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. Sandra B

    Interesting that the counselor from the community college said that we would literally have inpatient psych units if we reported every weird incident in college. i wonder if we need to decompress our students?

    January 14, 2011 at 1:15 am | Report abuse |
  2. Kate

    these right groups are quieter when a republican is in office, because even if someone like bush or reagan doesn't agree with this extreme stuff, they can muzzle it
    when a liberal is in office, the paranoia goes off the charts
    hince this guy and mcveigh
    so its deeper than gun control or something like that, cause mcveigh used manure to kill 100 more ppl than this guy did.

    January 14, 2011 at 1:16 am | Report abuse |
  3. james

    @ taz..... Get off this forum you sad pathetic "african "american". You and the rest of "your people" (since we are singling you blacks out) need to stop your poor me thing and move on. You get the same treatment everyone else does. That is unless you make things worse for yourself, which you'll probably do. Boo freakin hoo taz!

    January 14, 2011 at 1:16 am | Report abuse |
  4. taz

    So how's that 4 special treatment...that's what youall do in america... diagnose n treat whites who commithorrible crimes...but lable n execute blacks for the same crime...this man is nomore mentally ill than Hinckley..he knows nothing will happen 2 him becuz of his lack of pigmentation...

    January 14, 2011 at 1:21 am | Report abuse |
  5. kpete

    @ROFL at you morons... I don't think it's necessary to keep commenting about how "women are ruining the planet." Did you know that women were actually worshiped as equally as men, back before the Catholic church corrupted everyone into thinking women were working for the devil? The reason why women are the way they are today (or so you seem to think they are) is because the have been persecuted and prosecuted for thousands of years, they think they deserve to be treated as equally as men. So men are physically "better" than women, psh, so that's genetics and nature. "Men are smarter than women." Maybe that's because our educational system doesn't give women as equal of a chance to excel in the fields of science and mathematics. Read a freaking sociology book. Or a history book about the pagans for goodness sake. With all your "anti-feminism and anti-women" talk, you're making yourself out to be someone who could possibly be the next crazed criminal. Who knows. And reality check, JERK, MEN are the ones who get women pregnant. This you should have learned in... what? 5th or 6th grade? They aren't like the virgin Mary and miraculously become pregnant, they don't get all "fat and have babies" overnight. Don't blame women for something that men contribute to also. Check yourself at the door, sir.

    January 14, 2011 at 1:22 am | Report abuse |
  6. Hypnotized

    He has obviously been hypnotized by the CIA. The CIA has been conducting mind control experiments on unwitting Americans and foreigners for years. See the Wikipedia article on MKULtra: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mkultra . Masses of Americans, Mexican immigrants, and illegal immigrants held in detention centers, especially in Arizona, have been hypnotized and their minds controlled to date, often without their knowledge. It gains confessions through mind control without evidence of physical torture. Universities and hospitals are involved in this scheme. Same experiments were used on enemy combatants in Guantanomo Bay. Many usually confess to long lists of murders, but when the technique goes awry, the hypnotized/mind controlled human guinea pigs goes on murder rampages.

    January 14, 2011 at 1:25 am | Report abuse |
    • OldArmyVet


      When was MK Ultra going on? Now consider the fact that this guy is 22. You do the math.

      January 14, 2011 at 1:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Hypnotized

      Um.. what makes you think it has stopped?

      January 14, 2011 at 1:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Christ

      Hypnotized, you sound like you might be suffering from some paranoia yourself!

      January 14, 2011 at 1:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Sandra B


      January 14, 2011 at 2:20 am | Report abuse |
  7. james

    Oj simpson is still alive right? He committed a horrible crime and he is black. Your an idiot, it has nothing to do with pigment. You are the reason people call blacks n******. You cause problems and blame everything on your skin tone.

    January 14, 2011 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
  8. dani

    Ok I'm just saying that pulling the race card is a bit much. No onw cares that he's white. The same coverage was listed on the sniper cases with malvo or whatever his name was. The reason there is so much hate in this country is because ignorant people say things like...that white person,or black person, or muslim! Are you kidding me get over yourself. No one race owes the other anything. And this white guy surely didn't discriminate when he was shoot. What shallow human being turns this around to be about race.
    If the man was mentally ill..it shouldn't be used in court I think that's a bogus defense, if a parent can not commit a child at any age to a facility or a doctor or anyone for that matter you shouldn't use mental health issues as a defense just saying...but I've been saying things I shouldn't all my life!

    January 14, 2011 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
  9. Opinyon

    Maybe he's had this face planned too. He's a very sad individual and I'm sure as time goes by doctors will determine if he's really insane or simply narcistic, prone to Schadenfreude, evil and/or just looking for big attention. Either way the innocent will not be coming up against him again.

    January 14, 2011 at 1:33 am | Report abuse |
  10. Opinyon

    One can't help feeling really sympathic towards his parents. I'm sure we (collectively) will determined (public opinion arena) they did something, they are to blame blah, blah, blah. What can folks do to prevent this type of psychosis in their children. Turn them in maybe???

    January 14, 2011 at 1:38 am | Report abuse |
  11. Johannah

    Will they seek the death penalty? Such a luxury for a kid like this. Not insane, I say he hash it out on death row till he's 100..

    January 14, 2011 at 1:41 am | Report abuse |
  12. dani


    Just a question...judging by the name you have chosen to identify yourself, wouldn't you be outraged with the violence in the country? This type of tragedy?

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

      Yes. Outraged. And?

      January 14, 2011 at 2:20 am | Report abuse |
  13. GrrBehr

    I don't wanna be mean, but how can anyone with a face like HIS not raise any red flags? A face like that should be grounds for immediate psychiatric evaluation. Also, I blame the parents.

    January 14, 2011 at 1:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      You can add blame to the crime minorities bring to communities.

      January 14, 2011 at 2:00 am | Report abuse |
  14. dani

    I will pray for the families of the victims, the parents of jared ( there's only so much you can teach Your kids, you can lead the horse to water but can't make it drink, and yes I am a parent) and I will pray for jared. I will pray that the families of lost ones find strength in their hearts, and patience in their souls, I will pray for jareds parents the serenity to accept what they can not change, and I will pray for jared that he finds some type of peace in his troubled life. And that armyvet is because my god is a gracious god who loves us...I don't have to see him to know he's here.

    January 14, 2011 at 1:57 am | Report abuse |
    • OldArmyVet

      How about praying for god to fold his newspaper, get off the toilet and take care of some business before you have to call to him?

      He was asleep at the wheel and let a bunch of people, including a little girl, get shot.

      January 14, 2011 at 2:10 am | Report abuse |
    • isthatall

      Not through with the crossword and on the toilet Is where businesss Gets Done!

      January 14, 2011 at 3:06 am | Report abuse |
    • isthatall

      That youngest victim is a cuties. She deserves to live in a better environment than one laced with pollutants, there are mass animal deaths that people take in stride, the 'bestest' nation in the world's populace drive really expensive snazzy cars over potholes that can sink a whale, 85% of the bridges and dams are in need of tear down or repair according to their Army Corp of Engineers, the most vital part of their population is either killing each other off at the rate of 52% friendly fire in a war effort that has cost trillions while the rest of them can't get a start in life despite having finished college for lack of jobs for lack of money yet there is an eternal font of money to through on a war that goes nowhere for over a decade, and less developed countries that were not even on the world map 20 years ago actually have subterraneon power and telecommunication distribution lines while we still have the same above ground eye sores that our great grandfathers pitched over 100 years ago. Now, who wants a lollipop?

      January 14, 2011 at 3:16 am | Report abuse |
    • myklds

      @OldArmyvet and the rest of the Atheists..FYI, That 9 year was shot by the person who "don't trust God". Didn't you know that?

      January 14, 2011 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • myklds

      @OldArmyvet and the rest of the Atheists..FYI, That "bunch of people including a 9 year old girl" was massacred by the person who "don't trust God". Didn't you know that?

      January 14, 2011 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
  15. Brian

    Another rambling article. Loughner was never diagnosed by a professional – partly because the charges against him were "dismissed" by various judges. Maybe now he will get a complete physical examination. I wouldn't be surprised if he has an endocrine disorder, which would explain some of his behavior. Maybe even a brain lesion.

    January 14, 2011 at 1:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Sandra B

      When I see that smile, I see a disease (schizophrenia) saying, Go ahead, come and get me. And I would love to. One more disease that needs to be wiped off the planet.

      January 14, 2011 at 2:02 am | Report abuse |
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