US theatre gunman predicted post-apocalyptic future

  • 25/07/2015
(Reuters)
(Reuters)

By Peter Mitchell

The "drifter" who opened fire in a Louisiana movie theatre believed the US was headed for a post-apocalyptic future worse than what was portrayed in Australian director George Miller's Mad Max films.

John "Rusty" Houser, 59, bought a ticket and walked into the Lafayette Grand Theater 16 complex on Thursday for the 7.10pm screening of the Amy Schumer comedy Trainwreck.

Houser didn't look out of place in the multiplex with 24 others in the Trainwreck screening and about 300 moviegoers watching other films in the building.

"He wasn't acting differently than any other person in line to buy their ticket," Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft told reporters.

Houser sat for several minutes in the theatre before standing up and firing a .40 calibre semiautomatic handgun at least 13 times, killing Mayci Breaux, a 21-year-old college student.

"The first two people he shot were right in front of him," Chief Craft said.

Jillian Johnson, 33, co-owner of a Lafayette gift and toy shop died later at a hospital and nine others were injured, including one critically.

When Houser emptied his weapon he reloaded and fired again.

Two school teachers, Ali Viator Martin and Jena Legnon Meaux, were lauded for their bravery despite being shot in the legs.

Martin was able to scramble and pull a fire alarm.

The alarms alerted authorities, who quickly converged on the theatre.

In the chaos Houser attempted to leave the complex with terrified patrons.

Authorities believe Houser had planned an escape by parking his 1995 Lincoln Continental, which had false number plates, near an emergency exit and buying a wigs, glasses and other disguises.

Houser saw police arrive as he was leaving the theatre, he turned around, went back inside and fatally shot himself.

"The gunman's original plan was to leave the theatre alive," Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said.

Houser's criminal history, accounts from friends and family and his social media postings point to a man with extreme political, religious and conspiracy theorist views.

On a 2012 forum discussing the murder of a 60-year-old man in a Georgia deer processing business Houser wrote he was "sincerely sorry" for the man's death and that most people aged over 50 "in certain businesses" are "rock solid morally".

But then he declared "filth is rampant", a "Mad Max near future" was approaching and he is not sorry for the "90 percent immoral population which will be meeting the same fate" as the deer processor.

Authorities described Houser as a drifter who was living in Lafayette's budget Motel 6.

He previously lived in Phenix, Alabama, where years earlier his former wife reportedly filed a restraining order against him and removed weapons from the family home.

Authorities said Houser had a criminal record that included arson and selling alcohol to a minor and, because of his record, in 2006 was refused a permit to carry a concealed gun.

Alabama, however, does not require a permit to buy or own a gun.

Lafayette, located in south-western Louisiana and with a population of 120,000, has a strong link to Australia.

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette, just 3km from the shooting, regularly recruits young Australian sporting talent for its Ragin' Cajun teams, including basketball players Nathaniel Musters and Dan Trist and punters on the football team, Steven Coutts and Daniel Cadona.

Cadona tweeted: "PrayForLafayette".

AAP