Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
Mugshot of Jared Lee Loughner
22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner is in police custody, accused of opening fire into a crowd in Tucson, Ariz., killing six and critically wounding Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Thousands of news reports have described him as “troubled,” “disturbed” or a “loner.”
Loughner’s YouTube and MySpace accounts give clues to his thoughts, but mostly contain disjointed, rambling diatribes about illiteracy, the government, mind control and “conscience dreaming.”
But what else is known about the background of Loughner?
He lived with his parents – who have yet to speak to the media – the Associated Press reports, “in a middle-class neighborhood lined with desert landscaping and palm trees” about five minutes from the scene of the shooting. Neighbors reportedly described him as walking his dog, wearing a hooded sweatshirt, listening to heavy metal on his iPod and keeping to himself.
The more America learns about the accused assassin, however, the more disturbing the picture of this “disturbed” young man becomes.
An article by the AP describes Loughner as “an ardent atheist, he began to characterize people as sheep whose free will was being sapped by the government and the monotony of modern life.”
Loughner’s high school classmate, Grant Wiens, further told the London Telegraph, “Sometimes religion was brought up or drugs. He smoked pot, I don’t know how regularly. And he wasn’t too keen on religion, from what I could tell.”
Another friend told the AP that Loughner had fallen into a “nihilistic rut.”
Indeed, Lougher’s YouTube channel includes a video in which he posted the words, “No! I won’t trust in God!”
But when a New York Daily News photographer investigated Loughner’s back yard, he discovered something startling. Hidden within a camouflage enclosure was what the newspaper described as “a sinister shrine” with “a chilling occult dimension.”
Photos reveal a pot filled with blackened, shriveled oranges, topped with the replica of a glaringly white, human skull. The scene also includes a trio of ceremonial candles and potting soil, elements experts told the paper are featured in the ceremonies of a number of occult groups.
Drugs and alcohol
Further investigations have also revealed Loughner had a history of problems with mind-altering substances.
According to an AP report, “For a time, Loughner drank heavily, to the point of poisoning himself, [his high school friends] said. Once, during school lunch break as a junior, he downed so much tequila that he came back to class, within five minutes passed out cold, had to be rushed to the hospital and ‘almost died,’ one friend said.”
Arizona court records further show that in October 2007, Loughner was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia.
A military official in Washington – speaking to the AP on condition of anonymity – said that the Army had rejected Loughner’s attempt to enlist in 2008 because he had failed a drug test.
And Caitie Parker, one of the first to claim to know Loughner and a classmate of his at both Mountain View High School in Tucson and Pima Community College, mentioned in a series of tweets not only Loughner’s episode with alcohol poisoning in 2006, but also called him a “pot head.”
Those same “friends” who spoke to the AP also reported Loughner’s cannabis use, telling the news service that they smoked marijuana together every day, and when they weren’t going to concerts or watching movies they talked about the meaning of life and dabbled in conspiracy theories.
Much has been made in the media of what may have politically motivated Loughner to open fire on a U.S. representative and the federal judge who was killed in the shooting.
Some have speculated that Loughner’s anti-government rants, published on his YouTube site, may identify the accused killer as a tea-party-type activist.
As WND reported, however, his classmate Caitie Parker wrote of Lougher, “As I knew him he was left wing, quite liberal and oddly obsessed with the 2012 prophecy.”
Loughner also listed on his YouTube channel among his favorite books Karl Marx’s “The Communist Manifesto” and Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” casting further doubt on the notion that he was an angered tea-party type.
One of the high school friends who spoke to the AP reportedly paused when asked if he considered Loughner a Republican or Democrat.
“Is there a radical party? It went beyond that, it wasn’t left or right,” the friend said.
Indeed, Loughner’s almost incoherent political ramblings were evident on his YouTube channel, where he ranted against the B.C./A.D. dating system, the government “controlling” grammar, terrorism, “treasonous laws,” money not based on the gold or silver standard, and the phrase “In God We Trust” on currency. He also “favorited” a video of a flag burning.
“I don’t think his ideology is anything coherent,” said Trent Humphries, co-founder of the Tucson Tea Party. “I just think he was a very, very disturbed individual.”
Loughner’s unusual ideas and erratic behavior caught the attention of both fellow students and school officials.
“He made a lot of the people really uncomfortable, especially the girls in the class,” said Steven Cates, who attended an advanced poetry writing class with Loughner at Pima Community College last spring.
Another poetry student, Don Coorough, told the AP, “He appeared to be to me an emotional cripple or an emotional child. … He lacked compassion, he lacked understanding and he lacked an ability to connect.”
And yet another, Lynda Sorenson, wrote in an email about Loughner, quoted by the Washington Post, “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.”
Pima Community College has since issued a statement about Loughner, explaining, “From February to September 2010, Loughner had five contacts with PCC police for classroom and library disruptions,” incidents which eventually led to Loughner leaving the school.
The college claims it told Loughner that if he wanted to return, he was required to “obtain a mental health clearance indicating, in the opinion of a mental health professional, his presence at the college does not present a danger to himself or others.”