John Russel Houser had a history of increasingly disturbing behavior, according to accounts by family, friends and law enforcement.
Police named Houser as the gunman in Thursday night's shooting at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Ed Hostilo, a friend of Houser's, says he saw his friend starting to change about ten years ago.
"If you'd have met the guy like I did, you would have loved him," Hostilo, who says he's known Houser nearly his whole life, told The Huffington Post in an interview.
Houser was from a wealthy, prominent family in Columbus, Georgia, Hostilo said, and made friends easily. "Women were attracted to him because he was funny, he always had a good joke to share," said Hostilo, who still lives in Columbus.
About a decade ago, Hostilo said, "I started noticing he was changing. He would get very vocal and passionate about something. He’d go off on a tirade ... he would go on tirades for 15 minutes."
Court documents indicate that in 2008, Houser's wife and other family members asked for a temporary protective order against him. The documents said Houser "exhibited extreme erratic behavior and has made ominous as well as disturbing statements."
Houser "perpetrated various acts of family violence" and "has a history of mental health issues, i.e., manic depression and/or bi-polar disorder," the filing said.
According to the documents, Houser's wife, Kellie 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 protection order was at least temporarily granted, and Houser's wife filed for divorce in March.
The site notes that the phone number in one of the comments posted by "Rusty Houser" is the same as the one listed on Houser's LinkedIn profile, which has since been disabled.
"America is so sick that I now believe it to be the enemy of the world," the commenter wrote. "I know next to nothing about Iran, but the little I do know tells me they are far higher morally than this financially failing filth farm."
Responding to a fellow commenter, "Rusty Houser" continued, "It is possible, you might be the only one on the [I]nternet that has gotten through the censors.Though you probably are no less than a government information gathering devise, I will tell you how happy I am that the yield on the 10 year tres note is almost 3%. The end comes, and I love it."
In other online posts, Houser praised Adolf Hitler, Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and the Westboro Baptist Church, according to The New York Times.
Hostilo recalled that Houser's rants were initially focused on local politics, but as the years went on, his shift started to focus to criticizing gay rights and arguing that the South was being ill-treated by the rest of the country.
"Everything was a plot against the South," said Hostilo, who said Houser expressed a fear that the U.S. government was trying to destroy the Confederacy. "I told him, 'the Confederacy was already destroyed.'"
Hostilo described one occasion when Houser burst into a town meeting about water rates, and tried to blame gay people for the increase in rates.
Despite these outbursts, Hostilo never remembered Houser ever being physically violent, and said he remained a well-liked man around Columbus, running a popular bar called the Peachtree Pub. The bar closed in 2010, though Hostilo is not sure why.
The last time Hostilo saw Houser was around two years ago, after Houser had moved to Alabama. He was back in town visiting, and ran into Hostilo at a restaurant.
“It seemed like he was turning strange to me," Hostilo said. "He was getting real paranoid about everything." He said he suggested Houser try and get some help by talking to a preacher or a professional, but he wasn't interested.
Hostilo also noted that Houser had planned to buy a gun "for protection," which he said surprised him, since the man had been against gun ownership in the past. "He thought that if you had a gun with you, you might find a reason to use it," Hostilo said.
Houser's criminal record from the Phenix City Police Department, obtained by local news station WRBL, includes arrests for domestic violence and theft.