Suspect, victims identified in Lafayette theater shooting

Press conference: Suspect, victims identified in Lafayette theater shooting
John Russell Houser (Source: LinkedIn)
John Russell Houser (Source: LinkedIn)

LAFAYETTE, LA (WVUE) - Police have identified the suspected shooter in the Lafayette theater shooting.

John Russel Houser, 59, opened fire in a Lafayette movie theater on Thursday evening, according to Chief Jim Craft with the Lafayette Police Department.

Houser, of Phenix, Alabama, had been in the Lafayette area since early July, officers say. He was staying in a room at a nearby Motel 6. They described him as "kind of a drifter." Police searching his motel room say they found various wigs and disguises inside. Officers say it is clear that his plan was to shoot and to flee the theater alive.

The suspect parked his blue 1995 Lincoln Continental outside the theater Thursday before the shooting. Wires were seen in the rear of the suspect's car. However, police say no explosives were found inside. Keys were left in the vehicle to assure a fast escape, police say.

The shooting happened around 7 p.m. Thursday at The Grand Theater on Johnston Street in Lafayette. Nearly 300 people were inside the movie theater when the 59-year-old gunman began shooting during a showing of Trainwreck. Officers say 25 tickets were sold for that particular movie. Police say he opened fire with a .40-caliber handgun within 20 minutes of the movie's start.

Craft said the shooter was watching the film by himself, and the first two people he shot were sitting near him, according to the Associated Press. Officers say Houser fired at least 13 rounds in the theater, striking 11 victims. Two of the victims were killed. Mayci Breaux, 21, died on scene and Jillian Johnson, 33, died at hospital. Nine others are injured. Of those nine, police say say two have been released and one remains in critical condition.

Officers believe Houser fled the theater following the shooting, only to find a police cruiser outside. After seeing police, Houser turned the gun on himself, according to police.

Officers say the suspect does have a criminal history. However, officers clarify that none of the charges are recent. Police say he had no real connection to Lafayette other than a now-deceased uncle who had lived in the area nearly 35-years ago.

Houser suffered from multiple mental issues, according to documents filed by his family when seeking a protection order in 2008. The Associated Pres reported that Houser's wife and other family members filed for the temporary order after he "exhibited extreme, erratic behavior." They said he made ominous and disturbing statements, and he suffered from "manic depression and/or bi-polar disorder."

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal arrived on the scene following the shooting Thursday, detailing the heroic account of two teachers inside the theater.

"Out of tonight's tragedy we're beginning to hear of heroism and self-sacrifice. A couple of teachers were at the movie together; one of the teachers literally jumped on top of the other and may have saved her life. [The teacher] took a bullet that could have hit the second teacher in the head. The second teacher was injured, was shot, she's one of the ones being discharged tonight. Despite being injured, the second teacher was able to pull a fire alarm and helped to save other lives. When you think about it, two friends together, one jumps in front of a bullet to save her friend's life, the other one, even though she's shot, pulls the fire alarm, saves other people's lives," said Jindal

Amy Schumer, who starred in the movie Trainwreck, tweeted her condolences: "My heart is broken and all my thoughts and prayers are with everyone in Louisiana."

Thursday's shooting echoes a similar incident in Aurora, Colorado more than three years ago. Monday marked the third anniversary of the Colorado shooting, when James Holmes opened fire at a showing of The Dark Knight.

Holmes was found guilty last week of 165 counts, including 24 counts of first-degree murder.

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