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Accused Louisiana gunman had troubled 'erratic' past, officials say

“America is so sick that I now believe it to be the enemy of the world,” Houser supposedly wrote previously in an Internet discussion forum.

By Doug G. Ware
Accused Louisiana gunman had troubled 'erratic' past, officials say
John Russell Houser, 59, was identified by police Friday as the gunman in a deadly shooting at a Lafayette, La., movie theater that killed two people and wounded nine others. Photo: John Russell Houser / LinkedIn

LAFAYETTE, La., July 24 (UPI) -- The man accused of shooting two people to death inside a Louisiana movie theater Thursday had a troubled past that included prior run-ins with the law and near total estrangement from his family, officials and relatives said.

John Russell "Rusty" Houser, 59, is the man police believe opened fire inside the Grand Theatre in Lafayette just before midnight Thursday -- resulting in the deaths of two women and the wounding of several others.

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Investigators said as they dug deeper into Houser's past Friday, what they found was a middle-aged man with a criminal past and seemingly endless troubles with his family. He was also known to be extremely erratic, official documents stated.

"He just needed some money to continue moving on, living, surviving, so we gave him some, and that was the last we heard of him," Rem Houser said of the last time he saw his brother, a few weeks ago. "We hadn't heard of him in probably 10 years prior to that, and hadn't heard from him since ... so this was a complete shock."

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For others who knew Houser, though, news of his possible involvement in the shooting did not come as a surprise.

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"If you gave me 40 names and 40 pictures of people who might have done that, I wouldn't have hesitated to point him out," Calvin Floyd, the former host of a television talk show in Georgia that frequently had Houser as a guest in the 1990s, said.

"Maybe I should have been afraid of him. He had a very hostile personality at times," he added, in a report by the New York Times.

A native of Columbus, Ga., Houser had arrived in Lafayette earlier this month but did not know anyone there, authorities said. Seven years ago, police said, relatives filed a restraining order against him due to his opposition of his daughter's forthcoming wedding.

Investigators said mental deficiencies, like bi-polar disorder and depression, were also part of the suspect's past. His wife even removed all firearms from their home because she was so concerned about his mental well-being, CNN's report said.

Investigators also believe Houser may have harbored anti-gay, anti-government and racist ideologies, based on remarks he supposedly made online in recent years.

"America is so sick that I now believe it to be the enemy of the world," Houser wrote in one web forum. "I know next to nothing about Iran, but the little I do know tells me they are far higher morally than this financially failing filth farm."

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An organization that tracks racist and anti-government movements said the posts were authored by Houser.

One of the items on his criminal rap sheet was an arson arrest in the 1980s, in which Houser was suspected of conspiring to set fire to the office of an attorney who represented local pornographers, CNN reported.

Last year, he allegedly vandalized the Alabama home he was evicted from by pouring concrete down the plumbing pipes and tampering with the natural gas lines.

"If you had turned it on, it would have blown [flames] out," Russell County (Ala.) Sheriff Heath Taylor said.

Houser also previously owned multiple taverns and at one time attempted to run for public office in Georgia, news media reported Friday.

He arrived in Lafayette earlier this month and lived out of a motel, although police aren't sure why. Investigators are still trying to pin down a motive for Thursday's shootings.

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