UPDATED: Three people were shot and killed, and nine others were injured on Thursday when a gunman opened fire inside a movie theater in Lafayette, La.
The shooting occurred during a screening of “Trainwreck” at the Grand 16 Theater.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said on Friday afternoon that the shooter was slow and deliberate, taking his time as he “methodically worked his way down” the theater. Police ultimately uncovered 15 shell casings on the floor.
“It was barbaric, whether you want to call it an execution or mass slaughter,” Jindal told reporters. “In the end, love will triumph over evil.”
Described by officials as a 58-year-old white male, the man reportedly stood up about 20 minutes into a screening of “Trainwreck” and began randomly firing his handgun into the audience. He later shot and killed himself. One of the surviving victims played dead to survive, police said.
Of the nine hospitalized victims, five suffered critical injuries. The ages of the victims range from late teens to 60s. Five of the victims are still hospitalized — four are stable, while one is in critical condition. The four others have been treated and released.
Police identified the lone gunman early Friday morning as John Russell Houser. The shooter’s car, a 1995 blue Lincoln Continental, was also discovered at the theater near the exit through a side door. Houser had his keys on the tire of his car for easy access.
“It is apparent he was intent on shooting and escaping,” police chief Jim Craft told reporters on Friday morning. Houser abandoned his plans to escape, reentering the theater to shoot himself once he spotted the police unit pulling in at the same time. He fired three more rounds in the crowd and took his own life with the fourth round.
Houser is from Phenix City, Ala., and police said has no known connection to Lafayette. Houser, who had likely been staying in a Lafayette motel since early July, was described as a “drifter.” Police discovered wigs and glasses in his motel room on Friday morning. The shooter’s motive remains unclear.
He bought the .40 caliber handgun legally at a pawn shop in Alabama in February of 2014.
Police also identified the two female victims: a 21-year-old and a 33-year-old.
Houser’s then-wife, Kellie Maddox Houser, and other family members sought a temporary protective order against him in 2008. The family complained that he “perpetrated various acts of family violence” and “exhibited extreme erratic behavior and has made ominous as well as disturbing statements,” according to court documents obtained by the Associated Press on Friday.
The documents also reveal that Houser has a “history of mental health issues, i.e. manic depression and/or bi-polar disorder.”
Maddox Houser “has become so worried about the defendant’s volatile mental state that she has removed all guns and/or weapons from their marital residence,” the documents read. The order was temporarily granted and she filed for divorce in March.
According to police chief Craft, the shooter had a criminal history that dates back several years.
A bomb squad was later called to the scene after police found a suspicious package inside the shooter’s car that was parked outside the theater. “It really was a chaotic scene,” Craft told reporters on Thursday.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said two of the victims were teachers and that one took a bullet for the other and pulled the fire alarm.
“We heard a loud pop we thought was a firecracker,” witness Katie Domingue told the Daily Advertiser. “He wasn’t saying anything. I didn’t hear anybody screaming either.”
Universal’s “Trainwreck” comedy, starring Amy Schumer, opened nationwide July 17.
The deadly Louisiana tragedy comes less than a week after a jury in Aurora, Colo., found James Holmes guilty of first-degree murder in the movie theater shooting that killed 12 people on July 20, 2012. He faces the death penalty.