Authorities announced Friday that John Houser, despite a history of mental illness and having been denied a concealed-carry permit seven years earlier, was able to legally acquire, in 2014, the 40-caliber handgun with which he killed three people and injured nine others at a Louisiana movie theater this week.
Reuters reports that, according to authorities, Houser was once hospitalized for psychiatric care. In 2007, he was denied a concealed-carry permit as a result of a domestic violence complaint and a prior arson arrest. In 2008, after they filed a request for a protective order against him, Houser was ordered not to contact his wife, daughter, and other relatives. In the request, filed in Carroll County, Georgia, Houser’s estranged wife Kellie referred to his “volatile mental state.”
According to the New York Times, Houser was accused in 1989 of attempting to hire a man to start a fire at a Columbus, Georgia, law firm that represented pornographic theaters. A grand jury declined to indict him; however, a Muscogee County Superior Court judge ordered Houser to undergo a psychiatric examination.
Later, he opened a bar in LaGrange, Georgia. His liquor license was revoked in 2001 after he was accused of selling alcohol to minors, the Times reports. In protest, he displayed a swastika outside his bar, explaining that “the people who used it — the Nazis — they did what they damn well pleased.”
The Daily Beast has outlined what appear to be the contours of Houser’s digital footprint. The shooter, who ended his life as police descended upon the Lafayette, Louisiana theater, appears to have been a relatively active poster on Tea Party and other right-wing online forums, often using the nickname “Rusty Houser,” which the Daily Beast reports is tied to him by an email address listed on a LinkedIn page.
On PoliticalForum.com, a user identifying as Rusty Houser boasted about posting with his real name and that he “say(s) what he thinks.” In another foreboding post on the site in 2013, he welcomed a newcomer to the forum: “Jump in the deep end, I don’t think we have that long.”
A Debate Politics page registered to Rusty Houser lists his political viewings as “very conservative.” Among his interests, Houser lists the Greek nationalist party Golden Dawn. It also identifies him as having a hometown of Phenix City, Alabama—and having a JD and CPA certification, just like on the John Russell Houser LinkedIn profile.
Houser’s posts on the site were made in early 2014. In one about Golden Dawn, he called the group “a legitimate effort to solve problems.” “The leaders of the group are in fact leaders,” he wrote. “Intelligent, well spoken, and exercising good faith.”
“Type in WHITE POWER GROUPS and you get mag articles about their never ending claims of racism, and no information of how to find White power groups you might want to join,” he continued.
After visiting the scene of the shooting in Louisiana, Republican Governor Bobby Jindal made a statement. “This is a normal movie theater in a normal part of a normal town. This is Anywhere, USA,” he said. “This just shows these senseless acts of violence can literally happen anywhere.”