Loughner, at 17, was treated for behavioral-health issue

2011-04-23T00:00:00Z Loughner, at 17, was treated for behavioral-health issueFernanda Echavarri and Tim Steller Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The first evidence emerged this week that Jan. 8 shooter Jared Lee Loughner received behavioral-health treatment in the years before the killings.

His treatment stemmed from an incident on May 12, 2006, when Loughner, then 17, showed up at Mountain View High School "extremely intoxicated," according to police records, and was taken to Northwest Medical Center.

After that, recent court filings reveal, Loughner also was seen by staff of Sonora Behavioral Health Hospital, 6050 North Corona Road. Sonora is a Tucson hospital that specializes in treating people for substance-abuse and psychiatric problems. It's the only hospital in Tucson with acute-level psychiatric beds for children and adolescents.

After the high-school incident, Loughner was counseled by a Dr. Brittain, prosecutors' filings show, an apparent reference to now-retired Tucson psychologist Thomas Brittain. However, no records have emerged that Loughner was evaluated or treated for mental-health problems in the years after that, as he displayed increasing signs of paranoia and psychosis, or mental breaks from reality, in online postings and in social interactions.

Pima Community College officials told Loughner and his parents in October that he could not return to the school until he received a mental-health evaluation clearing him to be a student there.

Many mental-health experts said after the shootings that based on Loughner's behavior in recent years, he should have been receiving mental-health treatment.

"The Loughner case is an absolutely classic case," said Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, a psychiatrist who founded the Treatment Advocacy Center in Arlington, Va. "Violence committed by people with serious mental illness is almost exclusively with people who are not being treated."

Symptoms of schizophrenia and related disorders tend to appear between ages 16 and 24.

In early March, U.S. District Judge Larry Burns ordered Loughner to undergo a mental evaluation by court-appointed examiners in Springfield, Mo.

Prosecutors argued in their Thursday filing that Sonora hospital has medical files on Loughner that may be different from Sonora documents contained in records already released by Northwest Medical Center in its response to a subpoena.

Representatives of the mental-health hospital said they are "holding records responsive to the grand jury subpoena, but would require a court order to release them to government counsel," according a court filing by prosecutors.

Loughner, 22, has been at a federal prison in Springfield Mo., since March 23. Doctors there are evaluating him to determine if he understands the charges he faces.

The role Sonora hospital took at the time of Loughner's emergency-room visit is unclear, and it is unknown if Sonora staff treated Loughner after that time.

Loughner's defense team has argued that his medical records should not be given to the prosecution. They ask that those records be used only to determine his competency to stand trial, not against him in court.

Drs. Christina Pietz and Matthew Carroll were appointed by the court to evaluate Loughner, and have said any previous medical or mental records would be "very important to the competency evaluation."

Pietz's interviews with Loughner were likely finished Friday, but in many cases additional records are examined after the evaluation is complete, the documents said.

Federal prosecutors asked Burns Thursday to release all medical records from Northwest and Sonora directly to the doctors evaluating Loughner and notify both parties when that happens.

Loughner has pleaded not guilty to charges relating to the Jan. 8 shootings that killed six and wounded 13, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Reporter Stephanie Innes contributed to this report. Contact reporter Fernanda Echavarri at 573-4224 or at fechavarri@azstarnet.com Contact reporter Tim Steller at 807-8427 or at tsteller@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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