The man accused of murdering six people in Arizona during an attempted assassination attempt of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords descended in recent years from the apparent normal awkwardness many teenage boys suffer to something more inexplicable and bizarre.
Jared Lee Loughner played long sessions of video games Starcraft and Earth Empires in his youth. He worked crappy restaurant jobs, switched from obsessions over rap to heavy metal and loved reading Philip K. Dick.
The 22-year-old's middle school years were a mix of changing interests and unspectacular interactions that a less popular kid might suffer at the hands of classmates — a Kick Me sign on his back; A "Harry Potter" nickname lobbed at him by the basketball team — according to a lengthy story in the Washington Post about Loughner's life.
The man who is accused of perpetrating one of the most vile shootings in recent American history has a past that provides no easy answers to why he supposedly did and offers only hints at what could turn a life in such an unhappy and destructive direction.
The Post's reporting does not identify a first domino that tumbled Loughner into the horrible actions of January 8, when six people were killed and 14 wounded outside a supermarket, including Congresswoman Giffords who was shot in the head at point-blank range.
The story instead portrays the life of a young man that appeared to have some troubled roots but nevertheless no obvious path that would lead to the strange behavior Loughner began to exhibit in recent years.
The Post reports that Loughner's grandfather was arrested six days after the birth of Loughner's father for a string of grocery store robberies. It recounts the tense relations Loughner's father had with neighbors and quotes the cousin of Loughner's mother saying, "there's a history in the family of what they used to call manic depression."
Earlier reports about Loughner have pointed to his odd writings and videos on gaming message boards and on YouTube. In those messages Loughner appeared to be fixated on grammar and the gold standard. The Post reports an incident in Loughner's junior year when he showed up to school drunk on a third of a bottle of vodka, following an argument with his parents.
Loughner's behavior was much stranger and more troubling by the time he was enrolled in Pima Community College. There, he clashed with his math teacher, calling the class a "scam" and asking his teacher, "How can you deny math and not accept math?"
One student feared so much for her safety that she regularly sat near the door of the classroom, according to the class' professor, Ben McGahee.
Things became ever odder in that class, according to the Post:
That Friday, on his first quiz, Loughner doodled in the margins, drew cartoon figures, and wrote nonsensical equations such as "Eat + Sleep + Brush Teeth = Math" and the words "MAYHEM FEST."
Classmates asked that Loughner be given psychological tests, according to the Post. A school counselor reportedly said they couldn't do anything because Loughner hadn't done anything threatening. Eventually, though Loughner was suspended.
There is no indication that Loughner ever sought help for possible mental illness. Nor are there signs that any of his friends — who he eventually offered money to hang out with him —or family were ever able to get through to him and relate to him as his oldest friends had once known him to be: a normal guy.
His life became sadder, his attitudes more bizarre until, allegedly, he decided to commit the massacre in Tucson.
Loughner's descent into a world of fantasy [Washington Post]
PIC: A member of the 'Angel Project' stands along the street leading to the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton church for the funeral of nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green on January 13, 2011 in Tucson, Arizona. Green was shot and killed during the January 8, shooting rampage of Jared Lee Loughner during a political event in Tucson. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)