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Theater gunman has history of mental illness, politically radica - KATC.com | Continuous News Coverage | Acadiana-Lafayette

Theater gunman has history of mental illness, politically radical views

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John Houser photo courtesy Linkdin John Houser photo courtesy Linkdin
JOHN RUSSELL HOUSER'S CAR JOHN RUSSELL HOUSER'S CAR

The man identified as killing two people and wounding nine more in the July 23 shooting is John Russell Houser, 59, of Alabama. 

Houser should not have been able to legally own a gun, because of his history with mental illness, Sheriff Heath Taylor said Friday.

But he legally purchased the semi-automatic handgun he used in Thursday's shooting at a pawn shop in Phenix City, Ala., Gov. Bobby Jindal said Friday. Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms confirmed the purchase was legal. 

He spent time in a mental health facility in 2008 and 2009, Russell County, Ala., Taylor said.

Court documents obtained by WTVM in Columbus, Ga., show Houser's family wanted him involuntarily committed to a mental health facility in April 2008. Houser's wife removed grew so fearful that she removed all the guns from their home. But 

But the AP reported on Tuesday that a probate judge in Georgia signed an order allowing sheriff's deputies to detain Houser and bring him to a hospital for a mental evaluation. But the judge who ordered Houser detained said Monday that she did not - and legally could not - have him involuntarily committed.

Houser applied for a conceal-carry permit in 2006, but it was denied because of the arson charge and a 2005 domestic violence complaint and an arson arrest from decades ago, Taylor said. 

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, said it has had 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, according to the Associated Press.


In online forums, he wrote of the "power of the lone wolf" and expressed interest in white power groups, anti-Semitic ideas and the Westboro Baptist Church, which has protested at soldiers' funerals, the center said.
    
"Hitler is loved for the results of his pragmatism," Houser wrote in January on the website stateofmind13.com.

Houser suffered from manic depression and bipolar disorder, according to a 2008 protective order filed in Carroll County, Ga. He was prescribed medication to take daily, but "sometimes forgets to take his medication and sometimes he forgets to eat which affects his behavior," according to an incident report.

The Carrollton, Ga., Police Department responded to a "mentally disturbed person" after Houser showed up at his daughter's home to protest her wedding and "exhibited extreme erratic behavior and has made ominous as well as disturbing statements (that the) marriage will not occur." He was arrested for stalking.

A month after the protective order was filed, Houser filed another court document, nothing that the order had lapsed and he "will not be in violation of any court order by contacting, living with or visiting with either party."

Houser was previously arrested for arson in Columbus, Georgia, but Taylor was unsure when that arrest happened. It may have been decades ago. 

The Associated Press reports that among Houser's legal issues was his trying in the 1980s to hire a man to set fire to the law office of John Swearingen, who was then an attorney representing the owners of pornographic theaters, which Houser detested.

The man Houser tried to hire was a police informant who turned Houser in, Swearingen recalled, adding Houser reportedly told the prospective arsonist to be sure not to kill anyone -- except maybe Swearingen. "I don't mind if he dies," Houser was alleged to have said.

Swearingen said he agreed not to press charges against Houser if the family got him mental health treatment.

Houser was evicted from his Phenix City, Ala., home in March 2014, Taylor said. But he's unsure why he was evicted.

After the Sheriff's Office evicted him, he damaged the property. He disconnected the gas line into the fire place, causing fire to shoot of the line when it was turned on, Taylor said.

Phenix City Police took a report listing him as offender on criminal mischief, Taylor said. The warrant was never signed or carried out.

Houser is also known as Rusty Houser, and apparently has a presence on social media as an outspoken conservative. 

The last thing someone posting as Rusty Houser posted on Facebook was in 2013, when he linked to an article called "A woman's place in the church and the weak church elder."

He wrote, "The bible doesn't ask me to like what it says, only to obey it. Death comes soon to the financially failing filth farm called the US."

He only had two things liked on Facebook, among them "I hate liberals!" 

Police called Houser a drifter and said he had only been in Lafayette since early July. 

A man identified as John Russell Houser on Twitter tweeted only twice. He wrote, "If you don't think the internet is censored, try reading a newspaper from a country that hates liberals the way I do," in June 2013.

A little earlier, he wrote, "The Westboro Baptist Church may be the last real church in America members not brainwashed."

A man identified as Rusty Houser also posted on the website www.politicalforum.com.  His last post, dated March 27, 2013, refers to the state of the American and world economies and says, "It is true that the US is about to fall. I will be in fear at that time as will everyone else, but not in a fear which resembles that of the leaders of foolishness and the brainwashed that follow.Truth carries with it an understanding of death. Rather than live without it,I will take death." [sic]

According to his LinkedIn profile, Houser claimed that he was an entrepreneur.  The profile claims he owned and operated two bars and was a real estate developer.  However, his last listed job is in 2006.

Houser once owned a bar called Rusty's Buckhead Pub but his liquor license was revoked in 2001 for serving minors. To protest, he put up a banner that had a swastika on it encircled by the words, "Welcome to LaGrange," according to a story in the LaGrange Daily News.
    
Houser told the newspaper he was "completely against" the Nazi philosophy but chose the symbol because it represented a government's ability to do what it wants.
 

In addition, a John Russell Houser from Phenix City, Alabama, is listed as a member of a group called the Tea Party Nation.  

Houser was also a guest on "Rise and Shine" on WLTZ in Columbus, Ga., the station confirmed today. His LinkedIn profile says, "Guest host one day per week for more than 60 episodes. Invited political controversy on every one of them, and loved every minute of it."

In the 1990s, Houser frequently appeared on a local television call-in show, advocating violence against people involved in abortions, Calvin Floyd, who hosted the morning show on WLTZ-TV in Columbus, Georgia, told the AP.
    
Houser 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."

Lafayette Police have said Houser was estranged, and according to court documents, his wife filed for divorce in March 2015. They have been separated since 2012, according to court documents. 

The Associated Press reports that Houser had a history in Columbus, Ga. of political activism, fighting taxes and at one point running for office.

In 1994, Houser joined opponents who helped defeat a proposed bond issue for the school district. He accused the school district of punishing his wife, a public school teacher, for his role in that effort. Years later he ran as a Republican for tax commissioner, and was caught stealing an opponent’s yard signs. He later withdrew.

After a subsequent sales tax passed, Houser filed papers trying to get the Muscogee Superior Court to invalidate the election. He had been admitted to practice law in Alabama after attending night law school.

The AP reported also that Alabama court records show Houser filed a 2004 lawsuit claiming he was injured donating plasma in Phenix City. He sought $1,800 in medical costs. Records show the case was settled.

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