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

Tamara Holder Contributor
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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.

Loughner also applied to the Army. The Army hasn’t disclosed why he was rejected; possibly they suspected he had a screw loose.

Most interestingly, investigators located a 2007 letter from Gabrielle Gibbons to Loughner. Did Gibbons and her staff have a history of communication with Loughner and fail to notice red flags?

Of course, Loughner’s parents also knew about their son’s abnormal behavior, especially after the school notified them.

Regardless of the countless warning signs, Loughner never got a mental evaluation, therapy or anti-psychotic medication.

Same story with the Ft. Hood murderer. Over a year ago, I wrote, “Government failed to investigate warning signs of Ft. Hood shooter”:

Hasan reportedly drew the attention of federal law enforcement six months ago for online posts about suicide bombings and other threats including “a blog that equates suicide bombers with a soldier throwing himself on a grenade to save the lives of his comrades.”

The government should have known that this man was disturbed.

Then the Department of Defense released a report on the shooting. The mainstream media chose not to address its contents and people refused to ask questions. After I read the report, I shared my opinion: The DoD’s Ft. Hood Report: A grad student’s thesis on identifying those who may “go postal.” The relevant conclusions were buried in the report’s final pages:

Although domestic terrorism is far more common than international terrorism, research on terrorism focuses on the latter. Motivations for domestic terrorism are diverse, and include animal rights, environmentalism, nationalism, white supremacy, religious causes, and right-wing politics. Overall, acts of domestic terrorism tend to occur in large urban areas and target the police and military forces Recent research has focused on why individuals become terrorists. Although some people self-radicalize as individuals, more commonly small groups of people self-radicalize together. Group dynamics can foster the dehumanization of targets and the drive to commit violence. In addition, the path to terrorism often involves some real or perceived rewards for participation, the desire to address grievances, and a passion for change.

Isn’t it interesting that a report that is supposed to be about a mass murderer blatantly calls out right-wingers and animal rights activists? Why didn’t the American public demand better answers from the Department of Defense?

Here’s the brutal truth: Innocent people will continue to die until we recognize that mental illness is a disease that must be treated. Federal law enforcement knew about the Ft. Hood shooter for months, as did his employer. Tucson police knew about Loughner for months, as did his school.

Schools cannot suspend a potentially violent student without first making an attempt to provide mental treatment to the student. It is a school’s duty to protect its students. Summarily suspending one could potentially harm all.

Now is the time to open our eyes. It is time to stop blaming the Tea Party, former leaders who dropped out of leading, the far left, right-wing politics and any other politician or political group. It is time to find mental treatment for the potentially violent so they do not continue to unload on the innocent.

Tamara N. Holder is one of the nation’s rising attorneys and legal analytical stars. She is a Contributor for the Fox News Channel. She has received recognition from some of the country’s most respected people, organizations and publications. Tamara founded The Law Firm of Tamara N. Holder, LLC, in 2005. Her work includes: criminal defense, expungement, race discrimination, police brutality, public policy, and pro bono practices. Seeing the need for outreach in this area, Tamara founded www.xpunged.com, a practice that provides a second chance to those individuals who have expungeable offenses under Illinois law.