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Lafayette Theater Shooting

Lafayette Theater Shooter Bought Gun Legally, Police Say

Louisiana Movie Theater Shooting Leaves Two Dead, Nine Injured 3:31

The gunman who opened fire in a Louisiana movie theater, killing two people and wounding nine others, legally bought the handgun he used, officials said Friday.

John Russell Houser, 59, bought the Hi-Point .40-caliber handgun at a pawn shop in Phenix City, Alabama, in February of 2014, Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said at a news conference.

With that gun, he fired at least 15 shots, hitting 11 people in an audience of about 25, said Craft.

After firing an initial burst of shots, Houser left out a side exit in a possible attempt to reach his car parked nearby, but returned to the theater after seeing an approaching police car, Craft said.

Back inside the theater, Houser fired three more shots at people who remained, possibly striking another victim, before taking his own life with a fourth shot, Craft said.

"It appears more and more that he was planning his escape,” said Gov. Bobby Jindal, who toured the scene of the shooting Friday afternoon.

Jindal said Houser "actually took his time and was somewhat methodical" during the "barbaric" attack. Jindal said one wounded victim played dead during the shooting.

Jindal said gunshots were sprayed across the entire width of the theater, and that Houser took a seat on a top row, in an apparent strategic move. "This wasn’t a sudden burst," Jindal said. "It seems that he had planned this."

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Shop owner and musician Jillian Johnson, 33, and X-ray student Mayci Breaux, 21, were killed in the shooting at the Lafayette Grand Theater 16, which took place during a screening of "Trainwreck."

Craft said investigators are trying to piece together the movements Houser made within the state since the day he traveled into Louisiana on July 2 or July 3.

So far, they know "he was testing, he was checking — determining is there anything that could be a soft target for him," Craft said.

Five victims — four in stable condition and one in critical condition — remained in the hospital Friday, Craft said. Four others have been treated and released.

Police are still trying to determine a motive in the shooting. Louisiana State Police superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson said investigators are combing through online blogs where Houser allegedly wrote "rants about the government" and world events, as well as going through his journals.

Houser has a history of mental problems, his family said in court documents.

He was denied a concealed carry permit in Alabama because of prior arrests in connection with an arson plot and domestic violence, Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor said Friday.

Jindal, a Republican who is running for president, refused to answer questions about gun control or what steps could be taken to prevent other mass shootings.

"I’m more than happy to talk about this in a few days, right now is not the time," Jindal said. "It's been less than 24 hours. Lafayette's grieving. Let us bury our dead."

Jindal said he is pausing his presidential campaign to stay in Lafayette and support the community.