A 59-year-old ‘drifter’ named John Russel Houser has been identified as the gunman behind a deadly attack on a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana Thursday night.
Police say Houser pulled out a hidden handgun about 20 minutes into a 7pm screening of the light-hearted romantic comedy Trainwreck, shooting dead two young women sitting in the row ahead of him before firing indiscriminately at the rest of the theater to injure nine more.
Jillian Johnson, a 33-year-old who runs a gift shop with her husband, and 21-year-old Mayci Breaux, who attended Louisiana State University, have been identified as the victims of the calculated attack.
Breaux died on the scene while Johnson was pronounced dead at the hospital. Of the nine others injured in the attack, police say two have been released from the hospital and one is in critical condition.
At a morning press conference, police said Houser was from out of town but had been staying a local motel since the beginning of July.
They say they found wigs and other disguises in his motel room, and that his car – parked just outside the theater door – had a switched license tag on it, suggesting that he planned to flee the shooting and escape.
Witnesses say they saw Houser try to disappear into the crowd rushing for the exits, but that he turned around and went back inside to kill himself when he saw police officers running towards the theater.
‘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 was seated in the theater just like everybody else,’ Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft. ‘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.’
Not much is known about Houser right now, other than the fact that he was last living in Alabama and had apparently become estranged from his family.
Police described him as ‘kind of a drifter’ and say they don’t believe ehe was working with anyone else.