Theatre shooter known as ‘an angry man’
The man who killed two people and wounded nine others at a “Trainwreck” showing was so mentally ill and violent that years ago, his wife hid his guns and his family had him hospitalized against his will before obtaining a court order to keep him away, according to court documents, which also show his wife filed for divorce this year.
John Russel Houser, 59, stood up about 20 minutes into the movie and fired first at two people sitting in front of him, then aimed his handgun at others, firing at least 13 times, police said Friday.
“They heard a couple of pops and didn’t know what it was,” said Randall Mann, whose 21year-old daughter, Emily, was sitting in the same row as the shooter.
She told her father that she did not hear the shooter say anything before opening fire. “And then they saw the muzzle flashes, and that’s when they knew what was going on. She hit the floor immediately.”
Randall Mann said his daughter and her friend escaped, uninjured but traumatized.
Police say Houser had one additional magazine of bullets for his handgun as he tried to escape. Then, when he spotted police officers outside, he turned around and pushed back through the fleeing crowd. The officers tailed him into the theatre and heard a single shot before finding him dead inside, police said.
Houser parked his 1995 blue Lincoln Continental — with a mismatched licence plate — by the theatre’s exit door, and disguises including glasses and wigs were found in a search of his room at a nearby Motel 6, police said.
“It is apparent that he was intent on shooting and then escaping,” Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said.
Police were looking at online postings they believed Houser wrote to learn more about him and try to figure out his motive, superintendent Col. Michael D. Edmonson said Friday.
In the 1990s, he frequently appeared on a local television callin show, advocating violence against people involved in abortions, said Calvin Floyd, who hosted the morning show on WLTZ-TV in Columbus, Georgia.
Houser also espoused other radical views, including his op- position to women in the workplace. Floyd described Houser as an “angry man” who made “wild accusations” about all sorts of topics, and said he put him on to counter a Democratic voice because “he could make the phones ring.”
The two fatalities were identified as 33-year-old Jillian Johnson and 21-year-old Mayci Breaux. Five people were sent to hospital with gunshot injuries.
Hospital officials said Friday three people were in stable condition.
Two others were treated and released Thursday.
Theatregoers said the gunman sat alone and said nothing before he stood up and opened fire at Thursday’s 7:10 p.m. showing of “Trainwreck” at the Grand 16 theatre.
Authorities and media park Friday at the scene of a Thursday night shooting at The Grand Theatre, in Lafayette, Louisiana.