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Video: Loughner pulled over morning of shooting

NBC News and news services
updated 1/12/2011 5:51:23 PM ET 2011-01-12T22:51:23

Zane Gutierrez, who befriended the alleged Tucson shooter while they attended high school, said he was stunned by the news that his former buddy was the suspect in the bloody attack that left six people dead last weekend.

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"It was mortifying, it was horrifying. I ended up sitting in my car for about four hours by myself," he told NBC's TODAY show on Wednesday.

Something about Jared Loughner, identified as the gunman in last weekend’s shootings spree that killed six, including a 9-year-old girl and a federal judge, and gravely wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, began to change recently, Gutierrez said.

Video: Pal: Mug shot shows ‘monster,’ not Loughner

"At first Jared was a very receptive person, he was always interested in hearing a new concept, a new idea," Gutierrez said. That changed and lately he had become more aggressive. "He would start yelling, 'No! You're wrong! You're stupid!" Loughner’s friend said.

Story: Long road before Ariz. death penalty decision

Anger at Giffords
When Loughner, 22, first talked to Gutierrez about his first encounter with Giffords it seemed nothing was amiss. Giffords, 40, continued to recover at the University of Arizona Medical Center five days after being shot in the head.

"He only brought it up once and it never seemed like something that bothered him that much," Gutierrez told TODAY.

But looking back Gutierrez said he sees that the Congresswoman’s inability to answer what even friends thought was a confusing question had troubled the increasingly unbalanced young man.

"For some reason he felt that his representative … had failed him in some way, shape or form and it really let him down on a personal level," Gutierrez said.

Video: Giffords’ family ‘elated’ with her recovery (on this page)

In the end, Loughner was mentally unwell and did not receive proper treatment, Gutierrez said.

"Jared needed help and Jared didn't get help," he said. "The difference with the picture that's going around now with the shaved head, that's not Jared Loughner, that's not my friend, that's a monster."

Records also indicate that Pima County Sheriff's office had contact with the Loughner family 10 times from May 27, 1994 to March 16, 2020, The Arizona Republic reported.

'Blood libel'
Meantime, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has waded into the debate about whether heated political rhetoric was behind the shooting.

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The 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate on Wednesday condemned those who blame political rhetoric for the Arizona the attack in a nearly eight-minute video on her Facebook page .

Last spring, Palin targeted Giffords' district as one of 20 that should be taken back. Palin has been criticized for marking each district with the cross hairs of a gun sight. Video: Will Loughner plead insanity? (on this page)

As a tragedy unfolded, journalists and pundits should not manufacture what she called a "blood libel" that incites hatred and violence.

Palin said she had "listened at first puzzled, then with concern and now with sadness to the irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame for this terrible event."

The horror of the shooting has touched a national nerve, spurring calls for political rhetoric to be toned down and energizing debates about gun ownership. It has also made gun-friendly Arizona, and Tucson in particular, appear to be a battlefield.

Mysterious black bag, red light
Meanwhile on Wednesday, more information about Loughner’s last hours before the shooting in a Tucson mall began to emerge.

Story: Arizona shooting victims

Early that morning, a mumbling Loughner fled after his father asked him why he was removing a black bag from the trunk of a family car, said Rick Kastigar, chief of the department's investigations bureau. Investigators are still searching for the bag.

About 7:30 a.m., Loughner ran a red light and was stopped by a wildlife officer.

The officer took Loughner's driver's license and vehicle registration information. Dispatchers checked the information and found no outstanding warrants on Loughner or his vehicle. He was given a verbal warning and released.

Hours later, Loughner was taken into custody in the mass shooting at the Safeway supermarket.

Video: Green family showing 'enormous strength' (on this page)

The sheriff's deputies who swarmed the Loughners' house removed what they describe as evidence Jared Loughner was targeting Giffords. Among the handwritten notes was one with the words "Die, bitch," which authorities told The Associated Press they believe was a reference to Giffords.

Video: ‘Die B****’ note found in Loughner home (on this page)

Investigators with the Pima County Sheriff's Department previously said they found handwritten notes in Loughner's safe reading "I planned ahead," "My assassination" and "Giffords." Capt. Chris Nanos said all the writings were either in an envelope or on a form letter Giffords' office sent him in 2007 after he signed in at one of her "Congress on Your Corner" events — the same kind of gathering where the massacre occurred.

Loughner's parents, silent and holed up in their home since the shooting spree, issued a statement Tuesday, expressing remorse over the shooting.

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"There are no words that can possibly express how we feel," Randy and Amy Loughner wrote in a statement handed to reporters waiting outside their house. "We wish that there were, so we could make you feel better. We don't understand why this happened.

"We care very deeply about the victims and their families. We are so very sorry for their loss."

Tribute to victims
On Tuesday, several hundred mourners filled a Tucson church for a public Mass to remember the slain and pray for the injured. As people filed in, nine young girls sang "Amazing Grace." The youngest victim of the attack, 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, was a member of that choir.

"I know she is singing with us tonight," said Tucson Bishop Gerald Kicanas, who presided over the service.

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama planned to visit Arizona and give a speech honoring the victims.

Today.com, Reuters, The Associated Press and msnbc.com staff and contributed to this report.

Gallery: Tragedy in Tucson: The shooting victims

Photos: Former Ariz. Representative Gabrielle Giffords

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  1. Gabrielle Giffords, the former congresswoman who was shot and left handicapped after a gunman opened fire at an event in Tucson, Ariz., and her husband retired Navy Capt. Mark Kelly prepare to testify before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 2013. (Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, leave the Newtown Municipal Building in Newtown, Conn. on Jan. 4, 2013. Giffords met with Newtown officials on Friday afternoon before heading to visit with families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. (Michelle Mcloughlin / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Gabrielle Giffords waves to the Space Shuttle Endeavor with her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly as it flies over Tucson, Ariz. on its way to Los Angeles, on Sept. 20, 2012. Kelly served as Endeavour's last space commander months after Giffords survived serious head injuries because of a 2011 shooting. (P.K. Weis / Southwest Photo Bank via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Gabrielle Giffords blows a kiss after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance during the final session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. on Sept. 6, 2012. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Gabrielle Giffords stands on top of a peak in the French Alps with her husband Mark Kelly, right,, and mountain guide Vincent Lameyre, July 23, 2012. On her first trip out of the country since her injury in 2011, she rode a two-stage cable car to a station for spectacular views of Mont Blanc. (Denis Balibouse / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Ron Barber, right, celebrates his victory with Giffords, left, prior to speaking to supporters at a post election event, Tuesday, June 12, 2012, in Tucson, Ariz. Barber, Giffords' former district director, won her seat in a special election after she resigned to focus on her recovery. (Ross D. Franklin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Democratic Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, read Rep. Gabriell Giffords resignation speech on the House floor on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012. The day after President Obama's State of the Union speech, Giffords formally offered her resignation to Speaker John Boehner. Weeping, Shultz applauded the strength of her friend and colleague, "I'm so proud of my friend." (MSNBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. President Barack Obama hugs retiring Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords as the president arrives to deliver his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012. (Pool / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., left, and Pelosi, right, posing with Giffords husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly of the Navy, at his retirement ceremony with Vice President Joe Biden in the Old Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011. (House Leader Nancy Pelosi's office / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords returns to the House for the first time since she was shot, making a dramatic entrance on Monday, Aug. 1, 2011, during a crucial debt vote. She drew loud applause and cheers from surprised colleagues. (NBC News) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords poses for a photo the day after the launch of NASA space shuttle Endeavour and the day before she had her cranioplasty surgery, outside TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital May 17, in Houston, Texas. Aides of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords posted two recent photos of the congresswoman to her public Facebook page, the first since the January 8 shooting that killed six people and wounded a dozen others. (P.K. Weis / Giffords Campaign / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Emergency workers use a stretcher to move Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot in the head outside a shopping center in Tucson, Ariz., on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011. (James Palka / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. In this Jan. 5, 2011 file photo, House Speaker John Boehner re-enacts the swearing in of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Susan Walsh / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Rep. Giffords, left, speaks during a candidates debate with Republican candidate Jesse Kelly at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz., on Oct. 18, 2010. Kelly is an Iraq War veteran and was the Tea Party favorite for the 8th congressional district seat. (Joshua Lott / The New York Times via Redux Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords meets with constituents in Douglas, Ariz., in 2010. Giffords, 40, took office in January 2007, emphasizing issues such as immigration reform, embryonic stem-cell research, alternative energy sources and a higher minimum wage. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Rep. Giffords speaks during a press conference in Washington, D.C., where members of Congress called on the President to secure the border with the National Guard on April 28, 2010. (James Berglie / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. This picture provided by the office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Monday, March 22, 2010, shows damage to her office in Tucson, Ariz. The congressional office was vandalized a few hours after the House vote overhauling the nation's health care system. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., center, gives a tour of Statuary Hall in the Capitol to Shuttle Discovery STS-124 astronauts Mission Specialist Akihiko Hoshide, of Japan, and her husband, Commander Mark Kelly, on Thursday, July 17, 2008. (Bill Clark / Roll Call Photos) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. From right. Rep. Ken Calvert, Rep. Dennis Moore, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and Rep. Heath Shuler, attend a House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security hearing on current and proposed employment eligibility verification systems on May 6, 2008. The hearing provided a forum for lawmakers on both sides of the immigration debate, focusing on a system to verify the legal status of workers and job applicants. (Scott J. Ferrell) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Gabrielle Giffords with U.S. Navy Cmdr. Mark Kelly, a NASA astronaut, at their wedding in Amado, Ariz., on Nov. 10, 2007. Kelly's twin brother, also an astronaut, is a commander on the International Space Station. "We have a unique vantage point here aboard the International Space Station. As I look out the window, I see a very beautiful planet that seems very inviting and peaceful. Unfortunately, it is not," said Scott Kelly of the tragedy that befell his sister-in-law. (Norma Jean Gargasz for The New York Times / Redux Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Representatives-elect including Dean Heller, top right, and Gabrielle Giffords, next to Heller, prepare for the freshman class picture for the 110th Congress on the House Steps on Nov. 14, 2006. (Tom Williams / Roll Call Photos) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords rides horseback in 2006. In an interview with NPR last year, she recalled working with horses during her adolescence in Tucson. "I loved cleaning out the stalls, and I did that in exchange for riding lessons. And I continue to ride most of my life. And I learned a lot from horses and the stable people ... I think it provided good training, all of that manure-shoveling, for my days in politics ahead." (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. A page entitled, "Just do it!" in La Semeuse, the Scripps College yearbook in 1993. The photo at right shows Giffords in traditional Mennonite clothing. That same year, she won a Fulbright award to study Mennonites and other Anabaptist groups in Northern Mexico. Gifford's senior thesis was titled "Wish Books and Felt-Tipped Fantasies: The Sociology of Old Colony Mennonite Drawings." (Scripps College) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Gabrielle Giffords' senior portrait from the 1993 Scripps College yearbook. Giffords double-majored in Latin American studies and sociology. A Dean's List student, Gifford won several awards during her time at Scripps. (Scripps College) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Gabrielle Giffords, right, laughs with her mom, Gloria Kay Fraser Giffords, in a photo published in the Scripps College yearbook. Gabrielle received a B.A. in Sociology and Latin American history from Scripps College in Claremont, Calif. in 1993. (Scripps College) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. University High School portrait of Gabrielle Giffords, class of 1988. Dr. John Hosmer, taught history to the future lawmaker. He tells msnbc.com, "Gabrielle sat in the front row. She was inquisitive ... She was a very mature person from the moment she walked in the door." (University High School) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: US Senate holds hearing on Gun Control
    Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA
    Above: Slideshow (26) Former Ariz. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords
  2. Image:
    Morry Gash / AP
    Slideshow (45) Mourning follows deadly shooting in Arizona

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