Not that you can't see these things coming. Shawna Forde, the ex-Seattle prostitute who was supposed to be Tucson's big crime story this week, was tipping her hand long before she was accused of killing a father and his 9-year-old daughter last year, both shot in the head during an Arizona robbery. She had told family members she was planning a new career as leader of an underground militia targeting Mexicans and the federal government. Jared L. Loughner, who was booked into the same Tucson jail as Forde, likewise was making it clear he was a danger to society long before he was charged yesterday with the attempted killing of a Congresswoman--shooting her in the head--and slaying six others, including a 9-year-old girl.
In the case of Loughner, accused of the attempted assassination of Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords, the signals were comparably subtler. Yet he was thought of an explosive, deranged figure. In his community-college classroom, students and teachers found his anger so threatening that some expected him to pull out a gun and start shooting. As one student put it in an e-mail after an incident last June:
The teacher tried to throw him out and he refused to go, so I talked to the teacher afterward. Hopefully he will be out of class very soon, and not come back with an automatic weapon.
Instead he went to a Tucson shopping center Saturday with a semi-automatic and began mowing down the crowd attending Giffords' first "Congress on Your Corner" meeting of the year. In a press release a day earlier, her office called the event "an excellent opportunity to view the Congresswoman interacting with constituents."
In review, constituent Loughner now appears to have been stalking his unprotected representative. As far back as 2007, at an earlier Corner event, he asked Giffords "How do you know words mean anything?" and became agitated when she ignored him. He referred to her as a "fake," and friends thought he eventually became fixated on Giffords. In November, he bought a Glock 9mm. More recently, he began writing down his plans to assassinate a public official. On Saturday at a shopping mall, it all came together: six dead, 14 wounded, including Giffords, so far surviving a head shot.
Today Loughner is in federal court in Phoenix to enter a plea, while Shawna Forde is watching the jury being empaneled for her state-court murder trial in Tucson. It is no small or painless irony that the verdicts to be eventually rendered against both defendants will be based in great deal on what was already known about them.