On Thursday night, John Russell Houser parked a 1995 blue Lincoln Continental filled with wigs and other disguises next to a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana. Then he entered theater 14 with a .40-caliber handgun and opened fire at patrons who were watching a 7:10 PM showing of the new Amy Schumer movie Trainwreck.
Hours after the 59-year-old killed two women, injured nine other people, and shot himself, a portrait has emerged of a right-wing Southerner with a history of mental illness who admired deeply racist and bigoted institutions and frightened his own family.
Houser was evicted from his home Phenix City, Alabama, in March of last year, and had reportedly been in a motel in Lafayette since early July, the New York Times reports. CNN adds that he once had an uncle who lived in the Bayou State, but he'd been dead for decades, leaving the man's connection to his new home dubious at best.
What's fairly obvious, though, is that Houser was a misfit in Alabama, and had been consumed by right-wing politics for decades.
Although he claimed on his LinkedIn page (which has apparently been taken down as of Friday afternoon) to be an attorney and two-time bar owner, former acquaintances paint a frightening picture of the man. A man named John Swearingen told NBC News that Houser once tried to burn down his Georgia law practice in the 80s. "He was some kind of religious fanatic and as I recall, he said God told him to do it," the former attorney said.
The online resume also noted that Houser was an amateur political commentator on a local NBC affiliate in Columbus, Georgia. "He was very entertaining," Calvin Floyd, one of the channel's hosts, told the network of his former regular guest. "He made for good TV and when it was over, you would leave shaking your head."
But the hard-headedness that made for entertaining punditry apparently didn't translate well into a home environment. In 2008, Houser's wife filed a protective order against him, indicating that both she and her daughter were afraid of him given his "history of mental health issues, i.e., manic depression and/or bi-polar disorder." They had Houser committed to an institution, though the protective order was reportedly lifted the next year.
Online postings suggest that Houser eventually became too radical for TV. For instance, he was openly concerned that the United States was racist against whites, and he sympathized with both the Westboro Baptist Church and KKK leaders like David Duke. (The forum postings and tweets have been attributed to Houser by the Southern Poverty Law Center, according to the Times.)
Houser's Facebook profile, which is much more muted, is linked to only two groups—one pledging to "Stand With Rand [Paul]" and the other celebrating Irish-American heritage. According to RawStory, Houser also published a short manifesto in 2013 that accused the United States of "oozing the puss of foolishness and perversion." He also called for the country to come up with a right-wing party like Greece's Golden Dawn, according to the site. Another forum posting expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler.
The deadly shooting comes just days after James Holmes was found guilty of killing 12 people and injuring 70 others during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises in 2012. The sentencing portion of the trial, which could end in Holmes being sentenced to death began Wednesday, but court was canceled because a juror was ill.
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