New photos of Congresswoman Giffords released

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- The public is getting a first look at Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords since the January 8 shootings.

New images were released Sunday morning and reveal a smiling congresswoman more than five months after she was shot in the head.

Two photos posted on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' Facebook page are the first images of the Tucson democrat to be released since the January 8 shootings.

"I thought she looked remarkably well.  She's smiling, she looked good and I was surprised," said Dee Sammot, a shopper at the Safeway shopping center where Giffords was shot.

The pictures were taken May 17, a day before Giffords' skull surgery at the Houston facility where she is being treated.

The scars of that tragic day in Tucson are evident in the pictures, however shoppers note the congresswoman's trademark smile.

"The picture today just raised the level of optimism and I know made us feel so much better," said Tom Scarborough.

The local photographer who snapped the photo described the congresswoman as vibrant and working hard to come back to Tucson.

"And the sparkle in her eyes that tells me Gaby's in there," said Patricia Maisch.

Maisch was the bystander who had wrestled the ammo clip away from the shooter.

"I'm so glad that she's well enough and made enough progress that we can see pictures of her," said Maisch.

She expects the snapshots send a message of hope for those who lost their loved ones that day.

"That always makes me a bit emotional because I just think that they have a really long way to go and I hope their hearts are lightened by this," said Maisch.

Photographer P.K. Weis was personally chosen to take the pictures because he's known Giffords for more than a decade.

Reports say the congresswoman is expected to begin out-patient therapy by the end of this month.