Lafayette shooter identified: What's known about John Russell Houser?

The gunman responsible for killing at least two people and wounding nine others in a Lafayette, La., movie theater was reportedly a drifter with a distant criminal record.

Lee Celano/Reuters
A member of the police stands outside a movie theatre where a man opened fire inside a crowded movie theater on Thursday night in Lafayette, La. The gunman has been identified as John Russell Houser, a man in his late fifties, police said.

Police have identified the man responsible for opening fire in a crowded theater in Lafayette, La., on Thursday as John Russell Houser, a man in his late 50s from Phenix City, Alabama.

Mr. Houser reportedly had no known connection to Lafayette, and was described as “a drifter” by police. Police also said they suspected he had been in Lafayette since early July, where he had been staying at a local motel.

Authorities confirmed that they had found disguises at the motel where Houser was staying, including wigs, glasses, and other materials. His vehicle also had a switched license plate on it. 

Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft told reporters that Houser had a previous criminal record, "but it looks like it’s pretty old."

Law enforcement officials say that Houser attempted to escape the theater by blending into the crowd after he fired at least 13 rounds, killing two people and injuring nine.

"It appears he was intent on shooting and escaping," a police official said. "The quick law enforcement response pushed him back into the theater."

Houser eventually took his own life inside the theater after killing at least two people and wounding nine others.

Meanwhile, the motive for the shooting remains unknown. "Why did he come here? Why did he do that? We don't know that,” Col. Michael Edmonson of the Louisiana State Police told CNN.

There is a Twitter account with the handle @jrustyhouser that is listed as belonging to a John Russell Houser. It is unclear at this time if this is the same person as the one identified in this shooting. The account has only two tweets, both from June 5, 2013.

One tweet referred to the account holder's conviction that the Internet is censored.

The second tweet lauded the Westboro Baptist Church, a Baptist church described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as "arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America."

Police officials said they believe that Houser was estranged from his family and had a long-term criminal record. 

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

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