(CNN) — After being detained for allegedly erupting outside a Tucson, Arizona, supermarket — gunning down 19 people, including six fatally — Jared Lee Loughner refused to talk to investigators.
But, well before, the 22-year-old had proven quick and ready to share his opinions and experiences with strangers online.
A picture on his MySpace bulletin board posted just six hours before the shooting was by no means Loughner’s only foray into social media. In fact, on several websites over the past three years, Loughner presented over-the-top assertions, posed random questions and made rambling comments that drew sympathy, scorn and confusion from others in his online forums.
He griped about losing job after job. Ranted about handicapped people and the educational system. And opened up about his round-the-clock struggle with aggression and difficulty in finding companionship.
“He seems like one of those people who avoids substance abuse because he is already strange,” one commenter posted about an online persona, later identified as Loughner, on a thread on the gaming website Earth Empires.
Postings on Earth Empires, which bills itself as a “free browser-based strategy game” in which members take over a nation’s economy and military, were similar to those of a person believed to be Loughner made on the site, Abovetopsecret.com, as well as on MySpace.
Together, these online comments and diatribes suggest a person eagerly trying to engage others, unafraid to articulate his personal struggles and, while only rarely hinting at violence, displaying little in the way of political correctness or respect for powers-that-be.
Even as he had frightened fellow students and alarmed instructors at Pima Community College, a poster identified Friday on the Earth Empires site as “Dare” and referred to, in responses and by himself, as Jared often interacted with fellow users.
An Earth Empires blog posted Friday said that Loughner had made more than 100 posts on 50 topics, having participated in games on the site since his high school days. He’d started nearly 30 of these threads himself, but had not been active since June 2010, according to the post.
“As a community, we are absolutely horrified that someone who had been part of our relatively small group could be involved in such a horrible act,” the post said.
Beyond the gaming elements, Earth Empires also features private threads in which its members can comment on a variety of topics. That includes rants on hot-button topics and even cartoons, including one in which the poster, Dare, refers to himself as Jared.
Some postings are lighter in nature, on subjects ranging from weightlifting to taxidermy to Dare’s affinity for the music group Insane Clown Posse.
But others are deeper. On a thread he started that solicits stories about rejection by the opposite sex, he expresses sadness. And on a thread about the participants’ hardest final exam, Dare ends one comment with the words “Mental breakdown.”
He titled one message string “Would you hit a Handy Cap Child/Adult?,” posting insulting words about and images of mentally challenged people. On a May 9 thread, Dare asks: “Dose (sic) anyone have aggression 24/7?”
While they engage and kid with him on occasion, fellow commenters on Earth Empires increasingly call out Dare for what they call his nonsensical rants.
Dare’s posts also dwell extensively on his employment history.
On a thread started by Dare on May 14, 2010, the poster expresses his disgust after filling out more than 20 applications for a part-time job and being rejected. According to the post, Dare was terminated from “Peter Piper Pizza, Chineese fast food, Red Robin – @[User who knew Jared outside of the game] …The drug hang out., Quiznos, and Eddie Bauer.”
Dan Barnes, owner of the Red Robin in the Tucson Mall, told CNN in a phone interview that Loughner was employed at his restaurant as a busboy from November 2006 until February 2008, when he put in his two-week notice and told Barnes that he planned to join the Army.
“He was a good, quiet kid,” Barnes said. “We have no negative items in his file.”
A person at the Tucson office of Peter Piper Pizza confirmed that Loughner was employed from January to March 2006 at the pizza parlor on West Ina Road, down the street from where the shooting occurred in Tucson. No one there recalled Loughner, but payroll records verified he worked as a general crew member.
Jose Landeros, who said he worked with Loughner at Quiznos, told CNN’s John King on Tuesday that Loughner was fired because of poor customer service and that he “didn’t really care about work or anything.”
Doreen Jarman, a spokesperson for Eddie Bauer, said by e-mail that “Loughner was not employed at Eddie Bauer at the time of Saturday’s incident and has not worked for the company for more than a year.”
Dare is approximately the inverse of the name Erad3, which was used on another website, abovetopsecret.com. Mark Allin, that site’s co-owner, said he believes Erad3 is Loughner.
Between February 2009 and September 2010, Erad3 made assertions such as that NASA had never flown a manned space shuttle mission, there was no Mars rover, and people can make their own currency.
Abovetopsecret.com focuses on “alternative news” and information “not covered by the mainstream media,” Allin said. He noted that all the postings attributed to Erad3 originated in Loughner’s hometown of Tucson.
Those messages from Erad3 — riddled with grammatical errors — often became the object of ridicule, scorn or sympathy from other contributors.
“The ranting about proof, (your) inability to make a coherent sentence gives you away red handed,” one person wrote. “It won’t be long (until) you have been banned once again.”
Unlike some of his posts as Dare on the Earth Empires site, the comments from Erad3 on didn’t mention violence. But they do reflect a strong urge to break free of any restraints — real or imagined — imposed by government officials.