For starters, not only was killer Jared Lee Loughner suspended from Pima Community College, his local community college, for disruptive behavior, but he was asked not to return again until he was determined to be stable by a mental health professional. Likewise, those who knew him described him as being “at odds with the world.”
Upon learning of Loughner’s assassination attempt and killing spree, Loughner’s former college professor, Ben McGahee, contended:
I wasn’t too surprised that it was Jerry Loughner. I felt like he was planning something all along — I just don’t know when he was going to do it and where he was going to do it. Just from what the other students said, and what I experienced in the classroom. I just thank God he did not do anything to us. It is very sad to hear what happened yesterday.
The gunman’s former college instructor indicated that he was fearful of Loughner prior to his suspension:
I was afraid for my life as well as the students. I was afraid he was going to bring some kind of weapon to class. I was a little bit paranoid. I always felt, you know, somewhat paranoid ... when I turned my back to write on the board ... I would always turn back quickly to see if he had a gun.
When asked what Loughner did specifically to provoke such fear, McGahee responded:
He was very quiet in the classroom, very disengaged ... his face was always bright red. He was even shaking, some of the students said. Maybe he was under the influence of drugs, so that led me to take immediate action and talk with counselors at the school.
Likewise, Loughner would engage in bizarre behavior during classroom exams, including writing in strange, unusual answers to simple questions:
“He would write in something very random like eat + sleep + brush teeth = Math. Even on one quiz, he wrote this comment called ‘mayhem fest’ in bold capital letters with three exclamation points.”
With a search warrant, police were able to investigate Loughner’s home after the horrific event on Saturday. There, they discovered what New York’s Daily News describes as a “sinister shrine [which] reveals a chilling occult dimension in the mind of the deranged gunman.”
The “shrine,” found behind a camouflage tent in Loughner’s back yard, featured an altar with a skull sitting atop a pot filled with shriveled oranges. Beside the altar was a row of ceremonial candles and a bag of potting soil.
The Daily News notes the prominence of such a shrine during the ongoing investigation of Loughner’s motivations:
Investigators have focused on Loughner’s online anti-government ramblings as the chief motivation for the shooting Saturday of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).
The discovery of the shrine raises the possibility that Loughner, 22, may have been driven by other forces. Students and faculty at Pima Community College, which he attended until his suspension last summer, said Loughner was clearly at odds with the world.
According to one of Loughner’s classmates, Alex Kotonias, “He was one of the last kids to come in, and he sat down and almost immediately started laughing to himself in a way that was just kind of creepy. As soon as the teacher started going over the syllabus, he had this outburst out of nowhere, didn’t even raise his hand, and starting asking the teacher some sort of weird questions about whether he believed in mind control.”
Similarly, Lynda Sorenson, a student in Loughner’s basic algebra class, expressed fears over Loughner in e-mails to friends. On June 14, she wrote, “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.”
Also following the shooting, local authorities inspected the home of killer Jared Lee Loughner, described as a pot-smoking loner, and discovered a number of items that indicate that Loughner’s targeting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords may be linked to previous correspondence he had with the congresswoman.
According to The Blaze, “Court papers filed with the charges against Jared Loughner said he had previous contact with the Democratic lawmaker. The documents said he had received a letter from Giffords in which she thanked him for attending a ‘Congress on your Corner’ event at a mall in Tucson in 2007.”
Likewise, investigators discovered envelopes with the words, “I planned ahead,” “my assassination” and “Giffords” in Loughner’s home.
Photo of Jared Loughner: AP Images