TUCSON, Ariz. - The suspect in a January shooting rampage that left six dead and wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others was returned to Arizona on Thursday after undergoing mental exams in Missouri, authorities said.
Jared Loughner arrived in Tucson, the city where the shootings occurred, after spending five weeks at a Bureau of Prisons facility in Springfield, Missouri, said Deputy Chris DeRosa, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service in Tucson. The 22-year-old was taken to a federal prison facility in Arizona, he said.
Two mental competency exams were conducted on Loughner to determine whether he understands the consequences of the charges he faces and can assist in his defense. Prosecutors had asked for the exam, citing a YouTube video in which they believe a hooded Loughner wore garbage bags and burned an American flag.
Lougher has pleaded not guilty to 49 federal charges stemming from the Jan. 8 shooting at a meet-and-greet event where six people died, including a 9-year-old girl and a federal judge. His mental competency hearing is scheduled for May 25.
If Loughner is found to be mentally incompetent, he would be sent to a federal facility for a minimum of four months to see if he can be restored to competency. It could be up to a two-month wait just to get him into one of those facilities.
A court-appointed psychologist and psychiatrist who examined Loughner were ordered not to focus on Loughner's sanity at the time of the shooting.
A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the psychologist trying to determine Loughner's competency should be given the suspect's health records from his pediatrician, a behavioral health hospital that treated him for extreme intoxication in May 2006 and an urgent care center where he was treated in 2004 for unknown reasons.
Loughner's attorneys opposed the records request. U.S. District Judge Larry Burns said there's no basis for withholding records that may inform the psychologist's opinion and ruled the records are to be handed over if requested as part of the competency exam.
Loughner's lawyers haven't said whether they intend to present an insanity defense. They noted in court filings that his mental condition will likely be a central issue at trial and described him as a "gravely mentally ill man."
Shortly after Loughner arrived in Missouri, his attorneys had asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to halt the exam and return their client to Tucson. The appeals court rejected the request.
Loughner's lawyers argued that a mental exam could do irreparable damage to their client's rights. Prosecutors contended that his lawyers have offered no basis in law for their request.