that he would have given his life for me," an emotional Barber told The Associated Press on Thursday.

"But I know John and I know him enough to know he's a very caring and compassionate person," he said.

Surveillance video taken at the supermarket where the Jan. 8 shooting occurred showed Roll pushing Barber to the ground, helping him crawl under a table and then lying on top of him, authorities said.

Roll then was shot in the back and lost his life in the process.

Authorities hailed Roll as a hero.

"Judge Roll is responsible for directing Mr. Barber out of the line of fire and helped save his life," Pima County sheriff's Chief Rick Kastigar said.

The FBI has the video and has declined to comment on its contents or what it shows.

Barber said he called Roll's wife, Maureen, although he hasn't heard back. He said he is eager to talk with her and her three sons, and to thank them for what his friend did for him.

He wants to "just tell them how grateful I am for what he did to help me, whatever he did that day to allow me to be here with my family," Barber said.

Roll's wife issued a prepared statement Thursday, saying that her husband's death shattered her family's world. She did not refer to his actions, but said: "My husband strived in his life to treat each person with dignity and respect."

Barber, 65, said he and John Roll, 63, first met as members of the Young Democrats in 1965 as students at the University of Arizona in Tucson, although they lost touch after they graduated.

They became friends again four years ago when Barber became Giffords' district director, and have been in regular contact. They met outside the supermarket where Giffords was holding a meet-and-greet with constituents.

"He clasped both my hands and shook them – that's how he shook hands," Barber said. "He saw Gabby was busy and said he could come back to say 'Hi' to her, and I said 'No, no, she'll be through in a couple of minutes.'"

Then the shooting began. Barber was shot in the face and thigh. A passerby stanched his bleeding until paramedics arrived and rushed him to the hospital.

Thinking about Roll, Barber said he admired the man who became Arizona's chief federal judge.

"He was a great judge, a great human being, an incredible family man, and a real person," Barber said. "There's was nothing phony about John. He was the real deal."