Police: 2nd "suspect" in shooting cleared; Update: New details on Loughner's "unstable" history

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?