Jared Lee Loughner, the man charged in the Tucson, Arizona, shooting spree that left six people dead and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords gravely wounded, appears to be the kind of person with which Americans have become all too familiar in recent decades: the disturbed outsider with grievances and a gun.
Mr. Loughner himself has made no comment on the reasons for his alleged actions on Saturday, according to local law enforcement officials. He has not said a word to investigators since being taken into custody, said Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik in a broadcast interview Monday.
But the emerging portrait of the 22-year-old suspect shows him as someone whose grip on reality became increasingly tenuous in recent years as he espoused wild philosophical beliefs and was expelled from community college for bizarre behavior.
“This individual is a very troubled individual, and he’s a typical troubled individual who’s a loner,” said Sheriff Dupnik on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Loughner was scheduled to make his first court appearance on Monday at 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Officials said they were still working to appoint an attorney to represent him. They said one option is San Diego attorney Judy Clarke, who served on the teams that defended Oklahoma City federal building bomber Timothy McVeigh and “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski.
At this point little is known about Loughner’s home life or youth. He lives with his parents in a middle-class neighborhood in southern Arizona. His mother, Amy Loughner, works for Tucson’s Parks Department. The employment history of his father Randy Loughner remains unknown.
In 2007, he apparently had contact with Representative Giffords. According to court documents, he received a letter from her office thanking him for attending a “Congress on Your Corner” event that year. Giffords was holding a similar event on Saturday when she was shot.
In 2010, Loughner’s behavior at community college began to attract the attention of the school’s authorities. Between February and September of last year he had five contacts with police for classroom or library disruptions, according to a statement from the school. Classmates described him as someone who would make inappropriate responses during class and behave in a generally odd manner, according to wire service reports.
At first glance Loughner’s philosophy appears to be not so much a coherent view of looking at the world as the random thoughts of a disturbed person. His online postings and videos are full of non sequiturs and rants about the debasement of US currency and government control of language and grammar.
“His writings will be virtually impossible for most people to understand, what with his references to unexplained numbers, his fondness for weird syllogisms, his unexplained references and his apparent semi-literacy,” writes Mark Potok, a hate group analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center, on his blog.
But Mr. Potok notes that government debasement of the currency is a tenet of antigovernment “Patriot” movement extremist groups, and that Patriot conspiracy theorist David Wynn Miller has long held that the government uses grammar to enslave Americans, and that if an individual adds colons and hyphens to their name in a certain way, they are no longer required to pay taxes.
Miller’s ideas may seem loony “but he has a real following on the right,” writes Potok.
On Nov. 30 last year, Loughner bought a Glock semi-automatic pistol at Sportsman’s Warehouse in Tucson. The purchase was entirely legal, according to Pima County Sheriff Dupnik. The gun retailer would have had no knowledge of any of Loughner’s past troubles unless he had been “declared mentally incompetent officially by the courts,” said Dupnik in an MSNBC appearance Monday.
Loughner reportedly tried to buy ammunition at a WalMart but failed because a clerk was put off by his odd behavior. He subsequently was able to purchase the ammunition at another WalMart, according to CNN.
The Glock was the weapon used to open fire on Giffords and the crowd waiting to meet with her on Saturday, according to the FBI. The six killed included US District Court Judge John Roll and a nine-year old girl, Christina Taylor Green, who was born Sept. 11, 2001.