Louisiana Shooting: John Houser Named by Police as Movie Theater Gunman
Lafayette police on Friday identified the gunman in the Louisiana movie theater shooting as John Russel Houser.
Houser, 59, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, was described by police as a “drifter”.
Two women died in the shooting – 21-year-old Mayci Breaux and 33-year-old Jillian Johnson. Nine people were injured.
Two teachers were hailed as heroes after one of them threw herself in front of the gunman and the other managed to raise the alarm.
Louisiana’s governor, Bobby Jindal, told a press conference on Thursday night he had talked to the teachers.
“Even though she was shot in the leg, she had the presence of mind to pull the fire alarm to help save other lives,” he said.
On Friday, Lafayette’s police chief, Jim Craft, said a quick response by police officers prevented further deaths.
“It is apparent that he was intent on shooting and then escaping,” said Craft.
Craft said that when Houser saw police outside, he went back in to the Grand Theatre and the final gunshot was heard.
Police said Houser had purchased a ticket for the Amy Schumer comedy Trainwreck and went in to watch it before opening fire about 20 minutes into the movie, around 7.30pm. Investigators will be reviewing the Grand Theatre’s video security system.
One witness told the Louisiana Advertiser: “We heard a loud pop we thought was a firecracker.”
Bomb squad officers detonated a suspicious package in the gunman’s car and a backpack inside the cinema. Both turned out to be harmless.
Police said Houser, who was from Alabama, had been in Lafayette since early July and was living at a local motel. Police said they found wigs, glasses and other disguises in his room.
Nine victims were hospitalized after the shooting. By Friday morning, two had been released. One person remained in critical condition. Police said at least 13 rounds were fired and one .40 caliber weapon was involved.
Craft provided an early portrait of Houser, though he said: “At this point, we have very little information about him.” He added that the FBI was helping local and state police investigate Houser’s background.
Craft said Houser’s criminal past was “very, very aged” and police had not found “arrests or anything” in 10 or 15 years. “I think he had an arson and maybe had a misdemeanor selling alcohol to a minor,” Houser said.
Police said Houser seemed to have been estranged from his family. “I think he was married at one time, but he’s not presently married as far as I know,” Craft said.
Police said the only connection they had found between Craft and Lafayette so far was that he had an uncle who lived there – but he had been dead for 35 years.
Colonel Mike Edmonson, of the Louisiana state police, said that by Friday morning at least 100 people had been interviewed.
“Putting a motive to it is something we simply can’t do right now,” he said.
Jindal, a candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 2016, said the owner of the Grand Theatre had created a benefit fund for the families of the victims.
Speaking to CNN on Friday, Jindal said: “This was an awful, awful night – for Lafayette, for Louisiana, for our entire country.”