Louisiana Cinema Shooting: Lafayette Gunman ‘Had Violent Past’

The gunman who killed two people and injured several others at a Louisiana cinema had a history of mental health issues, according to court documents.

John Houser, 59, fired a dozen rounds from a handgun at a film screening in Lafayette before shooting himself.

He bought the weapon legally at a pawn shop in Alabama, police said.

Documents seen by the AP news agency show his family won a protective order against him in 2008 due to “various acts of violence” towards them.

His wife, who filed for divorce in March, said he had become “volatile”.

Hours before the latest US shooting, President Barack Obama told the Amira News that gun law reform had been his “greatest frustration”.

Lafayette police described Houser as a “drifter” from Alabama who had been staying at nearby motel since the beginning of July. Wigs and other disguises were found inside his room.

Police chief Jim Craft said investigators believe he intended to flee rather than take his own life, but the quick police response forced him back into the building.

‘Danger to himself’

His motive is unclear but police said they were looking into online posts appearing to have been made by Houser in which he criticised the government and US media.

He did have a criminal history but it was “pretty old”, Mr Craft added, later revealing that Houser legally purchased his semi-automatic .40-calibre handgun in Alabama in 2014.

Police also said at a news conference on Friday that the gunman had visited the cinema at least once before, possibly to see if it was a “soft target”.

Court documents from 2008 say Houser’s family petitioned a court to have him involuntarily committed “because he was a danger to himself and others”.

The files said Houser’s wife, Kellie Maddox Houser, had removed all guns from their marital residence after he “exhibited extreme erratic behaviour” and made “disturbing statements”.

The judge issued the order and Houser was taken to a hospital in Columbus, Georgia. It is unclear how long he stayed at the institute.

‘Angry man’

A former local television host in Georgia says Houser was a regular guest on his show in the 1990s, describing him as an “angry man” who made “wild accusations”.

Calvin Floyd, who hosted a show on WLTZ-TV in Columbus, Georgia, said Houser rallied against women in the workplace and advocated violence against people involved in abortions.

“He was very entertaining. He made for good TV and when it was over, you would leave shaking your head,” Mr Floyd told NBC News.

What we know about John Russell Houser

  • The 59-year-old is from Phenix City, Alabama, but police said he was a “drifter”
  • He was married with at least one child but his wife recently divorced him
  • Had been arrested and ticketed for past offences, ranging from arson to speeding
  • Spent some time being treated for mental health issues in 2008/2009
  • Once ran for office but withdrew after stealing an opponent’s yard signs
  • Went on TV shows as a radical pundit and voiced anti-women feelings
  • Wrote angry posts on online forums about the government and the media

Witnesses said Houser opened fire on cinema-goers about 20 minutes into advertisements before a screening of Trainwreck at the Grand Theatre.

The victims were identified by police as 21-year-old Mayci Breaux and 31-year-old Jillian Johnson.

Colleagues said Ms Breaux was “an amazing young woman” while Ms Johnson’s husband described her as a “once-in-a-lifetime gal”.

Nine people were taken to a local hospital with injuries ranging from critical to non-life-threatening. One person remains in critical condition.

About 300 people are thought to have been in the cinema building at the time of the shooting.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who arrived at the scene late on Thursday night, praised the “selfless heroism” of two wounded teachers.

He told reporters that the first teacher threw herself in front of the second to shield her from the bullets.

The second, who was shot in the leg, had the presence of mind to pull the fire alarm to warn others of the danger, Mr Jindal said.

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