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Ex-girlfriend: Loughner 'not mentally ill'

January 13, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Unsettling new details came out Thursday about accused shooter Jared Loughner. His former girlfriend spoke out.Ashley Figueroa dated Loughner during high school. She says he was basically a loner.

She says she remembers him as a drug user with a grudge against the government.

Figueroa says Loughner was stable when they were dating, but says he had trouble controlling his anger.

"He used to scare me sometimes and that's kind of the reason why I left him," said Figueroa. "He kind of makes me feel uncomfortable at times. He'd get really mad and he would clench his fists really tight and kind of almost like have a little tantrum. He'd kind of like flail his arms and walk off."

Figueroa says the last time she saw Loughner was three or four months ago. She says she does not think he is mentally ill.

"I think he's faking everything. I think the outburst that he had in class -- I think he's planned everything. I think that he has been planning this for some time," said Figueroa.

Thursday, authorities located the mysterious black bag Loughner was seen with the morning of the Tucson shooting. It had been discarded in the desert near his home. Deputies found ammunition in the bag.

Loughner had gotten into an altercation with his father over the bag.

GIFFORDS IMPROVING

Christina Green, 9, the youngest victim of the tragedy, was laid to rest Thursday. As mourners said goodbye to the youngest victim of the Tucson shootings, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords showed more signs of improvement.

Giffords can reportedly keep her eyes open for 15 minutes at a time. She was able to move both legs and arms and was able to respond to friends and family.

"She just started to open her eyes, just a slit. Nobody could believe it. I mean, we were just stunned," said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz (D-Fla.)

"Mark [Kelly, Giffords' husband] was urging her, 'Can you see me? Can you see me?' And she literally pulled her whole arm up as a thumbs-up with her arm," said Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

WEDNESDAY'S MEMORIAL

At a memorial service in Tucson on Wednesday, Obama painted a picture of a promising little girl, Christina Taylor Green.

The 9-year-old girl was the youngest of the six people killed and 13 injured Saturday in a shooting rampage as a crowd waited to meet Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. A funeral is planned for Christina Thursday afternoon.

"She showed an appreciation for life uncommon for a girl her age. She'd remind her mother, 'We are so blessed. We have the best life,'" Obama said during his speech.

The president hopes the story of Christina, who was recently elected to her student council who simply wanted to meet her congresswoman on Saturday, can be instructive to us all.

"I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it. I want America to be as good as she imagined it. All of us, we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations," Obama said.

The Green family accepted an invitation from the Obamas to visit the White House in Christina's honor.

"It's minute by minute, day by day. We're just taking it slow. We're hanging in there. We're trying to be strong. We have to be strong. Our country's being strong for us, so we will get through this with our faith and our friends and our family," said Christina's mother, Roxanne Green.

A Kansas group with the Westboro Baptist Church had planned to protest outside Green's funeral.

However, a spokeswoman said the group has called off their protest in exchange for live interviews on radio shows in Canada and Arizona.

The church will also not picket at the funerals of the other five shooting victims after a nationally syndicated radio show agreed to give them air time.

The president spoke to a packed University of Arizona arena usually used for basketball games. The crowd was so large that overflow seating was set up in the football stadium.

One of the main messages from Democratic and Republican speakers was the theme of unity. The president also spoke individually about all six of the victims lost in mass shooting.

"If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let's make sure it's worthy of those we have lost," Obama said.

Seated in the audience next to first lady Michelle Obama was Giffords' husband, astronaut Mark Kelly. The president told the crowd some surprising news. Less than five minutes after Obama and others left the congresswoman's hospital room to attend the Wednesday memorial service, Giffords opened her eyes for the first time.

Giffords was shot in the forehead during the attack but has been making headway through a difficult recovery process. In addition to opening both of her eyes, Giffords is moving both legs and both arms and responding to friends and family, doctors said Thursday. With some help, she can sit up. Then, she can dangle her legs from the bed, and she is able to lift her legs on command.

Meanwhile, new details are coming to light about Jared Loughner, the young man named as the shooter in last weekend's tragedy.

Police records show Loughner has had 12 previous encounters with police including two arrests for alcohol and marijuana possession.

Last May, a teacher at Pima Community College in Tucson requested police protection because Loughner became very hostile and intimidated her.

A former girlfriend told a reporter that Loughner obviously had anger problems.

"He had a temper problem. He used to scare me sometimes. That's the reason I left him because he made me feel uncomfortable he would have these tantrums and flail his arms and walk off," described the former girlfriend, Ashley Figueroa.

Loughner was pulled over three hours before the shooting Saturday for running a red light, but he received a warning and was let go.

Loughner's parents released a written statement Tuesday:

"There are no words that can possibly express how we feel. We wish that there were so we could make you feel better. We don't understand why this happened. It may not make any difference but we wish that we could change the heinous events of Saturday. We care very deeply about the victims and their families. We are so very sorry for their loss."

Loughner appeared with a shaved head in a Phoenix federal courtroom for the first time on Monday.

He showed no emotion and only briefly spoke when the judge asked if he understood that he could get life in prison or the death penalty. He replied, "Yes."

Loughner is being held without bail.

Sources tell ABC News that Loughner has been sitting in his jail cell, still smiling and still smirking.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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