Local

Judge Killed In Arizona Never Forgot Pittsburgh Roots

By: Jon Delano
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(Photo Credit: KDKA)

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – More details are emerging about the life of one of the victims killed in the Tucson shooting spree.

When Judge John McCarthy Roll died in a hail of bullets on Jan 8, most in the local media reported that he was born in Pittsburgh.

However, the story of his Pittsburgh connection has been a bit of a mystery, until now.

It turns out Judge Roll shared his Pittsburgh story with a woman who used to work with him in Arizona but now lives in Pittsburgh. His is a story of a man who never forgot his roots or the Pittsburgh Steelers.

When Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot outside a grocery store in Tucson, one of the six victims who died was Judge Roll.

“He told me that he was born in Pittsburgh and that he lived until the age of seven in O’Hara Township,” Maggie Jensen told KDKA’s Jon Delano at a taping of the Sunday Business Page.

Jensen, CEO of the YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh, was a friend of Judge Roll when she served as chief probation officer for Arizona.

“He moved to Arizona because his mother contracted a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis, and this was in 1953, and at that time the best advice was to move to the desert,” she said.

Jensen attended Judge Roll’s funeral in Arizona last week, and said leaving Pittsburgh was difficult for the Roll family.

“At the funeral last week, his older brother said that was a very tough decision for the family,” she added.

After she moved to Pittsburgh, Jensen kept in touch with the judge; and when she heard him on NPR Radio this fall, she sent him a note and a picture of Pittsburgh.

Roll responded with a personal hand-written note.

“Thank you for the kind note about the NPR coverage and for the fantastic card depicting the motherland’s skyline. The card is on my bookshelf in chambers next to the Steelers coffee cup,” Judge Roll wrote Jensen.

“He was a terrific jurist, and he was very true to his Catholic faith,” said Jensen. “I would say overall he was a gentleman to everyone at all levels.”

Judge Roll was more than just a decent human being.

Security tapes available this week to law enforcement apparently show he was a hero, too.

When the gunman shot one of Congresswoman Gifford’s staff members, Ron Barber, in the arm, Judge Roll emerged from behind a barrier and shielded Barber with his body as both fell to the ground.

The gunman then shot the judge in the back.

Roll died while the staff member beneath him survived.

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