3 dead in Louisiana movie theater shooting, including gunman; 9 injured

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP/KLFY) — A man sitting in a packed movie theater stood up and began firing into the crowd, killing two and injuring at least nine others Thursday night before fatally shooting himself, authorities said.

Police described the shooter as a 59-year-old white man, identified as John Russel Houser, of Phoenix City, Alabama. They later identified his car and evacuated the area after spotting something suspicious inside the vehicle.

Police said they were going to set off an explosion in the car, and minutes later an Associated Press reporter on the scene heard a number of short bursts similar to firecrackers coming from that vicinity.

John Russel Houser
John Russel Houser

Click here to see photos from the scene. 

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.

At least one theatergoer described the scene, saying an older white man stood up about 20 minutes into the 7 p.m. showing of the movie “Trainwreck” at the Grand 16 theater in Lafayette and began shooting.

“We heard a loud pop we thought was a firecracker,” Katie Domingue told The Louisiana Advertiser.

“He wasn’t saying anything. I didn’t hear anybody screaming either,” said Domingue, who added that she heard about six shots before she and her fiance ran to the nearest exit, leaving behind her shoes and purse.

A teacher who was in the theater pulled a fire alarm to alert others, said Gov. Bobby Jindal, who arrived at the scene shortly after the shooting.

Police Chief Jim Craft said at a news conference that they know who the gunman is, but are not immediately releasing his name. Col. Mike Edmonson of the Louisiana State Police said the body of the shooter and “at least one other person” were still inside. Nine people were hurt, with injuries ranging from non-life-threatening to critical, Craft said.

There were about 100 people in the theater at the time of the shooting, Edmonson said. He added that police believe the gunman fired shots only at the theater and had not waged an attack anywhere else beforehand.

“We have no reason to believe that this individual acted beyond this location here,” Edmonson said.

Louisiana shooting
(Courtesy: KLFY)

Edmunson said police saw something suspicious inside the shooter’s car and that a bomb-sniffing dog “hit on three different locations” in the vehicle, “so out of an abundance of caution we brought in the bomb squad.”

One of the stars of the movie, actress Amy Schumer sent a tweet: “My heart is broken and all my thoughts and prayers are with everyone in Louisiana.”

Jindal called the shooting “an awful night for Louisiana.”

“What we can do now is we can pray,” Jindal said. “We can hug these families. We can shower them with love, thoughts and prayers.”

The governor said he would meet with the families of the victims.

Lafayette is about 60 miles west of Baton Rouge. Outside the movie theater complex hours after the shooting, a couple of dozen police cars were still at the scene, which authorities had cordoned off with police tape as onlookers took photos with their cellphones.

A small group of movie theater employees stood outside the police perimeter. A man who identified himself as a general manager at the theater declined to be interviewed: “We would appreciate it if you could give us some space,” he said.

The Louisiana shooting occurred three years after James Holmes entered a crowded movie theater in suburban Denver and opened fire during the premier of a Batman film, killing 12 people and injuring 70 others.

A jury last week quickly convicted Holmes on 165 counts of murder, attempted murder and other charges, rejecting defense arguments that he was insane and suffering delusions that drove him to the July 20, 2012, attack.

Prosecutors said Holmes planned and carried out the massacre to assuage the pain of his failures in graduate school and in romance. Defense lawyers said schizophrenia had been growing inside Holmes’ mind for years and eventually overwhelmed him, creating a delusion that he could improve his self-worth by killing others and absorbing their value.’

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal in Lafayette

By 10:20 p.m. Thursday, Governor Bobby Jindal arrived at Lafayette General Medical Center to meet with victims and their families. KLFY reporter Dalfred Jones reports the governor is visiting with family members inside LGMC as of 10:34 p.m..

Multiple police agencies are on the scene of a shooting at the Grand Theater on Johnston Street in Lafayette, LA.

Jindal quickly made his way from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Lafayette, Louisiana. Jindal offered his condolences to family members of the victims. Jindal said he is going to meet with all the families impacted by the shooting.

Jindal asked Acadiana families to support each other. Jindal said, “Hug families and shower them with love, thoughts and prayers,” in a live press conference on KLFY.

Jindal said Lafayette is a unified, strong and resilient community. Jindal also said police agencies across Acadiana are doing an incredible job responding to the shooting.

Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said three people are dead, including the shooter. The shooter is described as a white, 58-year-old man. Lafayette’s Chief Administrative Officer, Dee Stanley, encouraged people in Acadiana to stay away from the Grand Theater as people continue their investigation.

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