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TUCSON, Ariz., Jan 8 (Reuters) - The suspect in Saturday’s shooting rampage in which a U.S. congresswoman was critically wounded was unstable and had been known to make death threats in the past, the local sheriff said.
The FBI is investigating whether the man is the same person who posted a rambling Internet manifesto accusing the government of mind control and demanding a new currency.
Jared Lee Loughner, 22, of Tucson, was taken into custody moments after the shooting at a political meeting held by Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords in a supermarket parking lot. Six people died and Giffords had a critical head wound. [ID:nN08246649]
Sheriff Clarence Dupnik of Pima County, where the shooting happened, told reporters the suspect had a troubled past. “All I can tell you is that this person may have a mental issue,” Dupnik said.
Dupnik said there had been earlier contact between Loughner and law enforcement after he had made death threats, although they had not been against Giffords. He said the authorities believe he may not have been working alone.
In a series of YouTube videos, a person identifying himself as Jared Lee Loughner complains about government mind control, treasonous laws, illiterate dreamers and the U.S. currency.
“The government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar,” the person wrote in one of the videos, which contain music and white text on a black background.
“No! I won’t pay debt with a currency that’s not backed by gold and silver. No, I won’t trust in God.”
The postings describe no coherent political ideology, said Mark Potok, an investigator with the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks violent extremists. Loughner was not in the Center’s database of hate groups and radicals.
“He certainly sounds like he’s gone off the deep end, but at the same time, he is mouthing some rhetoric that is quite reminiscent of the anti-government movement ... It’s hard to know what to make of his ideology.”
A federal law enforcement official said the FBI was trying to establish whether the shooting suspect was the same person who posted the videos.
In a biographical sketch on the site, Loughner writes that he attended Tucson-area schools and says his favorite books include Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”, Karl Marx’s “Communist Manifesto”, and Ken Kesey’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” set in an insane asylum.
“My favorite activity is conscience dreaming: the greatest inspiration in my political business information,” the writer of the post says.
“He has kind of a troubled past and we’re not convinced that he acted alone,” Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said in a press conference in reference to the suspect.
Roger Whithed, 52, a construction worker who lives two doors down from Loughner, said of the suspect: “He was a kind of on-the-edge of society type guy, blue jeans, baseball cap, one of those guys who hasn’t really figured it out. A little rebellious looking, didn’t look like he was working really or doing anything productive,” he said.
Grant Wiens, 22, was a year ahead of Loughner at Mountain View High School in Tucson, and was recently in a biology class with him at a local community college. He remembers Loughner smoked heavily and occasionally smoked marijuana.
“You never expect this to happen, regardless of how well you know someone. I think I would have said he would have been more likely to do it than some people, just a gut instinct,” he said.
“There was something about his personality, but nothing I can put my finger on. ... He was smart, opinionated, but maybe a little troubled.”
Wiens said he never mentioned Giffords, guns or politics. “He was opinionated, though he got along with people, he never seemed to care what people thought.” (Reporting by Andy Sullivan, Roberta Rampton and Jim Vicini; Editing by Paul Simao and David Storey)