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. Terrie

    He's going to avoid prison with insanity plea.

    January 14, 2011 at 6:48 am | Report abuse |
  2. Solomon

    Speechless. Horrible action made by once affected so many lives. Heartbreaking. Damage has already been done. Assuming not the only person to think this, but does giving him the needle considering his mental issues ethical or moral?

    Imagining this Arizona incident happened to someone who I loved, and then in my eyes there is no question might lose my sanity to be fit to truly give Loughner any objectivity or fair justice.

    Wish all the families facing this tragedy all my prays and to know their loved ones are in heaven.

    January 14, 2011 at 6:55 am | Report abuse |
  3. Sidewinder

    Psychosis? Yeah, no duh. Fecking tragic.

    January 14, 2011 at 6:56 am | Report abuse |
  4. Bixby

    Catie – you have it so backwards when you say non believers don't want to be held accountable. In fear based relgion all you have to do is believe and you will be forgiven of all your sins. If there is a God please let him tell me how THAT holds people accountable.

    January 14, 2011 at 6:57 am | Report abuse |
  5. Dale`

    We seem to except movie star questionable lifestyle(i.e. Charlie Sheen, Lindsey Lohan). Why should we treat others differently just because they not well known? A crime is a crime; Charlie Sheen, Lindsey Lohan should be in jail right now for their crimes. I agree with some, Jared Lee Loughner is an evil person who, by himself, without outside influences(Beck, Limbaugh, Palin and others), murdered and wounded 18 people. He under US law will receive a trial and will be sentence to death. But the said thing about this, this trial will end up becoming a circus trial that will drag on for years. Jared Lee Loughner will be kept save in a maximum security mental-ward for a crime that is already tainted with political infighting, the blame game, and opinions based on zero facts. The Salem Witch Trials and the Spanish Inquisition all we similar both to this situation; blame anybody for the problem, turn in your neighbor, no evidence required. If you do not like a person, they are are already guilty. If we do not control ourselves and think this problem out, we may produce a mob mentality and more innocent people will be hurt or killed.

    January 14, 2011 at 7:05 am | Report abuse |
  6. Josh from Portland

    I want to stay out of all the terrible drama you people bring to this site. It's pretty easy to sit behind a computer screen and pour out your racist hatred huh? You're ridiculous. And anyone saying pot lead to him doing this clearly has never ever taken a hit of marijuana before. I really just want to say I'm praying for the victims families', and that it's times like these we as Americans have to be compassionate, reasonable and civil. There were ways to avoid this from happeneing.

    January 14, 2011 at 7:08 am | Report abuse |
  7. John

    Re-Inloveo – What you say could get a little tricky when you consider people who enjoy abusing themselves. We have all kinds of people in this world.

    January 14, 2011 at 7:23 am | Report abuse |
  8. joe

    people, this isnt a race thing! if he was african, them same stuff would have happend but some people would say he was framed for his race and if he got death penalty it was because hes african. every has to realize that law isnt biased like that anymore. if anything its biased against europeans now. look at what happen to the guy on thesubway getting mugged, he shot them and people turned it into a race thing. just drop it already!!!

    January 14, 2011 at 7:33 am | Report abuse |
  9. SickofPiersMorganalready

    My dog has been acting weird, he's mean, has a bite mark and he's foaming at the mouth. Wonder if I should have CNN come out and tell me what kind of "sign" this is?

    January 14, 2011 at 7:40 am | Report abuse |
  10. Name*howie

    Amazing these people who never say anything til something bad happens. But then again if you try to report someone like that to the police, they tell you to mind your own business and laugj at you.

    January 14, 2011 at 7:43 am | Report abuse |
  11. MAtt

    I read the stuff he posted on youtube and its clear this guy was NUTS.Also, why would he be willing to lay down his life for The United States by enlisting in the army and then turn around and try to kill a senator?All of what this guy said on his youtube video doesn't make any sense.His thoughts were delusional

    January 14, 2011 at 7:49 am | Report abuse |
  12. Dr. Lecter, Ph D.

    So, did all the people get shot because they personally invaded Afghanistan and Iraq?

    January 14, 2011 at 7:51 am | Report abuse |
  13. MAtt

    Whats with the talk about jews?Why do you guys have to make this something its not?

    January 14, 2011 at 7:51 am | Report abuse |
  14. kronsbeast

    All this stuff is meaningless. Nobody is perfect. Everybody probably creeps out somebody and is creeped out by somebody. If we start trying to lock up everyone who seems a little bit "weird" we won't have a society. Let it go.

    January 14, 2011 at 7:52 am | Report abuse |
  15. Ron.

    Quite interesting how he appeared to have noticed that the dollar "is God". Or at least the dollar / paper note currency in Western societies is the equivalent of a God. I think this is probably even the true meaning of the interesting slogan of "In God We Trust" as printed in coins. After all economies are founded upon the TRUST of the masses. Once the masses stop BELIEVING in their currency [ ie: God ] all HELL would be unleashed. Looks like we have already long been living in a theocratic state: it is certainly quite teleocratic [ with the help of the dollar ] as well.

    I also find it most interesting how the affiliate station is KGUN. K – GUN! Talk about an odd coincidence.

    Furthermore the media is oddly silent about the fact that Loughner attended the SAME synagogue as his victim.

    There is no doubt a lot more to this odd topic.

    January 14, 2011 at 7:54 am | Report abuse |
    • tabatha

      The reason that "IN GOD WE TRUST" is on coins and dollar bills is to REMIND us to Trust in God rather then money.
      This country was founded by people who believed in God. That is the reason its on the money. No other heathen reason.

      January 14, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ron.

      Well Tabatha that was certainly the cover story but I think the true reason was to subconsciously plant the suggestion into people's minds that the dollar is the God we must trust. Film maker John Carpenter said as much when he made the move They Live wherein the actual massage on the dollar bills was "This is your God" when the protagonist was wearing the signal disrupting glasses. Furthermore society is structured in such as way that the dollar is the God because if we do not get on the tread mill to "make money" then we would die. Therefore their is a strong talisman effect that the "almighty dollar" has on us which is analogous to a God. The dollar has the modern power of an old time God & its power is even "unquestioned" & unchallenged just like a God.

      January 16, 2011 at 12:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Ron.

      Furthermore the main cover story was that the slogan was adopted onto coins in order to counter the then atheist Russia with whom America was in a cold war with. But seeing as only Americans only ever come into daily contact with American coins: I think my perspective make more sense. There is no need to convince most Americans of God but there is certainly an inherent establishment need to remind Americans who they want to regard as the God. Most Americans think they just want money but in fact Americans are designed to require money just to live. That is certainly the power of a God.

      January 16, 2011 at 12:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Ron.

      Remember also that the administration which adopted the slogan were not exactly known as religious therefore the slogan was certainly not adopted for religious purposes but rather to embolden the hold of the dollar & its inherent power.

      January 16, 2011 at 12:58 am | Report abuse |
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