Opinion

A lesson from Loughner: Treat the mentally ill or continue to bury the innocent

Jared Lee Loughner’s shooting massacre could have been prevented if the people around him had paid attention to the warning signs.

This was not a random act. This was not a political act. The simple-minded want to blame politics, because that’s the easy thing to do, instead of really looking at why this 22-year-old, with no known affiliation to any political party or group, launched a terrorist attack on innocent Americans.

The previous major terrorist attack on American soil was on the Ft. Hood Army base. Neither that shooting nor the shooting in Tucson was planned by jihadist sleeper cells; both were committed single-handedly by an American man. Yet we have turned into tunnel-visionists; we are so consumed with issues of religious profiling and TSA pat-downs, we have become blind to the behavior of the people we know best: our kids, friends, classmates and co-workers.

Jared Loughner is another classic case of a person who showed all of the behaviors of a potentially violent person.

His Pima Community College classmates feared him. The Washington Post obtained emails that one of Loughner’s classmates wrote to her friends.

From June 1, the first day of class:

We do have one student in the class who was disruptive today, I’m not certain yet if he was on drugs (as one person surmised) or disturbed. He scares me a bit. The teacher tried to throw him out and he refused to go, so I talked to the teacher afterward. Hopefully he will be out of class very soon, and not come back with an automatic weapon.

From June 14:

We have a mentally unstable person in the class that scares the living crap out of me. He is one of those whose picture you see on the news, after he has come into class with an automatic weapon. Everyone interviewed would say, Yeah, he was in my math class and he was really weird. I sit by the door with my purse handy. If you see it on the news one night, know that I got out fast…

Professor Ben McGahee said he removed Loughner from his class several times. The school’s top administrators also knew Loughner had issues: From their press release:

Loughner was a PCC student from Summer 2005 through Fall 2010. He was suspended for Code of Conduct violations.

From February to September 2010, Loughner had five contacts with PCC police for classroom and library disruptions…On September 29, 2010, College police discovered on YouTube a Loughner-filmed video made at Northwest Campus.

Working with legal counsel, College administration issued a letter of immediate suspension on September 29, 2010. That evening, two police officers delivered the letter of suspension to the student at his and his parents’ residence and spoke with the student and his parents.

Loughner and his parents met Northwest Campus administrators October 4, 2010. During this meeting Loughner indicated he would withdraw from the College. A follow-up letter was sent to him October 7, 2010 indicating that if he intends to return to the College, he must resolve his Code of Conduct violations and obtain a mental health clearance indicating, in the opinion of a mental health professional, his presence at the College does not present a danger to himself or others.

Don’t forget the others, outside of the school, who surely knew of Loughner’s bizarre behavior. One friend told ABC News that he noticed a “radically different” shift in Loughner’s behavior in the past year. Loughner even posted nonsensical rants on MySpace and YouTube.