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Mug shot of Tucson shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner released

Pima County Sheriff's Forensic Unit / Reuters

Jared Lee Loughner, the lone suspect in the attempted assassination of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, is shown in this Pima County Sheriff's Forensic Unit handout photograph released on Jan. 10, 2011. Loughner made his first court appearance on Monday on five federal charges.

We published this picture on our cover today because it’s an important news picture, but we debated whether to include it in PhotoBlog.

You could make the argument that the alleged shooter wants the notoriety and fame that comes from an event like this, and we’re playing right into his plans. Honestly, I wouldn’t argue with you on that point.

On the other hand, this is the picture that everyone has been waiting for, and it's certainly striking: "Ghoulish and grinning," as Brian Williams reported on NBC Nightly News. We find ourselves asking, "Who could do this?," and look for the details that could help answer that question. This is one of those details. Our hope is that information, however ghoulish, has value. It adds to the sum of human knowledge. It sparks conversations and healthy debate. It helps citizens understand the events of our time and do something about them.

The tragic stories I’ve seen and read about the victims are sad, but the stories about the heroes who jumped into the line of fire and saved untold lives give me hope. I wish there was something we all could do to ease the pain of those who are most touched by this horrific event.

UPDATED 1/21/2011:

Yesterday the Washington Post's Paul Farhi reported on newspapers' differing uses of the Loughner photograph across the country, and described the photograph this way:

In contrast to the few available photos taken before his arrest, Loughner's mug shot suggested defiance, unapologetic glee, indifference to consequence and possible derangement. (full story)

Today, Zane Gutierrez, a friend of Loughner's, told the TODAY show's Meredith Vieira this about the picture:

Jared was a really. . . he was a nice guy. The difference between the picture that is going around everywhere now, with the shaved head, that's not Jared Loughner, that's not my friend. That's a monster, that was a different person. (full video)