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Shooting suspect's campus troubles led to suspension

Jared Lee Loughner was involved in five "classroom and library disruptions" that campus police responded to, school officials say. A YouTube video also raised concerns.

January 09, 2011|By Ashley Powers, Maeve Reston and Rick Rojas, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Tucson and Los Angeles — The 22-year-old man suspected in the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and at least 17 others outside a Tucson grocery store was suspended from a local community college last October for code of conduct violations and ultimately withdrew from the school voluntarily.

Jared Lee Loughner attended Pima Community College between 2005 and 2010. From February to September of last year, he was involved in five "classroom and library disruptions" that were handled by campus police, the school's officials said late Saturday.

He was suspended in late September after the college police found a video on YouTube in which Loughner claimed the college is "illegal" under the U.S. Constitution, officials said.

School officials said police officers delivered a letter explaining the decision to his home, where they spoke with Loughner and his parents. He was told he could return to campus only for an appointment to discuss the disciplinary actions against him in early October. During that meeting with campus officials, Loughner withdrew from the school.

Officials said they sent a subsequent letter telling Loughner that if he planned to re-enroll "he must resolve his Code of Conduct violations and obtain a mental health clearance indicating, in the opinion of a mental health professional, his presence at the College does not present a danger to himself or others."

On Nov. 30, a YouTube user who appears to be Loughner posted a video that railed against Pima Community College, calls the school "unconstitutional," a "torture facility," and refers to teachers as "con artists." At one point, he castigates police for removing students from educational facilities for talking.

"Removing you from the educational facility for talking is unconstitutional in the United States," the text says. "This situation is fraud because the police are unconstitutional!"

"Every Pima Community College class is always a scam!" he says. "Most people know all the subjects are for mind control and brainwash! The students are unconstitutionally paying for free education! The students are attending a torture facility! You know the teachers are con artists?"

Loughner attended Mountain View High School in Tucson through his junior year, but Marana Unified School District Spokeswoman Tamara Crawley said he did not return for his senior year in 2007 and never graduated. Crawley said the district could not discuss whether Loughner had any disciplinary problems during his years at the school.

Earlier Saturday night, residents attempted to grasp the events of the day, with several dozen holding a vigil outside Giffords' office.

"It hurts all of us. They terrorized the one out to do good," Daisy Theriac, 36, said of Giffords. "If you can't be safe to meet your congresswoman or going to the store, how can you feel safe about anything?"

With six dead and at least 12 injured in the shooting, Tucson is grappling with a tragedy that struck close to home at a time when the state has been consumed with rancorous politics.

Particularly in upscale Northwest Tucson, where the shootings took place, locals spoke of a shattered sense of security.

"Every time I think about it, I get overcome with emotion. Everyone who lives around here has a lot of shock and remorse for what happened," said J.T. Drisko, 21, a student at Pima Community College who lives within walking distance of the scene.

He got as close as he could get. He and his girlfriend carried a dozen white roses and seven white candles — one for each of the dead and one for Giffords. "No one could have ever imagined this happening," he said.

Although Giffords, 40, a moderate Democrat, has been cast as a rising star in national politics, in Tucson she is still thought of as a native daughter rooted in the community. Many have offered anecdotes about her promptly mailed thank-you notes and her stunning recall of constituents' first names.

"Gabrielle is just such a nice woman," said Colin Dyer, 26, a field manager for her reelection campaign. "That was the accessibility about her that people really identified with.

"At the same time," he added, "we live in a culture where vehement anger is voiced every day."

In recent months, the discourse deteriorated from contentious to bordering on violent, yet she remained active. Fletcher McCusker, a lifelong Tucson resident, respected her for that. "She's had death threats, she's had windows broken out, but she never really changed her behavior," he said.

U.S. District Judge John Roll, 63, who was appointed by President George H.W. Bush, was among the dead, as was one of Giffords' staff members. The Arizona Daily Star in Tucson reported the aide was Gabe Zimmerman, Giffords' 30-year-old director of community outreach.

The Pima County Sheriff's Department said those who died at the scene also included Dorwin Stoddard, 76; Dorothy Murray, 76; and Phyllis Scheck, 79.

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