Published January 10, 2011
The cloudy image of the gunman in Saturday's horrific shooting in Tucson is starting to come into focus, as neighbors and acquaintances paint a picture of a troubled young man whose disturbing behavior started to flare up in just the last few years.
Gunman Jared Lee Loughner, charged in the shooting that left six dead and 14 wounded including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, has a minor criminal record dating back to 2007. But his former high school principal, Richard Faidley, told FoxNews.com that he didn't have any major disciplinary problems in school before that.
"I don't recall anything of any significance with that individual," Faidley said, other than that he was involved in the school band program.
But Loughner's problems have now escalated to the point that his family has barricaded itself in their home, hounded by reporters and spectators who want to know how the 22-year-old could have gone on a killing spree on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Tucson.
The FBI was forced to wait outdoors Monday while the family removed the plywood it had used to blockade the door. After a few minutes of removing the wood, FBI began another search of the property that has been upended in the orderly and ongoing law enforcement investigation.
Loughner, meanwhile, made his first appearance in federal court on Monday afternoon to face charges in the rampage. With a shaved head and a blank stare, he said only that he understood the charges, when asked by the judge.
Gov. Jan Brewer, speaking in her annual state of the state speech, said the attack was an assault not merely on individuals, but on "on our republic, on our democracy." She said despite the impact, Arizona will not be brought down.
"In fact, we've been lifted up by America's thoughts and prayers and we're deeply grateful for them," she said.
As for Loughner's descent, his problems seem to have started to mount after he dropped out of Mountain View High School in 2006. It's unclear whether his behavior seriously startled anyone in the years immediately following, but after attending a local transitional school and then enrolling in Pima Community College, his classmates and his professors noticed something was wrong with Loughner.
Last year may have been a breaking point.
According to the college, campus police got involved on five separate occasions for "classroom and library disruptions" involving Loughner between February and September of last year. Things came to a head after campus police discovered a YouTube clip he filmed on campus that showed him saying the college is constitutionally illegal.
Loughner was suspended on Sept. 29 and withdrew a few days later. He was told that if he ever wanted to return he'd have to obtain a "mental health clearance" from a mental health professional saying he did not present a danger.
Loughner never presented such a document and never returned to school.
Ben McGahee, a math professor who pushed for Loughner to be removed, told Fox News he was scared for other students' safety.
Pima college students were equally concerned. Classmate Lynda Sorenson, 52, offered an eerily prescient warning in a personal e-mail to friends last summer.
"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," she said in an e-mail, published by The Washington Post. "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..."
Sorenson wrote that Loughner was "seriously disturbed," though she wasn't sure whether he was "on drugs."
Apparently, he was. Loughner was rejected from the Army in late 2008 when, during the application process, he admitted to using marijuana numerous times, according to a military source.
His 2007 arrest on record in Pima County was for possessing drug paraphernalia and other minor infractions.
A high school friend of Loughner, Caitie Parker, has given a detailed account of his personality and background on her Twitter page over the past few days. According to Parker, Loughner had "a lot of friends until he got alcohol poisoning in ‘06" and dropped out of high school.
She described him as "left wing" and "quite liberal" and "oddly obsessed with the 2012 prophecy." Parker described him as a "pot head" who was into rock music, though she hadn't seen him since 2007.
"I think he slowly descended in a psychotic break. Something in him snapped. He wasn't always like this," she wrote.
Loughner's neighbors described the young man as generally quiet and not talkative or friendly.
"It was almost as if he had blinders on," Stephen Woods, who lives next door, told Fox News on Monday. He said his son Anthony would try to wave to Loughner and he would just keep on walking. "No response, he wouldn't even look at him."
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