Jared Loughner's background reveals series of warning signs
Jared Lee Loughner, 22, had a documented history of brushes with school officials and law enforcement.
January 13th, 2011
09:26 PM ET

Jared Loughner's background reveals series of warning signs

For months, Jared Lee Loughner creeped out classmates and teachers with his odd behavior.

As a student at Aztec Middle College in Tucson, Arizona, Loughner was prone to sudden outbursts in class, teachers said. He'd ask "incoherent" questions and make inappropriate comments.

Other times, he would just stare into space.

"He had an intense stare, but he usually didn't stare at other people," said Kent Slinker, who taught an "Intro to Logic" class attended by Loughner. "He would have a focused stare some place else in the room, and almost as if he was viewing another scene or intensely thinking about something."

Loughner often spoke out of turn and asked questions unrelated to the class topic, leading Slinker to assume the student had Tourette Syndrome.

"I was never able to talk to him on a one-to-one basis and I did worry about him a lot," he said. "I do recall thinking I hope his parents know what's going on and that they have a handle on things."

Loughner was arrested in Saturday's shooting at a constituents gathering held by U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in front of a Tucson Safeway grocery store. Six people died and more than a dozen were wounded. Federal authorities have charged Loughner with first-degree murder, attempted murder counts and attempting to kill a member of Congress, counts that involve shooting federal employees. State prosecutors also could bring charges related to other victims.

Interviews with friends and former teachers and classmates provide a glimpse of how he appeared in public - a little off, but not necessarily threatening. Background checks reveal brushes with the law that alone did not set off any alarm bells, a law enforcement official told CNN. He was also suspended from community college in September with the understanding that he could return if he obtained a clean bill of mental health from a doctor, school officials said.

On their own, the incidents prompted as much action as school officials or law enforcement felt necessary, given the cirumstances. Whether anyone ever put them all together remains unclear.

Classmates from Mountain View High School in Marana, a Tucson suburb, saw a different side of Loughner. They described him as intense and intelligent, someone who kept to himself but was nice once you to know him. He was fixated on numbers and excelled at math, former girlfriend Ashley Figueroa told CNN affiliate KGUN.

"He was a very nice kid. He was very, very intelligent. He would help me out with like my math and that's how it started off," Figueroa told KGUN.

"He just seemed like one of those kids who kind of kept to himself. He was very, very quiet. I kind of made the effort to talk to him because he kind of kept to himself. He was actually a really nice kid when it came to it," added Figueroa. 

But his temper was too much for Figueroa, so she ended their relationship, she said.

"He used to scare me sometimes and that's why I left him. He kind of made me feel uncomfortable at times," she said. "He'd get really mad, clench his fist and then throw a kind of little tantrum. He'd flail his arms and walk off."

Loughner dropped out of Mountain View in 2006, after his junior year, the school district said. Near the end of his junior year, Loughner was taken to a hospital for alcohol poisoning, according to Sheriff's Department records. In 2007, he was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia, but the charge was dismissed after he completed a pretrial diversion program, according to court records.

In 2008, Loughner tried to enlist in the U.S. Army but was rejected for reasons that are protected by privacy laws, officials said. But an administration official told CNN on Sunday that Loughner had failed a drug test.

Loughner had most recently been taking classes at Aztec Middle College, a partnership between Tucson schools and Pima Community College that helps dropouts transition to community colleges.

Loughner took classes until September 2010, when he was suspended after five contacts with Aztec campus police "for classroom and library disruptions" between February and September, the school said.

To his college classmates, Loughner's presence was unnerving, drawing the attention of campus law enforcement.

"The first time I was really struck by him was because he used inappropriate reactions to people's emotional content. He would laugh at things that were sad. He just didn't seem to be aware of what was going on," Don Coorough, his classmate in advanced poetry, told CNN.

A report on Loughner's participation in the poetry class noted an instance of him responding inappropriately to a poem read in the class.

His comments "were a huge leap from the context of the poem and said things about abortion, wars, killing people, and 'why don't we just strap bombs to babies,' " according to a February report by the Pima College Department of Public Safety.

Loughner was kicked out of an algebra class in June after repeated interruptions that made classmates uncomfortable and left the impression that he clearly "needed psychological help," his algebra instructor Ben McGahee said.

Loughner sometimes shook, blurted things out in class and appeared to be under the influence of drugs at times, McGahee said.
"I was scared of what he could do," McGahee said.

"I wasn't scared of him physically, but I was scared of him bringing a weapon to class."

Loughner was suspended in September after authorities found a YouTube video in which he called the school "illegal according to the U.S. Constitution," the school said.

A follow-up letter warned that in order to return, Loughner had to present a doctor's note stating that "his presence at the college does not present a danger to himself or others."

Off campus, Loughner got into trouble with police for underage drinking and possession of a marijuana joint and a pipe. Pima County Sheriff's Bureau Chief Richard Kastigar described them as "very minor" incidents that failed to raise red flags ahead of Saturday's extreme violence.

"[They] do not add up in their totality to anything that would cause a police officer to say, 'This guy is going to go out there and shoot 20 people,'" Kastigar said.

Immediately after the shootings, law enforcement and the media went online to decipher Loughners digital footprint. They found a trove of confounding items in his profiles on MySpace, YouTube and other sites. Creating his own currency, lucid dreaming and distrust of the U.S. government were recurring themes in his online writings.

A December 30 posting states: "Dear Reader ... I'm searching. Today! With every concern, my shot is now ready for aim. The hunt, a mighty thought of mine."

One posting complained of a "second constitution," a term legal scholars sometimes use to describe post-Civil War amendments that ended slavery, extended voting rights and required equal protection under the law.

"In conclusion, reading the second United States constitution I can't trust the current government because of the ratifications: the government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar," he wrote in a December 15 video message on YouTube. "No! I won't pay debt with a currency that's not backed by gold and silver! No! I won't trust in God!"

Alan Lipman, director of the Center of the Study of Violence at Georgetown University, said the postings show "classic signs of psychosis."

"People were looking for whether he was on the left or the right. He was neither," Lipman told CNN. "He was incoherent. Those were signs, classic signs you'd see in a psychiatric unit of formal thought disorder."

Forensic psychologist Kathy Seifert called the postings "absolutely psychotic." Loughner should have been evaluated for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism or other mental illnesses, she said.

In an apparent reference to Giffords' congressional district, a posting stated: "The majority of people, who reside in District-8 are illiterate - hilarious."

The last message reportedly posted on his MySpace page read, "Dear friends ... Please don't be mad at me. The literacy rate is below 5%. I haven't talked to one person who is literate."

Authorities believe Loughner specifically targeted Giffords. Searches of the Loughner home turned up a 2007 letter from Giffords thanking Loughner for attending a 2007 event similar to Saturday's, Kastigar said.

Other alleged connections to Giffords: an envelope in a strongbox in his home was scrawled with phrases like "die bitch" and "assassination plans have been made," though officials have not drawn a direct link to Giffords.

Neighbor Steven Woods said Randy Loughner had complained to another neighbor that his son was "out of control."

The morning of the shooting, Loughner and his father had a confrontation in their front yard, Kastigar said. His father had asked him about a black bag he was carrying.

"Jared mumbled something back to his dad, and his dad said he didn't understand what was said. It was unintelligible," Kastigar said. "And then Jared left. The father followed. The father got in his vehicle and tried to locate his son and followed the direction that he went and he could not locate his son."

soundoff (795 Responses)
  1. Karen onCape Cod

    I kept wondering where I 'd seen that face before. Is it just me, or does he look like the Joker in Dark Knight without the makeup? I actually never saw the film only photos from it.

    January 14, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Alan

    IT’S NOT MENTAL ILLNESS! EVIL is something people do not consider. Doctors, with their scientific perspectives, conveniently attest these behaviors to a spectrum of mental illness, but 99.99% of all mentally ill people are harmless and peaceful have no intention to hurt anyone. Mental instability is a great vessel for evil. If invited, it fits snugly into a weakened, susceptible mind. They found a satanic shrine in his backyard. These things are not a bunch of nonsense. History will prove this. There have been a number of such tragic shootings over the decades, and occult has been a common denominator in many of them. It is not inconceivable that he became possessed by evil forces by invitation. His apparent intelligence and curious nature may have led him to explore things—perhaps to try and find some answers. The occult is not joke. Look at Haiti. All their play in Voodoo has results in a contassastphy that will never be fixed. Think this is coincidence, just some bad luck? No such thing. “Bad luck” on such a scale happens for a reason. Science can’t explain everything and never will. The Nazi’s, for example, were heavily involved in the occult and we know what that resulted. The moral of the story is; if you know someone who already is socially struggling, and you find out that they are dabbling in the occult STOP IT at all costs.

    January 14, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Americaisthebest

    Mass shootings is as American as apple pie.

    January 14, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. TRUTHSEEKR

    Oh yea. i think they switched assasns. if u look, his bfor pic abaolutly looks diff than his now poc. his eyes are wayyy diff,... i also wondr how old he is? maybe he is being thrown from the FreedomTrain or he was switchd

    January 14, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. sf13

    My question is: Why is he alive? Was he too chicken to turn the gun on himself and do society a favor??

    January 14, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. palintwit

    You can always take the trash out of the trailer, but you can never take the trailer out of the trash --> Sarah Palin.

    January 14, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Carl

    Yet his parents are supposedly totally mystified how their little darling could have done this. No clue about his long history of bizzarre behavior and associations. And to all those Israel bashers who found it necessary to display their bias in this unrelated forum, if the Arabs would arrest and prosecute the people who randomly blow up and shoot rockets at Israeli civilians, instead of glorifying them as "martyrs" and heroes, Israel would not be forced to be the area's policeman.

    January 14, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. patty

    For all the armchair mental health professionals diagnosing Asperger's, just don't. Please. While Asperger's has had a good deal of press lately, it does NOT fit Loughner. His grade school (and even some high school) classmates have reported him to be "normal" and even friendly. Asperger's is VERY apparent at a young age and kids tend to adapt better as they age, not worse. Loughner clearly got worse with age. Asperger's is associated with an increased risk of depression and anxiety, but not major mental disorders such as schizophrenia nor mood disorders such as bipolar disorder. Aspies are not confused, are very rarely in trouble with the law (in fact, they are excellent at following rules and generally uphold laws very well), and would remove themselves from social situations before acting out in the manner that Loughner did in his college classes. Please do not paint children and adults who are, in the vast majority of cases, bright, hard -working, but considered geeky and a bit shy, as twisted and disordered because you do not have mental health training and read one article somewhere on the web once!

    January 14, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Admonition

    Maybe Loughner was was lunar, the moon made him do it! Magistrates Observational Occults through Nomology

    January 14, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Ronnie Blue

    LSlinker said: Loughner often spoke out of turn and asked questions unrelated to the class topic, leading Slinker to assume the student had Tourette Syndrome.

    The teacher obviously knows absolutely nothing about Tourette Syndrome. Did he bark like a doug or yell obscenities which is a common trait of that debilitating disease. As someone who has a relative who has that disease, it does not involve staring or speaking out of turn.

    January 14, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. harold and kumar

    Enyoy your c0ckmeat sandwich in prison!!!

    January 14, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. 32

    @robert-how many of these gun related deaths are by leagally obtained guns? If guns are made illegal the criminals will just kill you with a knife or a baseball bat!!

    January 14, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. your little mate

    If he's just like any medium wacky teenager then the only other variable is the handgun. That means guns should not be sold to medium wacky teenagers. Forget all the background checks, if the kid looks medium wacky you don't sell him again. And you store staff that can pick this kind of thing up.

    January 14, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Bill R in Oakland

    "...CNN affiliate KGUN...".

    Rather unfortunate call letters given events of this week.

    January 14, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • gar

      You're about 7 days late with that comment.

      January 14, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Diane

      Yeah, they are probably going to ingore those facts, and instead focus on some politcal advantage they can make for their own personal poltical crap.. How sad!

      January 14, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • kelly

      He is nuttier than a fruitcake.

      January 14, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stephanie

      If a student is asking questions unrelated to the class topic, that does not mean he has Tourette Syndrome. This instructor clearly does not understand Tourette Syndrome, nor does he sound like he handled this situation in a proactive way. I understand that adult students have the right to privacy and that the instructor could not call his parents to discuss him, but he could have utilized campus programs to get help and or support for this person. Did the college not have a counseling center or a department that works with students with disabilities? Obviously just ignoring the problem was not a good choice.

      January 14, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tyhouston

      I'm more creeped out by jocks who beat down kids and get away with it. Mental midgets who are praised only for violence and if a weak kid fights back they are protected like little birds and deemed innocent.

      January 14, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kyle

      Tom your an idiot. Video games and music had nothing to do with this. The kid had mental problems that were not addressed. You can tell the difference between him and other "crazy kids" because most "crazy kids" don't go on shooting rampages.

      January 14, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • evan

      II don't understand...

      January 15, 2011 at 2:15 am | Report abuse |
    • David

      Tom,

      Just so you know, the song "Bodies" by Drowning Pool has nothing to do with murder, killing, or death. It's about dancing in a mosh pit. Before you want to start blaming music, maybe you should research it out a little better. I am 47, a physician and an upstanding member in my community. I also play video games such as "Call of Duty" and I listen to Drowning Pool. I don't go out an shoot 20 people though, so trying to blame music and video is really a cop-out.

      January 15, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  15. SoDakSarah

    I have read many things on his previous behavior. All seem like classic signs of Autism. How could his parents have NEVER talked to a doctor about this?

    January 14, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Christie

      Autism shows up pretty early in life. I'd be more inclined to think it was a mental illness that presents itself in middle to late adolescence and early 20's. We haven't really heard much about his high school or elementary school years. All we know about HS so far is that he dropped out.

      January 14, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      I would have to agree with christie

      January 14, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      Any kid that listens to Slipknot is now a threat to society? Interesting.

      January 14, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • C. Smith

      Autism would likely be linked with low intelligence, and all descriptions call him very intelligent. (Asperger's, which is linked with high intelligence, is only questionably on the Autism spectrum.) There also seems to be an indication of a rapid decline in his late teens. Schizophrenia classically manifests in the late teens to early 20s. All the media calling him a paranoid schizophrenic aren't just guessing. It's not a formal diagnosis by any means, but there are a number of classic indicators.

      January 14, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      What makes you believe that this kid is autistic? Nobody has clinically said anything regarding a diagonises about this kid. You completely pulling the chit out of your azzzholes.

      January 14, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Diane

      Autism? You have got to be kidding me. I think you need to jump in lake guy.

      January 14, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • D

      absolutely NONE of his behaviors seem at all like Autism, I wish people would educate themselves before making comments and assuming they know anything about mental health or diseases. His behaviors are clearly psychotic, a VERY, VERY different area of mental illness than Autism

      January 14, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jennifer G

      I was actually a bit offended that Autism was lumped in with the others...people with Autism are NOT the "crazy/psychotic/violent" types. The only time you will see a person with Autism flip out is if they are scared, extremely frustrated, or hurt....you're not going to hear a bunch of incoherent speech/ideas flying out of their mouths! They are NOT psychotic; it's just not part of the disorder.

      January 14, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • lblt

      He seemed like a typical left-wing nut to me...nothing out of the ordinary

      January 14, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Julie M

      The notion of autism being apparent early in life is not always the case. Especially with Aperger's. And most especially with parents, caregivers, or others who put the behavior off as strange and not truly and formally evaluate him. Yes, what I am reading would point me to the same conclusion. Those with Asperger's are high functioning and have high IQs.

      January 14, 2011 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • skungatz

      Looks just like one of the three stooges; like he's so proud that he got his 15 minutes of fame.

      January 15, 2011 at 12:32 am | Report abuse |
    • rh

      It was coincident with his marijuana use becoming chronic. No news outlet wants to look into that.

      There are current studies on the impact of marijuana on the mental health of chronic users, but no one wants to hear it.

      January 16, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
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