JUDGE JOHN ROLL

Jurist went by to greet, thank his old friend Gabby

2011-01-16T00:00:00Z Jurist went by to greet, thank his old friend GabbyRhonda Bodfield Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 16, 2011 12:00 am  • 

U.S. District Judge John Roll was a man of routine. Every day at about 5:30 a.m., he'd be up, often making his wife breakfast. He'd walk his two basset hounds, then swim at the Northwest YMCA.

Last Friday night he went to dinner with his wife - they were soon to celebrate their 41st wedding anniversary - then went home and watched a Clint Eastwood movie.

The following morning, as he did every Saturday, the judge, 63, went to Mass.

A man of deep faith, Roll attended a Catholic elementary school and Salpointe Catholic High School.

He kept a biography of St. Thomas More - the patron saint of judges - in his office. A marshal on his security detail quipped that although he'd been raised Catholic, Roll went to Mass more often in a month than the marshal had in a decade.

Sundays held the same kind of devotion. Roll would start the day reading Catholic publications and then head to noon Mass.

In the 1980s, he trained to become a lector, attending a class meant to prepare lay people to do the first and second readings during Mass. It's not as though readers become actors, but there is a certain art of proclamation. A certain elocution and projection is required.

Roll was an apt student. Intent. Those who witnessed him in action could sense he had swallowed the words, reflected upon them, and then brought them forth to share with others.

After morning Mass last Saturday, Roll stopped by his house and then left again at about five minutes before 10, saying he was going to "drop in" to say hello to U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. He figured he'd be home shortly.

When he arrived, he told Giffords staffer Mark Kimble he wanted to thank Giffords for her support. The two had worked together on securing funding for the Yuma courthouse, which is likely to begin construction in six months. Long concerned about the flood of felony cases coming in to the understaffed court, Roll had recently proclaimed a judicial emergency in Southern Arizona - a declaration Giffords had supported at the end of December.

While he waited to speak with her, the shots rang out.

It wasn't Roll's first brush with violence. In 2009, U.S. marshals started giving him around-the-clock security because of death threats he'd received in a contentious immigration case. Neighbor George Kriss, a 70-year-old retired pilot who often chatted with Roll when he was out watering his plants, finally asked about the amped-up security.

Kriss had been the Rolls' neighbor for decades, and the two were active in the Neighborhood Watch program. But it wasn't until that day that Kriss learned his friend and neighbor was a federal judge.

Roll had never mentioned it.

Such was his quiet and humble nature - traits that stayed with him to the very end.

When first responders arrived to treat him after the shooting, he urged them to help the other victims first.

Contact reporter Rhonda Bodfield at rbodfield@azstarnet.com or 573-4243.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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