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Video: Inside the mind of Jared Lee Loughner

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    >>> the latest on accused gunman jared loughner and how far and how fast his life spiraled out of control. mike tiabbi is in tucson.

    >> reporter: a lot of people have been puzzled and some frightened by loughner's increasingly erratic behavior. he never specifically threatened anyone with violence. the newly released police photo of jared lee loughner won't shock his former classmates and teachers at pima community college . in fact they're remembering a lot about loughner they would like to forget like the weird laugh at the most inappropriate times. ex-class mates of loughner say he shouted challenges not just confusing but frightening.

    >> during class i would write my themes on the board kind of like that and then i would look out the corner of my eye , it seemed like every instant, just wondering what he was going to do next.

    >> reporter: in fact college officials say loughner's disruptive behavior earned him five visits from the campus police and finally expulsion. there had been problems too offcampus, two arrests one for defacing a sign with graffiti, another for possession of drug paraphernalia . then rejection by the army when he tried to enlist, again because of his alleged drug use . there were more wild internet postings, little of it making sense. and in his backyard, investigators found what looks like a crude altar, a replica of a human skull and other ingredients reportedly used in ceremonies of the oak cult .

    >> the question is who was aware of that and if they were aware of it what did they do about it?

    >> reporter: at pima community college , campus president would not speak specifically about loughner, but what about any student who acted as he did, frightening but not specifically threatening violence. had the college done all it could have done?

    >> the answer to that would be yes. the college cannot be judged injury in an incident in which no threat has been made.

    >> reporter: so loughner was free. no criminal or official mental health record to keep him from buying his gun and his 200 rounds of ammunition leaving experts on mental health issues like our own dr. nancy snyderman to wonder again.

    >> we'll look back on this as yet one more time and one more awful case when so many people knew a powder keg was about to explode and no one intervened.

    >> reporter: the obvious question, what about loughner's parents, randy and amy loughner, they have been in seclusion since the shooting rampage. when a neighbor brought them their mail, he came out and said they are ill, they are devastated. they say they had in idea how deeply disturbed he had become.

    >> nbc analyst clint van zandt is a former fbi profiler. clint , good morning to you.

    >> good morning, meredith .

    >> as mike just pointed out, we're beginning to learn more about jared loughner, who this guy is, the erratic behavior in college, even his teacher said he didn't like to turn his back on the man because he was afraid maybe he would have a gun. those postings online, disturbing videos, but even knowing all of this, clint , is there anything anybody could have done to stop what happened?

    >> well, i think your statement when you started meredith , you talked about his life, perhaps his mind spiraling out of control, this is somebody who really lived in his own world. students would say he would be in the classroom and he would start laughing and there was nothing funny. these were thoughts, these were processes that were going on in his own mind that obviously only he was aware of and it looks like his own -- the only good friend he had may have been himself and the interaction that he had with himself. so as he spiraled, as he suffered all these losses, all these failures, and dwret maintained this focus on the congresswoman since at least 2007 , his fear of the government, thinking the government's engaged in mind control , we may find out, just may find out that all of this negativity, all of his fears, wound up being focused on the congresswoman.

    >> he lived with his parents and yet they are quoted as saying they had no idea about the severity of his mental condition, even though i guess the school had contacted him when they initially suspendal him and said this son of yours needs a mental evaluation before he can come back to school. they are devastated. but how could they not know? how could they not see the signs?

    >> we have mass murders two or three times a year in the united states . we go through this who did it, why did they do it, how can we stop it, but in this particular case when there is family, when there are associates, we know the guy just didn't snap, we know that this was gradually built up and who knows our own children better than ourselves as parents. the issue is when the university police came, they delivered a letter, they said your son is basically kicked out of junior college , he cannot return without a mental health exam. and yet there's no evidence that exam took place. i mean did the parents encourage him to get it? realize, he's 22 years old. he make his own decisions, but he was also living in their home. i think that's a challenge that many parents face today is how do we influence our children when they're making their own decisions.

    >> isn't that how the fbi found an envelope in a safe, with the words written on it, i planned ahead, my assassination and giffords that certainly suggests that this was something that was planned and not random.

    >> what's more important to me, meredith , they were found in a safe. what would you and i keep in a safe? we keep what's most important. we may keep irreplaceable family pictures or jewelry or cash. in his case, he kept a 2007 letter from the congresswoman and he kept these notes about what he was planning. as well the fbi suggested there was another note perhaps with some negative information concerning the congresswoman. so again, we have this focus that was taking place but he kept everything it appears related to her locked in this safe. so that was what was most important. that's what he could go back to and refer to and then close the door on that safe and lock it again, and know that no one could get access.

    >> but clint , does that suggest that it's politically motivated or basically had nothing to do with politics?

    >> i see nothing that suggests political motivation, meredith . we know that he was a registered independent, we know that he failed to vote in the last election and i have seen nothing in his writings, i have heard people describe him as liberal, as conservative, there's nothing in his writings and there's nothing that so far we know of in evidence that suggests that he was motivated by the media, talk show hosts, left, right, sarah palin , whoever it is, we have no information and again, we have two or three of these mass shootings every year. you and i, meredith , we are motivated for a lot of things, but to blame any one entity, ultimate -- the shooter at virginia tech who committed those terrible acts, he was ultimately responsible. everybody had a piece of this, they knew a little bit about him, but nobody assembled those pieces to show the picture of a mass murder .

Photos: Former Ariz. Representative Gabrielle Giffords

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  1. Gabrielle Giffords, the former congresswoman who was shot and left handicapped after a gunman opened fire at an event in Tucson, Ariz., and her husband retired Navy Capt. Mark Kelly prepare to testify before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 2013. (Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, leave the Newtown Municipal Building in Newtown, Conn. on Jan. 4, 2013. Giffords met with Newtown officials on Friday afternoon before heading to visit with families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. (Michelle Mcloughlin / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Gabrielle Giffords waves to the Space Shuttle Endeavor with her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly as it flies over Tucson, Ariz. on its way to Los Angeles, on Sept. 20, 2012. Kelly served as Endeavour's last space commander months after Giffords survived serious head injuries because of a 2011 shooting. (P.K. Weis / Southwest Photo Bank via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Gabrielle Giffords blows a kiss after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance during the final session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. on Sept. 6, 2012. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Gabrielle Giffords stands on top of a peak in the French Alps with her husband Mark Kelly, right,, and mountain guide Vincent Lameyre, July 23, 2012. On her first trip out of the country since her injury in 2011, she rode a two-stage cable car to a station for spectacular views of Mont Blanc. (Denis Balibouse / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Ron Barber, right, celebrates his victory with Giffords, left, prior to speaking to supporters at a post election event, Tuesday, June 12, 2012, in Tucson, Ariz. Barber, Giffords' former district director, won her seat in a special election after she resigned to focus on her recovery. (Ross D. Franklin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Democratic Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, read Rep. Gabriell Giffords resignation speech on the House floor on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012. The day after President Obama's State of the Union speech, Giffords formally offered her resignation to Speaker John Boehner. Weeping, Shultz applauded the strength of her friend and colleague, "I'm so proud of my friend." (MSNBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. President Barack Obama hugs retiring Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords as the president arrives to deliver his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012. (Pool / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., left, and Pelosi, right, posing with Giffords husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly of the Navy, at his retirement ceremony with Vice President Joe Biden in the Old Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011. (House Leader Nancy Pelosi's office / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords returns to the House for the first time since she was shot, making a dramatic entrance on Monday, Aug. 1, 2011, during a crucial debt vote. She drew loud applause and cheers from surprised colleagues. (NBC News) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords poses for a photo the day after the launch of NASA space shuttle Endeavour and the day before she had her cranioplasty surgery, outside TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital May 17, in Houston, Texas. Aides of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords posted two recent photos of the congresswoman to her public Facebook page, the first since the January 8 shooting that killed six people and wounded a dozen others. (P.K. Weis / Giffords Campaign / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Emergency workers use a stretcher to move Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot in the head outside a shopping center in Tucson, Ariz., on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011. (James Palka / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. In this Jan. 5, 2011 file photo, House Speaker John Boehner re-enacts the swearing in of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Susan Walsh / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Rep. Giffords, left, speaks during a candidates debate with Republican candidate Jesse Kelly at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz., on Oct. 18, 2010. Kelly is an Iraq War veteran and was the Tea Party favorite for the 8th congressional district seat. (Joshua Lott / The New York Times via Redux Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords meets with constituents in Douglas, Ariz., in 2010. Giffords, 40, took office in January 2007, emphasizing issues such as immigration reform, embryonic stem-cell research, alternative energy sources and a higher minimum wage. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Rep. Giffords speaks during a press conference in Washington, D.C., where members of Congress called on the President to secure the border with the National Guard on April 28, 2010. (James Berglie / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. This picture provided by the office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Monday, March 22, 2010, shows damage to her office in Tucson, Ariz. The congressional office was vandalized a few hours after the House vote overhauling the nation's health care system. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., center, gives a tour of Statuary Hall in the Capitol to Shuttle Discovery STS-124 astronauts Mission Specialist Akihiko Hoshide, of Japan, and her husband, Commander Mark Kelly, on Thursday, July 17, 2008. (Bill Clark / Roll Call Photos) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. From right. Rep. Ken Calvert, Rep. Dennis Moore, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and Rep. Heath Shuler, attend a House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security hearing on current and proposed employment eligibility verification systems on May 6, 2008. The hearing provided a forum for lawmakers on both sides of the immigration debate, focusing on a system to verify the legal status of workers and job applicants. (Scott J. Ferrell) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Gabrielle Giffords with U.S. Navy Cmdr. Mark Kelly, a NASA astronaut, at their wedding in Amado, Ariz., on Nov. 10, 2007. Kelly's twin brother, also an astronaut, is a commander on the International Space Station. "We have a unique vantage point here aboard the International Space Station. As I look out the window, I see a very beautiful planet that seems very inviting and peaceful. Unfortunately, it is not," said Scott Kelly of the tragedy that befell his sister-in-law. (Norma Jean Gargasz for The New York Times / Redux Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Representatives-elect including Dean Heller, top right, and Gabrielle Giffords, next to Heller, prepare for the freshman class picture for the 110th Congress on the House Steps on Nov. 14, 2006. (Tom Williams / Roll Call Photos) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords rides horseback in 2006. In an interview with NPR last year, she recalled working with horses during her adolescence in Tucson. "I loved cleaning out the stalls, and I did that in exchange for riding lessons. And I continue to ride most of my life. And I learned a lot from horses and the stable people ... I think it provided good training, all of that manure-shoveling, for my days in politics ahead." (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. A page entitled, "Just do it!" in La Semeuse, the Scripps College yearbook in 1993. The photo at right shows Giffords in traditional Mennonite clothing. That same year, she won a Fulbright award to study Mennonites and other Anabaptist groups in Northern Mexico. Gifford's senior thesis was titled "Wish Books and Felt-Tipped Fantasies: The Sociology of Old Colony Mennonite Drawings." (Scripps College) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Gabrielle Giffords' senior portrait from the 1993 Scripps College yearbook. Giffords double-majored in Latin American studies and sociology. A Dean's List student, Gifford won several awards during her time at Scripps. (Scripps College) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Gabrielle Giffords, right, laughs with her mom, Gloria Kay Fraser Giffords, in a photo published in the Scripps College yearbook. Gabrielle received a B.A. in Sociology and Latin American history from Scripps College in Claremont, Calif. in 1993. (Scripps College) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. University High School portrait of Gabrielle Giffords, class of 1988. Dr. John Hosmer, taught history to the future lawmaker. He tells msnbc.com, "Gabrielle sat in the front row. She was inquisitive ... She was a very mature person from the moment she walked in the door." (University High School) Back to slideshow navigation
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Interactive: Giffords' shooting


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