On July 24, at 11 a.m. CST, Lafayette, Louisiana Police Chief Jim Craft held a press conference concerning the investigation into the shooting at the Lafayette Grand Theater. Of the 300 people in the theater, 116 have been interviewed. Tickets were sold to 25 people for the 7 p.m. showing of Trainwreck, where the shooting took place. Among the people shot, three people were killed, including the shooter, and nine were wounded. Amid the wounded, one is in critical condition, another required surgery, and two have been released from the hospital. The ages of those who had been shot ranged from victims in their teens to their late 60’s. The Lafayette gunman loaded his weapon once, and then he fired it 15 times.
The suspected gunman in the Lafayette movie theater was 59-year-old John Russell Houser of Alabama. Craft said Houser had at least one other clip on him, but it was not loaded. Craft also said the threat in Lafayette was over, as he believed Houser was working alone.
About 20 minutes into the movie, Houser allegedly shot and killed the two people sitting in front of him, before turning his handgun toward others, according to witnesses. Investigators found 15 shell casings at the scene in the Lafayette theater.
Emily Mann, 21, was sitting in the same row as the shooter. She said she did not hear the gunman say anything before he opened fire. When Emily saw the muzzle flashes she immediately got down on the floor. Emily and her friend were unharmed physically but have been traumatized by the event, according to Emily’s father, Randall Mann.
Houser tried to escape when he saw the police officers outside by turning back and pushing his way through the crowd. He was followed by police, but he went back into the theater and shot himself before they were able to get to him. Evidence shows that his original plan was to escape Lafayette after the shooting.
Houser’s blue 1995, Lincoln Continental was parked by the exit door of the theater. The car also had plates that did not match the Lincoln. He was staying in a room at the nearby Motel 6 where police found several wigs and glasses in his room. Authorities assume he was going to use these items as disguises to escape Lafayette after the shooting.
Colonel Mike Edmondson, the State Police Superintendent, said they were working on finding a motive for the shooting. He said police could not forget the fact that 21-year-old Mayci Breaux and 33-year-old, Jillian Johnson had their lives taken from them. Police have spoken to the suspected shooter’s family, and they were looking into things he had written on the internet, according to Edmondson.
Edmondson believes the shooting happened in Lafayette, close to a major university for a reason. He said for the sake of the families, the police needed to put the pieces together to bring those families some closure. Houser only loaded his handgun once, before he fired it 15 times, and 12 of those shots made contact with someone in the Lafayette theater including himself.
Houser studied accounting in Georgia and received a law degree from Faulkner University in Alabama. There is not any evidence of him passing or even taking the bar exam, however.
Houser frequently appeared on a morning call-in show on WLTZ-TV, in Columbus, Georgia in the 90’s. According to the host, Calvin Floyd, Houser was an advocate of violence towards people involved with abortions. He had other radical views, such as being opposed to working women. He was used on the show to combat Democratic ideas, but his anger and wild accusations would make people call into the show. He was good for ratings.
State Representative, Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, says the loopholes in the gun laws need to be closed so this does not happen again. In Lafayette, this gunman was able to load his weapon once, and then he fired it 15 times, killing two people and wounding nine others. There was another press conference scheduled for 5:30 p.m. CST, on July 24.
Houser was mentally ill, to the extent that his wife hid all of his guns before his family had him hospitalized against his will years ago. His family later obtained a restraining order to keep him away. His mental illnesses included bipolar disorder, according to the 2008 court documents, due to violent threats in an attempt to stop his daughter’s wedding. This is why the judge deemed him a danger to himself and others, granting the family’s petition to have him hospitalized.
When Houser was released from the hospital he, “perpetrated various acts of family violence” therefore, his immediate family was granted the restraining order. According to the court documents that were filed, he believed that his daughter, 23, and her fiancé, 26, were too young to get married, so he conveyed “extremely erratic behavior and made ominous, as well as disturbing statements that their marriage could not occur.”
The star of Trainwreck, Amy Schumer, sent out a tweet when she heard of the incident, saying, “My heart is broken and all my thoughts and prayers are with everyone in Louisiana.” Schumer, the star of Trainwreck, plays a writer who lives a life of promiscuity after her father tells her that monogamy is unrealistic. Despite her best efforts, she falls in love anyway.
According to the White House, President Obama was apprised of the situation while he was flying to Africa. He asked to be kept updated on the investigation and the condition of those who had been wounded. Then he stated that his thoughts and prayers were with the families of those who were killed.
At the scheduled 5:30 p.m. CST press conference, authorities said they had learned the shooter bought the .40-caliber handgun, with an extra magazine, legally in 2014, from a pawn shop in Alabama. Craft said Houser visited the theater several times prior to the shooting. Craft believes the behavior he conveyed could have been Houser trying to decide if the theater was a ‘soft target.’ Five of the wounded are still hospitalized.
Two of the wounded have been identified as Jeanerette High School English teacher, Ali Martin, and librarian Jena Meaux. Martin was shot in the knee and Meaux in the leg. One of them took the shot for a friend while the other pulled the fire alarm to evacuate the Lafayette theater.
A law center that tracks hate groups said, Houser had been in their files since 2005. He had registered for David Duke’s European-American Unity and Rights Organization conference. Duke is a former leader for the Ku Klux Klan.
Houser spent time in online forums writing about the “power of the lone wolf.” He was also interested in white supremacy groups, held anti-Semitic ideas, and supported the anti-gay, Westboro Baptist Church, according to the law center.
In January, on State of Mind’s website, Houser wrote about the results of Hitler’s pragmatism, and how Hitler was the most successful person that has lived. He also believed that the U.S. was failing and needed to be ruled with an “iron hand.” On Golden Dawn’s website, he wrote that it was sad Timothy McVeigh would miss the turning of the tables with an “IRON HAND.”
An Alabama sheriff said that Houser was refused a concealed weapons permit in 2006, because of a domestic violence complaint, and an arrest for arson. He also said that in 2014, Houser had been evicted, but got revenge by tampering with the gas line, and pouring cement into the plumbing pipes of the building.
Investigators discovered unusual packages in the Lafayette movie theater where the gunman had loaded his weapon once and fired it 15 times, shooting 12 people including himself. It was a police dog that alerted Sergeant Brooks David, from the Louisiana State Police to a backpack and some small items in the theater. There has been no word yet on the results of investigating the backpack or other items.
By Jeanette Smith
Edited By Leigh Haugh
ABC KATC–‘UPDATE 12:45 pm: Theater Gunman’s Family Called Him Mentally Ill, Violent
Miami Herald–The Latest: Theater Shooter Bought Gun Legally at Pawn Shop
New York Times–Lafayette Theater Shooter Bought Gun Legally at Pawn Shop
Photo Courtesy of Derek Bridges’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License