TUCSON, Ariz. — The man accused of wounding Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in a deadly rampage lowered his head to within inches of the courtroom table Wednesday. When he lifted it, he began yelling, angry and loud.
Federal marshals had to drag Jared Lee Loughner out of the packed federal courtroom. Minutes later, he was in a nearby room and, over a closed-circuit TV, could watch as U.S. District Judge Larry Burns declared him incompetent to stand trial.
Mental health experts concluded that the 22-year-old college dropout suffers from schizophrenia.
Burns ordered Loughner to a federal facility in Missouri for up to four months, where doctors will try to give him enough treatment to bring him to a point where he understands the case against him.
“You don’t have to be a psychiatrist to know that the boy is disturbed,” said Eric Fuller, who was shot in the knee and the back during the Jan. 8 shooting spree at a Giffords event outside a Tucson, Ariz., supermarket.
Fuller said he wouldn’t be bothered if Loughner spends the rest of his life in a mental health facility.
“Hinckley has been gone for forever,” Fuller said, referring to John Hinckley Jr., who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan 30 years ago and has since been committed to a psychiatric hospital.
Loughner spent five weeks in March and April at the federal facility in Springfield, Mo., where he was examined by psychologist Christina Pietz and psychiatrist Matthew Carroll. The two were asked to determine if Loughner understands the consequences of the case.
Burns viewed 18 hours of the experts’ videotaped interviews with Loughner. He said the experts’ reports and videos were confidential, but he summarized their findings at the hearing.
The judge said Carroll concluded Loughner’s mental health has declined in the past two or three years and his thinking on legal issues is confused. Carroll believes Loughner doesn’t grasp the gravity of the charges and is instead fixated on inconsequential issues.
Pietz concluded Loughner’s thoughts are random and that he suffers from delusions, the judge said. She noted Loughner gave nonsensical answers to questions and doesn’t understand the role of judges or jurors.
Neither expert thought Loughner was faking his mental health problems. A hearing to revisit Loughner’s mental competency is set for Sept. 21.
Loughner has pleaded not guilty to 49 federal charges stemming from the shooting, which wounded Giffords and 12 others and killed six people, including a 9-year-old girl and a federal judge.