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. Zax

    About 60% of the comments here creep me out. I can't believe I live in the same country with such judgemental and hypocritical people. In my book, there's a heck of a lot more psychosis out there than anyone wants to believe.

    January 14, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mary G.

    I think violent video games, rap music using foul language and violence, and most movies in theatres today are too violent. Our children are being brought up with the mentality that it's ok to be violent. It's all around them. As they become teenagers in high school and are with their peers, even the most level headed kid wants to be accepted. I think we should get after the entertainment companies, recording artists and studios and most especially the people who put out the violent video games. As someone said, they play them for hours at a time shooting and killing people and then when they do it in real life they're surprised to be imprisoned for the rest of their life for it. Put all this together with an already unstable personality and what happened in Arizonia is the result. I feel for him, if he has a mental illness, his parents and most especially the victims of his crime. Something has to be done, shootings like this are happening much too often

    January 14, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • bider

      I refuse to accept that this is the case. What do you think happened to those sent off to Vietnam and world war 2? They experienced violence at a young age. They didn't grow up to be pathological murderers. You can't blame freedom. That's what this country was built upon and nothing else.

      January 14, 2011 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. bider

    this guy is actually really intelligent. He just lacks some emotion and strategic planning, which was his downfall. With strategy he would've been a genius. with more emotion he would've been extremely beneficial to society.

    January 14, 2011 at 7:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Joe Schmoe

    Sounds like a Republican to me.

    January 14, 2011 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
  5. emilcina


    January 14, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Aussie oioi

    I'm sure there are some less 'creepy' pictures of him around. How many hours had he been awake when they took that picture? Did he shave his own head or did law enforcement before the 'creepy' glamour shoot?

    January 15, 2011 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
  7. Joann Wilder

    He certainly seems to have symptoms of some delusional disorder-He is a danger to himself and others- Sad soul
    Hopefully the system for the criminally insane can help him. My Prayers for those that were injured and lost thier lives

    January 15, 2011 at 2:04 am | Report abuse |
  8. snoopy

    Incoherent and irrelevant.

    January 15, 2011 at 2:26 am | Report abuse |
  9. agR|Ppa

    I am actually surprised KMFDM has not been blamed for this tragic event.....

    January 15, 2011 at 5:06 am | Report abuse |
  10. RP

    All I have to say about this guy,, is that for being 22 years of age and can not find anything better to do with his life but after all you can tell how stupid he is anyway never wanted to learn anything,, for what crimes he did with that shooting this jerk deserves the DEATH PENALTY,,,,,,,,,,, that is the end for him deep fry the idiot

    January 15, 2011 at 5:14 am | Report abuse |
  11. Displacedmic

    Why are they giving this dingbat so much press. isn't that what these lunatics want?

    i understand telling a complete story but at some point where does that leave off and cashing in on a tragedy pick up?

    January 15, 2011 at 7:05 am | Report abuse |
  12. Tom, Tucson

    This shooting had nothing to do with video games, T.V. , talk radio, gun control, or even politics. This kid is sick and was going to kill somebody anyway. Capital punishment takes to much time and money. I say just lock him up forever.

    January 15, 2011 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
  13. random

    where were the parents?!!

    January 15, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  14. beyeenotjudged

    Is this young man really so different that the young gay man who committed sucide? We all felt so sorry for him, but call Jared Laughlin a nut and a crazy person .... Just the lable "nut" or "crazy" is cruel and only prepetuates the agony and judgements. I'm sitting here tallying up all of my own mental defects, and remembering different times when I "acted inappropriatly" ... my question is, what is inappropriate? To the point of mental illness? Are we afraid to voice our own thoughts because of being labeled?

    January 15, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Chubaka

    It dont matter wat kind of psycho path he is.... either way he is a murderer!!! ....... and just think.... if his teachers or parents or friends woulve just taken the time to care for him and tried gettin help for him... all might have been well...... but of course so many today can care less about people just as long as it dont interfere with their lives!

    January 15, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
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