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. Laura

    Tonight on AC360 an interviewee talked about loughner's "conscience dreaming."She read it as conscience as well. In fact it is likely loughner was misspelling "CONSCIOUS dreaming."This is what the interviewee correctly called "lucid dreaming," a state of dreaming in which the dreamer can CONSCIOUSLY manipulate the reality he inhabits in the dream. I teach English and find this mistaking of CONSCIENCE for CONSCIOUS quite often in student papers.

    January 13, 2011 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • edfafwqf

      if words have no meaning it really doesnt matter

      January 13, 2011 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Abe Froman

      Hey quit trying to control my grammar and manipulate my thoughts!

      January 14, 2011 at 12:47 am | Report abuse |
  2. Come_to_Jesus

    Bible Prophecy

    A Generation of Evil Will Rise ...

    The Generation'

    of

    Armageddon

    Much information is given in the Bible concerning the 'character' of the generation who will drag the world into Armageddon. Here, the Bible warns the generation of the coming "Apocalypse" will be characterized by moral corruption and violence . . .

    Jesus warns, "But as the days of Noah were,

    so also will the coming of the Son of Man be . . ."

    (Matthew 24:37)

    Now, to help us understand this prophecy God describes the generation of Noah as morally "corrupt" and "filled with violence" . . .

    "The Earth was corrupt (like smelly, rotting meat ... immoral) before God,

    and the Earth was filled with violence.

    So God looked upon the Earth,

    and indeed it was corrupt;

    for all flesh had corrupted their way on the Earth.

    And God said to Noah,

    ‘The end of all flesh has come before Me,

    for the Earth is filled with violence through them;

    and behold, I will destroy them with the Earth . . .’"

    (Genesis 6:11-13)

    The character of a generation is not only revealed or reflected by reading or watching news reports of the global violence and immorality we are now seeing, it is also revealed by what entertains a generation – just take a look at the movies, television shows, video games, and internet sites to see what entertains this generation . . .

    January 13, 2011 at 11:40 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • ROFL at your morons

      Please take your brainwashed self, the hell out of this forum. No one wants to sit down in church here. I talk to Jesus personally ok, he is a cool guy but he left his job long time ago. He doesn't care about you mortals.

      January 14, 2011 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
    • kpete

      @come_to_jesus... you know what use to entertain people thousands of years ago during the Roman Empire? Gladiatorial fights, where slaves were tortured and killed and fed to the lions and tigers and whatever other "beasts" they had on hand at the time. You know what use to entertain people in the dark ages, and the renaissance? Watching people being hung, drawn, and quartered. OUR generation is the one to bring about the apocalypse? What about the age of slavery in the United States, what about the age of Hitler when he was killing all the "chosen people of God?" What about before the Civil Rights movement when blacks were tortured and kill by the KKK and members of other extremist groups? Our generation is not UNLIKE all the others before us. Each generation has its problems and 50 years ago, I bet bible crazies were saying the same thing you were, that the second coming of Christ was upon them, and unless you're a God-fearing person, you will suffer the consequences. People need to realize, its not just the United States that is going to bring down God's judgment over the people of the Earth. The ENTIRE planet will need to be under a state of chaos in order for this to happen. I'm not talking environmental chaos, I'm talking complete and total anarchy of all of the social groups of the world. If you think this is bad? Just imagine how much worse it could be. I believe in God, but I'm not buying any of the "apocalypse is near" hoopla. Calm down and get on with your life.

      January 14, 2011 at 1:03 am | Report abuse |
    • OldArmyVet

      This guy is in trouble for his fantasy world.

      Why are you telling us about yours?

      January 14, 2011 at 1:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Hope

      Actually and sadly everything you said is correct.Things must become worse before His return.Hold on..this is going to get awful.

      January 14, 2011 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
    • OldArmyVet

      Oh, Hope! Hope! Hope! Hope!

      Everyone thought this fictional character would be back for dinner and hasn't been seen in almost 2000 years. It's time to face it. He's not coming back to you.

      January 14, 2011 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
    • The Bops

      OldArmyVet, silly man... the Bible warns there will be many such as yourself. I urge you to keep an open mind and consider the possibility. KPete, you make some valid points about previous generations. That is true, however, other signs can only be seen in today's age – Isreal becoming a nation, Jeruselem under Jewish control, horseless carriages (cars) jostling in the streets, and technology in general. I don't think we are there yet, but possibly in my lifetime I'm thinking perhaps...

      January 14, 2011 at 2:16 am | Report abuse |
    • OldArmyVet

      The Bops –

      There are silly people in the world who believe myths are real.

      January 14, 2011 at 2:18 am | Report abuse |
    • myklds

      To all Atheist.. since you've been bragging about facts, rationale, logic etc..Then, a-n-alyze this:

      Jared Loughner "don't TRUST God."
      Atheists don't BELIEVE God.

      If Jared had sprayed bullets to a bunch of people including a 9-yr old girl, then what worst Atheists are capable of doing?

      And honest and logical answer will be appreciated.

      January 14, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  3. karen

    .

    January 13, 2011 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. AZLib

    Another warning sign. In the state where he lived the mental health budget was cut by 52% in the last two years. Part of the hallmark effort of the Gov Jan Brewer. Even if his warning signs were noticed along the way unless he had blue cross and willing to look into it nothing would have been done. Poor and disturbed don't always know then need help and guns / bullets are cheaper then long term theropy.

    January 13, 2011 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tracy C

      absolutely correct. Arizona is second to last in funded care for the mentally ill, and the rest of the states are not much better. Check the NAMI.org website for how to help change this.

      January 14, 2011 at 12:11 am | Report abuse |
  5. Leslie

    I thought it was important to add a comment, given the nature of this young man's illness and the fact that someone close to me has schizophrenia as well. I am deeply saddened by this tragedy because it could have been different if this young man was medically treated sooner. With that said, it's important that we (as a nation) remember to have compassion for Jared, his parents and extended family. The burden of mental illness carries such a heavy stigma–that, in and of itself, could be enough to hinder the seeking of treatment. While it can never justify the act of taking lives, it does offer a glimpse of understanding about an illness as complex as schizophrenia. We should way on the side of caution when tempted to pass judgment on another fellow citizen on what they could or could not do. The collective healing can only begin to take place once we extend the gift of compassion against the attacker as well.

    January 13, 2011 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • ROFL at you morons

      No Leslie, move along to your playhouse now. Men are here and we will seek justice, I have to admit a male can be the only person that can find a solution. I am sick and tired of all the feminism that is taken place in america...it is time for males to stand up...stand up for what we created!!!! Females are wasting tax dollars by allowing these clowns to live. I know it is time,....I feel something switched...something inside me.....I must defend america at all costs. The human mind is a virus. You people with your big hearts...(spits on ground)...you make me sick. I must conquer the world,...and trust me,...I can,...I am a male (eyeball rolls to your face)

      January 14, 2011 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
  6. Denise

    If you look more into this you find that his obsession with lucid dreaming might have been the reason he become so insane. He was becoming so un clear or reality snd the dream workd he might not have even known that he was killing people in reality. The warning signs were right in front of everyone just no one cared enough to take action.

    January 14, 2011 at 12:04 am | Report abuse | Reply
  7. banasy

    The thing that interested me is all the so-called warning signs. Sure, taken together, they forma pretty clear picture. But how far does one go? Should a parent drag her kindergartener off to a mental health specialist when Susie draws a green bunny? Or paints a picture with the sun blue? I agree with seeing someone if Susie sets the painting on fire, but just how far back does one go?
    There are many incidents in a persons life that, lumped together, may look as if the person is seriously disturbed. You know the childhood game, "step on a crack, break your mother's back"? Well, if that kid grew up and actually broke his mother's back, everyone would be saying, "Oh, the signs were there!"

    I am not I'm any way, shape, or form defending the heinous crimes of Jared Loughner. I am merely pointing out that it takes more than so-called "signs" to blame the parents for this whole debacle. It's easy to point the finger of blame; let's find out what the heck REALLY went on before we get the rope out to lynch the whole family!!!

    January 14, 2011 at 12:04 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tracy C

      You are absolutely right. I am a pscyh nurse, 20 years. The law in most states makes it very hard to commit a person to care unless the evidence that they are a danger to themsleves or others is very blatant. The hands of the law are tied if the evidence is not strong enough, and unfortunately, that is often the case until the unthinkable happens. We need better ways to respond!

      January 14, 2011 at 12:08 am | Report abuse |
  8. jellylee2020

    Uncle Fester?

    January 14, 2011 at 12:07 am | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Texas Mayniac

    Jared did not trust the government yet he knew they would own him for life if he did what he did.

    Will his trial be on Tv????

    January 14, 2011 at 12:07 am | Report abuse | Reply
  10. terriblejournalism

    He excelled at math???

    Do journalist have any idea what they are talking about? If he was so good at math
    then why was he taking Algebra (a 9th grade class) at age 22?

    January 14, 2011 at 12:10 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • OldArmyVet

      Maybe it was Linear Algebra. A journalist might not understand the difference.

      January 14, 2011 at 1:43 am | Report abuse |
  11. taz

    @ tyler......white people get tickets for running red lights..blacks on the other hand get a whole lot more...n they dam sure dont get a warning...signed RODNEY KING!!!

    January 14, 2011 at 12:11 am | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Val

    This whole issue is not about race.or any race complaining again!! It is about insanity! Insanity of the human nind and an insanity of the unsick mind that has an intolerance if one disagrees. The symptoms are similat to the student at Va Tech. Law Enforcement has to start tracking these bizarre behaviors.somehow. There wers indeed.signs of the sick mind losing control.

    January 14, 2011 at 12:17 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • ROFL at you morons

      Are you a freaking medical doctor? Let me answer for you....NOOOOO. Let's put this guy in the electric chair....see it as human cleansing. The human race will be better off. You make me sick,..you know that...so fake, you probably rob banks for a living.

      January 14, 2011 at 12:31 am | Report abuse |
  13. james

    @come_to_jesus... Seriously you bible thumper!? Your sitting there whining about how sad our generation is for being "entertained" by this type of thing. Meanwhile your taking the time to put your input. Clearly your just as entertained. Moron! Leave the bible out of this.

    January 14, 2011 at 12:27 am | Report abuse | Reply
  14. taz

    This white man shot a group of white people...yet he doesnt hv a scratch on his body...had a black man commited that act...we wouldnt be commenting on photos, mental issues or his future/trials...he would be DEAD...SIMPLY PUT!

    January 14, 2011 at 12:28 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • ROFL at you morons

      Taz, "White" people have to refer to you guys as "African America" (Trust me when I say they make fun of you after you leave the room). Hrmm, never heard of a black guy using the word, "caucassion". I say black, whats racist to me, will be racist to you , ...no special treatment....I am sick of it.

      January 14, 2011 at 12:35 am | Report abuse |
  15. lt

    I dont care if he has mental issues or not. he killed an innocent 9 yr old girl amoung others! the guy is an animal...actually worse than an animal.

    January 14, 2011 at 12:33 am | Report abuse | Reply
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