Police identify gunman in deadly Louisiana theater shooting

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Officials Identify Louisiana Movie Theater Gunman

An Alabama drifter fired at least 13 shots inside a crowded movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana, on Thursday evening, killing two women and wounding seven before taking his own life, police said.

Gunfire erupted during a 7 p.m. CDT (0000 GMT) showing of the film "Trainwreck." Two people died in the hail of bullets before the 59-year-old suspect, identified as John Houser, killed himself with a .40 caliber handgun as officers rushed to the scene, Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft told a Friday morning press conference.

The shootings took place almost three years to the day after 12 people were killed at a cinema in Aurora, Colorado, and follows several mass shootings in the United States in recent weeks.

Authorities said seven people were wounded, three of them critically. One person underwent surgery and "was not doing well," Craft said.

See images from the scene:

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Police identify gunman in deadly Louisiana theater shooting
A police officer directs journalists on July 25, 2015 around the crime scene outside The Grand Theatre on July 25, 2015 after the deadly July 23 shooting in Lafayette, Louisiana. The troubled 'drifter' who randomly killed two women in the Louisiana movie theater and then took his own life has emerged as an anti-government extremist who owned a legally-purchased firearm. AFP PHOTO/YURI GRIPAS (Photo credit should read YURI GRIPAS/AFP/Getty Images)
A police officer directs journalists on July 25, 2015 around the crime scene outside The Grand Theatre on July 25, 2015 after deadly the July 23 shooting in Lafayette, Louisiana. The troubled 'drifter' who randomly killed two women in the Louisiana movie theater and then took his own life has emerged as an anti-government extremist who owned a legally-purchased firearm. AFP PHOTO/YURI GRIPAS (Photo credit should read YURI GRIPAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Police officers stand in front of The Grand Theatre on July 25, 2015 in Lafayette, Louisiana. The troubled 'drifter' who randomly killed two women in the Louisiana movie theater and then took his own life has emerged as an anti-government extremist who owned a legally-purchased firearm. AFP PHOTO/YURI GRIPAS (Photo credit should read YURI GRIPAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Flowers are placed outside The Grand Theatre on July 25, 2015 in memory of victims of a July 23, 2015 deadly shooting in Lafayette, Louisiana. The troubled 'drifter' who randomly killed two women in the Louisiana movie theater and then took his own life has emerged as an anti-government extremist who owned a legally-purchased firearm. AFP PHOTO/YURI GRIPAS (Photo credit should read YURI GRIPAS/AFP/Getty Images)
LAFAYETTE, LA - JULY 24: Col. Mike Edmondson, Superintendent of the Louisiana State Police, walks to the podium to speak with the media on July 24, 2015 in Lafayette, Louisiana. Two People were killed and nine others wounded when a shooter identified as John Russel Houser opened fire in a crowded movie theater. Houser reportedly shot himself after police arrived. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
LAFAYETTE, LA - JULY 24: General view of the Grand Theatre on July 24, 2015 in Lafayette, Louisiana. Two People were killed and nine others wounded when a shooter identified as John Russel Houser opened fire in a crowded movie theater. Houser reportedly shot himself after police arrived. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
LAFAYETTE, LA - JULY 24: A picture of the shooter, John Russel Houser, seen in a media vehicle away from the press conference on July 24, 2015 in Lafayette, Louisiana. Two People were killed and nine others wounded when a shooter identified as John Russel Houser opened fire in a crowded movie theater. Houser reportedly shot himself after police arrived. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
LAFAYETTE, LA - JULY 24: Mourners stand outside of the Grand Theatre on July 24, 2015 in Lafayette, Louisiana. Two People were killed and nine others wounded when a shooter identified as John Russel Houser opened fire in a crowded movie theater.Houser reportedly shot himself after police arrived. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
These Are The Victims Of The Lafayette Movie Theater Shooting http://t.co/0OFwYKENoE http://t.co/oR6eWK6kqh
What we know about #LafayetteShooting gunman John Russel Houser--wigs, weapon, and more: http://t.co/rl9Z6QsRFu http://t.co/2ZgvlIMJxQ
LAFAYETTE, LA - JULY 23: Lafayette police stand outside of the Grand Theater on July 23, 2015 in Lafayette, Louisiana. Three people are dead and seven more injured after a gunman opened fire inside the Grand Theatre. The gunman, whose identity is being withheld by police, is among the dead. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
:: Police seek info on suspected Louisiana theater shooter. Call (337) 291-8650 if you know John Russel Houser. http://t.co/DMpuHE1dkB
Gov. Bobby Jindal is at Lafayette General. He hugs Sue Vidrine and says sorry for your loss. http://t.co/Wryp8U1q9S
My heart is broken and all my thoughts and prayers are with everyone in Louisiana.
Thoughts & prayers w/ victims, friends & families of all involved in movie theatre shooting in Lafayette, Louisiana. http://t.co/BB2mId5OxM
BREAKING: Shooting reported at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana. http://t.co/ZZI3WzfeUP http://t.co/vSFrVVRd7E
KATC ABC News: Photo from outside reported shooting at The Grand in Lafayette, Louisiana http://t.co/eDCF3p4TyZ
LIVE on #Periscope: Shooting scene at Lafayette, Louisiana movie theater https://t.co/KZNT4gfmHG
I'm on my way to Lafayette right now. Please say a prayer for the victims at Grand Theatre and their families.
#Breaking: Police in Lafayette, Louisiana, say there's been a shooting; "multiple victims" http://t.co/mbYmv1XNXt http://t.co/OGouTkXvUz
Lafayette police official on theater shooting: Still working to confirm number of fatalities. FBI, ATF are on scene http://t.co/8uOTN7wInm
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The two victims were identified as Mayci Breaux, 21 and Jillian Johnson, 33.

Police did not immediately offer a motive.

"The shooter is deceased. We may never know," Craft said, adding that the man had criminal history that he described as "pretty old."

Craft told the press conference that the gunman tried to sneak out of the theater with the crowd after the shooting. He was forced back inside by the quick arrival of police, before shooting himself.

"It is apparent that he was intent on shooting and escaping," he said, noting that Houser's car, a blue Lincoln Continental, was parked outside the theater near an exit.

Houser was "kind of a drifter" who had moved to Lafayette recently from Alabama, Craft said.

Police found wigs and glasses and disguises in his motel room, he added.

GUNMAN SILENT

Witnesses said the gunman abruptly stood up in the darkness of the Grand 16 Theater about 20 minutes into the movie and began shooting.

"He wasn't saying anything. I didn't hear anybody screaming either," Katie Domingue, who was watching the film with her fiance, told the local Advertiser newspaper.

The bullets sent people scrambling from the theater, situated on a main thoroughfare in Lafayette, a city of about 120,000 people roughly 55 miles (90 km) southwest of Baton Rouge, police said.

President Barack Obama, who was traveling to Kenya on Friday, received a briefing about the shooting during a refueling stop in Germany, said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

"The thoughts and prayers of everyone at the White House, including the President and First Lady, are with the community of Lafayette, Louisiana, especially the families of those who were killed," a statement said.

Trainwreck's actress and writer, comedian Amy Schumer tweeted, "My heart is broken and all my thoughts and prayers are with everyone in Louisiana."

Republican Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal went to Lafayette to meet law enforcement and victims.

"This is an awful night for Lafayette. This is an awful night for Louisiana. This is an awful night for the United States," said Jindal.

Two of the wounded victims were teachers, he said, one of whom told him that she survived the attack because her friend rolled over her as bullets rang out. That teacher then managed to pull a fire alarm in the theater, he said.

Louisiana Teacher Saves Friend, Pulls Fire Alarm During Theater Shooting

The shooting came three years after a gunman opened fire at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, during a midnight screening of the Batman film, "The Dark Knight Rises", killing 12 people and wounding 70 others.

James Holmes, a former neuroscience graduate student at the University of Colorado, was convicted last week on 165 counts of murder, attempted murder and explosives in the July 20, 2012, rampage.

Jurors in that case were trying to determine if Holmes should face the death penalty or life in prison.

The United States has witnessed several mass shootings in the last two months.

A gunman is accused of a racially motivated shooting at a black church in South Carolina that killed nine church members in June. More recently, a gunman attacked military offices in Tennessee last week, killing five U.S. servicemen.

Jindal, who last month announced his candidacy for president, said he had ordered National Guard members at offices and other facilities to be armed in the wake of the Tennessee attack.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb and Victoria Cavaliere in Los Angeles, Letitia Stein in Tampa and Laila Kearney in New York.; Editing by David Adams and Dominic Evans; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Meredith Mazzilli)

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