Details of Lafayette cinema shooter emerge

Vigils are held for victims.

by Jennie Kermode

Details have begun to emerge about the man who killed two people, injured nine and then shot himself in a Louisiana cinema on Thursday night. John Russell Houser, known as Rusty, was a 59 year old law school graduate who had previously been subject to a court order following allegations of domestic violence.

Questions have been raised over how Houser, who had a history of aligning himself with extremist groups like Hitler's Nazi Party and Golden Dawn, and who had received inpatient treatment for mental health problems inclining him to impulsive behaviour, was able to obtain a gun legally. His purchase of a Hi-Point .40 caliber semiautomatic pistol from a pawn shop in Alabama does not seem to have triggered any alarm despite the system of background checks now in place.

Police have described the shooting as slow and methodical, with some people shot multiple times, though one managed to survive by playing dead. He is not believed to have said anything before opening fire but his social media accounts, blogging and a radio interview have revealed that he was angry about issues including taxes and increasing equality for women. He felt that the media was censored to silence people like him, whom he was sure represented the majority of Americans, and he spoke of his allegiance to the Westboro Baptist Church. The Church, whose representatives were banned from entering the UK in 2009 under laws restricting extremism, has responded to the shootings by announcing that it will picket the victims' funerals and saying God will send more shooters.

It has also emerged that Houser tried to flee the scene before shooting himself when he realised he could not escape the police. His reason for choosing the Lafayette cinema for his attack remain unknown, but he lived 500 miles away.

Vigils have been held across America for 33 year old Jillian Johnson, a local toy shop owner and musician, and 21 year old Mayci Breaux, a student at Louisiana State University, both of whom died as a result of their injuries. Breaux's boyfriend, Matthew Rodriguez, was among those seriously injured, several of whom are continuing to receive treatment in hospital.

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