Sometimes surly, sometimes seemingly unhinged, he was unpredictable in a way that made fellow students in a community college class want to leave the room.

He had changed since high school: the shy, seemingly normal boy had experimented with drugs and, increasingly, with conspiracy theories that made sense to no one but himself.

“This guy wasn’t a missed case,” Randy Borum, an expert on threat assessment at the University of South Florida, said about Jared L. Loughner, the 22-year-old college dropout who is accused of trying to assassinate Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona on Saturday.

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