This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
To order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers, use the Order Reprints tool at the bottom of any article or visit www.djreprints.com See a sample reprint in PDF format. Order a reprint of this article now
JANUARY 12, 2011
Postings of a Troubled Mind
Accused Shooter Wrote on Gaming Site of His Job Woes, Rejection by Women
By AL EXAN D R A BER ZON , JOH N R . EMSH WIL L ER And R OBER T A. GU TH
Last May 9, at two in the morning, Jared Lee Loughner typed a question to a group of about 50 online gamers located around the world: "Does anyone have aggression 24/7?" He was back at his keyboard the following night. "If you went to prison right now...What would you be thinking?" he asked. A trove of 131 online-forum postings written between April and June 2010, which were viewed by The Wall Street Journal , provides insight into Mr. Loughner's mind-set in the year leading up to Saturday's shootings in Tucson, Ariz. He stands accused of killing six people, gravely wounding Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D., Ariz.) and injuring 13 others. The online postings paint a picture of a disturbed young man trying to impress his peers and struggling to find a purpose to his life. They range from prosaic chatter about weight lifting to nonsensical philosophical ramblings that left some of the gamers who read them wondering whether he was using drugs or had a mental disability. On Tuesday, after a search of the Loughners' home, federal investigators found a letter from Rep. Giffords's office in which Mr. Loughner had scribbled the words "Die Cops" and "Die Bitch," Online postings last year by accused gunman Jared said Capt. Chris Nanos of the Pima County Lee Loughner. Sheriff's Department. Capt. Nanos, who was briefed on the findings, said Mr. Loughner had also referenced an assassination in handwritten notes on the letter. Journal Community The letter, dated 2007, was a form document sent by the staff of Rep. Giffords to thank Mr. Loughner for attending one of her events. Capt. Nanos confirmed that Tucson local authorities had visited the Loughners' house in the past for minor incidents unrelated to the suspect, except for once: Around 2006 or 2007, the suspect called the authorities to report a case
of identity theft. "Someone had used his name on MySpace or Facebook," Capt. Nanos said. The online-forum messages exhibit a growing frustration that, at 22 years of age, Mr. Loughner couldn't land a minimum-wage job and was spurned by women. By May 15, he wrote, he hadn't had a paycheck in six months. A month later, he wrote that he had submitted 65 applications, yet "no interview." At times, Mr. Loughner seemed to be reaching out to fellow gamers for help and advice, albeit in a disturbing way. Sometimes they offered it, such as giving him pointers about job hunting. At other times, his postings seemed so outrageous that the gamers mocked or ignored him. The online postings, written using pseudonyms, were shared with the Journal by a person who had access to them. Two fellow gamers who participated in the online forums say the author was the accused gunman, and some of the postings discuss incidents from Mr. Loughner's life that others have corroborated. Judy Clarke and Mark Fleming, two defense lawyers assigned to represent Mr. Loughner, didn't respond to phone messages left at their San Diego offices. Federal authorities have said they have seized Mr. Loughner's computer and are trying to examine all of the online places where he spent time. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment. Mr. Loughner's family on Tuesday made its first comments since the shootings. In a written statement, Randy and Amy Loughner said they couldn't understand what motivated their son and expressed condolences for the victims and their families. "There are no words that can possibly express how we feel," they said. "We are so very sorry for their loss."
View Full Image Associated Press
Ashby Jones looks at the issue of where the trial for Tucson massacre suspect Jared Lee Loughner will be held and whether he will claim insanity?
Families of Tucson Victims Speak Scenes From Shooter Jared Loughner's Home Doctors Express Optimism About Giffords' Recovery Moment of Silence at International Space Station
Jared Loughner's family made their first public comments Tuesday.
Mr. Loughner had a history of asking provocative questions. In early high school, he asked unusual questions that were innocent, such as one time when he asked a friend about the purpose of human toes, recalls Joseph
Headlee, a former high-school classmate. His recent online postings are more disturbing. On April 24, he asked: "Would you hit a Handy Cap Child/ Adult?" On May 20 at 12:03 a.m., he remarked: "I bet your hungry....Because i know how to cut a body open and eat you for more then a week. ;-)" The postings exhibit fixations on grammar, the education system, government and currency,
which some friends and acquaintances have described separately in the days since the attack. They are peppered with displays of misogyny. Mr. Loughner's posts don't mention Rep. Giffords, who is believed to have been the target of the attack, nor do they give any indication that Mr. Loughner was plotting a shooting. But several mention mental breakdowns and violent thoughts. One post alluded to the Fifth Amendment, which aims to protect citizens against the government abusing its power in legal proceedings. The Arizona Shooting
Palin Attacks Criticism as 'Blood Libel' Parents Express Sorrow for Loss of Life Giffords's Outlook Improves Glock's Reputation Built on Style, Ease of Use Opinion: Jenkins: The Jared Loughner Problem Early Legal Issue: Where to Try Case Many Mentally Ill Can Buy Guns Victim Profiles | Photos | 911 Calls Complete Coverage: Arizona Shootings
Mr. Loughner posted the messages in a private forum associated with the online game Earth Empires. On Tuesday, the site's administrator in a public forum admonished members for sharing information with the media. In a separate forum, the administrator wrote that he would cooperate with federal authorities if asked. "I want this information to get to the right hands, but I want to make sure it's done through the proper legal means," he wrote.
Gaming appears to have been an important part of Mr. Loughner's life. In the 7th grade, he and a friend, Alex Montanaro, began playing the multiplayer online games Starcraft and Diablo, which featured complex virtual worlds where players assume roles and play against other people around the globe, Mr. Montanaro said in emails over the weekend and Monday. Around the 9th grade, recalls Mr. Montanaro, Mr. Loughner abandoned the old games and started playing Earth: 2025, now called Earth Empires, a text-based game in which players assume the form of a country and develop its economy. Players form clans and battle other clans. The game includes social networks built around the clan alliances—private online forums in which players conversed. In those forums at that time, Mr. Loughner often spouted conspiracy theories and got into heated debates with others, according to a forum participant who has been reading Mr. Loughner's posts for years. Mr. Loughner originally played under the pseudonyms Cries and Cry. At various times he also used the aliases Heroin, XTC and Erad, according to two people familiar with the matter, and played for various clans. Around 10th grade, Mr. Loughner began acting more strangely and separating from his friends, according to Mr. Montanaro. Mr. Loughner took a break from the gaming world in 2008 but resumed a year later, says Mr. Montanaro. Mr. Loughner joined an online alliance called SancTuarY/Collab. He wrote under the pseudonym Dare. After last June, he stopped playing, says the games administrator.
View Full Image
Mr. Loughner seemed consumed with the outlet the private-posting world provided, says Mr. Montanaro, who was also part of SancT/Collab. Compared with the debates he had engaged in as a young teen, his postings were often nonsensical, say people who knew him in both settings. Mr. Montanaro described them as "weird poems coupled with 'logic' statements."
A high-school classmate shows reporters his yearbook.
On the Scene in Tucson
Even in a setting that includes the raw and often raunchy thoughts of young men, Mr. Loughner's postings were startling. They show an obsession with language, a hatred of the educational system and aggression—all of which later became themes of videos posted by Mr. Loughner on YouTube in the months before the shooting. In the forum posts, Mr. Loughner never mentions any political views explicitly, nor does he name any political figures.
On April 24, Mr. Loughner titled a new online thread: "Would you hit a Handy Cap Child/ Witnesses and bystanders waited inside a police barrier in the parking lot of the Safeway grocery store Adult?" He wrote: "This is a very interesting where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D., Ariz.) and others question….There are mental retarded children. were shot Saturday. They're possessing teachers that are typing for money. This will never stop….The drug addicts need to be weeded out to be more intelligent. The Principle of this is that them c— educators need to stop being pigs."
Arizona Daily Star/Associated Press
Later that day, he posted a rant titled "Why Rape," which said women in college enjoyed being raped. "There are Rape victims that are under the influence of a substance. The drinking is leading them to rape. The loneliness will bring you to depression. Being alone for a very long time will inevitably lead you to rape." Some participants in the forum suggested that he must be on drugs, while others said he may be mentally impaired. One forum participant who has read his postings says it was only in retrospect, after the shootings, that he realized that Mr. Loughner appeared mentally unstable in his messages. On April 28, Mr. Loughner wrote: "How many stars are in the universe?" Other posters responded with mathematical calculations. Later in the thread, Mr. Loughner shifted gears: "What do Chocolate cookies taste like?" On May 2, Mr. Loughner wrote: "This forum made me feel better....," followed by the emoticon for a smiling face. The same day, he started a thread called "Weight Lifting," and asked whether anyone else lifted. He described himself as 5 feet 10 inches tall and 155 pounds, and said he could do 65 push-ups, bench press 165 pounds, and do 25 pull-ups and 100 sit-ups, "(thanks to the ab machine)." He said he could run a mile in between 6 minutes, 30 seconds, and 6 minutes, 50 seconds. "I'm flexible" after "years of stretches," he wrote. "Diet is key."
View Full Image Associated Press
On May 14, at 10:50 p.m., Mr. Loughner begins an online thread he called, "How many applications....is a lot?" It contained what appears to be a list of 21 retail outlets he had applied to or failed to get a job at, including Crate & Barrel, Wendy's and Domino's Pizza.
Investigators at the Loughners' home.
Some posters expressed surprise. One noted he hasn't applied for that many jobs in his life. Mr. Loughner had been arrested in Pima County in 2007 and charged with possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia, according to court records. His case was dismissed. In October 2008, he was arrested for scrawling graffiti on a street sign. He paid restitution and attended a diversion program, a court administrator said. In the online forum, Mr. Loughner wrote that he was having trouble landing a job because of his work history and criminal record. He explained that he had had five "terminations," listing Peter Piper Pizza, "Chineese" fast food, Red Robin, Quiznos and Eddie Bauer. He wrote that the list of firings "will be updated." He wrote: "I'm thinking....2 misdemeanors hurt. Don't do Graffiti." He hinted at a different problem at the Red Robin. "I had to walk out of red robin," he wrote. "Terrible situation. Mental breakdown." Mr. Montanaro, who also worked at the restaurant, says Mr. Loughner "just hated his job" and one night said "he couldn't take it anymore" and quit. Political Targets
Prominent political shootings involving members of Congress.
One poster joked that the group can give him a leadership role on the video game. Mr. Loughner responded: "...Ha.....ha....ha.....And waste more time of my life...this is like my social life...I know everything is made fun of.." One gamer advised him that in order to get a job, he needed to provide potential employers such things as references and a list of jobs he had held previously. Mr. Loughner replied in a profanitylaced message that he knew that. "CANT HOLD TERMINATION AGAINST FUTURE EMPLOYEE !" He repeated that line 117 times. Anger increasingly permeated his postings.
On May 5, he started a thread titled "Talk, Talk, Talking about Rejection." He solicited stories of rejection by the opposite sex. The next day he wrote, "Its funny...when..they say lets go on a date about 3 times..and they dont....go..." Three days later, he wrote, "Its funny when your 60 wondering......what happen at 21." On May 9 at 2:00 a.m., he asked: "Does anyone have aggression 24/7?" By noon, when others suggested he try smoking marijuana, he said: "No weed. No drugs. It's not like I can't see my brain." The following night, he titled a thread: "If you went to prison right now.....What would you be thinking?" He added, "Just curious?" After others responded that they would do everything they could to avoid going to prison, including commit suicide, Mr. Loughner said, "Let's say you are in the cell for life...For nothing." A few minutes later he added, "21...going to college...no workplace." In his online postings, he comments on problems he had at Pima Community College, which have been reported previously. His math instructor, Ben McGahee, said recently that Mr. Loughner's off-topic outbursts during class scared students and disrupted the class. Mr. Loughner was suspended from the school and withdrew last October. On June 3 at 12:14 a.m. Mr. Loughner described one confrontation with Mr. McGahee, writing to his fellow gamers that he had asked the teacher: "Are you just getting a pay check for
brainwashing?" as well as questioning if the class was a "scam" and asking, "can you tell me how to Deny math?" He wrote that the teacher told him it was a stupid question and he should "GET OUT OF MY CLASS!" The next day, after he had to see a school counselor, he wrote: "Told her about brainwashing a child and how that can change the view of mathematics." Since the news of Mr. Loughner's alleged role in the shootings broke, members in the public forums of Earth Empires expressed shock that one of their own would take such action, and worried that people would point fingers at the game or the community. "This is an immeasurable tragedy, and it pains me that someone from our close-knit community could be involved in such a heinous act," the administrator wrote on Sunday. Later that day he wrote, "I reviewed some of the posts he made and they're....disturbing." One member wrote, "I can't stand that I know him."
—James Oberman contributed to this article.
More on the Arizona Shooting
Parents Express Sorrow for Loss of Life Giffords's Outlook Improves Glock's Reputation Built on Style, Ease of Use Early Legal Issue: Where to Try Case Many Mentally Ill Can Buy Guns Victim Profiles | Photos | 911 Calls Complete Coverage: Arizona Shootings
Copyright 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. Distribution and use of this material are governed by our Subscriber Agreement and by copyright law. For non-personal use or to order multiple copies, please contact Dow Jones Reprints at 1-800-843-0008 or visit www.djreprints.com