The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

March 28, 2013

Records provide new look at Ariz. shooting spree

By BRIAN SKOLOFF and JACQUES BILLEAUD
Associated Press

PHOENIX — Almost everyone who crossed paths with Jared Loughner in the year before he shot former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords described a man who was becoming more unhinged and delusional by the day.

He got fired from a clothing store and thrown out of college, shaved his head and got tattoos of bullets on his shoulder. He showed up at the apartment of a friend with a Glock 9 mm pistol, saying he needed it for “home protection.” He made dark comments about the government, and, according to one acquaintance, appeared suicidal.

Loughner’s spiral into madness hit bottom on Jan. 8, 2011. He broke down in tears when a wildlife agent pulled him over for a traffic stop. He went to a gas station and asked the clerk to call a cab as he paced nervously around the store. Gazing up at the clock, he said, “Nine twenty-five. I still got time.”

About 45 minutes later, Giffords lay bleeding on a Tucson sidewalk along with 11 others who were wounded. Six people were dead.

The information about Loughner’s mental state — and the fact that no one did much to get him help — emerged as a key theme in roughly 2,700 pages of investigative papers released Wednesday. Still, there was nothing to indicate exactly why he targeted Giffords.

The files also provided the first glimpse into Loughner’s family and a look at parents dealing with a son who had grown nearly impossible to communicate with.

“I tried to talk to him. But you can’t,” his father, Randy Loughner, told police. “Lost, lost and just didn’t want to communicate with me no more.”

His mother, Amy Loughner, recalled hearing her son alone in his room “having conversations” as if someone else were there.

Despite recommendations from Pima Community College that Loughner undergo a mental evaluation after the school expelled him, his parents never followed up.

In a statement released by the gun control advocacy group she started with her husband, Giffords said that “no one piece of legislation” would have prevented the shooting.

“However, I hope that commonsense policies like universal background checks become part of our history, just like the Tucson shootings are — our communities will be safer because of it.”