(LAFAYETTE, La.) — The gun that was used to kill two people and wound nine others in the horrific movie theater shooting in Louisiana was purchased legally in Alabama, police said Friday.
Gov. Bobby Jindal said that John Houser, who died of a self-inflicted gun shot wound amid the carnage, methodically opened fire at the Grand 16 Theater in Lafayette Thursday night.
“It appears that the shooter actually took his time.. and was somewhat methodical as he shot folks from the top and the back of the theater,” Jindal said. Mayci Breaux, 21, of Franklin, Louisiana and Jillian Johnson, 33, of Lafayette, were killed. Five people remained hospitalized Friday night.
Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said Friday evening that the .40 caliber Hi-Point semiautomatic was legally purchased at a pawn shop in Phenix City, Alabama in February 2014.
Police did not immediately say who made the purchase.
The gun’s history was the latest in a series of developments Friday in the case.
Police said they found at least 13 shell casings at the scene.
They say Houser opened fire around 7:30 p.m., reportedly during a screening of Amy Schumer’s movie Trainwreck. Officials said 25 tickets to the movie were sold.
Witnesses said that he stood up and fired a single shot, which some moviegoers mistook as being part of the movie.
Then he began firing in a semi-circle, according to the witnesses, with the flashes from the gun lighting up the dark theater.
Moviegoers ran for their lives, officials said, leaving their belongings behind. Some sprang into action, helping to save others, including a teacher who shielded another from a bullet.
“One of the teachers jumped in front of her fellow teacher, probably saving her life,” Jindal said. “That bullet may have ended up hitting her in the head if she hadn’t done that. The second teacher was still shot in the leg, even though her friend jumped in front of her, was able to pull the fire alarm.”
After an initial round of gunfire, Houser tried to leave the theater through a side door, but spotted responding officers and went back inside, police said.
“He reentered the theater, fired some more rounds, we think three more rounds, and the fourth round he took his own life,” Craft said.
Authorities were still trying to piece together why Houser, who they described as a “drifter” living at a motel, opened fire.
Police said he was “intent on shooting and escaping” and kept wigs and disguises in a nearby motel.
Houser had applied for a pistol in Alabama in 2006, according to Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor. But he was denied because of an arson arrest and a report of domestic violence against him in 2005.
The domestic violence complaint was never prosecuted.
Houser allegedly threatened his family, who took out a temporary protective order against him in April 2008, according to court filings.
The protective order was lifted the next month.
He was also involuntarily committed to a hospital in Georgia and his wife said had a history of mental illness, including manic depression and bi-polar disorder, according to court filings.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Houser was prolific in online message boards, and was “caught up with a number of far-right ideas and fascinated about ‘the power of the lone wolf.'”
“At this time the family has no comment,” said a statement released on behalf of Houser’s estranged wife Kellie Houser and her family. “Our concern and our prayers are for the families of those who lost their lives or were wounded in LaFayette, LA. Please allow our family some privacy at this time.”
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