Mental Illness: Jared Loughner’s Early Warning Signs
From his threats to his Pilates teacher to paranoia, Loughner's mental illness was clear to nearly everyone he met. Plus, Mansfield Frazier on the mental-health crisis in prisons.
From his threats to his Pilates teacher to paranoia, Jared Lee Loughner's mental illness was clear to nearly everyone he met. Plus, Mansfield Frazier on the mental-health crisis in prisons.
1. In January, Loughner responded to a classmate’s poem about abortion by saying people should attach dynamite to babies. He explained the comment to a school official by saying the poem reminded him of death, which made him think of suicide bombers, which made him think of baby suicide bombers.
2. When reading his own poem for class, Loughner thumped his chest and grabbed his crotch.
3. In math class, he insisted the number 6 was 18. He explained to a school counselor, “I asked him to tell me the question he asked. He said, ‘My instructor said he called a number 6 and I said I call it 18.’ He also asked the instructor to explain, ‘How can you deny math instead of accept it?’”
4. He wrote “ MAYHEM FEST!!!” across a paper, after which his teacher alerted a counselor.
5. He responded to an algebra test question with “ eat+sleep+brush teeth=math.”
• Full coverage of the Arizona shooting6. His behavior in math class worried one student enough that she emailed a friend on June 14: “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...'”
7. He accused a math teacher of violating his First Amendment rights. The teacher alerted the dean, and Loughner was removed from the class.
8. He made disjointed and confused statements on online forums, such as one he made on a forum for the game Earth Empires in May: "told this woman. That she was a Bully. And that if there was PIG in front of me....the pig would would call you a bully." He said he then said "Horses---! Bulls---! You are a scam!"
9. In May, police were called when his Pilates instructor felt threatened. He became hostile when he learned she was giving him a B grade.
10. An officer was called when Loughner was singing in the library.
11. In September, he had an outburst over his grade in biology, yelling that his freedom of speech was being violated. The officer who responded to the scene said Loughner’s “"tilted to the left with a confused look in the countenance of his face. His eyes focused down at his homework and he showed a sustained bobbing of the eyes while looking to his upper left side during questioning."
12. On September 29, campus police found a YouTube video in which Loughner called the college “unconstitutional” and “his genocide school.” Officers delivered a letter of suspension to Loughner’s home saying that he wouldn’t be allowed to return until a mental-health professional certified that he wasn’t a danger to himself or others. When the officers visited him to deliver his suspension notice, Loughner “ held a constant trance of staring” before responding, “I realize now that this was all a scam.”
13. He showed signs of paranoia, telling people that U.S. currency was worthless because it wasn’t on the gold standard and that the government was controlling people through grammar.
14. He made YouTube videos about grammar and the gold standard, as well as allegedly making one in which someone burns an American flag to the song “Bodies” by Drowning Pool.
15. He also spoke about “ conscience dreaming,” by which he is believed to have meant lucid, or conscious, dreaming. His interest in lucid dreaming may have been a sign: The European Science Foundation reported that lucid dreaming creates similar brain patterns as psychotic conditions.
16. Retired FBI behavioral expert Kathleen Puckett said his conscience/conscious confusion is itself a sign that his disorderly thinking had confused “conscious dreaming” with the murder he was planning. “He's heard of this somewhere and mixed it up as he's plotting this horrendous act," says Parker.
17. His conviction that Gabrielle Giffords was “a fake” may have been a sign of confusion about what is real—that is, he might have been speaking literally, not politically.
18. Loughner had a history of drug and alcohol abuse starting at age 15, when he was hospitalized for drinking a third of a liter of vodka because he was angry with his father. Though not a sign of mental illness, the combination of mental illness with drug abuse increases the risk that a person will behave violently.
19. He was increasingly antisocial leading up to the shooting. “In recent weeks, Jared seemed to grow even more antisocial. I’d try to engage him in a conversation and he’d run or walk away,” said Jason Johnson, 33, who lives across the street and met Jared for the first time a few weeks ago. “I saw him two days ago and I said hello. He turned and walked back into the house. He had a look in his eyes like something wasn’t right,” Johnson says. “You know how it is when you talk to someone who’s mentally ill and they’re just not there? It was like he was in his own world.”