More details continue to emerge in the disturbing story of Jared Lee Loughner, the suspect being held in the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others in Tucson on Saturday.
Loughner appeared to be obsessed with Giffords, according to The Wall Street Journal. Federal law enforcement officials have found a letter from the Congresswoman in his home, thanking Loughner for attending a public event in 2007 similar to the “Congress on your Corner” meeting on Saturday where the shooting took place. Also included in the safe were a series of handwritten notes saying “I planned ahead” and “My assassination,” with what appears to be Loughner’s signature.
“He was a political radical, met Giffords once before in ’07, asked her a question… he told me she was ‘stupid and unintelligent,'” wrote former classmate Caitie Parker on Twitter.
The New York Daily News reports that investigators also found an “occult” shrine in Loughner’s backyard. The shrine consists of a skull surrounded by candles atop a pot filled with shriveled oranges.
Attention has also turned to the odd fixation on grammar and mind control on Loughner’s YouTube page, and the possible connection between Loughner’s beliefs and the writings of conspiracy theorist David Wynn Miller.
“The idea, weirdly enough, of controlling grammar, of somehow the government using grammar to control the people, is an idea that exists on the radical right. There’s a particular person, a man named David Wynn Miller, who has plugged this idea for years,” Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, told MSNBC on Saturday. In a Politico interview, David Wynn Miller said he agreed with Loughner’s statement that “the government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar,” but denied any involvement with the shooting.
According to Alex Montanaro, who said that he was once “one of Jared’s best friends,” Loughner began his descent from seemingly average young man to something much darker around the 10th grade, following a breakup with a girlfriend. “His friends changed from people like us to more drug oriented people, I suppose,” Montanaro told The Wall Street Journal. “Jared really became an outcast.” His grades slipping, Loughner left high school before his senior year. He began using drugs, and was arrested for possession in 2007. The case was dismissed.
Years later, Loughner was attending Pima Community College, disturbing classmates with his outbursts and erratic behavior. Several people attending an elementary algebra class with him were frightened by the “obviously very disturbed” 22 year-old, with some fearing he would bring a gun to class.
Ben McGahee, who taught the class, told The New York Times he was “getting concerned about the safety of the students and the school” because of Loughner, and was afraid his troubled student might “pull out a weapon.” McGahee tried to throw him out of class several times before school officials intervened and asked Loughner to leave school and see a mental health professional.
“We have a mentally unstable person in the class that scares the living crap out of me,” said classmate Lynda Sorenson, 52, in an email obtained by The Washington Post. “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…”
The email is dated June 14, 2010.
Loughner was charged with two counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder, and a count of attempting to kill a member of Congress on Sunday. He is due to appear in federal court on Monday afternoon.