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Documents show Arizona gunman's father had taken away his shotgun

Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) blows a kiss after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance during the final session of the Democratic Nation
Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) blows a kiss after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance during the final session of the Democratic Nation

By Brad Poole

TUCSON, Arizona (Reuters) - The father of the man who wounded former U.S. congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in a 2011 mass shooting told police that before the rampage he had taken a shotgun from his mentally disturbed son and locked it in the trunk of a car, investigators said in documents released on Wednesday.

The release of the records by the sheriff's office that responded to the attack comes just over four months after 24-year-old college dropout Jared Lee Loughner was sentenced to life in prison for the rampage that killed six people and wounded 13 others, including Giffords.

Giffords, who with her husband is campaigning for universal background checks for all gun buyers and curbs on military-type assault weapons, said in a statement that the documents demonstrate the mentally disturbed Loughner "should never have had access to a gun."

The more than 2,700 pages of documents released by the Pima County Sheriff's Department includes transcripts of witness accounts, calls to emergency responders and case reports from the dozens of detectives and officers who responded to the shooting.

The papers also detailed an interview detectives had with Loughner's parents, Randy and Amy Loughner, that revealed details of their son's troubled mental state prior to the shooting.

Randy Loughner told investigators that after learning from Pima Community College that his son was suspended amid concerns about his mental health, the father took away a shotgun owned by Loughner, according to an account in one of the police reports released on Wednesday.

"After school officials talked to them, Randy took Jared's shotgun and placed it in the trunk of a car which was located in his garage," the report from investigators stated.

Randy Loughner told investigators his son had shown signs of being distraught and angry, the police report said. He had also taken to writing in notebooks, later found in his bedroom in his parents' suburban home, using a code they could not decipher.

Court-appointed psychologists later found Loughner to be suffering from schizophrenia, and said he was delusional. His father told investigators he tried to talk to his son about his fears that the college police were after him."

"But, I tried to talk to him. But you can't ... he wouldn't communicate with me no more," he told a detective the day of the January 8, 2011 shooting outside a Tucson supermarket.

Amy Loughner also told investigators about Loughner's mental problems and that she observed him talking to himself and making "all kinds of noises," a police report said. Investigators spoke to the parents at their home the day of the rampage.

Anthony Kuck, an acquaintance of Loughner's, told investigators his companion was on a "downhill slope" after an episode of alcohol poisoning in high school and got increasingly antagonistic about government in general.

Kuck recalled no specific animosity toward Giffords. Three weeks before the shooting, Loughner showed up at Kuck's apartment brandishing a gun.

"I kicked him out of my house, because he showed me his gun. I did not care to see that. I did not want to know. I didn't," Kuck said. "I was like, 'Why the hell do you have this?' He's all, 'Protection.'"

Kuck then tried to convince Loughner it was unwise to have a gun. "He obviously didn't listen to me," Kuck said.

'HE PAUSED BRIEFLY AND FIRED'

Giffords left Congress in 2012 to focus on her recovery from the head wound from a bullet fired by Loughner. Her former district director, Ron Barber, ran for her seat and is now a U.S. Representative.

The document trove also held a chilling account of the shooting by Mark Kimble, an aide to Giffords who is now Barber's communications director, who was standing next to her when Loughner opened fire.

Kimble recalled hearing gunshots, then a man running toward him and Giffords. He could not describe the man to investigators, other than to recall that he had his head covered with a hoodie or hat.

"He paused briefly and fired at the congresswoman, the district director, and anyone else who happened to be in the area," Kimble said a few hours after the shooting.

Kimble escaped harm by ducking to the ground behind a concrete pillar, he said.

Loughner committed the shooting with a Glock handgun he purchased legally, police said at the time.

Since leaving Congress, Giffords and husband Mark Kelly have formed a lobbying group called Americans for Responsible Solutions to focus on gun-control issues.

A representative for the National Rifle Association could not be reached for comment.

(Additional reporting by David Schwartz in Phoenix, Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis, editing by G Crosse, Kevin Gray, Bernard Orr and Philip Barbara)

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