Investigators probe Loughner's gun purchase, examine finances

Colleagues pay tribute to wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords during the president's State of the Union address as the Arizona lawmaker begins the next phase of her recovery at a rehab facility in Houston.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, January 12, 2011; 1:43 PM

TUCSON - Federal and local investigators are trying to determine how Jared Lee Loughner came up with the money to buy the weapon and ammunition he allegedly used to shoot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 18 other people at a Tucson constituent event Saturday, law enforcement sources said Wednesday.

The investigators believe that Loughner, 22, did not have sufficient income of his own to buy the Glock 19 semiautomatic handgun, the four magazines and the knife he allegedly carried to the event in front of a Tucson supermarket, the sources said. They estimated the cost at close to $1,000. Two of the magazines were extended ones capable of holding up to 33 rounds.

The FBI and Pima County Sheriff's Office investigators are examining the Loughner family's financial records, as well as Jared Loughner's telephone, Internet and e-mail records, as they try to ascertain where the money to buy the weapons came from, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk about an ongoing investigation.

When authorities searched the house of Loughner's parents on the day of the shootings, they also found a shotgun that Jared Loughner had bought the year before at the same gun store where he purchased the Glock.

Loughner's parents issued their first public comments Tuesday night, saying that they, too, cannot comprehend what motivated the shootings that left six people dead and 13 others wounded.

"There are no words that can possibly express how we feel. We wish that there were, so we could make you feel better. We don't understand why this happened," said their statement, signed "the Loughner family." The parents made no mention of their son.

Hours after the statement's release, two law enforcement sources said that FBI agents had found a 2007 letter from Giffords (D-Ariz.) to the shooting suspect, with the words "Die, bitch" and "Die, cops" scrawled on it.

The letter, which thanked Loughner for attending an event of hers, was found in a safe in his Tucson home, the sources said.

On Tuesday, this grief-stricken city began to turn its attention away from the shock and frenzy of the crime toward healing the wounded and burying the dead. President Obama plans to fly in Wednesday and deliver remarks at an evening memorial service, one of at least half a dozen such events planned over the next several days.

The president is expected to focus on the victims and what he has learned about them from family members over the past few days, White House officials said.

The president will also pay special tribute to Giffords, who doctors said Tuesday was showing signs of improvement.

"She has no right to look this good. We're hopeful," said G. Michael Lemole Jr., chief of neurosurgery at University Medical Center.

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