TUCSON, Ariz. (AP/CBS 2) — As the funeral for the youngest victim of the mass shooting in Arizona was set to begin Thursday, the largest flag recovered from Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center was unfurled and raised, flanked by two fire trucks with ladders extended.
Nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green was born on Sept. 11, 2001, and featured in a book called “Faces of Hope” that chronicled one baby from each state born on the day terrorists killed nearly 3,000 people. Christina’s funeral is the first for the six victims killed when police said a gunman opened fired on a crowd at an event for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, gravely injuring the congresswoman and wounding 13 others.
The third-grader had an interest in politics and had recently been elected to her student council. She was also the only girl on her Little League baseball team.
As the city mourned the little girl, more details and documents surfaced about the suspect, Jared Loughner. For four years, he was an unremarkable college student, commuting to classes near his home where he studied yoga and algebra, business management and poetry.
But last year, his classroom conduct began to change. In February, Loughner stunned a teacher by talking about blowing up babies, a bizarre outburst that marked the start of a rapid unraveling for the 22-year-old.
After his first flare-up, campus police decided not to intervene.
“I suggested they keep an eye on him,” an officer wrote.
Loughner’s on-campus behavior grew increasingly erratic, menacing, even delusional. Fifty-one pages of police reports released Wednesday provided a chilling portrait of Loughner’s last school year, which ended in September when he was judged mentally unhinged and suspended by Pima Community College.
As the records were released, President Barack Obama visited Giffords in the hospital. During a nationally-televised memorial service, the president revealed the congresswoman had opened her eyes shortly after he left her bedside.
Obama touched on themes of unity, patriotism and heroism in his address to the crowded arena with about 14,000 people, and he spoke at length about Christina. Her funeral was set for 1 p.m. MST (3 p.m. EST).
Obama reminded the audience that the third-grader’s neighbor had brought Christina to meet Giffords because of her budding interest in democracy.
“She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted,” he said. “I want to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it. I want America to be as good as she imagined it.”
New details also emerged about the busy morning Loughner had in the hours before the shooting.
According to authorities, Loughner hustled to Walmart twice, was caught by police running a red light but was let go with a warning, and later grabbed a black bag from the trunk of a family car before fleeing into the desert on foot with his suspicious father giving chase. Eventually, he took a cab to the grocery store where he opened fire on Giffords and a line of people waiting to speak to her. Authorities said Thursday that Loughner was also carrying a knife but didn’t use it. They also said that they found a black bag they believe is related to the case, and a witness said it contained ammunition.
Just three months before the shooting, Loughner had been kicked out of school.
In a Sept. 23 campus police report, days before his suspension, an officer called to quiet another one of Loughner’s outbursts described him as incomprehensible, his eyes jittery, his head awkwardly tilted.
“He very slowly began telling me in a low and mumbled voice that under the Constitution, which had been written on the wall for all to see, he had the right to his ‘freedom of thought’ and whatever he thought in his head he could also put on paper. … His teacher ‘must be required to accept it’ as a passing grade,” the officer wrote.
“It was clear he was unable to fully understand his actions.”
During his first outburst, in a poetry class, he made comments about abortion, wars and killing people, then asked: “Why don’t we just strap bombs to babies?”
In an April report, librarians called police because Loughner, with ear buds, was making so much noise at a computer it was disturbing others. He promised it would not happen again.
But a month later, he became hostile with a Pilates instructor when he learned he was going to receive a B in the class. The teacher told police Loughner said the grade was unacceptable.
According to school officials, Loughner studied at the college from the summer of 2005 to September, when he was suspended after campus police discovered a YouTube video in which Loughner claimed the college was illegal under to the U.S. Constitution.
In all, he had five run-ins with police on two campuses.
Loughner was warned that the behavior had to stop or disciplinary action would begin. Since Loughner chose to continue attending class but remain silent, she “had no grounds to keep him out of class.”
On Nov. 30, the same day he bought the Glock, Loughner posted a YouTube video, seething about campus police and the college.
“If the police remove you from the educational facility for talking then removing you from the educational facility for talking is unconstitutional,” he said on the video. “The situation is fraud because the police are unconstitutional. … Every Pima Community College class is always a scam!”
School officials told Loughner and his parents that to return to classes he would need to undergo a mental health exam to show he was not a danger. He never returned.
Kelsey Hawkes said Thursday on CBS’ “The Early Show” that when she dated Loughner six years ago when they were both in high school, he showed no violent tendencies.
“Back then he was completely different of a person. Very caring, very sweet, a gentle, kind, you know, a little bit quiet. But altogether a pretty great guy,” she said.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)