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Exclusive: Loughner Friend Explains Alleged Gunman's Grudge Against Giffords

In a MoJo interview, the friend shares a message sent hours before the massacre.

| Mon Jan. 10, 2011 4:01 AM EST

At 2:00 a.m. on Saturday—about eight hours before he allegedly killed six people and wounded 14, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), in Tucson—Jared Lee Loughner phoned an old and close friend with whom he had gone to high school and college. The friend, Bryce Tierney, was up late watching TV, but he didn't answer the call. When he later checked his voice mail, he heard a simple message from Loughner: "Hey man, it's Jared. Me and you had good times. Peace out. Later."

That was it. But later in the day, when Tierney first heard about the Tucson massacre, he had a sickening feeling: "They hadn't released the name, but I said, 'Holy shit, I think it's Jared that did it.'" Tierney tells Mother Jones in an exclusive interview that Loughner held a years-long grudge against Giffords and had repeatedly derided her as a "fake." Loughner's animus toward Giffords intensified after he attended one of her campaign events and she did not, in his view, sufficiently answer a question he had posed, Tierney says. He also describes Loughner as being obsessed with "lucid dreaming"—that is, the idea that conscious dreams are an alternative reality that a person can inhabit and control—and says Loughner became "more interested in this world than our reality." Tierney adds, "I saw his dream journal once. That's the golden piece of evidence. You want to know what goes on in Jared Loughner's mind, there's a dream journal that will tell you everything."

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On Sunday, federal prosecutors charged 22-year-old Loughner with one count of attempting to assassinate a member of Congress, two counts of unlawfully killing a federal employee, and two counts of attempting to kill a federal employee. Giffords was the target of Loughner's rampage, prosecutors say, and the sworn affidavit accompanying the charges mentions that Loughner attended a Giffords "Congress in Your Corner" event in 2007. The affidavit also mentions that police searching a safe in Loughner's home found a letter from Giffords' office thanking the alleged shooter for attending an August 25, 2007 event.*

Tierney, who's also 22, recalls Loughner complaining about a Giffords event he attended during that period. He's unsure whether it was the same one mentioned in the charges—Loughner "might have gone to some other rallies," he says—but Tierney notes it was a significant moment for Loughner: "He told me that she opened up the floor for questions and he asked a question. The question was, 'What is government if words have no meaning?'"

"He said, 'Can you believe it, they wouldn't answer my question.' Ever since that, he thought she was fake, he had something against her."

Giffords' answer, whatever it was, didn't satisfy Loughner. "He said, 'Can you believe it, they wouldn't answer my question,' and I told him, 'Dude, no one's going to answer that,'" Tierney recalls. "Ever since that, he thought she was fake, he had something against her."

Tierney says he has "no clue" why Loughner might have "shot all those other people." But, he notes, "when I heard Gabrielle Giffords has been shot, I was like 'Oh my God...' For some reason I felt like I knew...I felt like if anyone was going to shoot her, it would be Jared." 

Loughner would occasionally mention Giffords, according to Tierney: "It wasn't a day-in, day-out thing, but maybe once in a while, if Giffords did something that was ridiculous or passed some stupid law or did something stupid, he related that to people. But the thing I remember most is just that question. I don't remember him stalking her or anything." Tierney notes that Loughner did not display any specific political or ideological bent: "It wasn't like he was in a certain party or went to rallies...It's not like he'd go on political rants." TK: TKJared Lee Loughner's mug shot.  (Pima County Sheriff's Office)But Loughner did, according to Tierney, believe that government is "fucking us over." He never heard Loughner vent about the perils of "currency," as Loughner did on one YouTube video he created.

Tierney, who first met Loughner in middle school, recalls that Loughner started to act strange around his junior or senior year of high school. Before that, Loughner was just a "normal kid," says Tierney. When the two friends started hanging out in sophomore year of high school, "there was nothing really dark about Jared," Tierney says. "He was playing drums, doing band things, playing sax. He was raised on writing and reading music." Loughner also did a lot of creative writing in his high school days, Tierney says, and he used to carry around a copy of a short story he wrote involving a character named Angel; he'd ask people if they would like to read it. "It had a lot of hidden metaphors in it," Tierney says.

As Loughner and Tierney grew closer, Tierney got used to spending the first ten minutes or so of every day together arguing with Loughner's "nihilist" view of the world. "By the time he was 19 or 20, he was really fascinated with semantics and how the world is really nothing—illusion," Tierney says.

Loughner would tell Tierney and his friends that life "means nothing."

Once, Tierney recalls, Loughner told him, "I'm pretty sure I've come to the conclusion that words mean nothing." Loughner would also tell Tierney and his friends that life "means nothing," and they'd reply, "If it means nothing, what you're saying means nothing." Other times, Tierney says, Loughner acted like any teen: "We'd go to concerts, play music, get into trouble."  

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