PHOENIX, AZ (AZ FAMILY) - He was her childhood friend.
Eventually, the two became a couple.
Ashley Figueroa didn’t know high school life without Jared Loughner, the man behind the Jan. 8 shooting in Tucson.
“He left everything for people to see for a reason," Figueroa said. "He wanted the world to know what he thought, because he thought, how it is in his head, is how the world was."
AZ Family’s Briana Whitney sat down with Figueroa to find out what Loughner was like years before the shooting.
Whitney asked Figueroa if she thought Loughner was capable of the act for which he was convicted.
"At the time, no. I would’ve never thought that whatsoever,” Figueroa said.
In 2011, Figueroa watched on her TV as former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was rushed to the hospital after being shot in the head at an event in Tucson. Six people died and many more were injured at the hands of a 22-year-old Loughner.
“What if he had done a shooting at the school? I may not be here today for all I know,” she said.
She said looking back now, the signs were there -- Loughner felt the government and world were against him.
“When he was talking about his conspiracy theories he was very passionate about it," she said. "Like you could see him shaking sometimes, because he was so angry about something and I was just like, 'okay.'”
“What’s happening to boys today is scary. It’s sad. It’s tragic, but what’s even more tragic is that we are ignoring it,” said Dr. Warren Farrell.
Farrell, author of "The Boy Crisis," has been studying the issue for decades.
He said girls do better in school and have better self esteem; they aren’t the problem. He said it’s the boys who grow up wanting to be the star football player, the hero firefighter, which they consider the peak of masculinity.
Mass shooters appear to be one in the same: young, white loners who don’t fit this mold.
“Young white males, especially suburban white males, tend to have expectations put on them, and so they feel a lot of shame when they disappoint those expectations,” Farrell said.
That’s when the problems start, but Farrell said it’s bigger than that. It comes down to something so important, but something no one can see from the outside.
“We see in almost all the mass shooters the similarity of dad deprivation,” Farrell said. "Which leads to a boy feeling ashamed of himself, withdrawing, becoming angry that nobody likes him, pays attention to him, is proud of him."
When he looked into the pasts of mass shooters, he found a link.
“We saw this with Adam Lanza in Sandy Hook, this enormous anger, this dad deprivation," Farrell said. "We saw this with David Katz in Jacksonville, his parents divorced, he was living with his mom since age 11. We saw this with Robert Bowers, the synagogue shooter. His dad was killed when he was six. We saw this with Dylann Roof in Charleston. We saw this with Stephen Paddock in Las Vegas, Elliott Rodger."
Years later, Figueroa realizes those red flags were there.
“(He) never talked about his family," she said. "(He) never invited me over for dinner like a normal kid would do when they had their girlfriend."
Farrell said Loughner, like many of the other shooters, turned to mass destruction to get back at those he felt had wronged him. Farrell said that's the storyline almost every time.
“I’m angry at girls, I’m angry at the school, I’m angry at teachers, I’m angry at people in general, I have no real friends. I will get attention for once in my life,” Farrell said, explaining these young men’s thought processes.
He said while father involvement is key, it can’t cure a genetic mental illness or disease. In those cases, he said rehab and intense psychotherapy are needed.
But he said too often after these shootings, we only see and feel the effect: death, heartbreak and fear.
But we must figure out how to address the cause.
“It is a tragedy that we will pay for again and again until we learn to care for our sons,” he said.
And if we don’t, time is ticking before the next one pulls the trigger.
We reached out to mental health experts to address what a mother can do if her husband is not present and her son does not have a father in his life.
They told us a mother should not take on both parental roles, but should establish a positive male role model in her son’s life, like an uncle, coach, Boy Scout leader, church leader, teacher, etc.
We were told if a child requires professional help, it is best to have a parental team tackle that together and continue to support one another emotionally, as well as their child, to find the best possible success.