TUCSON, Arizona (USA TODAY) - The Pima County Sheriff's Office released an estimated 2,700 pages of investigative records Wednesday from a shooting rampage here two years ago - documents that are expected to shed new light on a massacre that left six dead and 14 wounded.
Jared Loughner, now 24, pleaded guilty last year to the Jan. 8, 2011, outburst that critically wounded then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and killed U.S. District Judge John Roll. Loughner is serving multiple life prison sentences.
BLOG: Initial information from the documents
STORY: Giffords returns to shooting site
Sheriff's officials, who investigated jointly with the FBI, withheld the crime reports under a federal court order for two years. U.S. District Judge Larry Burns had decided while the murder case was pending that publication of investigative materials might jeopardize the defendant's right to a fair trial.
Burns recently lifted his seal at the behest of The Arizona Republic; KPNX-TV, Phoenix; and other media. This release closes a two-year legal battle.
Since the deadly spree in the northern Tucson suburb of Casa Adobes, law-enforcement agents, medical experts, the media and public have dissected and psychoanalyzed Loughner's life in an effort to understand why a troubled young man went ballistic.
Records and courtroom testimony confirmed that the high school dropout had descended into mental illness before plotting an assassination attempt against Giffords, who had convened a meet-and-greet session with constituents outside a supermarket on the morning of the crime.
Among early findings from the documents:
• Loughner was polite and cooperative with authorities who were holding him the afternoon following his morning shooting rampage. The conversation as Loughner sat in restraints in an interview room was mainly small talk.
• Loughner's mother, Amy, told investigators that she and her husband, Randy, took a 12-gauge shotgun away from their son after he was kicked out of Pima Community College and tested him for drugs because his behavior was so strange. The shotgun, which he had owned since 2008, was the only firearm that his parents knew their son owned.
• Randy Loughner said it was a challenge to have a rational conversation with his son before the shooting. "I tried to talk to him. But you can't, he wouldn't let you," he said "Lost, lost, and just didn't want to communicate with me no more."
• Giffords intern Daniel Hernandez helped tend to his boss after she was shot in the head. In an interview, he described the chaos: "She couldn't open her eyes. I tried to get any responses for her. Um, it looked like her left side was the only side that was still mobile. Um, she couldn't speak. It was mumbled. She was squeezing my hand."
• Zachary Osler was an employee at a store where Jared Loughner later bought a Glock before the shooting, he also had been Jared Loughner's friend. He was questioned about seeing Loughner shopping inside, sometime before Thanksgiving, and describes an awkward encounter with his former friend. "His response is nothing. Just a mute facial expression. And just like he, he didn't care." Osler told investigators he had grown uncomfortable with Loughner's personality.
• After the shooting, police found two fully loaded magazines for a Glock in the gunman's left front pocket. In his other front pocket was a foldable knife with a 4-inch blade.
• Shooting victim Bill Badger described being shot. "When I looked, he was just shooting at the people. And, and everybody started to duck. And just as I ducked, I felt the bullet hit the back of my head. It just burned the back of my head. And, the next thing I knew he was coming right in front of me."
Leading up to the slaying, Jared Loughner had became increasingly paranoid about government, developed a hostile obsession with the congresswoman and got kicked out of community college because of strange and threatening behavior. Yet there is no evidence that he was treated, or even diagnosed, by a psychiatric professional.
Randy and Amy Loughner, the young man's intensely private parents, never have spoken publicly about the crime, and they did not respond to an inquiry this week.
The sheriff's report could provide a first public glimpse at what was going on in Loughner's family before the bloodshed. Also unanswered: questions about his behavior leading up to the shootings and the contents of his computer.
After he shot Giffords in the head at point-blank range, Jared Loughner turned his 9 mm pistol on bystanders and continued firing 31 more times until his magazine was empty. Horrified victims of the attack dragged him to the ground and held him until police arrived. The dead included a 9-year-old girl, Christina-Taylor Green.
Jared Loughner had a record of drug and alchol abuse but no violence. His only citations were for misdemeanors - possession of drug paraphernalia in 2007 and for spraying graffiti on a street sign in 2008. Army recruiters rejected him. He had a failed work history that included jobs at a fast-food restaurant and as a dog walker.
By 2010, Jared Loughner had become alienated from friends, an Internet loner posting messages of hate and suicide.
He was suspended from Pima Community College after five contacts with campus police because of classroom disruptions and after he posted a bizarre video on YouTube in which he ranted about the "genocide school." By then, he favored satanic music and had begun espousing conspiracy theories about the 9/11 attack and government control of grammar.
He also wrote about the ability to manipulate dreams, a favorite past-time.
Jared Loughner was charged with 49 felony counts, and no one ever questioned his responsibility for the shooting spree. But the federal prosecution was clouded by a diagnosis of schizophrenia with delusions so severe that he interrupted court proceedings and was found incompetent to stand trial.
After being placed on medications, sometimes involuntarily, Loughner recovered his mental health sufficiently to proceed. A trial was averted, along with the possibility of a death penalty, when he signed a plea agreement admitting guilt.
Jared Loughner was sentenced in November to seven consecutive life prison terms, plus 140 years, without possibility of parole.
The deadly incident was among several in recent U.S. history that spurred debate over firearms regulation. Giffords, who was hospitalized for months, eventually resigned from her congressional seat because of the severe brain injury.
She has since formed a gun-control advocacy group with her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly.
Dennis Wagner also reports for The Arizona Republic.
Dennis Wagner, USA TODAY