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AZ Sheriff Releases Records From Giffords' Shooting

2:45 PM, Mar 27, 2013   |    comments
Picture courtesy: Pima County Sheriff's Department
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Tucson, AZ - In the first frenzied moments after Jared Loughner shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others, some in the crowd were shouting to kill the gunman as he was being disarmed, investigative records show.

Once Loughner was taken into police custody, he wanted to make clear he acted alone.

" 'I just want you to know that I'm the only person that knew about this.' That was the only thing, pretty much, that (Loughner) said to me almost all day," an investigator wrote in one passage from the 2,700 pages of files Pima County Sheriff's Office released Wednesday.

Loughner, now 24, pleaded guilty last year to numerous felonies stemming from the Jan. 8, 2011, shooting that critically wounded then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killed U.S. District Judge John Roll. He is serving multiple life prison sentences.

Sheriff's officials, who investigated jointly with the FBI, withheld the crime reports under a federal court order for two years. U.S. District Judge Larry Burns had decided while the murder case was pending that publication of investigative materials might jeopardize the defendant's right to a fair trial.

Burns recently lifted his seal at the behest of The Arizona Republic; KPNX-TV, Phoenix; and other media. This release closes a two-year legal battle.

For the first time, details of what Loughner's parents told investigators is being released.

Loughner's behavior was disturbing and erratic enough that his father began disabling his car at night to keep him at home in the months leading up to the January 2011 shooting, the files show.

According to Loughner's father, Randy, his son's behavior began to change dramatically after he was kicked out of Pima Community College in fall 2010 for an inflammatory online video he had posted.

"(Randy Loughner) stated that (Jared Loughner) had become more and more distant from them and he would not communicate with Mr. Loughner about much of anything. He had become increasingly concerned for Jared and began to disable Jared's Nova that was parked out front to prevent Jared from being able to drive anywhere at night," according to the reports.

Yet despite recommendations to Jared Loughner's parents from Pima Community College officials that their son undergo a mental evaluation, his parents apparently didn't follow up on it.

Since the deadly spree in the northern Tucson suburb of Casa Adobes, law-enforcement agents, medical experts, the media and public have dissected and psychoanalyzed Jared Loughner's life in an effort to understand why a troubled young man went ballistic.

"I tried to talk to him. But you can't. He wouldn't let you. Lost, lost and just didn't want to communicate with me no more."
- Randy Loughner, the gunman's father
But the newly released documents offer the clearest information yet on what happened.

The information ranges from people in the crowd yelling to shoot Jared Loughner immediately during the struggle that ensued to the strange. Police were given a copy of The New York Times found near the gunman's neighborhood that included a bizarre, anti-government handwritten screed.

The investigative files also offer a window into the anguish of those affected.

Before 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green's funeral, her father asked authorities if the family could have the earrings and iPod she had with her, detectives noted. The iPod apparently had pictures the family wanted.

A detective was able to get the earrings from the FBI. Police also quickly made copies of pictures contained on the iPod. They made 8-by-10 copies and a computer disc of the images to give to the family.

"I took those two items up to the Green Family home where I made contact with Mr. Green and handed those items over to him," an officer identified as B.S. Foust said, according to the files. "I also briefly spoke to Ms. Green at that time. She indicated a desire to know if at a time down the road she would be able to get her daughter's clothing. She said that it was a 'Mom thing' and she really wanted to have them."

The Loughner family quickly acknowledged to investigators that they had lost control of their son long before the shootings.

But Jared Loughner's father did not disable the car on the night before the shootings and heard him drive away about 6 a.m. on Jan. 8, 2011, according to the reports. Jared Loughner returned home more than an hour later and his father saw him take a black bag out of the trunk of the Nova.

His father also could see what appeared to be "something placed inside of the front pockets of the hoodie" his son was wearing, according to the documents.

Jared Loughner's father questioned him about the items in the bag and his pockets inside the family home, according to the reports.

"Jared proceeded to turn around immediately and 'bolt' out of the residence," the report states. "Mr. Loughner stated that he chased after Jared, but was unable to catch him on foot; therefore, retrieved his keys to his vehicle. He began driving the neighborhood in an attempt to locate Jared."

He located his son at some point, prompting the son to run off into the desert. Jared Loughner's father on four occasions declined detectives' requests to give them the names of his son's friends and contacts.

On Christmas Eve 2010, Jared Loughner went to a long-time friend's apartment to show off a gun he had just purchased, saying it was for "home self-defense," according to statements the friends gave to investigators.

"When Jared showed him the weapon, he asked Jared to leave because of the fact of it," the report states. "(The other friend) questioned his reason for having such a large capacity magazine, and what he intended to do. He advised Jared stated he would use it for home self-defense."

Records and courtroom testimony confirmed that the high school dropout had descended into mental illness before plotting an assassination attempt against Giffords, who had convened a meet-and-greet session with constituents outside a supermarket on the morning of the crime.

Leading up to the slaying, Jared Loughner had became increasingly paranoid about government, developed a hostile obsession with the congresswoman and got kicked out of community college because of strange and threatening behavior.

Among the findings from the documents:

• Loughner was polite and cooperative with authorities who were holding him the afternoon following his morning shooting rampage. The conversation as Loughner sat in restraints in an interview room was mainly small talk.

• Loughner's mother, Amy, told investigators that she and her husband, Randy, took a 12-gauge shotgun away from their son after he was kicked out of community college and tested him for drugs because his behavior was so strange. The shotgun, which he had owned since 2008, was the only firearm that his parents knew their son owned.

• Randy Loughner said it was a challenge to have a rational conversation with his son before the shooting. "I tried to talk to him. But you can't. He wouldn't let you," he said "Lost, lost and just didn't want to communicate with me no more."

• Giffords intern Daniel Hernandez helped tend to his boss after she was shot in the head. In an interview, he described the chaos: "She couldn't open her eyes. I tried to get any responses for her. Um, it looked like her left side was the only side that was still mobile. Um, she couldn't speak. It was mumbled. She was squeezing my hand."

• Zachary Osler was an employee at a store where Jared Loughner later bought a Glock before the shooting, he also had been Jared Loughner's friend. He was questioned about seeing Loughner shopping inside, sometime before Thanksgiving, and describes an awkward encounter with his former friend. "His response is nothing. Just a mute facial expression. And just like he, he didn't care." Osler told investigators he had grown uncomfortable with Loughner's personality.

• Police found two fully loaded magazines for a Glock in the gunman's left front pocket. In his other front pocket was a foldable knife with a 4-inch blade after the shooting.

• Shooting victim Bill Badger described being shot. "When I looked, he was just shooting at the people. And, and everybody started to duck. And just as I ducked, I felt the bullet hit the back of my head. It just burned the back of my head. And, the next thing I knew he was coming right in front of me."

Randy and Amy Loughner, the young man's intensely private parents, never have spoken publicly about the crime, and they did not respond to an inquiry this week.

After he shot Giffords in the head at point-blank range, Jared Loughner turned his 9 mm pistol on bystanders and continued firing 31 more times until his magazine was empty. Horrified victims of the attack dragged him to the ground and held him until police arrived.

Jared Loughner had a record of drug and alchol abuse but no violence. His only citations were for misdemeanors - possession of drug paraphernalia in 2007 and for spraying graffiti on a street sign in 2008. Army recruiters rejected him. He had a failed work history that included jobs at a fast-food restaurant and as a dog walker.

By 2010, Jared Loughner had become alienated from friends, an Internet loner posting messages of hate and suicide.

He was suspended from Pima Community College after five contacts with campus police because of classroom disruptions and after he posted a bizarre video on YouTube in which he ranted about the "genocide school." By then, he favored satanic music and had begun espousing conspiracy theories about the 9/11 attack and government control of grammar.

He also wrote about the ability to manipulate dreams, a favorite past-time.

Jared Loughner was charged with 49 felony counts, and no one ever questioned his responsibility for the shooting spree. But the federal prosecution was clouded by a diagnosis of schizophrenia with delusions so severe that he interrupted court proceedings and was found incompetent to stand trial.

After being placed on medications, sometimes involuntarily, Loughner recovered his mental health sufficiently to proceed. A trial was averted, along with the possibility of a death penalty, when he signed a plea agreement admitting guilt.

Jared Loughner was sentenced in November to seven consecutive life prison terms, plus 140 years, without possibility of parole.

The deadly incident was among several in recent U.S. history that spurred debate over firearms regulation. Giffords, who was hospitalized for months, eventually resigned from her congressional seat because of the severe brain injury.

She has since formed a gun-control advocacy group with her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly.

USA TODAY

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