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A year ago this week, a 22-year old Army reject with a shaved head and a 9mm opened rapid-fire on a Congressional meet-and-greet outside a Tucson shopping mall, killing six and wounding 14, including a non-fatal headshot against Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The day after the shooting, I flew to Tucson to look for stories. Upon landing I found my way to Sportsman’s Wharehouse, the massive gun-shop where Loughner had purchased his Glock as easily as buying a bagel. At the counter I saw two kids Loughner’s age with sleeve and neck tattoos indicating current or past membership in one of the area’s many white power gangs. When I asked the guy behind the counter if the shooting had impacted sales, his manager cut me off and said staff weren’t allowed to talk to press.

The fact that Tucson is considered “Arizona’s Austin” says everything you need to know about the state. Tucson may be funkier than Phoenix, but it’s still way too dark, way too Arizona, to ever attain Third Coast status. There’s a big skinhead scene. The local airwaves are full of small-time nativist hate jocks. And the border is close, which means lots of cheap drugs, trafficking gangs, and dirty cops.

On my second night in Tucson, I was working in a ratty cafe called Shot in the Dark, an all-night worker cooperative around the corner from the Congress Hotel, where they cornered John Dillinger. I struck up a conversation with a scratched-up kid who was roughly Loughner’s age. Tucson is a small town, and I asked him if he had known the killer. He said no, but for a six-pack and a box of smokes he’d introduce me to his brother’s friend, who knew Loughner well. The next morning, in the blazing sun outside a taco joint, I met up with the brothers Taylor and Lance Sinclair (aged 19 and 22). They told me their story of having a ringside seat to Loughner’s crack-up.

A Shot In The Dark Cafe, Tucson AZ

I was sidetracked soon after conducting the interview, and never did do anything with it. I’m publishing the raw transcript here on the one-year anniversary of the shooting. It offers a snapshot of Tucson that’s like a border-town version of Larry Clark’ s Kids, with a gruesome Arizona ending.

eXiled: How did you guys meet Loughner?

Taylor: I met Jared Loughner at a party house in Copper Creek. It was the Burds’ house. On any day there’d be anywhere from 10, 15, 30 people there, mostly skate kids having a good time, experimenting. A lot of us came up in dysfunctional families and we were thrown in together. A bunch of us worked at the same fast food joint, so we’d carpool. It was a place to hang out, play Xbox, drink, smoke weed. The mom was an ex-tweaker turned alcoholic. There was also an older son, a Marine, just back from Afghanistan who was an alcoholic, too. He was a little messed up in the head, violent, always getting into fights. The parties started out pretty small, but when he came back the scene got really big. There were no rules. You could come and go as you please. Jared had friends in that scene and drifted in. We didn’t know him before that. We hung out there my freshman and sophomore years, from 2005 to 2007. The last time we really hung out there with him was summer of 2007.

Do you remember him always talking politics?

Taylor: Jared was pretty normal when I met him. He seemed quiet, kind of a jock. He was fine when he was sober, but when he was hammered he just started ranting on about the government and you could just tell there was something wrong with him. I didn’t think he knew what he was saying. I thought he was too fucked up to even know what he was talking about.

Jared Lee Loughner in high school

Where was he getting his information?

Taylor: He was listening to AM radio, I’m not sure which talk shows they were. But he was listening to talk shows about political stuff. When he tried to talk to us about it, we were like, “Whatever, let’s go chase some girls.” I just remember it was about the government, basically, but we weren’t interested. He didn’t trust the government. He didn’t trust anybody, really. And he was also into all the different religions. He’d say random things about different religions all the time. He was way into the 2012 thing. This was years ago, so it meant nothing to us at the time. The politics came out when he was messed up. When the drugs got more intense, it made it worse. It was like he was hiding it, but once he got messed up, he couldn’t hide it anymore. It would come out and no one could shut his ass up. As time went on, drugs, the combos of drugs made it more intense. Drugs magnified it. After we left that house, I’m sure it just got worse.

Lance: He was pretty quiet at first. He got deeper into drugs, like us. Our drug use completely evolved. It started out with just smoking weed and drinking on weekends, then to every day, and then experimenting with harder stuff and psychedelics. Meth, mushrooms, heroin, coke, ecstasy.

Taylor: There was one year where it wasn’t like any other year. There hasn’t been a year like it since. In 2005-6, that winter, there was a huge crop from the mountains and the mushrooms were everywhere. That year could have been the year that [Loughner] just fucking went nuts, and crossed the line. People were mixing stuff that didn’t even make sense —cocaine and ‘shrooms? For months and months, ‘shrooms were around like candy, you know. Kids ended up in hospital or juvie, cuz they were tripping and throwing rocks through houses, on a bad trip.

Lance: Unlike my brother, I didn’t take ‘shrooms at that house, except for once, cuz I wasn’t comfortable there. I knew from past experiences that I needed to be comfortable. If one guy is freaking out, it throws everybody else off.

Taylor: I don’t know if it influenced Loughner, but it messed with our heads. One Cinco de Mayo I ate a half-ounce of mushrooms. It was a huge party, there were like 150 people there, I’m sure Loughner was there. One guy started running around naked, the cops showed up. The cops were at this house so much it wasn’t even funny. They got abusive at times. They knew the family is letting kids party there. But the neighbors let it slide, cuz their kids were there. All it took was that one night. I haven’t been right since then. I get panic attacks. Anxiety. I’m on Benzo which is a really strong medication, and that’s the only way I can go out into public and work. Loughner got caught up in the scene started doing the same drugs. Lots of psychedelics and other drugs was an average day at the house. The same thing could have happened to him.

Lance: You build tolerance to mushrooms. You need to keep taking more.

Taylor: He lived near there. We were trying to escape reality, and he was trying to open up parts of his brain. His thing with religions, him claiming that he understood them all — I’m 90 percent convinced that was because of the hallucinogens, and he was way into the whole 2012 thing. He was also into uppers. He got into tweak [meth] or something. He just lost it. He was nothing like he used to be, and no one wanted to hang out with him cuz they were scared, they were just terrified of this kid, starting around 2006. The process took like a year. Loughner hung out at the house even after we stopped in 2007. We last saw him summer of 2007.

Lance: I knew a kid who lived on Loughner’s street. He said his dad and him both had schizophrenia. And they were so crazy or what-not, call it what you want, that one of their neighbors actually moved away. I never met his family, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was genetic, if his dad gave it to him [the mental problems] and the drugs opened that, triggered that. Almost all of us would do anything that came our way, but he really got into psychedelics.

Taylor: I always thought Loughner was on steroids. He was a big kid. He was into sports but he also partied. If you mix steroids and psychedelics and speed, you go on ‘roid rages… Around 2006, he changed. People started making fun of him and stopped hanging out there so much. He isolated himself. What happened [wasn’t anyone’s fault], it was him and him alone, there’s always the chance. I have a feeling, those are the devil’s drugs, psychedelics and meth, and you are going to lose your mind.

Lance: He just went on his own study or something. A lot of people from that scene have gotten in trouble, maybe not politically, but with violence, with guns, or have OD’d. There’s a lot of kids who died. We’ve lost more friends than we can count. They’re dropping like flies. Tucson is an export city, the first city in. The drugs flow through here to the rest of the country. It’s everywhere and cheap. All sorts of organized crime. I don’t know if Loughner knew any cartels or anything. If he did come across them and got fronted money and drugs, he could have been offered to do this shooting. He obviously knew he was gonna get caught. The cartels use kids. They make drops. They do whatever they gotta do. For drugs, to clear debts. We’re right next to Mexico and all you gotta do is know the right people. There’s a lot of money. I remember Loughner bragging about, not the 9mm that was used, but some kind of rifle once. After we stopped hanging out at the Burds we heard Loughner’s name here and there, but not much.

Taylor: Years passed on. I ended up on juvenile intensive probation, juvenile drug court, then I’d drop dirty [test positive for heroin in urine tests] and end back up in juvie. I was basically a ghost in Tucson. I’d pop back up randomly for a couple of months, then be sent away again. Happened like 14 times.

Lance: When we got high it made us feel like when our family was back together, and that’s how we dealt with our emotions. If I hadn’t been locked up in 2009 I’d be dead. I was happier in prison after I detoxed there. Because even with the money [from dealing] and the car, I was miserable. I lost a lot of friends, the girl I loved. I had no heart and no soul. I think that’s how a lot of people were on these drugs. We were trying to kill ourselves.

Taylor: I went to prison when I was 18. I told them I wanted to do my time, and come out with methadone as a safety net. My next probation officer wouldn’t let me do methadone. Three weeks later I was back in, the youngest person in yard with a year sentence. I’m done. I’m on a good path now. Still in shock over what happened. My little sister was friends with the girl who died. She called me and asked me if I knew the shooter. I couldn’t lie. I said, “Yeah. I’m so sorry for what happened. The devil got to him.”

Alexander Zaitchik, a former eXile editor, is the author of Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck and the Triumph of Ignorance


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  • 1. Fissile  |  January 15th, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    @48 Census Louie, Years ago I believed the “trickle down” bullshit. I was a member of the NRA for over 10 years. I can speak gun-talk with the best of them. I know these people intimately, these Tea-Partiers, from back in the day when they called themselves “Regan Republicans”.

    These people are mean, petty, stupid, hate-filled, paranoid, but most of all they are COWARDS. Despite all the rhetoric, these gun-toting tough-talkers would never dream of taking on authority. The local chief of police could line up their daughters on Main St for their daily gang rape by the county commissioners and these Tea-Tards wouldn’t say, “eep”. Need proof, look at the history of armed insurrection in the US. The only groups who have taken up arms against TPTB in 20th century America have been from the extreme left, extreme right or religious wackos….communists, neo-Nazis and David Koresh.

    The average American gun owner lives a delusion where “the collapse of society is imminent”, and they will come out big heroes after this collapse takes place. Their guns are for “shooting the welfare niggers and illegals” who, according to them, are going to come rampaging out of Newark looking to get their greasy paws on the white women their stash of MRE’s. Think I’m kidding? Go to any gun show and, and talk with some of these people, and see if I’m kidding.

    The reason irresponsible gun ownership is encouraged in the US is because it divides people…it atomizes society. It provides a pretense for the police state, and it makes big corporations a lot of money. In this regard America is unique. In other countries, allowing large numbers of arms to circulate among the prols would result in guerrilla groups forming to challenge TPTB. In the US it’s the opposite, it helps people like the Koch brothers, by making ordinary Americans fearful and suspicious of other ordinary Americans.

    The average Tea-Tard is one major illness away from bankruptcy, and he’s good with that. The average Tea-Tard’s kid leaves school $100K in debt, and Tea-Tard mom and dad accept it without complaint. However, they believe they are “free by God” because they can own an AR-15, unlike the “oppressed” losers in socialist countries. Socialist countries with universal health care, top education systems and higher standards of living than the US. Yup, you can rob them blind and treat them like shit, just don’t touch their guns or their pick-up trucks.

  • 2. euro-dude  |  January 16th, 2012 at 6:05 am

    It is indeed true that private gun ownership serves a purpose in the US, of giving a lot of the US working class a kind of ‘illusion’ of freedom while their actual freedoms are taken away. That is an interesting and clever thing the US leaders realised – they could pump up private gun ownership, while deluding the US masses into accepting a quasi-fascist police state.

    But it is not true, as suggested above, that there are few private civilian firearms in other countries.

    Americans never seem to know we have lots of privately owned guns in Europe. They might be confused by the news stories from when crazy Great Britain, did actually confiscate all privately owned handguns in the late 1990s. But they are crazy over there in the UK. They are not like us, those ‘Anglos’.

    Here on the Continent we have a lot of ‘guns and gold’ but we don’t talk about them much. That kind of ‘gun show blowhard’ is very un-Continental. We are much less loud-mouthed as individuals than Americans, but much better at demonstrating in groups, general strikes and somewhat amiable quasi-rioting. That is as much our ‘democracy’ as voting.

    The US is certainly #1 in gun ownership, almost one gun per person overall, but there are about 19 million privately owned handguns, shotguns and rifles in France (1 gun for every 3 persons), 25 million civilian firearms in Germany (1 gun for every 3.3 persons) and so on. We don’t carry them around, but we have lots of guns in our hands. Yet very low crime, almost no use of those guns in political radicalism etc. But we also have much less fascism, hardly anyone in jail relatively, police often nice. In north-western Continental Europe especially, life is still pretty sweet, whereas the US seems somewhat caught in replicating Europe’s 1930s period.

    One standard European joke is that most of the crazy people who used to live here, left some decades or centuries ago and moved to America.

    This is a site with information about gun laws, gun ownership, how many millions of guns owned, and so on, in countries around the world, if you want stats:

  • 3. Diablo  |  January 16th, 2012 at 10:22 am

    Fissile, I am not sure who you were talking to, but the “program” he described is nothing like anything I know of. The enlisted route for nukes is basic, A-school, power school, prototype, then fleet. Its a six years active, 2 years inactive (no matter what the terms of a military contract, everyone’s combined active and inactive service is 8 years). At the 2 year in point, nukes can STAR re-enlist were they get a big re-sign bonus and E-5 pay grade for another six years (which a their two year point in their initial contract is really only a two year increase in their total obligation).

    I am not calling you a liar or anything. I suspect that the recruiter did a really bad job explaining things and confused the shit out of you.

    Per the standards of recruits, nuclear navy is not the same as the rest of the military and since my experience is mostly involving the pipeline, I really don’t have to much to say about the rest of the navy. I went to non-judicial punishment (NJP) for “malicious intent of following a lawful order” (I followed a fucked up order from an O-5 to make him look like an ass). We nukes got daily training on not simply doing what everyone tells you or is doing around you. Stupid, dangerous people didn’t last long around us.

    That said, you could take the smartest people on the planet, put them in the same situation, and they would be doing the same stupid shit. Its a loss of situational awareness and a dangerous herd mentality.

    I do find it strange that people are in an uproar about them pissing on dead bodies. Killing…okay. But don’t mess with the bodies?!? I am not advocating or supporting what the Jarheads did. Its just…we live in a weird world.

  • 4. Fissile  |  January 16th, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    @53 Diablo, I took the ASVAB when I was 17 years old….over 25 years ago. I never did join. I had overall high score on the ASVAB from my high school, and very high score on mechanical aptitude… I recall, I scored something like 94th percentile on mechanical. According to the Navy recruiter, my scores on the ASVAB, combined with my high school courses in math, physics and chem qualified me for Navy nuke power school. Again, according to the Navy recruiter, he claimed I could get into Navy nuke power school and earn a BS degree in nuclear engineering. Was this true? I don’t know. Was he trying to bullshit me because I wasn’t the usual GED stoner recruit? Beats the shit out of me. If you were in the nuclear Navy, I believe you. Which means the recruiter who talked to me was probably full of shit.

    As for what happened to you in the Navy, I’m sorry to hear it. Something similar happened to me in a corporate setting where I had to throw myself on my sword over what one of my bosses did. Unfortunately it’s very common. Ever hear the cliche, “The scum rises to the top.” Cliches are cliches because they are true.

  • 5. Fissile  |  January 16th, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    @52 euro-dude, Yes, I know that private firearms ownership is allowed in Europe, it’s not the same thing as in America. My family came to America after WWII as refugees. I still have a lot of relatives in Europe with whom I am in regular contact. European countries have very strict rules regarding firearms ownership…who can purchase a firearm, training requirements, restrictions on automatic weapons, restrictions on how many weapons can be owned by one person, restrictions on storage…some countries require storage at gun clubs and not in the home of the owner. In America, most states require nothing more than a cursory check for criminal history. If you don’t look like an obvious whack-out, you go home with your gun/s the same day…no training, no other requirements whatsoever.

    Did you know that there are 250,000 legal, fully automatic weapons held by private owners in the US? In other words, one quarter of a million machine guns are privately owned by Americans. This is on top of millions upon millions of semi-automatic, repeating and single shot weapons of every conceivable type and caliber.

    This video is from the Knob Creek machine gun shoot. Knob Creek is an annual machine gun festival held in Westpoint, Kentucky. It kind of like redneck Woodstock. All the machine guns you see in this video are PRIVATELY OWNED. Does this kind of thing take place anywhere in Europe?

  • 6. internal exile  |  January 17th, 2012 at 2:00 am

    Oh shit, the gun nutz are here.

  • 7. Palmer Eldritch  |  January 17th, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    Diablo, U.S. soldiers are an even more reprehensible class of pigs than U.S. cops. It’s a fact and everyone sensible agrees. How does that grab ya?

  • 8. Krokodile  |  January 19th, 2012 at 6:05 am

    I scored 99 on ASVAB. Army was fucking awesome, M16 is my fav, AK – ain’t shit, motherfuckers! I learned more cuss words from my Sarges than fucking low life trash stoners will ever score.

  • 9. Joe Blow  |  January 19th, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    Cord Jeff: “I have a friend I’ll call Patrick who lives in Tucson, the small southern Arizona town”


    excellent article with authentic voices. lots of people with dead friends…

  • 10. Yam Digger  |  January 22nd, 2012 at 1:17 am

    This is what i love about the eXile. The mainstream media simply repeat the Associated Press story so that if you read one article you’ve read them all. Not the eXile. They actually go to the scene itself and talk to the people who actually know what the Hell is going on. You can’t beat getting the story strait from the horses mouth.

  • 11. Yam Digger  |  January 22nd, 2012 at 1:27 am

    I totally believe what these kids say about Jared. Look at his mug shot at the top of the article: If you were arrested for first degree murder and faced the possibility of spending the rest of your life sharing a cell with a 300 lbs homo named Bubba who will anally rape you every night when the lights go out, would you be smiling for your mug shot? I didn’t think so. That grin on his face says that this guy is clearly not living in the real world with the rest of us.

  • 12. TooMuch  |  January 22nd, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    WTF? Knew them boys to well, Tucson like most have problems with drugs. Meth is public and herion is not mentioned much. When they went to jail(Pima)at different times, they didn’t care as they were high than high. No info was given or mention about herion addition. I never expected Lance and Tayler to live much longer but now, Tyler is a young father still fighting his addictions which will be with him for ever. Lance is in treatment and has a great chance again to be clean, his chose. Anybody close to another addict knows what going on but no one talks about it. This is where it begins. It not the war on drugs but on the drug dealers. Drugs will never go away, dealers always do at some point.
    The point I want to make is, you gave them money for their stories, so they used it to get more herion. Lance’s scares on his neck (tracks)I’m sure were very visible. Taylers’s propably were hidden under his long sleeves.
    Sad thing, their little sister is still grieving and you really should look deeper and deeper than from the outside. Tucson is a beautiful place but your no different than another new source. You poached them and I’m sure you do it all the time, and they would of done it for $40. $80-$100 buys some fixes and rigs.
    Maybe there should be a law stating how much you paid for a story.

  • 13. Tom  |  November 11th, 2012 at 12:08 am


    I don’t think AZ strikes me as one who’s an expert on the junkie addict scene. I doubt he realized “oh those guys are getting high off this money.” Addicts are great at conning people.

    “I’m in recovery man, and I need money for treatments,” they probably had AZ eating out of their hands.

  • 14. The Gubbler  |  November 15th, 2012 at 4:45 am


  • 15. Tucson Country touch cafe  |  January 12th, 2013 at 3:07 am

    The fact that Tucson is considered “Arizona’s Austin” says everything you need to know about the state. Tucson may be funkier than Phoenix, but it’s still way too dark, way too Arizona, to ever attain Third Coast status. There’s a big skinhead scene. The local airwaves are full of small-time nativist hate jocks. And the border is close, which means lots of cheap drugs, trafficking gangs, and dirty cops.

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