The Arizona shootings

Accounts depict suspect as a man on the path to unraveling; U.S. charges plot to assassinate Giffords

Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, January 10, 2011

TUCSON - e-mail From june 14

"We have a mentally unstable person in the class . . . He is one of those whose picture you see on the news, after he has come into class with an automatic weapon.

Everyone interviewed would say, Yeah, he was in my math class and he was really weird. I sit by the door with my purse handy. If you see it on the news one night, know that I got out fast."

- A classmate of Loughner's

Federal authorities filed murder charges Sunday against 22-year-old Jared Loughner, as new evidence suggested the alleged gunman in Saturday's rampage had fixated on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) while his mental health deteriorated.

Loughner appeared to have planned the shooting, according to court documents. In a safe at his parents' home, investigators found an envelope with the words "I planned ahead" and "my assassination" written on it, along with the name "Giffords.'' Loughner's signature is also believed to be on the envelope, the complaint says.

In the same safe, authorities found a 2007 letter to Loughner from Giffords, using congressional stationery to thank him for attending a "Congress on Your Corner" event in Tucson. Saturday's shooting took place at another such event, where Giffords was meeting constituents outside a supermarket.

Loughner allegedly shot Giffords in the head during the event - then fired his handgun repeatedly into the crowd around her. In all, 20 people were struck by bullets. Six of them died, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl.

Giffords remains sedated and in critical condition, doctors said. After surgery on the wound - in which a single bullet traversed the left side of her skull - they said Giffords was able to follow simple commands, like holding up two fingers when asked.

"This is about as good as good can get" with a bullet injury to the brain, trauma physician Peter Rhee said.

Loughner will be arraigned Monday in federal court in Phoenix. He has been charged with two counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder.

Authorities said Sunday that he appeared to have acted alone, without ties to anti-government or hate groups. A second "person of interest" seen with him near the shooting scene turned out to be the cabdriver who had dropped him off. Authorities said the man had no connection to the shootings.

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