Jared Lee Loughner was convicted of murdering six people and injuring 13 others during on January 8, 2011. One of his victims was Gabrielle Giffords, a U.S. Representative. She was shot in the head and critically wounded but survived and remained in Congress for another year. Giffords was the last member of Congress wounded by gunfire until House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was shot on June 15, 2017.
Since James T. Hodginson, the deceased suspect in Scalise’s shooting, showed a number of left-wing views on his social media pages, there was an attempt by the New York Times op-ed writer Bret Stephens to show that Loughner’s shooting of Giffords was also politically motivated. However, Loughner’s own political views were not as clean-cut as Hodgkinson’s appear to be and the op-ed has been attacked by both liberals and conservatives.
Here’s a look at the 28-year-old Loughner’s life, the shooting and where he is today.
1. Those Who Knew Loughner Said His Behavior Began to Change Around 2006
In the days after the shooting, those who knew Loughner, who was 22 at the time, began talking to the media and a narrative began forming. It was clear that there was a dramatic personality change in Loughner, timed with his decision to drop out of Mountain View High School in Tuscon. His high school principal told Fox News that he didn’t even recall anything particular about Loughner, or taking any disciplinary action. After dropping out, Loughner began building a criminal record of minor offences, starting in 2007.
Kelsey Hawkes, who dated Loughner in high school, told USA Today that she knew Loughner as “sweet, caring Jared,” but noticed he was shy and had low self-esteem. “It’s sad knowing the person he was and the person who he could have become — and who he is now,” she said.
Loughner enrolled in a local transitional school, then started attending classes in Pima Community College. During his time there, professors and students noticed his odd behavior. He also lost a job at a Quiznos and a volunteer role at an animal shelter in 2010.
“He was walking dogs in an area we didn’t want dogs walked,” Pima Animal Care Center Kim Janes told USA Today. “He didn’t understand or comprehend what the supervisor was trying to tell him. He was just resistant to that information.”
Friend Tong Shan told ABC News that she was “shocked, but I believed it was him.” She said she saw him change over several years. In 2010, he experienced a more radical change.
“I don’t know what might have caused him to change, but from the way he was talking to me [online]… you can see. It was just questions and questions and random, weird questions that didn’t go together,” she told ABC News. “He wanted to know everything… He would just trip out. I don’t know why it didn’t jump out at me, like, ‘Hey, something’s wrong.”
2. Loughner Frequently Used Drugs & His Parents Grew Increasingly Worried by His Behavior
Kylie Smith, who knew Loughner since he was four years old, told Time Magazine that Loughner frequently used drugs and alcohol, beginning in high school. When Loughner dropped out of high school, they lost touch. When they reconnected at a party in 2008, he was a changed man. “He seemed out of it, like he was somewhere else,” she told the magazine. “I could tell he wasn’t just drunk, and he wasn’t just high.”
Smith said Loughner used to hang out with the high school band geeks, but then suddenly started hanging out with “potheads” and became a “borderline goth.”
“He got involved with marijuana, and he was really into psychedelics — hard drugs like mushrooms, acid — probably at the end of his junior year,” Smith told Time. She remembered one instance in 2006 when he stopped going to school because he got alcohol poisoning. “I don’t know if he was partying or if he was drinking by himself — I just remember one day he wasn’t at school, and I never saw him again in high school,” she said.
Court records showed that Loughner was cited for drug paraphernalia possession in October 2007. A year later, he was cited for defacing a street sign in Marana with what he called Christian symbols.
By 2010, even Loughner’s parents, Randy and Amy Loughner, were concerned about his behavior. In March 2013, CNN reported that Loughner’s parents told investigators that they told their son that he needs to get help because they knew he wasn’t behaving normally. They described their son as a “loner” and noticed that his life took a turn for the worse after he was dismissed from Pima County College. They even confiscated his shotgun and disabled his car every night to keep him from leaving the house.
3. Lougner Was a Registered Independent Who Had Anti-Government Views
Loughner’s political views are complicated. He was a registered independent, The Washington Post reports. He voted in 2006 and 2008 elections, but didn’t vote in 2010.
Even in the wake of the shooting in 2011, there were attempts by liberals to put the blame on Loughner’s actions on the Tea Party movement and Sarah Palin. But reports tat the time showed that he often had liberal views too. He mostly anti-government views and believed in conspiracy theories, notes Politico. Loughner even claimed in one YouTube video that the government controlled thoughts through grammar. However, far-right activist David Wynn Miller, who has agreed with that theory, told Politico that it was “ridiculous” to think he inspired Loughner.
Conservatives pointed out that some who knew Loughner even said he was a liberal, CBS News noted. He also included the Communist Manifesto on a reading list and possibly followed the 9/11 “truther” movement. The New York Times reported that Loughner would get angry just at the sight of President George W. Bush.
“I think he feels the people should be able to govern themselves,” Ashley Figueroa, a former high school girlfriend, told the Times. “We didn’t need a higher authority.”
4. Loughner Reportedly Had a Grudge Against Gabrielle Giffords Dating to 2007
Just two days after the shooting, Mother Jones reported that Loughner had a grudge against Giffords that dated to 2007, the year she took office. (That’s also a year before Sarah Palin was pushed onto the national stage by becoming John McCain’s 2008 presidential running mate and the Tea Party movement began after President Barack Obama took office in 2009.)
Bryce Tierney, a longtime friend of Loughner’s, told Mother Jones that Loughner attended an August 2007 event and asked Giffords, “What is government if words have no meaning?” He also said Loughner called Giffords a “fake.”
“He said, ‘Can you believe it, they wouldn’t answer my question,’ and I told him, ‘Dude, no one’s going to answer that,’” Tierney told Mother Jones. “Ever since that, he thought she was fake, he had something against her.”
CNN reported that investigators found that Loughner had kept the 2007 form letter Giffords sent him to thank him for attending the event. It was kept in a box with an envelope that had “assassination plans have been made” written on it.
The 47-year-old Giffords sustained a severe brain injury in the shooting, which took place at an event at a Tuscon strip mall. She remained in office until January 2012. She has remained a public advocate for gun control and spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
5. Loughner Is Currently Imprisoned at the Federal Medical Center Rochester in Minnesota
Today, Loughner is imprisoned at the Federal Medical Center, Rochester in Rochester, Minnesota.
After his arrest, Loughner was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and was initially ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial. But in August 2012, he was ruled competent to stand trial. Before a trial could begin though, he agreed to plead guilty to 19 counts. He received seven life sentences without parole, plus an additional 140 years in prison. He avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty.
“Mr. Loughner, you may have put a bullet through her head, but you haven’t put a dent in her spirit and her commitment to make the world a better place,” Giffords’ husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, said during the sentencing hearing, CNN notes.
The six people killed in the attack were U.S. District Court Judge John Roll, retired secretary Dorothy Morris, nine-year-old Christina-Taylor Green, retired construction worker Dorwan Stoddard and Giffords aide Gabriel Zimmerman.