In the aftermath of Jared Lee Loughner's deadly killing spree, reporters are scrambling to piece together his troubled background. Accurately depicting a shooter's mental constitution is no easy task, but reporters are doing it the only way they can: interviewing scores of friends, high school and college instructors and mental health experts. In the past few days, neither Loughner nor his family have been available for comment. Here's what we know about the man who allegedly killed six and injured 14 in Arizona Saturday.
- Loughner's Roots "Loughner spent his adolescence just north of Tucson, in a community where a flat carpet of strip malls and low subdivisions dissolves at its fringes into dirt roads and rolling, saguaro-spiked desert," report Alexandra Berzon and Charles Forelle at The Wall Street Journal. "High-school friends give varying accounts of his home life; one, Alex Montanaro, describes a warm family who encouraged Mr. Loughner's interest in music; another, Zach Osler, says Mr. Loughner told him he was unhappy being at home."
- Testimony from Friends "Friends of ... Loughner have described him as a cannabis-smoking loner with a 'twisted' sense of humour and an obsession for conspiracy theories," adds Damien Pearse at Sky News. "One told how during an advanced poetry writing class he grabbed his crotch and galloped around the room--reading a bland poem about going to the gym." In another incident, Loughner apparently burst out laughing while a classmate read a "very personal" poem about her abortion. He also reportedly showed up in class stinking of tequila and passed out within five minutes of sitting down. "He was convinced that the 9/11 attack was orchestrated by the US government, believed the mission to Mars was fake and described humans as 'sheep,'" said his friends.
- He Was More Delusional Than Political, report Carolyn Jones and Casey Newton at the San Francisco Chronicle: "Posting strange and paranoid messages on the Internet and fixating on the end of the world, accused gunman Jared Lee Loughner appeared to be more driven by a delusional mind than a real interest in politics, mental health experts said Sunday." They interview Dr. Bob Dolgoff, the medical director of Alta Bates Summit Medical Center's mental health division. "I doubt people who say this is about politics have a good understanding of mental illness," he says. "It could be conspiracy theories or men from outer space. The important thing here is, why wasn't he in treatment?" They note Loughner's odd "obsession" with the Mayan prophecy of a 2012 apocalypse, mind control, illiteracy and the gold standard.
- Run-Ins with the Law "On Sept. 9, 2007, the day before his 19th birthday, he was arrested in Pima County for possession of drug paraphernalia," write Jack Gillum and Peter Eisler at USA Today. "He was sentenced to attend classes in a diversion program that led to the charge being dismissed. Just over a year later, on Oct. 17, 2008, he was charged with a graffiti misdemeanor in Marana. A police report said he drew a stylized CX on a street sign; he said it was a symbol for Christian. That charge also was dismissed after Loughner completed a diversion program and paid restitution."
- An Eccentric Student, contributes Slate's Christopher Beam, who interviewed Loughner's community college instructor, Kent Slinker.
Loughner was a model student when it came to attendance—he always showed up on time to the twice-a-week class, at least before he dropped out toward the end of the semester. But in other respects, he was a mess. He didn't perform well on tests. He would ask questions that didn't make any sense. "His thoughts were unrelated to anything in our world," says Slinker. One time, he handed in an assignment with geometric doodles instead of answers. Slinker also remembers that Loughner would have "exaggerated 'Aha!' moments just completely not connected to anything in class." He was mentally checked-out. "He always was looking away, not out the window, but like someone watching a scene play out in his mind."
- May Have Ties to an Anti-Immigration Publication, reports Jennifer Griffin at Fox News. "No direct connection, but strong suspicion is being directed at American Renaissance, an organization that Loughner mentioned in some of his internet postings and federal law enforcement officials are investigating Loughner's possible links to the organization." American Renaissance's editor tells the New York Times that there is no record of Loughner ever subscribing to the newsletter or attending their conferences.
- Ambiguous Politics "The exact role of politics in Mr. Loughner's life--or whether he had a specific political perspective at all--is harder to pin down," say Kirk Johnson, Serge Kovaleski, Dan Frosch and Eric Lipton in The New York Times. "Investigators will have to wrestle with the difficult question of whether Mr. Loughner's parroting the views of extremist groups was somehow more a cause of the shootings or simply a symptom of a troubled life." They interview his classmate who says he was particularly interested in U.S. currency. "He wished that the U.S. would change to a different currency because our currency is worthless.”
- He's No 'Paultard' writes Matt Welch at Reason, referring to supporters of Texas Congressman Ron Paul.
As someone more familiar than your average NYTer with gold-buggery complaints about the Federal Reserve and the Debauched Dollar, my personal testimony is that the phrase, "the current government officials are in power for their currency," if it's the "hallmark" of anything, is of...a crazy dude just stone rambling about shit. If there is evidence of this guy sounding like a "Paultard" on currency, that ain't it. Neither is the notion that the Fed is "a completely private entity."
- A Devoted Gamer "His compatriots in an online website for computer gamers--some who'd known him virtually for years--grew concerned last year about his controversial postings on the game sites, several of the game players said over email Sunday," report Alexandra Berzon and Charles Forelle at The Wall Street Journal. "In April, Mr. Loughner was removed from an alliance of players in the game 'Earth:Empires.'"