Records provide new look at Arizona shootings
PHOENIX — Authorities investigating the shooting rampage that killed six people and wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 11 others compiled nearly 3,000 pages of documents released Wednesday that provide a fresh glimpse into the 2011 attack, including the erratic behavior of the gunman, a tense interrogation and the chaos that enveloped the bloody scene.
Jared Lee Loughner was polite and cooperative but complained of feeling sore as authorities began their hours-long initial interview of the gunman.
The conversation as Loughner sat in restraints in an interview room was mainly small talk. Little was said over the first four hours. Loughner asked if he could use the restroom, then at one point complained he felt sore.
“I’m about ready to fall over,” he said.
The roughly 2,700 pages of documents on the shooting outside a Safeway where Giffords was hosting a meet-and-greet with constituents have been kept private since the January 2011 attack.
The records, released by the Pima County sheriff’s department, include transcribed interviews with witnesses and various police reports, and provide new insight into how the shooting occurred.
Giffords intern Daniel Hernandez described how constituents and others were lining up to see Giffords that morning. He helped people sign in and recalled handing the sheet on a clipboard to Loughner.
“The next thing I hear is someone yell, ‘Gun,’” said Hernandez, who rushed to tend to Giffords’ gunshot wound to the head.
“She couldn’t open her eyes. I tried to get any responses from her. Um, it looked like her left side was the only side that was still mobile,” Hernandez told authorities. “She couldn’t speak. It was mumbled. She was squeezing my hand.”
Hernandez explained how he had some training as a nurse and first checked for a pulse.
“She was still breathing. Her breathing was getting shallower,” he said. “I then lifted her up so that she wasn’t flat on the ground.”
One-time Loughner friend Zachary Osler described the shooter’s increasing isolation from his other friends and acquaintances in the years leading up to the shooting.
He explained how he worked at a sporting goods store where Loughner bought the Glock 9 mm handgun used in the shooting. He was questioned about seeing Loughner shopping there, sometime before Thanksgiving, and described his awkward encounter with the man.
“His response is nothing. Just a mute facial expression. And just like he, he didn’t care,” Osler told authorities.
Osler also told investigators he had grown uncomfortable with Loughner’s strange personality. “He would say he could dream and then control what he was doing while he was dreaming,” Osler said.
Still, he said he was shocked to learn Loughner had carried out such an attack.
“My jaw dropped,” Osler said.
“And I was like, I know this person. Why would he do it? What would his motive be?” he added, noting Loughner never mentioned Giffords to him in the past.
Loughner’s parents, meanwhile, described a son who had been descending into delusional behavior for more than year before the killings.
“Sometimes you’d hear him in his room, like, having conversations,” said his mother, Amy Loughner. “And sometimes he would look like he was having a conversation with someone right there, be talking to someone. I don’t know how to explain it.”
His father, Randy Loughner, said his son had never been diagnosed with mental illness but noted he didn’t “seem right lately.”
“He felt that the pigs were out to get him,” the father added. “I tried to talk to him. But you can’t, he wouldn’t let you. ... Lost, lost, and just didn’t want to communicate with me no more.”
Despite recommendations from Pima Community College officials, who expelled Loughner, that he undergo a mental evaluation, his parents didn’t follow up on it.
News organizations seeking the records were repeatedly denied the documents in the months after the shooting and the arrest of Loughner, 24, who was sentenced in November to seven consecutive life sentences, plus 140 years, after he pleaded guilty to 19 federal charges.
U.S. District Judge Larry Burns had prevented the sheriff’s department from releasing the records in response to a request from The Washington Post, ruling in March 2011 that Loughner’s right to a fair trial outweighed whatever disclosures might be authorized under state law.
Last month, Burns cleared the way for the release of the records after Star Publishing Company, which publishes the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson, had sought their release. The judge said Loughner’s fair-trial rights are no longer on the line now that his criminal case has been resolved.
Loughner’s guilty plea enabled him to avoid the death sentence. He is serving his sentence at a federal prison medical facility in Springfield, Mo., where he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and forcibly given psychotropic drug treatments.
Arizona’s chief federal judge and a 9-year-old girl were among those killed in the rampage. Giffords was left partially blind, with a paralyzed right arm and brain injury. She resigned from Congress last year and has since started, along with her husband, a gun control advocacy group.
The Star said it wanted the records because they contain information about how a mass shooting occurs, including how long it took Loughner to fire gunshots — an issue raised by some advocates in the debate over high-capacity pistol magazines.
The Tucson paper argued the records are critical in the national debate over whether such shootings could be prevented by armed resistance, whether a mass shooting occurs too quickly to be stopped and whether people with mental illnesses should be prohibited from getting guns.
Phoenix Newspapers Inc., which publishes The Arizona Republic, and KPNX-TV had joined Star Publishing in the latest effort to get the records released.