Jared Lee Loughner apparently sought community online at Abovetopsecret.com
Tuesday, January 11, 2011; 12:56 PM
The Web site Abovetopsecret.com is a place where odd ideas are welcome: Its discussion threads ask questions about UFO sightings, evidence of God, and "How do you kill an alien zombie?"
But it became an unwelcome place for a new user, who joined the site in early 2009 and called himself "Erad3." Now - based on the language in his postings, and information about where he logged on - the site's operators believe Erad3 was accused Arizona shooter Jared Lee Loughner, 22.
"I'd go with 99 percent," said Bill Irvine, chief executive of the site's parent company, when asked how certain he was that Erad3 and Loughner were the same person.
In real life, friends say, Loughner had pushed away friends and alienated classmates with his odd behavior. After that, it appears, he sought a community online. But, in a gathering place for skeptics and conspiracy theorists, his views still brought ridicule - and even a plea for him to seek help.
"I think youre frankly schizophrenic, and no that's not an amateur opinion and not intended as an uninformed or insulting remark, you clearly make no sense and are unable to communicate. I really do care," a user with the nickname "mordant1" wrote July 11. "Seek help before you hurt yourself or others or start taking your medications again, please."
Erad3 responded to that with a stream of bizarre arguments, touching on ideas familiar from Loughner's YouTube videos. He wrote often about grammar, and inventing one's own currency. But he ended, "Thank you for the concern."
"It seemed like he was hoping he might fit in on a site like ours. But, as you can tell, he really didn't," Irvine said in a telephone interview Tuesday from the site's Scottsdale, Ariz., headquarters. "He seemed just . . . way, way out there, from some of his ideas."
Among Erad3's ideas: The space shuttles and the International Space Station were flying empty, without humans aboard. NASA's Mars rovers were faked. Individuals could make their own currency.
"just thought id pop in to let you know that to me you sound absolutely bonkers," one poster wrote in response.
"The name calling is about to cease!" Erad3 wrote back. He persisted in his belief that the shuttle was fake: "The entering into orbit might be able to kill a human."
None of the posts mention U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was apparently the initial target of Saturday's rampage. Giffords was shot in the head and seriously wounded. Six people died in the attack, and 13 others were wounded.
In none of his posts, Irvine said, did Erad3 seem to threaten violence.
By the time of the attack, Erad3 had not posted anything in several months. On Saturday, as news of the attack filtered out, other site users began to identify Erad3 as Loughner. This may have been based on the similarities between his posts on the site and YouTube videos attributed to Loughner.
That evening, someone posted on one of Erad3's old threads, about the idea that the Mars rovers were faked: "OP [original poster] is believed to be the shooter in today's assassination attempt."
A minute later, another poster calling himself Ben81 responded: "they faked the moon landing yes .. but the mars rover .. i dont think so."