Police: 2nd “suspect” in shooting cleared; Update: New details on Loughner’s “unstable” history

posted at 5:53 pm on January 9, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

As John Hinderaker notes, today’s development in the murderous shooting spree in Arizona today tend to argue against the notion of a conspiracy.  The second person of interest in the probe has been cleared as a suspect, as it was the cabbie who drove Jared Loughner to the supermarket event held by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and who trailed Loughner after getting stiffed on the fare:

Arizona authorities say a second man has been cleared of any involvement in an attempted assassination of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson.

Pima County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Ogan said Sunday that the man was a cab driver who drove the gunman to the grocery store outside of which the shooting occurred.

Ogan says the man went into the store because the gunman apparently hadn’t paid his fare.

Police aren’t ready to declare that Loughner worked alone, and that’s as it should be.  They need to get this right and not jump to conclusions, even if the sheriff of the county seems intent on doing just that when it comes to motivation.  Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) publicly rebuked Sheriff Clarence Dupnik for his commentary earlier today.

Meanwhile, William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection has reviewed the criminal complaint, and it mentions an intriguing piece of evidence — apparently a statement meant to be discovered after his attack on Giffords:

“On January 8, 2011, a search warrant was executed at 7741 N. Soledad Avenue in Tucson, Arizona, where LOUGHNER resides. Some of the evidence seized from that location included a letter in a safe, addressed to “Mr. Jared Loughney” at 7741 N. Soledad Avenue, from Congresswoman Giffords, on Congressional stationary, dated August 30, 2007, thanking him for attending a “Congress on your Corner” event at the Foothills Mall in Tucson. Also recovered in the safe was an envelope with handwriting on the envelope stating “I planned ahead,” and “My assassination” and the name “Giffords,” along with what appears to be LOUGHNER’s signature.”

The description indicates a premeditation to assassinate Giffords, and that she and not Judge John Roll was the target.  The complaint doesn’t mention what the letter in the envelope says, and that probably won’t be known until at least the evidentiary hearing, assuming the defense doesn’t waive it and go directly to an insanity defense, which seems like the most likely strategy.

Unless some other news of an accomplice breaks, the only developments that will likely come in the next few days will be medical updates on the condition of Giffords and the other survivors of the attack, and more accounts of Loughner’s erratic behavior in the past few months and years. ABC News has a fresh report on Loughner’s “descent into madness”:

The school said Loughner had as many as five run-ins with campus police for “classroom and library disruptions,” and was suspended after college police discovered a YouTube video apparently created by Loughner in whhich he claimed the college is “illegal.” Rather than return to school, Loughner dropped out, the statement said.

One Pima Community College student, who had a poetry class with Loughner later in his college career, said he would often act “wildly inappropriate.”

“One day [Loughner] started making comments about terrorism and laughing about killing the baby,” classmate Don Coorough told ABC News, referring to a discussion about abortions. “The rest of us were looking at him in shock … I thought this young man was troubled.”

Another classmate, Lydian Ali, recalled the incident as well.

“A girl had written a poem about an abortion. It was very emotional and she was teary eyed and he said something about strapping a bomb to the fetus and making a baby bomber,” Ali said.

ABC also says that Loughner fits the profile of the “lone-wolf terrorist” that the federal government has feared for the last few years. We’ll know more when the court case begins, but so far this seems more like a deluded schizophrenic than a “terrorist” in the sense we’ve used since 9/11 — not that there is much functional difference between the two. But the Nidal Hasan case seems to fit that paradigm more closely than Loughner at this stage, a “terrorist” recruited and radicalized by a movement who acted alone rather than a lunatic who acted on his own insanity. A free society has a little better chance of defending itself against the former than the latter.

Update (AP): The ABC story quoted above by Ed is the tip of the iceberg. WaPo has two posts up this afternoon quoting people who attended community college with Loughner which beggar belief. So palpably alarming was this guy that his own professor feared he might turn around to face the class someday and find Loughner pointing a gun at him:

“I always felt, you know, somewhat paranoid,” McGahee said. “When I turned my back to write on the board, I would always turn back quickly–to see if he had a gun.”

McGahee said he had to make several complaints before administrators finally removed Loughner…

Other times, McGahee said, Loughner would listen to his iPod in class. On quizzes, he would answer some questions accurately, and then write nonsensical answers for others. On one, he wrote “Mayhemfest!” McGahee said he thought that was a reference to a rock-music festival: a concert tour called The Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival played in Phoenix last July.

On another test, McGahee said, Loughner wrote the words “Eat+Sleep+Brush Teeth=Math.” “He just miserably failed the test,” McGahee said.

There’s much, much more at the above link; take two minutes to read it all. Here’s another account from a classmate, who was so unnerved by Loughner’s behavior that she felt obliged to warn friends that he might turn violent:

From June 14:
“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. If you see it on the news one night, know that I got out fast…”

This guy was putting out the “spree killer” vibe so intensely that people around him were gossiping about it — and yet no one thought to try to get him help?


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The way I’m taking your comments is that you’re not referring to individuals like me and gryphon. What your speaking of is those like Loughner who quite obviously are a danger to themselves and society.

Am I reading your remarks correctly?

annoyinglittletwerp on January 10, 2011 at 1:58 AM

I don’t think it matters, Twerp. People feel uncomfortable around me. Some people have actually thought I was a danger to them or their children. Do you think I should be locked up because of the way come other people feel uncomfortable around me? I take great exception to that kind of thinking, even when it does involve paranoid schizophrenia (that in Loughner’s case was probably undiagnosed, I might add)!

gryphon202 on January 10, 2011 at 2:01 AM

drflykilla,

There is no doubt that the issue of a potentially violent schizophrenic is different for household members who must deal with an afflicted member of the family, even while they may have widely varying abilities to do something about it.

It is as yet unclear whether Jared Loughner’s family had any idea what to do for the guy. I suspect they were overmatched by his disorder, as most families in similar circumstances are.

Even if Loughner’s family had given up, I am reluctant to conclude that they were cowardly. Maybe, maybe not. The struggles within such families are often titanic and exhausting, I wouldn’t wish it on any family.

In my readings about Loughner, commenters seem to think Pima Community College should have “done something.” Again I hate to say it, but that’s not very likely for the reasons I stated in the other post.

Edouard on January 10, 2011 at 2:06 AM

The process of psychiatric diagnosis is generally unreliable and it’s main use is for insurance companies to have a label to explain why it is that they are paying out these sums of money for “treatment”. Other than that these labels are only very generally descriptive which in the real world is not very useful.

Each person needs to be treated as an individual and not as a diagnostic label. As in the case I mentioned earlier of a paranoid schiz chronic severe who was able to function in the world successfully without medication compared to Loughner. They both might have the same label but they are miles apart as individuals. Same is true for so-called autism. The label means little. What matters is what the person can do, wants to do, in what situations they feel comfortable/uncomfortable, etc.

Psychological “treatment” is only effective when the “therapist” treats the client with respect and consideration. It is the client’s goals that matter most and the psychologists job is to help them move in that direction if at all possible.

shmendrick on January 10, 2011 at 2:41 AM

shmendrick on January 10, 2011 at 2:41 AM

Unless someone knows what to look for, it’s not obvious that I have Asperger’s. I seem weird and maybe a bit flighty-but not Aspie.

annoyinglittletwerp on January 10, 2011 at 2:50 AM

Yes, a.l.t.,

From the beginning I’ve been talking about loosening the commitment laws for severely mentally ill people (who also are experiencing psychosis) so that they can get treatment. Gryphon comes along & infers that such actions will cause him/her to be committed against his will because he makes people uncomfortable. Whether he/she is being deliberately obtuse I don’t know, but I’ll cut him/her some slack since he’s got issues with the topic–maybe as a result of a bad experience. I just wish he’d try to see it from my point of view.

Good night y’all & RIP Maj. Winters.

drflykilla on January 10, 2011 at 3:08 AM

Eduoard,

I did not mean to imply that Loughtner’s family was cowardly, sine I do not know their situation. I was responding to Gryphon’s assertion that I was cowardlyfor wanting to change the commitment laws.

I agree that most likely there was nothing the school or parents could have done the way the laws in AZ are currently. I’m unsure if the changes that some states have made would have helped either. I just wish that somehow, this young man could hav e been helped before he destroyed his life and the lives of those he shot.

Good night.

drflykilla on January 10, 2011 at 3:18 AM

This guy was putting out the “spree killer” vibe so intensely that people around him were gossiping about it — and yet no one thought to try to get him help?

How would someone help, AP? This isn’t snark, it a legitimate question, if the school couldn’t do more what could private citizens do? And there is a huge missing link to this whole argument, where are his parents and were they trying to get help for him?

Cindy Munford on January 10, 2011 at 8:24 AM

From the beginning I’ve been talking about loosening the commitment laws for severely mentally ill people (who also are experiencing psychosis) so that they can get be forced into treatment.

FIFY, douchebag. Let’s be completely honest here. We are talking about abridging freedoms based on people’s comfort levels. Yeah, I take that personally. I’ve been “treated” for all sorts of mental illness I’ve never actually suffered from. So forgive my callousness, but you can take your doctorate (if indeed you have one) and shove it up your ass.

gryphon202 on January 10, 2011 at 10:07 AM

Evil is unpredictable and thus unpreventable. Pack heat.

E9RET on January 10, 2011 at 10:22 AM

Gryphon:

If someone with ‘mental illness’(Asperger’s is NOT a mental illiness-it’s a quirk) is a danger to themselves and or other-like Loughner obviuosly was-they need to be removed from the general population until such time that they are no longer dangerous-be it through medications or behavioral treatment. To do otherwise is to potentially put me and mine at risk and as such abridges my freedoms.

Making people uncomfortable, being a loner, or just being plain weird is NOT the same as being dangerous.

I’ve had nasty-run-ins with the mental health system and was misdiagnosed a few times before they figured out that I was AS-but my experience doesn’t negate what I just wrote.

annoyinglittletwerp on January 10, 2011 at 10:33 AM

Making people uncomfortable, being a loner, or just being plain weird is NOT the same as being dangerous.

I’ve had nasty-run-ins with the mental health system and was misdiagnosed a few times before they figured out that I was AS-but my experience doesn’t negate what I just wrote.

annoyinglittletwerp on January 10, 2011 at 10:33 AM

Follow my reasoning here, Twerp: We have ways of determining if people are dangerous. They’re called “involuntary committal hearings.” Making it easier to commit someone based on secondhand testimony necessarily abridges freedom.

I think it should be easier to get help for people that request it. It is my honest hope that the stigma surrounding “mental illness” will disappear someday, and that treatment of mental issues will become as routine and simple as physical issues are now.

That’s not what we’re talking about here, though. It wasn’t the mental health industry that dropped the ball here. It was Giffords’ security. Pressing charges against Loughner for criminal threats and stalking (which in hindsight, they would have had enough evidence for) would have been a first step to getting Lougher the help he needed. The testimony of a college student who said “I was afraid he’d bring a gun to school” doesn’t mean sh!t to a judge at a committee hearing unless you have a legally sound reason for believing so.

As I have said repeatedly on this thread, we err on the side of freedom under an assumption of competency. I feel terrible about Giffords’ unnecessary and tragic death, but to use it as a pretext for abridging freedoms of the mentally ill is utterly grotesque in my opinion.

gryphon202 on January 10, 2011 at 10:44 AM

I’ve had nasty-run-ins with the mental health system and was misdiagnosed a few times before they figured out that I was AS-but my experience doesn’t negate what I just wrote.

annoyinglittletwerp on January 10, 2011 at 10:33 AM

You may be singing a different tune someday when you say or do the wrong things around the wrong people and find yourself on the receiving end of a lawsuit (as I almost did once).

gryphon202 on January 10, 2011 at 10:47 AM

If someone with ‘mental illness’(Asperger’s is NOT a mental illiness-it’s a quirk) is a danger to themselves and or other-like Loughner obviuosly was-they need to be removed from the general population until such time that they are no longer dangerous-be it through medications or behavioral treatment. To do otherwise is to potentially put me and mine at risk and as such abridges my freedoms.

a.l.y.,

Yes, exactly. It also isn’t doing the mentally ill person a favor either by allowing them to be so ill. Someone experiencing a psychotic episode often displays agnosia, meaning their brain is incapable of recognizing that they are sick and need treatment. In those cases, the testimony of loved oned, friends, and health care professionals is necessary to get the person treatment against their will.

The mental health care laws need to be updated to reflect the advances in treatment. They should allow for persons with histories of severe mental illness who are currently a potential danger to themselves or other to be admitted for treatment. The wording of such laws should be carefully done so as not to infringe on the rights of those that are not severely mentally ill, as Gryphon points out. In the case of the Utah law, if I recall correctly, it was a matter of changing a few words in the law–the standard of immediate threat to self or others was changed to substantial danger to self or others. It’s up to good judges to review such cases and rule properly. And it’s up to us the voters, to support governors, legislators, and judges that do err on the side of freedom, but also recognize that some individuals require treatment.

Gryphon, I’m sorry that you had bad experiences with the court system. But you clearly have not had the experience of trying to care for a loved one that is severely mentally ill. I wish you’d recognize their position and their need to be protected from threats to the well-being and safety of themselves and their loved ones.

For the record, I do have a Ph.D. in Molecular Biophysics and in grad school I gave several lectures on antiepileptic drugs and antipsychotics. I’ve studied schizophrenia and its treatments on my own since I was a teen because of the illness of my mother and my uncle. I wouldn’t wish that disease on anyone.

drflykilla on January 10, 2011 at 11:13 AM

Gryphon, I’m sorry that you had bad experiences with the court system. But you clearly have not had the experience of trying to care for a loved one that is severely mentally ill. I wish you’d recognize their position and their need to be protected from threats to the well-being and safety of themselves and their loved ones.

For the record, I do have a Ph.D. in Molecular Biophysics and in grad school I gave several lectures on antiepileptic drugs and antipsychotics. I’ve studied schizophrenia and its treatments on my own since I was a teen because of the illness of my mother and my uncle. I wouldn’t wish that disease on anyone.

drflykilla on January 10, 2011 at 11:13 AM

We have a method in place for dealing with competency issues, Doctor. I do not advocate “doing nothing” for mentally ill individuals, as you succinctly and wrongly put it.

John Green, the father of a dead nine-year-old girl, has said that he accepts the possibility of attacks as “…the price of freedom.” I’m on the same page as Mister Green, Doctor. The only way we can utterly prevent things like the Giffords shooting form ever happening again is to become a police state.

By the by, I almost ended up in court. I was a sacrificial lamb and ended up losing my job instead, about a year-and-a-half before I pursued my current diagnosis.

gryphon202 on January 10, 2011 at 11:18 AM

Gryphon,

I apologize for misconstruing your words. Your hostile reaction to my suggestion that the involuntary commitment laws be loosened implied to me that you think the laws are fine the way they are. Yes, there is a method in place for dealing with competency issues, but it varies from state to state and like many have noted, in some states it is nearly impossible to get a severe mentally ill person the treatment they need. I think the laws should be looked at carefully in each state and tweaked a little. I never said what I thought the standard should be. I am not a lawyer, so I wouldn’t begin to try to suggest that. But I don’t agree with Mr. Green that the death of his daughter is necessarily the price of freedom. If there are ways to make the mental health laws better, so that help who they are supposed to help, then we should do so.

drflykilla on January 10, 2011 at 12:55 PM

Maybe a little O/T, but Ed linked to a CBS article about 74-year-old Bill Badger, who was at the meeting with Rep. Giffords. When Loughner started shooting, Badger was grazed by a bullet and went to the ground, but remained conscious, and saw his opportunity when Loughner extended his left arm. Badger got up, grabbed Loughner’s arm and twisted it behind his back, while another man pushed Loughner to the ground, after which Loughner complained, “You’re hurting me!”

Really, Jared? Did it ever occur to you how much YOU hurt Rep. Giffords, the six people you killed, and their families? A lot worse than a twisted arm…

And Bill Badger is a hero, as is the other man who tackled Loughner.

This may sound crazy to some, but the younger generation seems to lack the courage of the older generation. Here we have a 74-year-old man daring to tackle a 22-year-old with a gun, AFTER he has been shot!

A few years ago, a gunman started shooting in a Las Vegas casino, and was soon tackled by two men in their 50′s.

On United Flight 93, the passengers who attacked the hijackers were all middle-aged men.

Yet what happened at the Virginia Tech shootings? A whole class full of young people, half of them male, cowered under their desks, while a 60-year-old professor tried to barricade the door with a heavy desk. One young man said that he watched the gunman walk past him and threaten a female classmate at point-blank range. If the young man was behind the gunman, why didn’t he jump the gunman from behind and try to grab the gun? Once there is a surprise attack, followed by a struggle, two or three men together could probably overcome the gunman, or subdue him until police arrived, but nobody dared to fight, and 35 people died.

Are our young people so cowardly that they don’t know how or when to fight to protect their fellow human beings, but a young gunman can be taken down by a man old enough to be his grandfather?

Bill Badger could have been killed when he attacked Jared Loughner, but if he acted to save others, he would have gone straight to Heaven. Our young people need to know this!!!

Steve Z on January 10, 2011 at 3:04 PM

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