Man described as a drifter kills 2, himself in Lafayette, Louisiana, movie theater
Posted: Jul 24, 2015 1:45 PM CDT | Updated: Jul 24, 2015 1:46 PM CDT
(CNN) Authorities have learned more about Lafayette, Louisiana, movie theater shooter John Russell Houser, including his blog posts and a 2008 restraining order against him in which his then-wife \"was fearful of him (and) his daughter was fearful of him,\" Louisiana State Police Col. Michael Edmonson said Friday.
Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said authorities have developed numerous \"additional leads\" after releasing Houser's name earlier Friday, including his time recently in that Louisiana city and elsewhere.
But they haven't pinned down a motive yet, including why he came to Lafayette, went armed into a movie theater and opened fire.
Craft said that 25 tickets, including one to Houser, were sold for the showing of \"Trainwreck\" where the shooting occurred. About 300 people were in the entire Grand 16 theater at the time, and investigators had interviewed 116 of them by around midday Friday.
After wounding 11 people -- two of them fatally -- inside the theater, he reloaded and fired one more round, killing himself, according to the Lafayette police chief.
As moviegoers settled in for the comedy \"Trainwreck,\" John Russell Houser stood up and unloaded at least 13 shots. 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.
Pops, muzzle flashes and panic
The shooting victims are in area hospitals, except for two who have been released. One of the ones still hospitalized was in critical condition Friday morning, Craft said. Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel said that Breaux's boyfriend, Matthew Rodriguez, is among the wounded.
As they recover, others are thankful they're not hurt physically even as they try to make sense of why someone would open fire in a movie theater packed with about 100 people, none of whom he apparently knew.
Randall Mann, an executive at Acadian Ambulance, which responded within 6 minutes, said his 21-year-old daughter -- who was watching \"Trainwreck\" from the second-to-last row, the same one as Houser -- is \"very traumatized\" but unharmed.
\"She made a comment that she was just thankful that the shooter did not pick one of the theaters that had some children's movies in it because she would have hated for the children to have witnessed that,\" he told CNN. \"I took that as a great first step of her eventually coping with this.\"
Horror in a movie theater, instead of on a screen
He said that when his daughter heard the first pops, she thought they could have been firecrackers or part of the movie. But she \"knew something was happening\" when she saw muzzle flashes, Mann said. She hit the floor then ran for her life, joining a swarm of panicked but controlled, helpful crowd.
Another man in the theater told Keifer Sanders, who was watching another movie, that \"there was no argument, nothing going on at all. And a guy just stood up and started opening fire.\"
\"The guy was just kind of at ease, just standing there, just shooting,\" Sanders said.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal recounted the story of two teachers, enjoying the last few days of summer break, caught up in the melee. One jumped over the other, a move that the friend said prevented a bullet from hitting her in the head, according to the governor. It struck her in the leg instead.
This all unfolded around 7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m. ET), about 20 minutes into a film that Houser had bought a ticket for just like everyone else. Afterward, the movie's star Amy Schumer tweeted, \"My heart is broken and all my thoughts and prayers are with everyone in Louisiana.\"