In the two years and two months since Jared Lee Loughner shot former US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, killing six other people and wounding 13 more in a 30-second burst of 32 rounds from his 9-millimeter pistol, much has been written – and speculated – about the young man now serving multiple life sentences for his admitted massacre.
That violent episode on a sunny street in a supermarket parking lot in Casas Adobes, Ariz., near Tucson, where a crowd of her constituents had come to meet Representative Giffords, also helped spur a new burst of political agitation for strengthening gun control measures.
On Wednesday morning, nearly 3,000 pages of new information about the shooting were released by the Pima County Sheriff’s Office. They are sure to color the debate over guns as well how mentally ill persons with a tendency to disruptive behavior if not violence are treated – including whether they should have access to firearms.
The documents include everything from interviews with survivors and victims to police reports filed from the scene of the crime, providing new insight into how the shooting occurred and Mr. Loughner’s motives, the Associated Press reports.
Journalists are now poring over the documents, including reporters at the Arizona Republic newspaper who are live-blogging the information as they read through it. One example:
“Jared Loughner’s behavior was disturbing and erratic enough that his father began disabling his car at night to keep him at home in the months leading up to the January 2011 shooting at a supermarket near Tucson, according to the investigative documents released Wednesday.”
Other reports detail his parents concern as their son became increasingly erratic and non-communicative.
Loughner's mother, Amy, described his run-ins with authorities, his use of marijuana and cocaine, his journals, and his increasingly erratic behavior, the AP reports. She also says the parents took a shotgun away from Loughner after he was kicked out of a community college and tested him for drugs because his behavior was so strange.
Randy Loughner said his son became increasingly difficult, and it was a challenge to have a rational conversation with him. "I tried to talk to him. But you can't, he wouldn't let you," he said "Lost, lost, and just didn't want to communicate with me no more."
The documents released Wednesday also detail the scene immediately after the shooting stopped as bystanders (and some of the victims) wrestled Loughner to the ground while others tended to Giffords and the others who had been shot. These are based on official statements from victims and other public witnesses, Giffords’s aides (one of whom had trained as a nurse assistant), law enforcement officials, and other first responders, as well as former friends of the shooter.
The Arizona Republic live-bloggers write that according to the documents, “Jared Loughner went to an old friend’s apartment on Christmas Eve in 2010 to show off a gun he had just purchased.”
Loughner told his friend and another young man that the weapon was for “home self defense,” according to statements the friends gave to investigators.
“When investigators met up with one of the young men at a Tucson Mexican restaurant, they learned that Loughner had tried to phone his old friend the night before the shooting and left a message that his friend had deleted,” the newspaper blog states. “The encounter on Christmas Eve at the Tucson apartment had left Loughner’s friend shaken, according to the reports.”
The crime reports released Wednesday had been withheld for two years under a court order by US District Judge Larry Burns on grounds that they might jeopardize Loughner’s right to a fair trial.
Judge Burns lifted his order sealing the documents at the request of The Arizona Republic; KPNX-TV, Phoenix; and other media.
If Loughner’s attack had not been stopped by members of the public, he might have been able to do considerably more damage. Among his possessions were two more fully-loaded magazines for his Glock 9-millimeter pistol.
Among these killed were a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl.
Loughner was charged with 49 felony counts, but prosecution was delayed while he was treated for schizophrenia, which the court found made him incompetent to stand trial.
That treatment – which included involuntary medication – led to resumption of legal prosecution, but a trial was averted when Loughner pleaded guilty in an agreement that included life in prison without parole instead of the death penalty.
The agreement was accepted by prosecutors in the case after consultations with Giffords; her husband, retired US Navy captain and astronaut Mark Kelly; US Attorney General Eric Holder; as well as with the families of the other victims.
Giffords and Mr. Kelly – both gun owners and supporters of the Second Amendment – have since formed a new gun control group, Americans for Responsible Solutions.