TUCSON, Ariz. - The man accused of wounding Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in a deadly rampage lowered his head to within inches of the courtroom table yesterday. When he lifted it, he began yelling, angrily and loudly.
Federal marshals had to drag Jared Lee Loughner out of the packed federal courtroom. Minutes later, he was in a nearby room and, over a closed-circuit TV, could watch as U.S. District Judge Larry Burns declared him incompetent to stand trial.
Mental-health experts concluded that the 22-year-old college dropout is schizophrenic.
Burns ordered Loughner to a federal facility in Missouri for up to four months. Doctors there will try to give him enough treatment to bring him to a point at which he understands the case against him.
"You don't have to be a psychiatrist to know that the boy is disturbed," said Eric Fuller, who was shot in the knee and the back during the Jan. 8 shooting rampage at a Giffords event outside a Tucson supermarket.
Fuller said he wouldn't mind if Loughner spends the rest of his life in a mental-health facility.
"Hinckley has been gone for forever," Fuller said, referring to John Hinckley Jr., who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan 30 years ago and has since been committed to a psychiatric hospital.
Loughner spent five weeks in March and April at the federal facility in Springfield, Mo., where he was examined by psychologist Christina Pietz and psychiatrist Matthew Carroll. The two were asked to determine if Loughner understood the consequences of the case.
Burns viewed 18 hours of the experts' videotaped interviews with Loughner.
The judge said Carroll concluded that Loughner's mental health has declined in the past two or three years and that his thinking on legal issues is confused. Carroll believes that Loughner doesn't grasp the gravity of the charges and is instead fixated on inconsequential issues.
Pietz concluded that Loughner's thoughts are random and that he suffers from delusions, the judge said. She noted that Loughner had given nonsensical answers to questions and doesn't understand the role of judges or jurors.
A hearing to revisit Loughner's mental competency is set for Sept. 21.
Loughner has pleaded not guilty to 49 federal charges stemming from the shooting, which wounded Giffords and 12 others and killed six people, including afederal judge and the 9-year-old granddaughter of former Phillies manager Dallas Green.
Giffords spokesman C.J. Karamargin declined to comment on yesterday's ruling and wasn't sure if Giffords would be notified. "We've never commented on Loughner's legal case," he said. "There's no reason to start now."
Giffords' astronaut husband, Mark Kelly, is in space on NASA's next-to-last shuttle flight.