COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The man identified as the person who opened fire at a Louisiana movie theater Thursday night has been identified as a Columbus native and a Phenix City resident.
During an evening press conference in Lafayette, LA on Friday, Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said the department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms traced the purchase of the gun to Phenix City.
"We have confirmed through [ATF] the weapon is a high point 40 caliber semi-automatic handgun. The weapon was purchased at a pawn shop in Phenix City, AL in February 2014. ATF has informed us the purchase was legal," Craft said.
It is unclear which pawn shop in Phenix City sold him the gun.
Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor said that John Russell "Rusty" Houser lived in Phenix City from 2005 to 2014, until he was evicted from his home. Taylor said that Houser is from Columbus.
According to law enforcement officials in Louisiana on Friday, the man accused of killing 2 and injuring several others is a drifter whose last known address was in Phenix City, AL; officials and documents also indicate that the shooter, John Russell "Rusty" Houser, had a past that includes politics, mental health issues and a 2006 denial of a concealed-carry permit in Russell County, AL.
Houser, 59, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after killing two others and injuring nine during a 7:30 p.m. CT showing of Trainwreck in Lafayette, LA. Police say that Houser reportedly fired "at least 13 rounds" inside the theater.
The Associated Press is reporting that he had been in the Lafayette area since early July. Houser's estranged wife "removed guns from home because of his mental state, 2008 documents say." The documents also indicate that he was involuntary committed to a hospital in Columbus because he posed "a danger to himself and others."
Court documents also state that Houser's estranged family asked for a temporary protective order in 2008, and court documents said he "exhibited extreme erratic behavior and has made ominous as well as disturbing statements. Houser, who lived in Phenix City at the time, traveled to Carroll County, GA where the family lived, and "perpetrated various acts of family violence."
Filings obtained by News Leader 9 said Houser's health history includes mental health issues "i.e., manic depression and/or bi-polar disorder." Houser's wife, Kellie Maddox Houser, filed for divorce in March 2015 after being legally separated in December 2012.
The protective filings were also made after Houser's mental state was questioned as he opposed his son's marriage, with an incident report from Carrollton Police Department on April 21, 2008 during a "mentally disturbed person" call.
Columbus State University issued a statement, confirming that Houser was a graduate of the university, receiving a degree in accounting in 1988.
The Russell County Revenue Commissioner Naomi Elliot said that Houser never owned any property in the area.
After destroying the property on 32nd Street in Phenix City, Houser was evicted from the home. Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor confirmed that Houser was denied a conceal carry permit in Russell County in 2006 due to domestic violence and mental health issues.
WAFB has also confirmed the names of the two who were killed: Maycie Breaux, 21, and Jillian Johnson, 33.
"It appears he was intent on shooting and escaping," Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said on Friday. When police arrived, Houser went back inside the theater, where he killed himself. Craft says Houser used a .40 caliber semi-automatic handgun.
A motive for this crime is unknown at this time.
President Barack Obama, who is en route to Africa for a visit to two different countries, has been briefed on the shooting, according to the White House.
The movie theater shooting comes the same week as the third anniversary of the deadly shooting in Aurora, CO during a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. On July 20, 2012, James Homes entered the movie theater with several firearms, injuring 70 and killing 12 others.
Last week, Holmes was found guilty on multiple counts of murder and attempted murder.
A GoFundMe account has been established for two Louisiana teachers who were injured during the shooting Thursday night. You can find more information by clicking here.
Comedian Amy Schumer, the star of the film, tweeted Thursday night, saying: "My heart is broken and all my thoughts and prayers are with everyone in Louisiana."
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency released a statement, saying:
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) is assisting Louisiana and Federal authorities as they investigate the shooting incident that occurred Thursday, July 23, in Lafayette, LA. Since ALEA is not the lead agency and is only assisting in this ongoing investigation, the agency will not comment on specific details, but Secretary of Law Enforcement Spencer Collier said, "ALEA is committed to providing law enforcement and investigative support to our Federal partners and Louisiana counterparts. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and the community affected by this senseless act."
Several anchors and reporters who formerly worked in Columbus are recalling John Rusty Houser's involvement in local politics and their interactions with him.
"I met Rusty Houser, the Louisiana theater shooter, when I was a TV reporter in Columbus, Georgia. He was very outspoken about Columbus politics. He ran for office once, but withdrew when he was accused of stealing other candidates' yard signs. He had several run-ins with the law and more recently had struggled with mental illness, according to his family. The landlords who recently evicted Houser talk about how he booby-trapped their house," WSFA anchor Mark Bullock wrote on his Facebook page.
"In the midst of the Hood Trial, I realized I remember the Lafayette theater shooter from his days back in Columbus, GA," WSB reporter Richard Elliot said in a series of tweets. "I worked in Columbus for 13yrs and remember Rusty Houser as a political gadfly who always complained at city council meetings. Houser would call my old TV station to complain about government or our coverage of news events. Houser got into trouble when running for Muscogee Co. Tax Commissioner back in the 90's."
According to an article from the LaGrange Daily News, Rusty Houser had his liquor license revoked after he was prosecuted on three counts of furnishing alcohol to minors as the operator of Rusty's Buckhead Pub in 2001.
In a response to those who spoke against him at counsel meetings with a 6-by-6 foot banner of a swastika, encircled with the words "Welcome to LaGrange."
As a frequent guest on a show on local Columbus TV in the 1990's, he was frequently booked for his anti-feminist, anti-abortion, anti-government views.