TUCSON, Ariz (Reuters) - Emails released by court order from an Arizona college about Tucson shooting rampage suspect Jared Lee Loughner show campus police were so worried they asked federal authorities whether he had a gun.
Scores of emails regarding the increasingly bizarre behavior of Loughner, accused of killing six people and wounding 13 others including Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords, have been released by Pima Community College, where he was a student.
One showed campus police had contacted federal firearms officials to ask if Loughner owned a gun. Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives officials responded that they had no information about Loughner.
In the months before the January 8 shooting spree, emails between the school and police indicate school officials had deep knowledge about his disturbing behavior before they finally expelled him in September 2010.
The school alerted local police at least five times about Loughner's behavior last year, according to the emails released on Thursday, including one case in February 2010 where Loughner made comments in class that "were completely out of context, talking about abortion, wars, killing people, and 'strapping bombs to babies.'"
In June 2010, police were alerted to Loughner's strange behavior again and asked university officials if they wanted to suspend Loughner. According to the emails, the school at that time opted not to, saying it wasn't necessary.
The school eventually expelled Loughner in September 2010, the same month campus police contacted the ATF about a possible gun but were told a records search was fruitless.
Loughner, who investigators said had a history of mental problems, is accused of opening fire on Giffords and a crowd of bystanders attending a "Congress on Your Corner" event outside a grocery story.
Loughner has pleaded not guilty to 49 charges including two counts of first degree murder of a federal employee, for the deaths of a federal judge and a Giffords aide.
In March, U.S. District Judge Larry Burns ordered mental tests to determine if Loughner is competent to stand trial. Loughner subsequently underwent a psychiatric evaluation in Missouri.
Prosecutors had cited widely publicized accounts of Loughner's erratic behavior in the months before the shooting, including homemade videos posted to YouTube in which he talks about mind control and mistrust of the government.
A competency hearing is set for May 25 at the U.S. District Court in Tucson.
(Reporting Tim Gaynor; Additional reporting by Aman Ali in New York; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jerry Norton)