Officials find more warning signs
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Investigators on Tuesday revealed more disturbing details about the events leading up to the assassination attempt against U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, including a menacing handwritten note in the suspect’s home with the words “Die, bitch.”
And on the day of the shooting, a mumbling Jared Loughner ran into the desert near his home after his father asked him why he was removing a black bag from the trunk of a family car, sheriff’s officials said. Loughner resurfaced later Saturday when authorities say he showed up at a grocery store in a taxi and carried out the rampage that injured 14 people and killed six, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl.
Investigators provided the new details to The Associated Press and said they’re still searching for the bag. They suspect it could contain clues into Loughner’s motives.
“The bag is very important to us,” said Capt. Chris Nanos, head of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department’s criminal investigations division. “What was in that bag and is there any relevance?”
“What if he wrote a note that says, ‘Hey, I’m going to go do these things and I know it’s wrong but I’m still going to do them,’?” Nanos said. “That’d be a pretty good piece of evidence.”
Authorities previously said they found handwritten notes in Loughner’s safe reading “I planned ahead,” “My assassination” and the name “Giffords.” Pima County Chief Rick Kastigar and Nanos told the AP they also found notes with the words “Die, bitch,” which they believe referenced Giffords, and “Die, cops.”
All the writings were either in an envelope or on an actual form letter Giffords’ office sent him in 2007 after he attended one of her political events, Nanos said.
For all of it, Loughner’s parents, silent and holed up in their home since the shooting spree, apologized Tuesday.
“There are no words that can possibly express how we feel,” Randy and Amy Loughner wrote in a statement handed to reporters waiting outside their house. “We wish that there were, so we could make you feel better. We don’t understand why this happened.
“We care very deeply about the victims and their families. We are so very sorry for their loss.”
The apparent target of the attack, Giffords, 40, was able to breathe on her own Tuesday at an intensive care unit here, another hopeful sign of her progress, doctors said.
Meanwhile, the Arizona city shattered by the rampage prepared for an evening memorial service and a visit from President Barack Obama on Wednesday.
In addition to the new details about the hours before the shooting, interviews with those who knew Loughner or his family painted a picture of a young loner who did try to fit in.
Before everything fell apart, he went through the motions as many young men do nowadays: Living at home with his parents, working low-wage jobs at big brand stores and volunteering time doing things he liked.
None of it worked. His relationship with his parents was strained. He clashed with co-workers and police. And he couldn’t follow the rules at an animal shelter where he spent some time.
One close high school friend who requested anonymity to avoid the publicity surrounding the case said he would wait outside 10 minutes for Jared to leave the house when they were going out.
When Jared would get into the car, he’d say that it took so long because his parents were hassling him.
Loughner was arrested in October 2008 on a vandalism charge near Tucson after admitting that he vandalized a road sign with a magic marker, scrawling the letters “C” and “X” in a reference to what he said was Christianity.
The case was ultimately dismissed after he paid a $500 fine and completed a diversion program.
Loughner jumped from paid job to job because he couldn’t get along with co-workers, according to the close high school friend who requested anonymity. Employers included a Quiznos sandwich shop and Banana Republic, the friend said.
On his application at the animal shelter, he listed customer service work at Eddie Bauer.
Loughner grew up on an unremarkable Tucson block of low-slung homes with palm trees and cactus gardens out front. Fittingly, it’s called Soledad Avenue — Spanish for solitude.
Solitude found Loughner, even when he tried to escape it. He had buddies but always fell out of touch, typically severing the friendship with a text message.
Loughner’s father, Randy Loughner, apparently has not worked for years — at least outside his home. He did fix up cars. A neighbor said he had three “show cars” and two of Jared Loughner’s friends said he bought a junker 1969 orange Chevrolet Nova and made it pristine.
Amy Loughner got a job with the county parks and recreation department just before Jared was born, and since at least 2002 has been the supervisor for Roy P. Drachman Agua Caliente Park on the outskirts of the city. She earns $25.70 an hour, according to Gwyn Hatcher, Pima County’s human resources director.