While nearly half of the U.S. public said in a recent poll that accused Arizona shooter Jared Loughner's political views were a factor in the Tucson Massacre, the accused gunman was apolitical, a former friend said.
Zachary Osler, 22, of Tucson, Arizona said in a recent televised interview that Loughner - who has been charged with several murders and attempted murders - didn't watch TV, disliked the news, and didn't listen to political radio.
He didn't take sides. He wasn't on the left. He wasn't on the right, Osler said.
After the shootings, polls attempted to get U.S. residents' views on what factors, including Loughner's politics or heated language in politics, may have played a role in the January 8 massacre.
Loughner's political views were a factor in the shootings, 45 percent of people said in a January 9 and 10 CBS poll. Only 20 percent believed heated language used in politics today was a major factor, while another 22 percent said it was a minor factor, according to a poll released on January 11 by USA Today/Gallup.
Osler did say that one Internet series of documentary films had a profound impact on Loughner's mindset and how he viewed the world.
The Zeitgeist series, which Osler said Loughner liked, touches upon alleged conspiracies about how Christianity arose, what drove U.S. wars of the 20th century, and reasons behind growing North American economic cooperation.
Osler, who says he broke ties with Loughner about two years ago, wondered what he could have done to help his former friend.
Osler partially shielded his face during the interview when shown a mug shot in which Loughner smiles and stares into the camera.
I can't look at that. It scares me, he said. I wish I could have helped him.
In high school, Loughner, now 22, started to become increasingly angry after a breakup with a girlfriend, Osler said. He also noted that Loughner drank heavily and used the legal hallucinogenic drug salvia.
He would say he was using it, and he would talk about it and say what [it] would do to him and I was like, 'Dude, that's screwed up,' Osler said.
Osler said the friendship ended when Loughner sent him a text message severing ties.
Osler said he forgot about Loughner and stopped thinking about him because that wasn't something I wanted to do.
So that's why it's hard to look at the picture of him. It looks like a monster, he said.
The overall likelihood of violence from people with mental disorders is low but there are some concerns for the public, according to a report by the U.S. Surgeon General on mental illness, issued in 1999.
Because the average person is ill-equipped to judge whether someone who is behaving erratically has any of these disorders, alone or in combination, the natural tendency is to be wary, the report states.
People with dual diagnoses, such as a mental disorder and substance abuse disorder, are at the greatest risk of violence, the report states.
There is a small elevation in risk of violence from individuals with severe mental disorders (e.g. psychosis) especially if they are noncompliant with their medication, the report stated, citing a pair of 1998 psychiatric studies.