The police were sent to the home where Jared L. Loughner lived with his family on more than one occasion before the attack here on Saturday that left a congresswoman fighting for her life and six others dead, the Pima County Sheriff’s Department said on Tuesday.
A spokesman, Jason Ogan, said the details of the calls were being reviewed by legal counsel and would be released as soon as the review was complete. He said he did not know what the calls were about — they could possibly have been minor, even trivial matters — or whether they involved Jared Loughner or another member of the household.
A friend of Mr. Loughner’s also said in an interview on Tuesday that Mr. Loughner, 22, was skilled with a gun — as early as high school — and had talked about a philosophy of fostering chaos.
The news of police involvement with the Loughners suggests that county sheriff’s deputies were at least familiar with the family, even if the reason for their visits was unclear as of Tuesday night.
The account by Mr. Loughner’s friend, a rare extended interview with someone close to Mr. Loughner in recent years, added some details to the emerging portrait of the suspect and his family.
“He was a nihilist and loves causing chaos, and that is probably why he did the shooting, along with the fact he was sick in the head,” said Zane Gutierrez, 21, who was living in a trailer outside Tucson and met Mr. Loughner sometimes to shoot at cans for target practice.
The Loughner family released a statement on Tuesday, its first since the attacks, expressing — in a six-line document handed to reporters outside their house — sorrow for the losses experienced by the victims and their families.
“It may not make any difference, but we wish that we could change the heinous events of Saturday,” the statement said. “There are no words that can possibly express how we feel. We wish that there were, so we could make you feel better.”
The new details from Mr. Gutierrez about Mr. Loughner — including his philosophy of anarchy and his expertise with a handgun, suggest that the earliest signs of behavior that may have ultimately led to the attacks started several years ago.
Mr. Gutierrez said his friend had become obsessed with the meaning of dreams and their importance. He talked about reading Friedrich Nietzsche’s book “The Will To Power” and embraced ideas about the corrosive, destructive effects of nihilism — a belief in nothing. And every day, his friend said, Mr. Loughner would get up and write in his dream journal, recording the world he experienced in sleep and its possible meanings.
“Jared felt nothing existed but his subconscious,” Mr. Gutierrez said. “The dream world was what was real to Jared, not the day-to-day of our lives.”
And that dream world, his friend said, could be downright strange.
“He would ask me constantly, ‘Do you see that blue tree over there?’ He would admit to seeing the sky as orange and the grass as blue,” Mr. Gutierrez said. “Normal people don’t talk about that stuff.”
He added that Mr. Loughner “used the word 'hollow' to describe how fake the real world was to him.”
As his behavior grew more puzzling to his friends, he was getting better with a pistol. Starting in high school, Mr. Loughner honed his marksmanship with a 9-millimeter pistol, the same caliber weapon used in the attack Saturday, until he became proficient at handling the weapon and firing it quickly.
“If he had a gun pointed at me, there is nothing I could do because he would make it count,” Mr. Gutierrez said. “He was quick.”
He also said that Mr. Loughner had increasing trouble interacting in social settings — during one party, for instance, Mr. Loughner retreated upstairs alone to a room and was found reading a dictionary.
Jared Loughner’s retreat — whether into the desert with his gun, or into the recesses of his dreams — coincided with a broader retreat by the Loughner family that left them increasingly isolated from their community, neighbors said.
His father, Randy, once more of a presence in their mostly working-class neighborhood in northwest Tucson as he went off to work as a carpet-layer and pool-deck installer, became a silent and often sullen presence.
One neighbor, George Gayan, who said he had known the family for 30 years, described a kind of a gradual “pulling back” by the family.
“People do this for different reasons,” said Mr. Gayan, 82. “I don’t know why.”
Some years ago, Randy Loughner built a wall to shield the side porch of the family’s home. Because of his often bellicose attitude, neighbors sometimes kept their distance.
Leslie Cooper owns the house next door, where her son and his family live. She recounted a time when her grandchildren would not chase after a ball that landed in the Loughners’ backyard.
“They had to buy a new one,” said Ms. Cooper, who was told of the incident by her son. “I’d tell my son, those are not normal people over there — there’s a reason why they stick to themselves,” she said, adding that she had warned him to steer clear of Randy Loughner.
“I said, be careful around that guy — don’t get him angry,” she added.
Other people in the neighborhood, though, said they saw glimpses of compassion in the Loughner family, and an ability to reach out to others, sometimes unexpectedly.
Richard Mckinley, 41, whose mother lives down the street from the Loughners, said his mother appreciated how Randy and Amy Loughner were among the first people to visit when her husband died two years ago.
“They were some of the first people to pay respects,” he said.
In contrast to the reputation of his father, Jared Loughner’s mother, Amy, is considered pleasant but reserved by those who know her.
She commuted about an hour each day to her job managing Agua Caliente Park, an area of spring-fed ponds surrounded by giant palm trees in the desert on the outskirts of Tucson. The impeccably maintained park was quiet Tuesday, but for the chirping of the dozens of species of birds that call it home and the occasional crunch of a birder’s hiking boots along the trails.
Donna DeHaan, a former board member of the nonprofit group that helps support the park, said Ms. Loughner was a reliable manager with a good background in environmental issues. Ms. DeHaan said she never spoke about her family but was always pleasant, if a tad quiet and shy.
Mr. Gutierrez said he sensed very little communication within the family when he was among them.
“Every time I met his parents they were kind of quiet and estranged,” he said. Jared Loughner did not complain about his parents, Mr. Gutierrez said, and seemed to simply accept the lack of interaction as a fact of life.
“Jared really did not talk to his parents or talk about them,” Mr. Gutierrez said. “I felt they were not really good reaching out and he was not good at reaching out to his parents.”
After his arrest for possession of drug paraphernalia in 2007, Mr. Loughner was ordered to attend a diversion program run by the county attorney’s office. The chief deputy county attorney, Amelia Craig Cramer, said the program is intended for first-time offenders who have no history of violence or serious mental illness.
Mr. Loughner was referred to an approved drug education program, and completed the required sessions in 30 days.
But the program is primarily educational, Ms. Cramer said, focused on “the dangers of drugs and the dangers of substance abuse,” rather than the kind of in-depth counseling that friends, including Mr. Gutierrez, strongly felt that Mr. Loughner needed.
“It got worse over time,” Mr. Gutierrez said. He said he stopped talking to Mr. Loughner last March, when their interactions grew increasingly unpredictable and troubling.
“He would call me at 2 a.m. and asked, ‘Are you hanging out in front of my house, stalking me?’ He started to get really paranoid, and said he did not want to see us anymore and did not trust us,” Mr. Gutierrez said, referring to himself and another friend. “He thought we were plotting to kill him or steal his car.”
Jo Becker and Kirk Johnson reported from Tucson, and Serge F. Kovaleski from New York. William Gordon Ferguson and Anissa Tanweer contributed reporting from Tucson, and Dan Frosch from Denver. Jack Begg contributed research.