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Loughner found incompetent; shooting victims react

Loughner found incompetent; shooting victims react

CREATED May 26, 2011

Reporter: Steve Nuñez, Craig Smith, Joel Waldman, Ileana Diaz
Web Producer: Layla Tang

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) – Despite the potential emotional trauma of coming face-to-face with accused January 8th mass shooter Jared Loughner, several shooting victims were in the courtroom for Wednesday's competency hearing.

Sixty-three-year-old Eric Fuller, who was shot once in the leg on January 8th, witnessed when Loughner made several loud outbursts and was escorted out of the courtroom by U.S. Marshals.  In regards to the judge's incompetency ruling, Fuller said Loughner is clearly a mentally troubled man.

"The mere appearance of him is very disheveled," said Fuller as he was surrounded by media outside of the Evo A. DeConcini Federal Building and Court House.  "He was very disorganized. You don't have to be a professional psychiatrist to know the boy is disturbed."

Fuller also believes Loughner's outburst, when he yelled, "she died in front of me," referred to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was severely wounded but survived.

"I guess he was supposing that Gabrielle Giffords had died in that instant," said Fuller. "Many people would have maybe he reached that conclusion in error, and he's not going to let go of that."

Fuller is also known for a now-infamous outburst that happened in the days following the shooting rampage.  During the taping of an ABC News town hall meeting, Fuller yelled "you're dead," to a Tea Party spokesman.  The Pima County Sheriff's involuntarily committed Fuller and he spent a week undergoing a mental health evaluation.

Now that U.S. District Judge Larry Burns ruled Loughner is not competent to stand trial, 9 On Your Side asked Fuller if he would be satisfied if Loughner stayed locked up in a mental facility for the rest of his life.

"It wouldn't bother me a bit what his disposition is," answered Fuller, who added that to him, justice would be better served if more funding was allocated to support mental heath care.  Fuller also stated that he attended the competency hearing but the answer he was looking for had nothing to do with Loughner's mental state of mind.

"I wanted to find out the answer in coming here, why does the NRA think its necessary for people like Jared Loughner to have assault weapons?" said Fuller.  Even before the mass shootings, Fuller was a staunch supporter for gun control.

None of the other shooting victims who attended the hearing wanted to speak on camera.  Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords told KGUN9 News they will not comment on any legal proceeding that has to do with Loughner.

 Court sketch artist Maggie Keene was more than willing to speak up about the events that took place during the hearing.  Keene said she wasn't surprised by Loughner's outburst.

"I expected something like this the very first time I saw him in court because he was scary looking then with his head shaved and his eyebrows shaved.  But I just figured it was a matter of time," Keene told KGUN9's Craig Smith after the hearing.

"It was a first, unexpected," said attorney David Bodney.  "It's most rare for anyone to interrupt a federal judge in court, particularly when he is reading a ruling."

Also more than willing to share their reactions to the legal ruling-- people in the community who weren't directly affected by the shooting, but were still rocked by the tragedy. 

As shoppers went about the mundane task of buying groceries at the Safeway at Ina and Oracle on Wednesday afternoon, many couldn't help but think about the violent act that took so many lives at that very store just five months ago.  Some, like Grant Hall, were disappointed after hearing about Loughner's immediate fate.

"It's just a tragedy, cause now what?  We're going to spend another four months waiting to see if they can serve justice, and then prolong, this prolong that?" Hall told KGUN9's Ileana Diaz outside the store.

Hall, along with Russ Tarbin, wondered out loud if Loughner really is insane and actually does lack the mental capacity to understand the charges against him.  They both believe the shooting was premeditated.

"It's outrageous. He was competent enough to research assassinations on the internet. Competent enough to buy a gun, he's certainly competent enough to stand trial," Tarbin argued.

"All it does is it proves that as long as you do something really outrageous, they're going to find you crazy, so you get to go do all these heinous acts and then turn around and we get to foot the bill for just, monsters. It makes no sense," Hall added.

To other shoppers, it didn't matter whether Loughner goes to prison or a psychiatric hospital, as long as he sees justice.

"I just hope he will be locked up," one shopper told Diaz.

"So many people saw it. They know he did it and it was premeditated, and there's no way he should ever be free. Too many lives were taken," Elaine Cubbins said.

Some of the Safeway employees who were present during the January 8th shooting declined to speak on camera, but told KGUN9 they were disappointed that they will have to wait four more months to find out whether Loughner will go to trial.