Tierney believes that Loughner was very interested in pushing people's buttons—and that may have been why he listed Hitler's Mein Kampf as one of his favorite books on his YouTube page. (Loughner's mom is Jewish, according to Tierney.**) Loughner sometimes approached strangers and would say "weird" things, Tierney recalls. "He would do it because he thought people were below him and he knew they wouldn't know what he was talking about."
In college, Loughner became increasingly intrigued with "lucid dreaming," and he grew convinced that he could control his dreams, according to Tierney. In a series of rambling videos posted to his YouTube page, dreams are a frequent topic. In a video posted on December 15, Loughner writes, "My favorite activity is conscience dreaming: the greatest inspiration for my political business information. Some of you don't dream—sadly." In another video, he writes, "The population of dreamers in the United States of America is less than 5%!" Later in the same video he says, "I'm a sleepwalker—who turns off the alarm clock."
"When you realize you're dreaming, you can do anything, you can create anything."
Loughner believed that dreams could be a sort of alternative, Matrix-style reality, and "that when you realize you're dreaming, you can do anything, you can create anything," Tierney says. Loughner started his "dream journal" in an attempt to take more control of his dreams, his friend notes, and he kept this journal for over a year.
In October 2008, Tierney was living in Phoenix, and Loughner came to visit. They went to see a Mars Volta concert with friends, and Tierney was surprised when Loughner said he had quit partying "completely." Loughner, according to Tierney, said, "I'm going to lead a more healthy lifestyle, not smoke cigarettes or pot anymore, and I'm going to start working out." Tierney was happy for his friend: "I said, 'Dude, that's awesome.' And the next time I saw him he was 10 pounds lighter." Tierney never saw Loughner smoke marijuana again, and he was surprised at media reports that Loughner had been rejected from the military in 2009 for failing a drug test: "He was clean, clean. I saw him after that continuously. He would not do it."
After Loughner apparently gave up drugs and booze, "his theories got worse," Tierney says. "After he quit, he was just off the wall." And Loughner started to drift away from his group of friends about a year ago. By early 2010, dreaming had become Loughner's "waking life, his reality," Tierney says. "He sort of drifted off, didn't really care about hanging out with friends. He'd be sleeping a lot." Loughner's alternate reality was attractive, Tierney says. "He figured out he could fly." Loughner, according to Tierney, told his friends, "I'm so into it because I can create things and fly. I'm everything I'm not in this world."
"He figured out he could fly."
But in this world, Loughner seemed ticked off by what he believed to be a pervasive authoritarianism. "The government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar," he wrote in one YouTube video. In another, Loughner complains that when he tried to join the military, he was handed a "mini-Bible." That upset him: "I didn't write a belief on my Army application and the recruiter wrote on the application: None," he wrote on YouTube. In messages on MySpace last month, Loughner declared, "I'll see you on National T.v.! This is foreshadow." He also noted on the website, "I don't feel good: I'm ready to kill a police officer! I can say it."
One of the last times Loughner and Tierney saw each other, a mutual friend had recently purchased a .22-caliber rifle. Until then, Loughner had never shown much interest in guns, Tierney says. "My friend had just gotten a .22, and Jared kept saying we should go shooting together." But Tierney and the friend who had bought the .22 demurred. "We were sketched out," Tierney says, "and we were like, 'I don't think Jared's a good person to go shooting with.'" That was in February or March 2010. After that, Tierney didn't hear much from Loughner.
Since hearing of the rampage, Tierney has been trying to figure out why Loughner did what he allegedly did. "More chaos, maybe," he says. "I think the reason he did it was mainly to just promote chaos. He wanted the media to freak out about this whole thing. He wanted exactly what's happening. He wants all of that." Tierney thinks that Loughner's mindset was like the Joker in the most recent Batman movie: "He fucks things up to fuck shit up, there's no rhyme or reason, he wants to watch the world burn. He probably wanted to take everyone out of their monotonous lives: 'Another Saturday, going to go get groceries'—to take people out of these norms that he thought society had trapped us in."
Tierney dwells on the phone call he missed early Saturday morning. But it was late, and the TV show Tierney was watching was creeping him out. So he didn't pick up. "I sort of wish I would have," he says. "I wonder what would have happened if I answered it."
*This sentence has been corrected to reflect that August 30, 2007 was the date of the letter, not the date of the event itself. The event was on August 25.
**Tierney says Loughner's mom is Jewish. But a columnist who researched the subject doesn't think that holds up. Tierney also said that Loughner himself was definitely not religious.
MoJo's full coverage of the shooting and its aftermath is here.
Nick Baumann covers national politics and civil liberties issues for
Mother Jones' DC Bureau. For more of his stories, click here. You can also follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Email tips and insights to nbaumann [at] motherjones [dot] com. RSS | Twitter