The city of Lafayette, Louisiana is reeling after a gunman opened fire at a movie theater last night, injuring at least nine and killing three people, including himself.
Lafayette officials say that 59-year-old John Russell Houser entered the Lafayette Grand Theater 16 around 7:10, about 20 minutes into a screening of the movie Trainwreck. Upon entering the theater, he unloaded at least 13 shots, striking 11 people. As moviegoers began fleeing, partially thanks to a teacher in the audience who pulled a fire alarm to alert people, Houser attempted to exit the theater by blending into the crowd. When he saw police cars in the parking lot, he went back inside the complex and turned the gun on himself.
“It appears he was intent on shooting and escaping,” Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said at a press conference. “The quick law enforcement response pushed him back into the theater.”
Investigators are searching for clues that could suggest Houser’s motive. City officials say that Houser, a Phenix City, Alabama native, had been living in a Motel 6 for the weeks leading up to the shooting. Police found wigs and disguises in his hotel room, suggesting that he was planning on running after the shooting.
Houser’s friends and family say that the former entrepreneur harbored extremist political views, and he identified as a member of the Tea Party. Houser had been arrested in the past for attempting to burn down a law office. His ex-wife, who filed for divorce two years ago, said that he suffered from manic depressions and bipolar disorder. She told officers last night that she suspects that he obtained his guns illegally.
“Whenever we hear about these senseless acts of violence, it makes us both furious and sad at the same time,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said at a press conference. “This is an awful night for Lafayette, this is an awful night for Louisiana, this is an awful night for the United States. But we will get through this.””