man who killed two people and wounded nine others at a cinema was so
mentally ill and violent that years ago, his wife hid his guns and his
family had him hospitalised against his will before obtaining a court
order to keep him away.
John Russel Houser, 59, stood up about 20
minutes into the movie Trainwreck at the Grand Theatre in Lafayette,
Louisiana, and fired first at two people sitting in front of him, then
aimed his handgun at others.
Russell Houser: Police say they may never find his motive for the killing spree.
Two women were killed – one, 21-year-old college student
Mayci Breaux, died at the cinema; another, 33-year-old musician and
graphic designer Jillian Johnson, died at a hospital.
“Why did he come here? Why did he do that?” Colonel Michael
Edmonson, superintendent of the Louisiana State Police, said at a
morning news conference. “We don’t know that.”
He added: “We may not find a motive.”
Police Chief Jim Craft said nine others suffered injuries ranging from
minor to life-threatening. Two of the victims have been released. One
victim was admitted into the intensive care unit at Lafayette General
Hospital; hospital officials said that the patient was in stable
Houser fired his .40-caliber handgun at least 13 times, police said, reloading once before shooting himself.
Intent on escape
Mann, whose 21-year-old daughter, Emily, was sitting in the same row as
the shooter, said: “They heard a couple of pops and didn’t know what it
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
Mann said his daughter and her friend escaped, uninjured but traumatized.
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 theater and heard a single shot before finding him
dead inside, police said.
An officer escorts people to safety near the scene of a shooting at the Grand Theatre. Photo / AP
Houser parked his 1995 blue Lincoln Continental by the
theater’s exit door, and disguises including glasses and wigs were found
in a search of his room at a nearby Motel 6, police said. The license
plate on the car had also been switched.
“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.
the 1990s, he frequently appeared on a local television call-in show,
advocating violence against people involved in abortions, said Calvin
Floyd, who hosted the morning show on WLTZ-TV in Columbus, Georgia.
also espoused other radical views, including his opposition 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.”
Cinema-goers said the gunman sat alone and said nothing before he stood up and opened fire.
Jacob Broussard said he was standing in line to go inside the Grand Theatre when he heard shots. Photo / AP
“We heard a loud pop we thought was a firecracker,” Katie
Domingue told The Advertiser. “He wasn’t saying anything. I didn’t hear
anybody screaming either.”
Domingue said she and her fiance ran for the nearest exit, leaving behind her shoes and purse.
of heroism emerged. A teacher jumped in front of her colleague, taking a
bullet for her, and the second teacher pulled a fire alarm to alert
other moviegoers, said Governor Bobby Jindal, a presidential hopeful who
traveled to the scene.
“Her friend literally jumped over her and, by her account, actually saved her life,” Jindal said.
Acts of family violence
studied accounting in Georgia and earned a law degree at Faulkner
University in Alabama. There’s no record he ever became a lawyer in
Houser “has a history of mental health issues,
i.e., manic depression and/or bi-polar disorder,” his family said in
court documents in 2008, when he made violent threats in an effort to
stop his daughter’s wedding. A judge granted the family’s petition to
have him involuntarily committed to a hospital as “a danger to himself
Houser refused to back down after getting out,
however, so his wife, daughter and other relatives also obtained a
protective order after accusing him of having “perpetrated various acts
of family violence.”
Police cars block the entrance to The Grand Theatre cinema in Lafayette. Photo / AP
His daughter, Kirbey Ellen Houser, was engaged to Andrew
Michael Broome at the time, and though they were 23 and 26, he felt they
were too young to be married. “He has exhibited extreme erratic
behavior and has made ominous as well as disturbing statements” that
their marriage would not occur, the filing says.
sure why Houser ended up in Louisiana years after becoming estranged
from family living in Alabama and Georgia. Police said his mother had
recently loaned him some money because he said he was trying to get his
“It just seems like he was kind of drifting
along,” Craft said. He had an uncle that once lived in Lafayette, but he
died 35 years ago. “We don’t know why he decided to stop and stay in
There were about 300 people inside the cinema at the
time of the shooting and 25 people in Trainwreck. Keys, shoes and purses
were all left behind.
About a dozen law enforcement personnel
descended on the Motel 6 in Lafayette where Houser had been staying. An
officer carried out a cardboard box from the room and other officers
could be seen knocking on neighboring doors.
superintendent Col. Michael D. Edmonson said police believe the gunman
did not wage any other attacks Thursday night before opening fire in the
Trainwreck star Amy Schumer tweeted: “My heart is
broken and all my thoughts and prayers are with everyone in Louisiana.”
The comedy stars Schumer as a magazine writer who decides to live a life
of promiscuity after her father convinces her that monogamy isn’t
realistic, but in spite of her best efforts, finds herself falling in
love with one of her interview subjects.
Jindal called the shooting “an awful night for Louisiana.”
we can do now is we can pray,” Jindal said. “We can hug these families.
We can shower them with love, thoughts and prayers.”
Barack Obama was briefed on Air Force One while on his way to Africa. He
asked his team to keep him updated on the investigation and the status
of the wounded, and offered his thoughts and prayers to the families of
those killed, the White House said.
The Louisiana shooting
happened three years after James Holmes entered a crowded movie theater
in suburban Denver and opened fire during the premiere of a Batman film,
killing 12 people. The jury found Thursday that the death penalty is
justified, and is hearing evidence about Holmes’ schizophrenia before
issuing a sentence.