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Posted at 12:37 PM ET, 01/ 9/2011

Jared Loughner's college instructor: I was worried he might have a gun in class

By David A. Fahrenthold

A community college instructor who taught Tucson shooting suspect Jared Loughner was so disturbed by the student's outbursts in class that he requested Loughner's removal from the course, he told the Washington Post in an interview Sunday.

Ben McGahee, a third-year instructor at Pima Community College, taught Loughner in an elementary algebra class last summer. McGahee said that while Loughner never threatened him directly, he was concerned by his behavior.

"I always felt, you know, somewhat paranoid," McGahee said. "When I turned my back to write on the board, I would always turn back quickly--to see if he had a gun."

McGahee said he had to make several complaints before administrators finally removed Loughner.

"They just said, 'Well, he hasn't taken any action to hurt anyone. He hasn't provoked anybody. He hasn't brought any weapons to class,'" McGahee recalled. "'We'll just wait until he takes that next step.'"

On his first day in class, McGahee said, Loughner yelled out a random number during a lesson, then asked the instructor a strange question. "How can you deny math instead of accepting it?" he yelled.

Other times, McGahee said, Loughner would listen to his iPod in class. On quizzes, he would answer some questions accurately, and then write nonsensical answers for others. On one, he wrote "Mayhemfest!" McGahee said he thought that was a reference to a rock-music festival: a concert tour called The Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival played in Phoenix last July.

On another test, McGahee said, Loughner wrote the words "Eat+Sleep+Brush Teeth=Math." "He just miserably failed the test," McGahee said.

Finally, several weeks into the class, McGahee said Loughner arrived and pointed to a copy of the U.S. Constitution on the wall.

"'You're violating my First Amendment right of free speech,'" McGahee recalled him saying. "That's when I went to go get the dean."

At that point, he said, a college official came to talk with Loughner, then assured McGahee that he would not return to class. "You don't have to worry about Jared anymore. We asked him to not come back to class," the official said, according to McGahee.

Lynda Sorenson, 52, another student in the class, said that Loughner was disruptive and unruly from the first day.

"There was never a time when he was in class that he was not disruptive, and he scared me. He frightened the daylights out of me," Sorenson said in a telephone interview. "I kept saying to people, 'I'm afraid he's going to come into the class with a gun.'"

Sorenson and her husband are unemployed: they had gone back to college to learn new skills for the job market. She said that Loughner's first outburst came on the first day of their class, which met four days a week for five weeks.

"The professor started talking, started teaching, and all of a sudden Jared started spouting off that this was all a fraud, and he was trying to deceive us," she said. Finally, she said, the professor told him to leave--and, after first resisting, Loughner did.

As the class went on, she said, Loughner exhibited other odd behavior: he wrote nonsensical answers on his tests, wrote on the class blackboard, and walked around and around in tight circles in the school courtyard. One day, she said, he sat in class with an odd, enormous grin on his face.

"Like he was just about to start laughing," she recalled. "And it was just--there was nothing funny. We were talking about something stupid like triangles." Finally, she said, a police officer and counselor removed him from class in the third or fourth week, and he did not return.

The school said on Saturday that Loughner was a student from 2005 to last September--several weeks after Sorenson last saw him. It said the final straw was a YouTube video Loughner had made on campus, calling the college unconstitutional. He was suspended, and agreed in October to withdraw.

Sorenson said that Loughner never threatened violence, but she felt menaced by him. She said her only previous contact with someone like that came at time when she was working in a psychiatric hospital.

By David A. Fahrenthold  | January 9, 2011; 12:37 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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Next: Jared Loughner unable to enlist in Army because of drug use

Comments

I know some liberals are going to claim that when you build a political movement around violent and inciting rhetoric, then loonbags like this character are going to be incited to violence. But that's just crazy. After all, this guy would have shot someone anyway, we really can't blame folks like Palin for making sure it's a centrist Democrat with a target on their head, right?

After all, when you accuse your opponents of being enemies of the US who wipe their noses on the Constitution--rather than folks who just happen to disagree with you--who could imagine that some violent nut might take you seriously? Or that Obama's not really a US citizen. Or that the passage of the Health Care reform bill was some sort of extraconstituional attack on our precious liberties.

It's all rhetoric. No one is supposed to be stupid enough to take it seriously. What kid of deranged idiot would actually believe this stuff?

Posted by: ibc0 | January 10, 2011 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Many existing laws and regulations apply specifically to pregnant women. Several provisions of the Affordable Care Act offer new benefits for expecting mothers. Search online for "Wise Health Insurance" if you need affordable insurance for yourself or your wife.

Posted by: terryjobe | January 10, 2011 3:00 AM | Report abuse

This is a sad day for the media and Democrats (in reality, one and the same) as their budding campaign to blame yesterday's terrible events in Arizona on Sarah Palin and the Tea Party is dealt a crushing blow as we learn the facts about the alleged shooter. Of course, it's unlikely that Democrats and their media allies will let facts get in the way of their despicable attempts to politicize the shootings. If the New York Times has any standards (which is doubtful), they will immediately fire Paul Krugman for his contemptible commentary.

Posted by: gmahon | January 9, 2011 8:32 PM | Report abuse

An interesting point made in the decision: "beyond a reasonable doubt" is no where provisioned or defined in the constitution. Judicial interpretation, one gathers, rendered that the standard for all criminal proceedings.

Posted by: Martial | January 9, 2011 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, there is not really anything anyone could have done. Until he actually threatens to kill someone (or actually DOES, in this case), he is not entitled to mental health services. Nobody can force-medicate him.

Until something like this happens.

It's just part of living in a health insurance driven health care society where personal freedoms are held above social well-being.

So, he can get the gun, act crazy, buy elongated clips, even carry it all to the local grocery store, and there's absolutely "nothing wrong with that" according to our laws.

Only when he draws the loaded gun and fires into a woman's head can he be treated for mental illness.

Sweet deal. I'm sure he's not the only one out there.

I was at NOVA a few years back taking a night class and a right wing nut I used to talk to in there was bringing a loaded .38 with hollow point bullets to class every night.

To be honest, I was glad. He wanted to be ready the next time some nut-job started shooting up a class. He didn't seem too wacky, and, according to him, he was a very good shot.

What a world we've got going here.

Posted by: Thinker_ | January 9, 2011 4:42 PM | Report abuse

_________________

Depends on the state. Here's a vital Supreme Court decision related to Texas as respects involuntary commitment.

http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cgi-bin/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=441&invol=418

One item of note is the existence of a level of proof other than "preponderance of evidence" and "beyond a reasonable doubt", namely "clear and convincing". Whether anyone can actually distinguish the three levels of proof in a trial is, of course, open to question.

Posted by: Martial | January 9, 2011 6:48 PM | Report abuse

If there must be Sarah Palin references (odd given no one ever thought her schizophrenic or proved anything she proposed would frustrate treatment of mental disease), consider her weapons, always longarms. Those things kill moose. You do not need a handgun for protection.

Posted by: Martial | January 9, 2011 6:39 PM | Report abuse

CAC2 blathered: "Some of the nasty stereotyping of liberals here is disgusting." and later said, "Who needs a crazy gunman, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, or Rush Limbaugh when we have comment areas like this one to prove just how angry and creepy people can be?"

So, you whine like a b**** when someone stereotypes liberals, then immediately turn around and stereotype conservatives?

See...it's nonsense like this which explains why no one takes you seriously.

Posted by: hp_loveshaft | January 9, 2011 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Loughner never would have gotten away with this with a rifle or shotgun; he would have been detected on site. Shotguns provide all the home protection needed. Moreover, shotguns provide excellent sport, so when you use them, you will do so with skill. Both the Virginia Tech Monster and the Ft. Hood psychiatrist used handguns. Militias want people skilled in long arms, not side arms. The National Firearms Act banned machine guns de facto; the same should be true of handguns.

Posted by: Martial | January 9, 2011 6:29 PM | Report abuse

//@sarahBB, are you trying to incite violence against Sarah Palin?

Posted by: warhorse | January 9, 2011 4:29 PM//

No. I'm a liberal, a person of conscience, someone who considers herself moral and decent. A Christian. It would be against my religion. You'll never be able to link me to that -- I'm denouncing it, witnessing and suggesting she should be condemned publicly for having done the same by you and the rest of the civilized world. Put on your man pants, as your ilk are so rash to say. Words have consequences and can be crazy pills to the crazy.

Posted by: SarahBB | January 9, 2011 6:11 PM | Report abuse

As long as we're being snarky, taonima2000, CAC2 was really only talking about his ancestors.

Posted by: CaitlinEmmy | January 9, 2011 5:47 PM | Report abuse

There is no single cause. Complex human behavior is influenced by many variables. The young man could be mentally ill AND have been influenced by the rabble-rousing speech so prevalent on the right. To say that the left is equally guilty of speech condoning the use of guns to coerce those with whom one disagrees is a bold-faced lie.

Posted by: georgereston | January 9, 2011 5:40 PM | Report abuse

CAC2, your descendants have nothing to do with the type of person you are.

Posted by: taonima2000 | January 9, 2011 5:26 PM | Report abuse

I'm curious are people not allowed to be committed anymore? He has documented social issues yet no record of treatment has emerged.

This has more to do with the mental health remedies available in this country.

Posted by: cleancut77 | January 9, 2011 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Just for the record, I'm a Democrat and consider myself a liberal. I am a descendant of a Revolutionary War patriot, and a member of my direct family has fought in every war fought by this nation. I proudly fly an American flag in my front yard. I believe strongly in equal rights and civility for ALL people, regardless of race, heritage, sexual orientation, faith, or gender.

Some of the nasty stereotyping of liberals here is disgusting. Antisemitic? Communist? Anti-American? Please educate yourself about your fellow Americans before you start shouting insults at them based on false and inflammatory stereotypes. Better yet, stop shouting insulting and stereotyping insults at all. Or I might have to make broad and insulting conclusions about the intelligence and civility of conservatives based on your boorish behaviour.

Who needs a crazy gunman, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, or Rush Limbaugh when we have comment areas like this one to prove just how angry and creepy people can be?

Posted by: CAC2 | January 9, 2011 4:43 PM | Report abuse

I think it's sad that people always comment on things a person was doing after the fact. If this behavior was so troubling the instructor should have taken action not waited till after the fact.

Posted by: jkd3011 | January 9, 2011 1:37 PM |

*******************************

Unfortunately, there is not really anything anyone could have done. Until he actually threatens to kill someone (or actually DOES, in this case), he is not entitled to mental health services. Nobody can force-medicate him.

Until something like this happens.

It's just part of living in a health insurance driven health care society where personal freedoms are held above social well-being.

So, he can get the gun, act crazy, buy elongated clips, even carry it all to the local grocery store, and there's absolutely "nothing wrong with that" according to our laws.

Only when he draws the loaded gun and fires into a woman's head can he be treated for mental illness.

Sweet deal. I'm sure he's not the only one out there.

I was at NOVA a few years back taking a night class and a right wing nut I used to talk to in there was bringing a loaded .38 with hollow point bullets to class every night.

To be honest, I was glad. He wanted to be ready the next time some nut-job started shooting up a class. He didn't seem too wacky, and, according to him, he was a very good shot.

What a world we've got going here.

Posted by: Thinker_ | January 9, 2011 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Seems quite likely that Loughner is both mentally ill and was influenced by extreme political beliefs. These two things are not mutually exclusive.

Posted by: Zooey | January 9, 2011 4:32 PM | Report abuse

@sarahBB, are you trying to incite violence against Sarah Palin?

Posted by: warhorse | January 9, 2011 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Loughner likely has mental health issues that contributed to the murders, but if information attributed to him on YouTube videos is accurate, he was also aware that what he was doing was cause for concern -- not wanting others to be mad for what he was going to do. So he was obviously quite "organized" in the clinical sense to carry this all out with premeditation AND awareness that some would view his actions unfavorably. People with mental illness, just like all humans, ARE influenced by media/politics/religion, etc. etc. and some of the "fringe" organizations appeal to people who may be psychologically vulnerable for many different reasons. They may even be used/persuaded to do certain acts because of their vulnerability and possible desire for acceptance.

Posted by: Zooey | January 9, 2011 4:19 PM | Report abuse

bflat879...your sense of reality is seriously skewed and yet another example of the degradation of the American politic.

Posted by: DrLou1 | January 9, 2011 4:19 PM | Report abuse

What has any of this got to do with the Tea Party?? The perp has been described as a anti-semitic, flag hating, weirdo...seems clear to me, he was a liberal.

Posted by: warhorse | January 9, 2011 4:10 PM | Report abuse

//how is this Sarah Palin fault?

Posted by: illegalpointofview | January 9, 2011 1:30 PM//

He didn't shoot his math professor, did he?

Posted by: SarahBB | January 9, 2011 4:02 PM | Report abuse

I have a JD not an MD, but, it looks as if Loughner is exhibiting schizophrenic behavior. I give the community college credit for contacting his parent and urging them to get him a mental health evaluation. I haven't heard that they did.

This is just more evidence that his actions are not politically motivated in the least, but the result of untreated mental illness.

Of course, that won't stop liberals from taking cheap political advantage of the situation to attack their favorite targets.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | January 9, 2011 3:35 PM | Report abuse

ca67klein,

Loughner was Independent...of reality, if that's what you mean.

I think it's clear that Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland, killed those people in Arizona, just as directly as if Caroll pulled the trigger himself. The proof?

1) Loughner was obsessed with logic, as evidenced by the syllogistic form of his schizoid YouTube rants. Carroll was a logician, and that subject was explored in Alice in Wonderland, which Loughner read.

2) All readers of of Alice in Wonderland will remember Carroll's focus on words, language, and "the structure of grammar," as Loughner phrased it.

Damn you Lewis Carroll, you murdering bastard! (Oh yeah, and Palin too, because she used a violent political metaphor.) (And Obama too, because he once said something about bringing a gun to a knife fight.) (And the Daily Kos guy, because he posted a Bulls-eye map targeting the Congresswoman.) (And you too, because you said something bad once, and didn't even apologize.)

Posted by: kryon77 | January 9, 2011 3:20 PM | Report abuse

This case is very similar to the Amy Bishop case. SHe was the professor who went on a shooting spree at University of Alabama at Huntsville. She has killed her brother in Massachusetts and sent a bomb to a professor, but her politically powerful parents got her off and she was never given the mental health she needed.

This Jared kid did get in trouble with the law and was on drugs, yet his connections got kept him from being held accountable and allowed him to get preferential treatment. If he had not gotten deferred prosecution, he would have had a conviction and it would have been harder for him to get a gun.

The crazy political sheriff in Arizona is more responsible for allowing this crazy kid to go unpunished. They knew he was volatile and unstable, and yet they let him get away without charges.

I suspect the sheriff who was blaming politics, hate and bigotry was deflecting the blame from himself, where it apparently belongs.

Posted by: Cornell1984 | January 9, 2011 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Yes, it is amazing. When liberals have a play, about the assassination of a sitting President, and then tell us there's nothing wrong with that, we're supposed to accept that. When liberals were out there ginning up hate, with selected and not elected rhetoric, trying to tell people they couldn't trust their government any more, we're supposed to accept that. When liberals go out there and show complete disrespect for the President and the office of the Presidency, we're supposed to accept that. If you liberals want to start tracing your steps back to the hardening of political discourse, take some time to read Moveon.org or, for that matter, the NPR website, which had so much hate and speculation on it, it was pretty pathetic yesterday.

Conservatives just don't do stuff like this. If liberals speak, on a college campus, conservatives don't disrupt their meetings and try to throw pies at them. The tea party rallies were peaceful, except when liberals came in and roughed up the participants, like in Missouri.

This guy may not be considered a liberal but he's certainly no conservative and you people, longing civility should start with yourselves.

Posted by: bflat879 | January 9, 2011 2:43 PM | Report abuse

The theory that rhetoric from one political side or the other causes behavior that results in the killing of innocent people is insupportable . When it is is helped by people with an agenda , it is beneath contempt, or by the ignorant , it is ridiculous.
A psychotic individual is responding to INTERNAL STIMULI .
Let me repeat that in lay terms .. a psychotic person is responding to the voices INSIDE their head.. not the ones outside . Anything coming in from the outside is garbled, cracked, and distorted, by the lack of ability to connect with reality .
The people blaming Sarah Palin as a knee jerk reaction ,or need to blame someone for a situation beyond anyone’s control ; or foster a political agenda by blaming right wing anything; are almost as removed from reality as the shooter IMO; and do absolutely nothing but exacerbate the situation .
Schizophrenia has a slow onset , usually , and the first psychotic break usually happens between the ages of 17 to 25. Prior to that , there may be some odd or unusual behavior, but after the first break , you see the typical isolation , paranoia , and reclusive behaviors with bizarre ideas. The person may not have even had time to be diagnosed , so if they go to buy a gun there is nothing to stop them .
There are things on this world over which we have no control , but blaming innocent people for them does not help .

Posted by: swannie3 | January 9, 2011 2:41 PM | Report abuse

DP said: "As for those trying to make this guy a right wing anti-semitic fascist or a left wing drug addled atheistic communist, you're just trying to insert your political agendas into the demented ramblings of a troubled young man."

You are absolutely smack on! I wish every news anchor, every Congressperson, every blog, and the President himself would read your comment to the American people twice daily for about a month!

Posted by: MochaLite1 | January 9, 2011 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Sarah Palin as well as many politicians on both sides of the aisle are guilty of violent rhetoric. Even Obama said in a campaign speech, "if they bring knives, we will bring guns." I have a feeling tho this horrible act was just a deranged young man thinking he would be killed and have his 15 minutes of fame. Maybe he didn't belong to either party and was just, God forbid, an independent.

Posted by: ca67klein | January 9, 2011 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Have any of you reading this article, also read Hostage to the Devil by Malachi Martin?

Posted by: bambam7171 | January 9, 2011 2:11 PM | Report abuse

In addition to the violent imagery, Sarah Palin posted the following to her Facebook page:

"To the teams that desire making it this far next year: Gear up! In the battle, set your sights on next season's targets! From the shot across the bow - the first second's tip-off - your leaders will be in the enemy's crosshairs, so you must execute strong defensive tactics. You won't win only playing defense, so get on offense! The crossfire is intense, so penetrate through enemy territory by bombing through the press, and use your strong weapons - your Big Guns - to drive to the hole. Shoot with accuracy; aim high and remember it takes blood, sweat and tears to win.

Focus on the goal and fight for it. If the gate is closed, go over the fence. If the fence is too high, pole vault in. If that doesn't work, parachute in. If the other side tries to push back, your attitude should be "go for it." Get in their faces and argue with them. (Sound familiar?!) Every possession is a battle; you'll only win the war if you've picked your battles wisely. No matter how tough it gets, never retreat, instead RELOAD!"

And this Twitter 11/4//10
Remember months ago "bullseye" icon used 2 target the 20 Obamacare-lovin' incumbent seats? We won 18 out of 20 (90% success rate;T'aint bad)

Posted by: metaq | January 9, 2011 2:06 PM | Report abuse

It wasn't the instructors fault! Re-read the article!

Posted by: Swoozeeinc | January 9, 2011 1:54 PM | Report abuse

The previous commenter is absolutely correct. Every time this happens,whether its a congressman in Arizona, a college classroom in Virginia, or wherever, everyone always says the same thing. "He was a troubled person. The warning signs were all there." But no one does anything. Schools who have kids who are manifesting symptoms of serious psychiatric illness seem much more willing to try to get them expelled than to try to get them help. Advocates for the mentally ill, while well intentioned, continually hamstring the state when it comes to whether or not they can take any action at all, and the states themselves are happy with that because it means they can continue to dismantle the mental health infrastructure. The end result? Blood in the streets.

As for those trying to make this guy a right wing anti-semitic fascist or a left wing drug addled atheistic communist, you're just trying to insert your political agendas into the demented ramblings of a troubled young man.

We need to stop wasting time blaming the right or the left for having inspired this violence, and we need to start putting real money and effort into helping people before illness drives them to this sort of action.

Posted by: David_Pirtle | January 9, 2011 1:54 PM | Report abuse

The previous commenter is absolutely correct. Every time this happens,whether its a congressman in Arizona, a college classroom in Virginia, or wherever, everyone always says the same thing. "He was a troubled person. The warning signs were all there." But no one does anything. Schools who have kids who are manifesting symptoms of serious psychiatric illness seem much more willing to try to get them expelled than to try to get them help. Advocates for the mentally ill, while well intentioned, continually hamstring the state when it comes to whether or not they can take any action at all, and the states themselves are happy with that because it means they can continue to dismantle the mental health infrastructure. The end result? Blood in the streets.

As for those trying to make this guy a right wing anti-semitic fascist or a left wing drug addled atheistic communist, you're just trying to insert your political agendas into the demented ramblings of a troubled young man.

We need to stop wasting time blaming the right or the left for having inspired this violence, and we need to start putting real money and effort into helping people before illness drives them to this sort of action.

Posted by: David_Pirtle | January 9, 2011 1:53 PM | Report abuse

I was in the class and he wrote magnum fest
on the quiz--he would just sit and laugh for no
Apparent reason-made us all very uncomfortable

Posted by: Swoozeeinc | January 9, 2011 1:50 PM | Report abuse

It's not Sarah Palin's fault, but Palin is part of a larger effort to intimidate and bully people with opposing points of view. Her PAC placed crosshairs over Giffords' and other Democrats' district in a visualization on their site.

The Pima County sheriff himself said the dehumanization of opponents on talk radio and in other outlets led to this. I don't know if I agree, but it definitely doesn't help.

Posted by: drewmb | January 9, 2011 1:45 PM | Report abuse

We live in a country where a deranged person can buy a gun... Repeat that ten times and then ask yourself if you really support the NRA.

Posted by: rugspotter | January 9, 2011 1:43 PM | Report abuse

I think it's sad that people always comment on things a person was doing after the fact. If this behavior was so troubling the instructor should have taken action not waited till after the fact.

Posted by: jkd3011 | January 9, 2011 1:37 PM | Report abuse

how is this Sarah Palin fault?

Posted by: illegalpointofview | January 9, 2011 1:30 PM | Report abuse

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