John R. Houser, who opened fire Thursday in a Lafayette, La., movie theater, was a onetime entrepreneur who inveighed against women's rights, liberals and minorities and had been involuntarily committed for mental illness, the Washington Post reports. Houser, 59, was one of two dozen people who bought a ticket to “Trainwreck.” About 20 minutes into the movie, he stood up and began firing a semiautomatic handgun “methodically,” killing two and injuring nine before turning the gun on himself. Houser, who had accounting and law degrees and once owned bars, was sliding into erratic, threatening behavior by 2008, family members said in court documents that accused him of stalking his own daughter. Houser lost his house in foreclosure and he was separated from his wife.
More than a decade earlier, Houser became known in his Georgia community as an argumentative guest on television talk shows who was fiercely anti-tax. The former pub owner known as “Rusty” also ran for several local offices, political bids that went nowhere, and posted on Internet message boards praising Adolf Hitler. The gun used in the shootings — a .40-caliber, semiautomatic handgun — was legally purchased in 2014 at a Phenix City, Al., pawn shop. A legal purchase would mean a background check was done, and experts said Houser's earlier involuntary commitment for mental illness should have prevented him from making the purchase. It is unclear why he was allowed to buy the weapon.