New details have emerged about accused gunman Jared Lee Loughner, who opened fire on Representative Gabrielle Giffords and at least seventeen others in a Tucson grocery store on Saturday. According to an FBI affidavit, a safe in Loughner's house contained a form letter from Giffords's office thanking him for attending a "Congress on your Corner" event in 2007 — the same type of event that Giffords was hosting Saturday. (The grassroots meet-and-greets were partly Rahm Emanuel's idea to keep the 40 freshman representatives in touch with voters after the Democrat's midterm sweep in 2006.) Loughner's safe also contained an envelope with handwritten notes, including Giffords's name, the words My assassination and I planned ahead, as well as Loughner's signature. One of Loughner's friends told the Journal that during his first meeting with Giffords in 2007, Loughner, who "really tried to be philosophical," got "aggravated" when he asked Giffords, "How do you know words mean anything?" and she paused for a few seconds, then "responded to him in Spanish and moved on with the meeting."
Another friend of Loughner's described the shooter as holding a years-long grudge against Giffords and repeatedly calling her out as a "fake." Bryce Tierney, who attended high school and college with Loughner, also traced his friend's hatred back to what sounds like the event, although Loughner "might have gone to some other rallies." Tierney told Mother Jones, "[Loughner] told me that she opened up the floor for questions and he asked a question. The question was, 'What is government if words have no meaning?' He said, 'Can you believe it, they wouldn't answer my question.'" Tierney says he told his friend, "'Dude, no one's going to answer that,'" but that "ever since that, [Loughner] thought she was fake, he had something against her."
Tierney also said his friend was obsessed with the idea of "lucid dreaming" and that Loughner became "more interested in this world than our reality." According to Tierney, who once saw Loughner's dream journal, "That's the golden piece of evidence. You want to know what goes on in Jared Loughner's mind, there's a dream journal that will tell you everything."
Fox News yesterday reported on a memo allegedly from the Department of Homeland Security that suggested a "possible link" between Loughner and the anti-immigration journal American Renaissance. In the on-air reading, Fox quoted the DHS as saying that American Renaissance promotes views that are "anti-government, anti-immigration, anti-ZOG [Zionist Occupational Government], anti-Semitic."
But others doubt Loughner's connection with American Renaissance, a self-stylized political philosophy publication. "The fans of American Renaissance tend to be older and they tend to be intellectuals or pseudo-intellectuals," Mark Pitcavage, director of investigative research at the Anti-Defamation League told the Christian Science Monitor. "Based on the limited nature of [Loughner's] internet footprint suggesting his thoughts and beliefs, there's nothing to lead one to think he would lean that way." Jared Taylor, the founder of the New Century Foundation, the organization that publishes American Renaissance, also called the link "complete nonsense" and claims that in twenty years of records, Loughner's name was never among his subscribers.
High school friends of Loughner's described him as apolitical, except for some criticism of the Bush administration. They say he was an average kid who spent much of his free time playing saxophone in the school band. But around the tenth grade, after a breakup with his girlfriend, Loughner started experimenting with drugs and fell in with the wrong crowd. His friends cite drug abuse as the reason Loughner dropped out his senior year. Although the case was dismissed, Loughner was also charged with possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia in 2007.
Pima Community College's spokesman called his frequent off-topic outbursts in class disruptive and unstable, but nonthreatening, while instructors and classmates expressed concern about Loughner's behavior. In a series of increasingly concerned e-mails, one of his classmates wrote, "He is one of those whose picture you see on the news, after he has come into class with an automatic weapon." Loughner, who was removed from the class after the third or fourth week, withdrew in October after the school required him to take a mental-health evaluation.
A bizarre shrine in Loughner's backyard adds "a chilling occult dimension" to his motivations, says the Daily News. Hidden behind a camouflage tent is an altar with a skull on top of it, along with a pot containing shriveled oranges. A row of ceremonial candles and a bag of soil were found nearby. Experts tell the paper that a number of occult groups featured those elements in their rituals.
*This post has been updated from its original version.
Suspect Fixated on Giffords [WSJ]
'Congress on Your Corner' events began after Democratic victories in 2006 [WP]
American Renaissance: Was Jared Lee Loughner tied to anti-immigrant group? [CSM]
Exclusive: Loughner Friend Explains Alleged Gunman's Grudge Against Giffords [MJ]
Gabrielle Giffords shooting: Frightening, twisted shrine in Arizona killer Jared Lee Loughner's yard [NYDN]
Jared Loughner's behavior recorded by college classmate in e-mails [WP]