Tucson mass killer left message in sign language before attack

Posted: Updated:
TUCSON, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Three minutes before the 2011 shooting attack in Tucson that left six people dead and wounded more than a dozen others, Jared Lee Loughner was waiting in line at a grocery store checkout.

Loughner had been meandering through the store for about 12 minutes before deciding to buy a single bottle of water. After fumbling through a plastic baggie containing cash near the register, he glanced high up at the ceiling – perhaps for a surveillance camera – and smiled.

[RAW VIDEO: 2011 Tucson shooting Safeway surveillance video]

[RELATED: Tucson marks solemn mass shooting anniversary that killed 6, wounded 13]

Then he said something in American Sign Language, a topic he studied at Pima Community College.

Loughner collected his change and walked out of the store. The attack happened one minute later.

[READ MORE: Survivors of 2011 Tucson mass shooting plan to build memorial]

More than seven years after the shooting, the scene inside the Tucson grocery store was revealed for the first time through surveillance video released by the FBI.

The agency released 12 videos from the store along with hundreds of photographs of the shooting scene and other evidence.

[RELATED: Memorial honoring Tucson shooting seeks funds]

[READ MORE: Rifle-wielding gunman wounds lawmaker, then killed by police]

In the checkout line, Loughner signed, “I'm sorry, thank you,” followed by a few more signs we could not readily identify. Some signers contacted by Arizona’s Family suggested he might have been referencing a name.

The FBI also released hundreds of photos. Among them: Loughner’s handwritten notes on a firearm instruction manual.

[RELATED: Gabrielle Giffords shot and injured in Tucson (Jan. 8, 2011)]

“History in the [expletive] making,” he wrote. Elsewhere on the manual he added, “You have a piece of a historic gun.”

Loughner was sentenced to life in prison in November 2012.

Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app.

Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


Derek StaahlDerek Staahl is an Emmy Award-winning reporter and fill-in anchor who loves covering stories that matter most to Arizona families.

Click to learn more about Derek.

Derek Staahl

This once-uncompromising "California guy" got his first taste of Arizona in 2015 while covering spring training baseball for his former station. The trip spanned just three days, but Derek quickly decided Phoenix should be his next address. He joined CBS 5 and 3TV four months later, in August 2015. Before packing his bags for the Valley of the Sun, Derek spent nearly four years at XETV in San Diego, where he was promoted to Weekend Anchor and Investigative Reporter. Derek chaired the Saturday and Sunday 10 p.m. newscasts, which regularly earned the station's highest ratings for a news program each week. Derek’s investigative reporting efforts into the Mayor Bob Filner scandal in 2013 sparked a "governance crisis" for the city of San Diego and was profiled by the region’s top newspaper. Derek broke into the news business at WKOW-TV in Madison, WI. He wrote, shot, edited, and presented stories during the week, and produced newscasts on the weekends. By the end of his stint, he was promoted to part-time anchor on WKOW’s sister station, WMSN. Derek was born in Los Angeles and was named the “Undergraduate Broadcast Journalism Student of the Year” in his graduating class at USC. He also played quads in the school’s famous drumline. When not reporting the news, Derek enjoys playing drumset, sand volleyball, and baseball.

Hide bio