John Houser shot eleven people at a movie theater before eventually turning the gun on himself taking his life. Three of those victims have later died.
LAFAYETTE, Louisiana — As moviegoers settled in for the comedy “Trainwreck,” John Russell Houser stood up in the movie theater and began firing indiscriminately.
Then, as people rushed from the theater, the 59-year-old man joined them and headed outside, apparently toward his blue 1995 Lincoln Continental.
Then Houser noticed the sirens from police converging on the Lafayette, Louisiana, theater. So he went back inside and took his own life with a .40-caliber handgun.
By that point Thursday night, 21-year-old Mayci Breaux was dead. Ten others were wounded, including 33-year-old Jillian Johnson, who would die at a nearby hospital.
And a city, state and country were searching for answers.
“Why did he come here? Why did he do (this)?” Col. Michael Edmonson of the Louisiana State Police said Friday morning. “We don’t know that.”
Some clues are starting to emerge. They include posts on political bulletin boards from a man who identified himself as Houser, with a matching age and longtime hometown of Phenix City, Alabama.
He has a profile created by the website Tea Party Nation. And on PoliticalForum.com, he left hundreds of messages espousing anti-government, anti-media views.
Houser was denied a concealed carry permit in 2006 after an arrest involving arson, and he was treated for mental health issues in 2008 and 2009, Russell County, Alabama, Sheriff Heath Taylor told CNN. And Taylor said his office served him an eviction notice in March 2014.
“He damaged some of the property there, and I know he had done something to the gas line and the fireplace,” the sheriff said.
Police: ‘He could have come out and done additional harm’
Houser was a drifter who’d become estranged from his family back home in Louisiana and arrived in Lafayette, a city of about 120,000 people about 60 miles west of Baton Rouge, in early July. He was staying at a Motel 6, about 4 miles north of his eventual target, the Grand 16 theater.
Why he’d gone there is a mystery. Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said Houser once had an uncle who lived in the city, but he’d died about 35 years ago. Authorities gave no indication that he knew anyone else there.
But they have some clues suggesting this wasn’t a spontaneous act. Authorities searching Houser’s hotel room and vehicle found wigs, glasses and other apparent disguises. And he’d swapped out the license plates on his Lincoln Continental, parking it right outside an exit door to the Grand 16.
Yet, while he paused his barrage of bullets to head toward the exits, he never made it to the car.
Two police officers who happened to be at the theater made their way toward where “Trainwreck” was playing, as patrons rushed away from the carnage and their law enforcement colleagues on the outside rushed to get there.
“They heard a shot,” Craft said. “And upon entering the theater, the suspect was found deceased from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.”
Edmonson said that the gunman got outside, saw police coming, and then returned to kill himself.
“He could have come out and done additional harm,” the state police colonel said. “… It was an ordinary moment, an ordinary night, and it turned into an extraordinary situation.”
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