PCC asked ATF for weapons info on Loughner, email release shows

2011-05-20T00:00:00Z 2011-05-20T09:48:16Z PCC asked ATF for weapons info on Loughner, email release showsBy Tim Steller Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 20, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Pima Community College police contacted the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on Sept. 29, 2010, to ask if the agency had any records related to Jared Lee Loughner.

The Oct. 1 response from a Tucson ATF agent was brief: "I did not come up with any gun info on this guy. Let me know if you need anything else."

On Nov. 30, Loughner bought a semiautomatic pistol at Sportsman's Warehouse in Marana. He is charged with using it Jan. 8 to kill six people and wound 13, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

The electronic exchange is contained in a new batch of 255 pages of emails that PCC had previously withheld but was ordered to release by Pima County Superior Court Judge Stephen Villarreal. The Arizona Republic sued PCC for withholding the documents, which the college argued was required by a federal student-privacy law.

Some of the emails are redacted, and many of the pages duplicate one another, but overall they portray a growing sense of mobilization and dread among college instructors, administrators and police as they moved to suspend Loughner and keep him off campus. That concern peaked in late September and early October after Loughner posted a disturbing online video of PCC, calling it his "genocide school."

On Feb. 4, 2010, writing instructor Steve Salmoni wrote administrators a disappointed email. After receiving previous student complaints about Loughner, Salmoni thought things had improved, but another student had written him that day to say Loughner appeared to have put a pocketknife on his desk during class.

"It was just a little alarming, especially since I have been observing the way he carries himself," the student wrote.

On June 4, 2010, academic dean Patricia Houston wrote to four administrators that she had received a recent report about Loughner's behavior in class and spoke with Pima police officers about him after attending "active shooter scenario training."

One officer, Houston wrote, "responded and told me that he would begin the process to take the student out of the class and expel him. I told him that we were not ready to do that because we need more investigation."

"I spoke to the instructor this morning to ask if there had actually been an overt and threatening behavior and he said no just bizarre behavior," Houston wrote.

Concerns about Loughner continued to simmer into late September but still had not boiled over. On Sept. 23, administrator Lorraine Morales wrote to Northwest Campus program manager Aubrey Conover about Loughner:

"All we can do with this student is to actually address the behavior and performance. What have you said to the student? Have you provided anything in writing to the student regarding the behavior? ... A written warning informing the student of expectations is required and then follow the process ... a behavior contract maybe, with parameters to understand the consequences."

As emails flew between PCC officials, the college's legal liaison, Lynne Wakefield, wrote to administrator Morales and said, "Sorry. I get worried about these folks."

But that was all before Sept. 29, when officers found out about the video, in which a narrator tours a Pima campus discussing the "torture" of students and proclaiming, "This is my genocide school."

"This is disconcerting. The student sounds very disturbed about the college and other students," Executive Vice Chancellor David Bea wrote to college Police Chief Stella Bay.

Officers circulated emails that day, trying to confirm it was Loughner who had made the video. That same night, four police officers went to Loughner's home and served him a letter of suspension.

Soon after, police officers and administrators put together a flier about Loughner for distribution within limited staff circles on campus. It had Loughner's photo on it and said: "Jared Lee Loughner is not permitted on any Pima Community College property. If you see him please contact Campus Police immediately."

Throughout the newly released emails, teachers, administrators and officers refer to Loughner as "disturbed." But they don't discuss in detail getting him psychological help.

"I could tell he had emotional problems but my mission is to help everyone," tai chi chuan instructor Barry Brownstein wrote on Sept. 26 2009. "And I never let the psychos run the clinic, ever."

On one afternoon in April 2010, Pima Community College police took a woman from the college's East Campus to UPH Hospital for psychiatric evaluation, according to an emailed report. That same afternoon on the Northwest Campus, officers were called to the library regarding Loughner, who was not responding to the library staff. The officers talked with Loughner and "cleared without incident," the report stated.

On May 12, an employee in the Disabled Student Resources office wrote to six other employees saying an instructor had called to ask if Loughner was a disabled student. He wasn't in their program.

And on the day Loughner was suspended, student services program manager Diane Deskin wrote a summary of police contacts and behavioral issues with Loughner. It also included "Notes for EAP clinical guidance," a reference to the college's Employee Assistance Program for behavioral-health problems.

"Pima DPS very concerned, immediate suspension, welfare check and refer to Behavior Assessment Committee to give advice on restrictions for return."

Within a week that committee had decided Loughner should not come back unless he got a mental-health evaluation showing he was not a danger to himself or others.

 

Contact reporter Tim Steller at 807-8427 or 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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