January 13, 2011 in Nation/World

Officials detail busy morning before shooting

Suspect went to Walmart twice, stopped for running light
Amanda Lee Myers Associated Press

TUCSON, Ariz. – For Jared Loughner, the morning of the deadly shooting rampage was a blur of activity.

He hustled to Walmart twice. He ran a red light, with the officer letting him off with a warning.

Back home, he grabbed a black bag from the trunk of a family car and fled into the desert on foot, his suspicious father giving chase.

Later, Loughner took a cab to a Safeway supermarket and began squeezing off round after round into the crowd.

The new details of the Walmart visits and the traffic stop emerged Wednesday, adding to the picture of the last frenetic hours the 22-year-old spent before the attack Saturday that gravely wounded his apparent target, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and killed six others.

“It sounds like he was pretty busy that morning,” Pima County sheriff’s Capt. Chris Nanos said.

The new details about the way Loughner spent the morning showed a harried young man dashing from store to store across this southern Arizona city in the hours before the shooting that shocked the country.

Nanos said Loughner made two trips to Walmart and made some purchases. He declined to specify whether Loughner purchased ammunition.

At some point, an officer with the Arizona Game and Fish Department saw Loughner run a red light on a road that runs parallel to Interstate 10 around 7:30 a.m. and pulled over his 1960s dark gray Chevy Nova, authorities said.

The stop was about 6 miles from the Safeway store, agency spokesman Tom Cadden said.

Wildlife officers don’t usually make traffic stops unless public safety is at risk, such as running a red light. The officer took his driver’s license and vehicle registration information but found no outstanding warrants and let him go.

“All he saw were some fast food wrappers, no black bag,” Cadden said. “The officer said he was polite and subdued.”

Loughner had a valid license and insurance and the car was registered, agency spokesman Jim Paxon said. “He was warned and released because we had no probable cause to hold, or do an extensive search.”

Sometime later, Loughner was back at his house on a block of low-slung homes with palm trees and cactus gardens.

Loughner removed a black bag from trunk of the family car. His father, Randy, saw him, and asked him what he was doing, said Rick Kastigar, chief of the department’s investigations bureau.

Jared then ran off into the nearby desert, only to emerge later from a cab at the Safeway supermarket where Giffords was holding an event to listen to constituents’ concerns, authorities said.

Hours after the attack, sheriff’s deputies swarmed his home and removed what they describe as evidence he was targeting Giffords, including handwritten notes in a safe that read “I planned ahead,” “My assassination” and “Giffords.”

Among the notes was one with the words “Die, bitch,” which authorities believe was a reference to Giffords.

Investigators, however, are still searching for the black bag.

“What he did and the morning before the shooting, we’re just trying to find all that out. Naturally, we want to find every detail we can,” Nanos said, adding that Loughner may have made other stops that morning but could not specify what they were.

Later Wednesday, documents were released revealing details of the Loughner family’s encounters with the Pima County Sheriff’s Department and Jared’s run-ins with police at Pima Community College in Tucson.

The college records detail Loughner’s increasingly bizarre behavior last year, culminating with his suspension in September. The 51 pages of campus police reports, obtained under an open records request, described a series of classroom outbursts and confrontations that prompted worried instructors to summon campus officers.

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