COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The Columbus man who shot and killed two movie theater-goers in Lafayette, LA had well documented medical and legal problems.
John Russell Houser was prescribed medicine for his mental illness, but various sources say he often wouldn't take it.
In 2006, Houser applied for a concealed-carry gun permit in Russell County, Alabama. The request was denied because of Houser's prior arrest for arson and a domestic violence complaint. In both cases, Houser was never prosecuted; no reason why was ever given.
Later, he successfully bought a gun in Phenix City, a background check failing to flag him for past problems.
Another missed opportunity. It was the gun he fired in the movie theater. Just last year, Houser was evicted from his rental home in Phenix City, returning to vandalize the property by flinging paint around, pouring concrete down the toilets and tampering with the gas fireplace.
The owner declined to press charges. But had Houser been prosecuted for any of the very real legal complaints against him, maybe his descent into madness might have been slowed, or even reversed with the proper oversight, medical intervention or even incarceration.
We do not presume to second guess anyone involved in this tragic case. Every case of mental illness is unique. No one has all the answers.
The National Alliance on Mental illness says most people suffering mental problems do not spiral into violence or chaos.
But in our attempts to learn from Houser's infamous history, perhaps we need to reconsider every option available from mental health hotlines to criminal prosecution for illegal acts, when someone we know is mentally ill and refuses to accept help.
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