Newly released school records detail the suspected gunman's trouble as a student
For four years, Jared Loughner was an unremarkable college student, commuting to classes near his home where he studied yoga and algebra, business management and poetry.
But last year, his classroom conduct began to change. In February, Loughner stunned a teacher by talking about blowing up babies, a bizarre outburst that marked the start of a rapid unraveling for the 22-year old, who is accused of slaying six people and wounding 13, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
After his first flare-up, campus police decided not to intervene.
“I suggested they keep an eye on him,” an officer wrote.
Loughner’s on-campus behavior grew increasingly erratic, menacing, even delusional. Fifty-one pages of police reports released Wednesday provided a chilling portrait of Loughner’s last school year, which ended in September when he was judged mentally unhinged and suspended by Pima Community College.
As the records were released, President Barack Obama visited Giffords in the hospital. Later, during a nationally-televised memorial service, the president revealed the congresswoman had opened her eyes shortly after he left her bedside.
Obama touched on themes of unity, patriotism and heroism in his address to the crowded arena with about 14,000 people, and he spoke at length about 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, the youngest victim of the attack. Her funeral was set for 1 p.m. MST (3 p.m. EST) Thursday, the first of six funerals.
As Tucson and the nation remembered the victims, new details surfaced about the busy morning Loughner had in the hours before the shooting.
According to authorities, Loughner hustled to Walmart twice, was caught by police running a red light but was let go with a warning, and later grabbed a black bag from the trunk of a family car before fleeing into the desert on foot with his suspicious father giving chase. Eventually, he took a cab to the grocery store where he opened fire on Giffords and a line of people waiting to speak to her.
Just three months earlier, he had been kicked out of school.
In a Sept. 23 campus police report, days before his suspension, an officer called to quiet another one of Loughner’s outbursts described him as incomprehensible, his eyes jittery, his head awkwardly tilted.
“He very slowly began telling me in a low and mumbled voice that under the Constitution, which had been written on the wall for all to see, he had the right to his ‘freedom of thought’ and whatever he thought in his head he could also put on paper. … His teacher ‘must be required to accept it’ as a passing grade,” the officer wrote.
“It was clear he was unable to fully understand his actions.”
The school reports provide the most detailed accounts so far of Loughner’s troubles at the college, and he is depicted at times as “creepy,” “very hostile” and “having difficulty understanding what he had done wrong in the classroom.” School officials have not said if the reports were shared with any authorities beyond campus.
During his first outburst, in a poetry class, he made comments about abortion, wars and killing people, then asked: “Why don’t we just strap bombs to babies?”
In an April report, librarians called police because Loughner, with ear buds, was making so much noise at a computer it was disturbing others. He promised it would not happen again.
But a month later, he became hostile with a Pilates instructor when he learned he was going to receive a B in the class. The teacher told police Loughner said the grade was unacceptable.
Outside of class, she spoke with Loughner and later told police she felt the discussion “might become physical.” The professor was so concerned she wanted a campus police officer to watch over her class.
According to school officials, Loughner studied at the college from the summer of 2005 to September, when he was suspended after campus police discovered a YouTube video in which Loughner claimed the college was illegal under to the U.S. Constitution.
In all, he had five run-ins with police on two campuses.
In early June, the dean’s office received a report that Loughner had disrupted a math class when he started arguing with the professor about a number. The possibility of a suspension was raised at the time, but no action was taken.
In a second memo on the math class, Loughner proclaimed he had a right to exercise his freedom of speech. “I was not disruptive, I was only asking questions that related to math.”
DeLisa Siddall, a counselor in the Educational Support Department, asked Loughner to explain the dispute. “My instructor said he called a number 6 and I said ‘I call it 18.’”
According to the police report, Loughner said he paid $200 for the class “so he should have a right to speak.” He said he felt that he was being scammed, as he had been in other classes.
Loughner was warned that the behavior had to stop or disciplinary action would begin. Since Loughner chose to continue attending class but remain silent, she “had no grounds to keep him out of class.”
On Nov. 30, the same day he bought the Glock, Loughner posted a YouTube video, seething about campus police and the college.
“If the police remove you from the educational facility for talking then removing you from the educational facility for talking is unconstitutional,” he said on the video. “The situation is fraud because the police are unconstitutional. … Every Pima Community College class is always a scam!”
School officials told Loughner and his parents that to return to classes he would need to undergo a mental health exam to show he was not a danger. He never returned.
Kelsey Hawkes said Thursday on CBS’ “The Early Show” that when she dated Loughner six years ago when they were both in high school, he showed no violent tendencies.
“Back then he was completely different of a person. Very caring, very sweet, a gentle, kind, you know, a little bit quiet. But altogether a pretty great guy,” she said.
Associated Press writers Alicia Chang and Gillian Flaccus in Tucson, and Jacques Billeaud and Bob Christie in Phoenix contributed to this report.
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