POLITICS

Louisiana Shooting Suspect Obtained Gun Legally, Had Extensive Criminal History In Georgia

WASHINGTON -- John Russell Houser, the man accused of killing two people and injuring nine at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana, on Thursday, legally obtained the weapon used in the crime and had an extensive criminal history in one of the towns where he lived, according to police documents obtained by The Huffington Post.

Houser, 59, took his own life after shooting up a movie theater during a screening of "Trainwreck." Media reports described him as a drifter with a history of mental illness whose criminal record was several decades old. 

A motive hasn't been established, but authorities said Friday evening that Houser was "methodical." He'd visited the theater before the shooting, possibly to evaluate it as a target, Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said at a press conference. Houser had also parked his car near the theater's exit, which officials said suggested he perhaps intended to make a getaway. 

Houser's criminal history is more extensive than initially reported. In Columbus, Georgia, just one of the towns where he had ties, he racked up at least a dozen charges between 1989 and 2011, including numerous traffic citations, as well as charges for criminal solicitation and stealing political campaign signs.

According to the Lafayette Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives confirmed through “trace methods” that the shooter legally purchased the firearm in Phenix City, Alabama, in 2014. 

In October 1996, an officer observed Houser carrying political signs that read, "Huff for Tax Commissioner." He had 10 in the back of his car and told the cops he would not remove campaign signs from private property without the owner's permission. He was charged with theft.

Houser was charged numerous times for driving without state tags or a license, and once for leaving a dog unattended. In 2001, he was arrested for violating a probation issued by another town. He listed his occupation as unemployed. His most recent charge in Columbus, in 2011, was for running a stop sign. 

Ed Hostilo, a friend of Houser's, told HuffPost on Friday that his friend started to change about 10 years ago. "He would get very vocal and passionate about something. He’d go off on a tirade ... he would go on tirades for 15 minutes," he said.

This is only one of the towns where Houser racked up criminal charges. In 2005, according to The New York Times, his wife brought a domestic violence complaint against him. This prevented him from obtaining a concealed carry permit in Alabama, but not from buying a handgun.

Officials provided more details at Friday's press conference about what happened inside the theater. Houser fired 20 rounds from the handgun, Craft said. One victim was shot four times, he said. 

"It was barbaric," said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R). One victim "played dead to stay alive," according to Jindal.
 
This story has been updated to include comments from Craft and Jindal.
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