Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jared Loughner and the Shooting of Gabrielle Giffords

Drugs Enter the Picture

On September 10, 2007, police were called to a "suspicious vehicle" which was parked near a wall in Tucson. It was a large white van and it turned out to belong to Bryce Tierney. After following the van driving through town, the officer pulled the van over and "was able to detect a strong odor of burnt marijuana." In the passenger's seat police found Loughner. After police searched the van and found marijuana, Loughner was cited for possession of drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor. The charge was dismissed after Loughner completed a diversion program.

This scrape with drugs was evidently not his last. A year later, Time.com reported, when Loughner applied to join the army, despite testing clean on his drug test, he responded a little too truthfully to Question 17i on DD Form 2807-1. The official told Time: "He admitted that he smoked marijuana to such an extent that we said, 'No, thank you.'"

Friends of Loughner have told the press that he liked hallucinogenic drugs, including LSD and salvia. A salvia high produces dissociative effects and has a much shorter duration than LSD or hallucinogenic mushrooms —from a few minutes to a few hours. On the other hand, the man with whom Loughner had been found by police in the white van, Bryce Tierney, maintained that Loughner had stopped using all drugs by 2008.

Jared Lee Loughner
Jared Lee Loughner

In the summer of 2007, Loughner, then 18, enrolled in Pima Community College. He didn't have a major, and took a wide variety of classes —including Pilates. But throughout 2010, Loughner's behavior became increasingly disturbing and disruptive to his classmates. After the shootings, the school released 51 pages of documents that depicted Loughner's increasingly disruptive behavior.

The string of incidents began in February 2010. Campus police were notified after Loughner behaved strangely during the reading of a student's poem in class. In a detailed report given by Patricia Houston, the Division Dean of the school, "the teacher had said Loughner had made comments in class after the poem that were a huge leap," including, "Why don't just you strap bombs to babies?"

The officer who filed the report wrote that campus police also had "received an email from another student in the class who thought Loughner might have a knife in his possession."

Dr. Aubrey Conover, the Advanced Program Manager, wrote later in a document summarizing meetings with Loughner, "I asked Jared to help me understand his comment. He said that the class had been talking about abortion, which made him think of death, which made him think of suicide bombers, which made him think of babies as suicide bombers."

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