Jared Lee Loughner: A young man who lost his way, and left a tragic mark on his country

Troubled background of alleged mass killer Jared Lee Loughner

Tucson, Arizona

On Saturday morning, Jared Lee Loughner loaded 30 bullets into the magazine of a Glock 19 semi-automatic pistol. Then he drove to a branch of Safeway in the Catalina Foothills, a prosperous Tucson neighbourhood five miles from the family home he shared with his parents, Amy and Randy.



Shortly after 10am, Loughner walked up to a crowd meeting Democratic congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, and opened fire. Within minutes, six bystanders lay dead or dying, and 14 had been wounded. Giffords, his intended target, was rushed to hospital, barely clinging to life.

If everything had gone to plan, Loughner would no longer be around this morning. His MySpace page, updated hours earlier, included a “goodbye friends” message, which implored readers, “Please don’t be mad at me.” But Loughner never did turn that 9mm handgun on himself. Instead, two bystanders tackled the skinny 22-year-old and held him on the pavement until police arrived. He was last night at the Pima County Sheriff’s Office, refusing to speak with interrogators.

The events which led Loughner to that Safeway car park are still being investigated, and many of its twists and turns remain unmapped. But we know, already, that profile threw up many red flags. An unemployed loner with a drug habit and what police call “a mental issue” that sometimes saw him make death threats he’d entered paranoid postings on a section of social networking sites.

Neighbours on Soledad Avenue, an the unremarkable street populated by blue-collar workers where he grew up, describe the Loughner family as the local “hippies”, who would spend evenings on folded chairs on the porch. Their untidy habits had led to fallings-out, and at least one neighbour moved away in protest.

“There’d often be three or four people sitting out there smoking. It’s not the kind of thing you’d like to see in your neighbourhood,” Roger Whithed told The Independent, adding that Randy would spend evenings repairing old Chevrolet Camaro sports cars on the lawn.

“Since getting out of high school, you could tell that Jared had become disillusioned with life and having to take on responsibility,” added Whithed, 52, who has lived on the street for six years. “He never looked like the sort of person who could hold down a job. You’d see him walking around and think, ‘That’s not someone I really want to know.’ He was a little rough around the edges.”

Younger neighbours knew Jared from local schools. He attended nearby Thornydale Elementary and Mountain View High, and was occasionally bullied. “My sister Jessica was in his chemistry class, and says he was a creep,” Jake Richardson, 18, told The Independent. “He’d stare at people, and occasionally say weird, quite opinionated stuff. You’d also see him walking dogs around the neighbourhood, muttering to himself.”

In recent years, he became a heavy smoker of marijuana and was rumoured to have sampled LSD. “His parents were very laid-back, like hippies,” said Jesse Martinez, 17. “They were live-and-let-live people, but not exactly in a good way, and so he grew up doing more or less what he liked.”

After leaving school, Loughner attempted to join the military, but was turned down. In October, he was kicked out of Pima Community College after a series of clashes with fellow students, and told he could only return after a psychiatric evaluation. And in 2007, he was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia. Two years later, he faced an unspecified “local charge”. Both times, charges were eventually dropped after he completed diversion programmes.

The crucial question is now whether Loughner’s killing spree was a random act by a paranoid madman, or whether he was in any way motivated by the hostile tone of contemporary politics.

The videos he uploaded to YouTube on 15 December, two weeks after purchasing his Glock from the local gun shop, tell a mixed story. He cited both Mein Kampf and The Communist manifesto as favourite books, and the attack may have had an anti-Semitic motive, since Giffords is a prominent figure in the Jewish community.

At times, his ramblings feature the anti-government rhetoric of the Tea Party movement, not least his concerns about the US constitution, and hostility to federal control of education. Yet Loughner may ultimately be impossible to pigeon hole. He was also hostile to organised religion, and in one YouTube video burned a US flag (which would hardly sit well among the Tea Party faithful).

When investigators searched his house last night, they found a handwritten note in a safe, stating “I planned ahead.” The apparent ease with which this psychologically disturbed young man was able to purchase his deadly weapon, and execute that plan, may ultimately leave many wondering if his killing spree was an accident waiting to happen.

Life and Style
life
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
News
Joan Rivers has reportedly been hospitalised after she stopped breathing during surgery
people81-year-old 'stopped breathing' during vocal chord surgery
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
Life and Style
fashion

Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, UI, JMX, FIX)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, U...

Structured Finance

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - An excellent new instruction w...

SQL Server Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Server Developer SQL, PHP, C#, Real Time,...

C#.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, Win Forms, WPF, WCF, MVVM...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone