Update: It’s hard to keep track of the unfolding story of Congresswoman Giffords and her accused shooter, Jared Lee Loughner. There is just so much being thrown out there. So much good work. So much spec. Perhaps the biggest scoop on the Loughner front today goes to Mother Jones’s Nick Baumann, who nabbed an “exclusive” interview with Loughner’s close friend since middle school, Bryce Tierney. The lede, as many have been in this unfolding story, is chilling.

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.”
Tierney’s revelations are pretty fascinating. Adding to a confusing pile of background info on where Loughner might stand politically, ideologically, and even mentally, Tierney says that the twenty-two-year-old believed in “lucid dreaming,” the idea he could control his dreams, that he had recently given up pot and made strides towards a healthier lifestyle, and then speculates that his friend wanted to “promote chaos,” and that he “wanted the media to freak out about this whole thing.”

On Congresswoman Giffords, Mother Jones reports:

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.” But Loughner did, according to Tierney, believe that government is “fucking us over.” He never heard Loughner vent about about the perils of “currency,” as Loughner did on one YouTube video he created.

Of all the “friend/classmate says” reports we’re seeing, this is perhaps the most illuminating to date. Tierney seems to have known Loughner long enough and intimately enough to offer genuine insights.

And yet those insights still don’t offer anything close to a clear picture of who Loughner is or what he believes politically. If anything, the piece adds to the confusion and seems to confirm, at least for now, that his beliefs were far outside the mainstream and near impossible to place on any simplistic political spectrum. Which may well be the case when all is settled. What is clear in this piece is that, as many earlier reports have noted, Loughner is probably deeply mentally disturbed.

It’s important to note too that while Tierney seems a trustworthy source and his views as a close friend are valuable, he can only represent part of the story. There may be aspects to Loughner politically which he never revealed to Tierney—he may have been a Tea Party member, he may have bee a communist—and Tierney’s claims are difficult to verify. The bottom line: we’re still waiting for more. All for now seems a kind of speculation.

*Correction: Post initially incorrectly identified Balz a working for The Washington Times.


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Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor.