UPDATE 5 pm: No warning as drifter with violent past opened fire - KATC.com | Continuous News Coverage | Acadiana-Lafayette

UPDATE 5 pm: No warning as drifter with violent past opened fire at movie

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11 a.m. press conference on shooting 11 a.m. press conference on shooting

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) - A man who lost his family, home and businesses as he spent years angrily espousing right-wing extremism on television, the Internet and to anyone else who would listen did not say a word as he opened fire on strangers in a darkened movie theater, authorities said Friday.
John Russell Houser, 59, stood up about 20 minutes into Thursday night's showing of "Trainwreck" and fired on the audience, killing two people and wounding nine with a semi-automatic handgun.
Houser then tried to escape by blending into the fleeing crowd after one of his victims pulled a fire alarm and hundreds poured out of the theater complex. But he turned back as police officers approached, reloading and killing himself with a single shot, police said.
"This is such a senseless, tragic action," Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said. "Why would you come here and do something like this?"
Investigators were trying to reconstruct Houser's movements before the attack in hopes of identifying a motive and providing what Craft called "some closure" for the victims' families.
He had only been in Lafayette a matter of weeks, staying in a Motel 6 room littered with wigs and disguises. His only known connection to the city was an uncle who died there three decades ago.
Details quickly emerged about Houser's mental problems, prompting authorities in Louisiana and Alabama to bemoan the underfunding of mental health services in America.
Court records describe erratic behavior and threats of violence that led to a brief involuntary hospitalization in 2008 and a restraining order preventing Houser from approaching family members. Houser "has a history of mental health issues, i.e., manic depression and/or bi-polar disorder," his estranged wife told the judge.
Educated in accounting and law, he owned bars in Georgia - including one where he flew a Nazi banner out front as an anti-government statement. He tried real estate in Phenix City, Alabama. But Houser's own resume, posted online, says what he really loved to do was make provocative statements at local board meetings and in the media.
On an NBC television affiliate's call-in show in the 1990s, Houser encouraged violent responses to abortion and condemned working women, host Calvin Floyd recalled. He was an "angry man" who spoke opposite a Democrat and really lit up the phones, he added.
Houser wrote that he was a weekly guest for 60 episodes on "Rise and Shine WLTZ" in Columbus, Georgia, where he "invited political controversy on every one of them, and loved every minute of it."
In recent years, Houser turned to right-wing extremist Internet message boards, where he praised Adolf Hitler, and advised people not to underestimate "the power of the lone wolf," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, whose hate-group watchdogs spotted Houser registering to meet with former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke in 2005.
What prompted Houser to kill people Thursday night remains unknown.
He seemed like just another patron as he entered Lafayette's Grand 16 theater, one of 25 people who bought tickets to the romantic comedy starring feminist jokester Amy Schumer as a boozing, promiscuous reporter.
Police believe he hoped to escape his deadly ambush before police closed in. Inside a Motel 6 room he rented, they found wigs, glasses and other disguises. Houser also swapped the license plates on his 1995 Lincoln Continental before parking it by the theater's exit door. He stashed the keys atop one of its wheels.
Once inside, he sat by himself and gave others in the theater no reason for concern before he began shooting, firing first at two women who were sitting in front of him, then wounding nine other people.
"He wasn't saying anything," Katie Domingue told The Advertiser. "I didn't hear anybody screaming either."
Randall Manning's 21-year-old daughter, Emily, and a friend were sitting in the same row as the gunman, and saw the flashes from his gun barrel.
"She hit the floor immediately," Manning said of his daughter, who escaped along with her friend but was "traumatized."
Jeanerette High School English teacher Ali Martin and librarian Jena Meaux were credited with helping save lives amid the chaos. Meaux, who was shot in the leg, told her colleagues that Martin, who was shot in the kneecap, still managed to pull a fire alarm, their former principal Heath Hulin said.
The lights came as the siren sounded, with a message urging everyone to leave. Outside, a woman was laying down, shot in her leg, said Jacob Broussard, who heard the gunshots from another theater across the hall.
"She was bleeding on the grass, in the front of the theater," Broussard said. "A man had actually dragged her out."
Theatergoers didn't panic, police said, but they left in a rush, leaving behind purses, keys and even shoes. Officers found at least 13 spent shell casings.
The two women killed were 21-year-old Mayci Breaux and 33-year-old Jillian Johnson. Breaux's body was brought to the same hospital where she was preparing to become a radiology technician. Johnson ran clothing and art boutiques, played in a rootsy rock band and planted fruit trees for neighbors and the homeless.
The wounded ranged in age from teenagers to their late 60s, Craft said. Five were treated at Lafayette General Health Center. Three patients had been stabilized, including one who remained in intensive care. Two others were released Thursday night.
Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor said his office denied Houser's request for a concealed weapons permit in 2006 because he had been treated for mental illness and arrested for arson in Georgia.
"He was pretty even-keeled until you disagreed with him or made him mad," said Jeff Hardin, mayor of Phenix City, Alabama, just across the state line from Columbus. "Then he became your sworn enemy."
Hardin said he once partnered with Houser on a real-estate project, but they had a falling out and hadn't spoken since around 2007.
Houser was evicted from his home in Phenix City last year, then returned to throw paint, pour concrete down the plumbing and tamper with a gas line, Taylor said.
Houser's wife filed for divorce in March, saying their differences were irreconcilable and his whereabouts were unknown.
"It just seems like he was kind of drifting along," Craft said. Houser's only known relative in Lafayette, an uncle, died 35 years ago.
After detailing each victim's wounds, David Callecod, president of Lafayette General Health, pleaded Friday for society to provide as much funding for mental health services as it does for other medical problems.
Pressed to explain why Houser wasn't arrested before, Sheriff Taylor also blamed cuts in the safety net.
"There's cuts being made all over," Taylor said. "What should be scary for the community is that the cuts being made in mental health around the state are allowing these people, who should not be walking around, to be out in the community."

CLICK HERE for video on Gov. Jindal speaking about the teachers' heroism

CLICK HERE for video on Gov. Jindal saying "We will get through this"

CLICK HERE for video on witness giving account from LGMC

CLICK HERE for video on witness describing experience at Grand 16 when told to "run for her life"

CLICK HERE for video on movie goer describes experience in Grand 16 during shooting

CLICK HERE for video on Chief of Police Jim Craft first press conference on Grand 16 shooting

CLICK HERE for video on eyewitness describing their experience during shooting at Grand 16


LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) - The latest on the shooting at a Lafayette, Louisiana, movie theater (times are local):
A Louisiana school official identified two of the wounded as high school teachers in his district.
Iberia Parish School District Superintendent Dale Henderson said English teacher Ali Martin has been with the district for seven years while librarian and former teacher Jena Meaux has been there 21 years.
Heath Hulin, former principal of Jeanerette High School where the pair work, said some staffers visited a hospital in Lafayette where they were briefly able to speak with Meaux on Thursday.
Hulin said Meaux told the group that after Martin was shot, she still made her way to a fire alarm on the wall in the theater and pulled it. Henderson said Martin was shot in the kneecap, while Meaux was shot in the leg.
Hulin said the group did not speak with Martin.
Earlier in the day, Gov. Bobby Jindal cited the heroic actions of two unidentified teachers - one who jumped in front of her friend and was wounded, and the other who managed to pull the fire alarm. The alarm sent people running out of the theater.
"Who knows how many lives those brave acts might have saved?" he said.
Henderson said he expects the two will receive a hero's welcome when school resumes Aug. 7.
"No one is surprised by their actions at all," he said. "They are two very brave young ladies."
3:45 p.m.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, said it has had John Russell Houser's name in its files since 2005, when he registered at former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke's European-American Unity and Rights Organization conference.
In online forums, Houser wrote of the "power of the lone wolf" and expressed interest in white power groups, anti-Semitic ideas and the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, which protests soldiers' funerals, the center said.
"Hitler is loved for the results of his pragmatism," Houser wrote in January on the website stateofmind13.com. "There is no question of his being the most successful that ever lived. At this time the US is no more than a financially failing filth farm. Soon the phrase 'ruling with an iron hand' will be palatable anew."
In another post on the Golden Dawn website, he said: "It is a shame Tim McVeigh is not going to be with us to enjoy the hilarity of turning the tables with an IRON HAND."
3 p.m.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has ordered that flags at state government buildings be flown at half-staff in a show of respect for victims of a shooting in a Lafayette movie theater.
Jindal issued the executive order Friday requiring that flags remain at half-staff until July 31.
A gunman killed two people and wounded nine before shooting himself to death as police responded to Thursday night's shooting at the Grand 16 theater in Lafayette.
An Alabama sheriff says the gunman in the movie theater shooting was once refused a concealed weapons permit.
Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor said Friday that John Russell Houser lived in Phenix City, Alabama, off and on from 2005-14. Taylor said officials received a domestic violence complaint against Houser in 2005, but the victim didn't want to prosecute.
The sheriff says Houser applied for a concealed weapons permit in 2006, but it was refused because of the domestic violence complaint and a previous arrest for arson in nearby Columbus, Georgia.
Taylor says Houser was evicted from his Phenix City home in 2014, but later returned and caused some damage, including pouring concrete in plumbing pipes and tampering with a gas line.
"That was dangerous and could've been extremely dangerous," Taylor said.
Houser killed two women and wounded nine others in Louisiana on Thursday night.
1:15 p.m.
Hospital officials say three people shot at a Louisiana movie theater are now in stable condition.
David Callecod, president of Lafayette General Health, says one of those patients required surgery. Another was in intensive care. Two other people were treated and released Thursday night.
Callecod says all five people treated at the hospital had gunshot wounds. Three of them were classified as "level one" trauma, meaning they had been shot either in the head, neck, torso, knee or elbow.
Police say 59-year-old John Russell Houser opened fire in the movie theater Thursday night, killing two people.
1 p.m.
The two women killed by a gunman at a crowded Louisiana movie theater were described as a popular student studying to be a radiology technician and an outgoing artist who ran retail boutiques in two Louisiana cities.
Jillian Johnson, 33, was remembered as an all-around "creative force" who ran clothing and art boutiques, played in a rootsy rock band, helped organize a music festival and used her design skills on T-shirts and other crafts.
"She just did the things she wanted to do, and nothing could stop her," said friend Lucius Fontenot." She was a creative force, always inspiring and amazing to watch."
Mayci Breaux, 21, was in the first year of an associate's degree program for medical radiology technicians at Louisiana State University-Eunice.
The head of the program, Robert McLaughlin, described her as a sweet, generous person who was always polite and professional.
"She was the kind of person you want in your program," McLaughlin said. "She had a lot of potential. I knew she would do well."
The school about 40 miles northwest of Lafayette issued a statement saying that the campus was mourning.
"This was a senseless tragedy and our thoughts are with all of the victims and their families, as well as the entire Lafayette Community," the statement said.
12 p.m.
Authorities say the gunman in the movie theater slayings was armed with a semi-automatic .40-caliber handgun and had one additional magazine.
Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said Friday that they found at least 13 shell casings inside the theater that was showing "Trainwreck" on Thursday night. Craft says the gunman opened fire and then apparently tried to leave the theater. He dropped a magazine in the lobby, reloaded and then returned to the theater room. He fired one shot, killing himself.
Authorities are investigating whether the gun was bought legally and whether it was purchased by the gunman, John Russell Houser.
Authorities say Houser killed two women and wounded nine others before killing himself at a movie theater.
11:10 a.m.
A former local television host in Georgia says the man who killed two people in a Louisiana movie theater appeared on his show numerous times in the early 1990s and advocated violence against people involved in abortions.
Calvin Floyd, who hosted a morning call-in show on WLTZ-TV in Columbus, Georgia, says John Russell Houser also espoused other radical views, including his opposition to women in the workplace. Floyd, now 71, says he would put Houser on with a Democrat because "he could make the phones ring."
Floyd described Houser, as an "angry man" who made "wild accusations" about all sorts of local officials and topics.
Police say Houser opened fire during a screening of "Trainwreck" in Lafayette, killing two people as several hundred people in the movie complex fled.
11 a.m.
Police say they are looking at online postings they believed to have been written by the movie theater gunman, John Russell Houser.
State police superintendent Col. Michael D. Edmonson said Friday that they are trying to find out more about the gunman.
Authorities say Houser opened fire inside a movie theater on Thursday night, killing two people and wounding nine others before he killed himself.
Authorities say there were about 300 people at the movie theater at the time of the shooting and 25 tickets were sold for "Trainwreck," the movie where the shooting took place.
Police say the gunman had one additional magazine for his handgun.
10:45 a.m.
The theater gunman in Louisiana had received an accounting degree and a law degree.
Columbus State University in Columbus, Ga., said the gunman, John Russell Houser, earned an accounting degree from there in 1988.
Pat Gregory, a spokesman for Faulkner University in Montgomery, Ala., said Houser enrolled in the college's law school in 1994 and graduated in 1998, but the Alabama State Bar said it did not have record of House ever applying to take the bar exam.
Authorities say Houser stood up in a movie theater on Thursday night and fatally shot two women. He wounded nine other people before killing himself.
10:30 a.m.
Court documents from 2008 say family members of the theater shooter petitioned the probate court to have him involuntarily committed "because he was a danger to himself and others."
A judge issued the order, and John Russell Houser was taken to a hospital in Columbus, Georgia.
While he was at the Carroll County Sheriff's Office awaiting transfer to the hospital, Houser said to his wife that once he got out of the hospital, "he would continue his erratic as well as threatening behavior" to try to stop his daughter's wedding, the filing said.
Authorities say Houser stood up in a theater in Louisiana and fatally shot two people and wounded nine others before killing himself.
10 a.m.
The wife and other family members of the Louisiana theater gunman asked for a temporary protective order in 2008 against the man.
Court documents seeking the order said John Russell Houser, "exhibited extreme erratic behavior and has made ominous as well as disturbing statements."
The documents said even though he lived in Phenix City, Alabama, he had come to Carroll County, Georgia, where they lived and "perpetrated various acts of family violence."
Houser "has a history of mental health issues, i.e., manic depression and/or bi-polar disorder" the filing said.
The filing says Houser's wife, Kellie Maddox Houser, "has become so worried about the defendant's volatile mental state that she has removed all guns and/or weapons from their marital residence."
The protection order was at least temporarily granted.
She filed for divorce in March.
9 a.m.
The father of a woman in the theater at the time of the shooting says his daughter was sitting with a friend in the same row as the shooter.
"They heard a couple of pops and didn't know what it was," Randall Mann said. "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 Emily and her friend escaped uninjured.
"She's traumatized," he said.
The gunman killed two woman and wounded nine other people before he killed himself Thursday night.
8:35 a.m.
Police and court records show the Louisiana movie theater gunman has been arrested and ticketed for several offenses in the past, ranging from arson to speeding.
Police officials said at a news conference Friday that 59-year-old John Russell Houser's arrests date 10 to 15 years ago or more. Those include charges of arson and selling alcohol to a minor. He had been married once in the past but was not currently married.
In Alabama, records show Houser had four speeding tickets and one no-seatbelt ticket between 1981 and 2003.
Alabama court records show Houser filed a small claims court lawsuit in 2004 claiming he was injured when he donated plasma at a Phenix City donation center. He asked for $1,800 to pay his emergency room bill and for a narcotics prescription. The case was settled, according to court records.
8:30 a.m.
A 19-year-old college student who was watching a movie in a theater across the hall from the shooting says he heard three loud pops before the lights came on.
Jacob Broussard said Friday that he didn't initially know there was a shooting, but as he was evacuating the theater, he saw a woman who had been shot in the leg.
Authorities say a gunman stood up about 20 minutes into the movie and started firing, killing two women and wounding nine others.
Broussard, a student at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, says he felt lucky.
His father, Shannon Broussard, described gratitude for a teacher who apparently pulled the fire alarm to alert theatergoers that they needed to evacuate the building.
8:10 a.m.
The two victims who were killed when a gunman opened fire in a Lafayette, Louisiana, movie theater have been identified as 33-year-old Jillian Johnson and 21-year-old Mayci Breaux.
The gunman, who authorities identified as 59-year-old John Russell Houser, killed himself after trying to flee the scene.
Nine others were wounded in the Thursday night shooting that happened during a showing of the comedy "Trainwreck."
7:20 a.m.
Authorities are describing the gunman in the movie theater shooting as a 59-year-old man who previously lived in Alabama but is "kind of a drifter" who had been in the Lafayette area since early July.
Police said Friday that the gunman fired a handgun 13 times inside the theater, killing two people and wounding at least nine others before fatally shooting himself.
Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said the gunman parked his car near the theater's exit door and was intent on escaping, but couldn't because police arrived so quickly.
Authorities have not determined a motive. They searched a motel room he had been staying in and found wigs and other disguises.
5:15 a.m.
About a dozen law enforcement personnel were gathered at a Motel 6 in Lafayette early Friday as authorities investigate a shooting at movie theater that killed three people, including the gunman.
Louisiana State Police spokesman Maj. Doug Cain said the theater investigation led them to a room at the Motel 6. Cain said authorities were investigating whether the shooter had stayed there. He said the bomb squad swept the room before going in as a precaution.
About a dozen police personnel could be seen outside the motel. At one point, an officer carried out a cardboard box from the room and other officers could be seen knocking on neighboring doors.
3:50 a.m.
The White House says President Barack Obama has been briefed on the shooting at a Louisiana movie theater that left three people dead, including the gunman.
Obama was briefed aboard Air Force One on Thursday by Lisa Monaco, his homeland security adviser, while on his way to Africa for a two-nation visit.
Obama asked his team to keep him updated on the investigation and the status of those wounded in the shooting.
He also offered his thoughts and prayers to the community of Lafayette, Louisiana, where the movie theater is located, and to the families of those who were killed.
3:30 a.m.
Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft told reporters that nine people in total were wounded in the shooting.
He said at least one of those was in critical condition and being operated on at an area hospital.
"At this point we have three dead, nine wounded and of the three dead one is definitely the shooter," he said.
2:30 a.m.
Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft told reporters that based on the investigation so far, they believe the shooter stood up in the theater, started shooting, and then as people started fleeing, he began to leave as well.
But, investigators believe, he spotted two police officers, who had been out in the parking lot when the shooting happened. The shooter then turned around against the crowd before firing a single shot.
"It looks like he spotted the officers coming in and he turned around and he went against the crowd, and he fired a single gunshot," he said. "He was seated in the theater just like everybody else."
"The information we have at this time indicates that he was by himself, sat by himself and the first two people he shot were sitting right in front of him," Craft said.
1:10 a.m.
Police say they are checking out suspicious packages inside the Lafayette movie theater where a gunman opened fire Thursday.
Sgt. Brooks David of the Louisiana State Police said a dog alerted to a backpack and other small items in the theater.
Three people were killed, including the gunman, and seven injured in the shooting.

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