Investigators say calls about theater shooter have resulted in leads

Prayers for Lafayette: 6 p.m. coverage
Mayci Breaux (Source: Facebook)
Mayci Breaux (Source: Facebook)
Jillian Johnson (Source: Facebook)
Jillian Johnson (Source: Facebook)
John Russell Houser (Source: LinkedIn)
John Russell Houser (Source: LinkedIn)

LAFAYETTE, LA (WAFB) - The Lafayette community is reeling following the deadly shooting at a movie theater, as authorities held another news conference Friday morning to update the public on the latest findings in the investigation.

Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said there have been calls about alleged shooter John Russell Houser, 59, whose last known address was Phenix City, Alabama, that have resulted in leads. He said businesses in the Lafayette area and even in Lake Charles have contacted authorities with information.

The two victims who died in the shooting were identified as Mayci Breaux, 21, of Franklin, who died at the scene, and Jillian Johnson, 33, of Lafayette, who died at the hospital.

Craft added there were 300 people inside the Grand 16 Theater at the time of shooting and that 25 tickets had been sold for Trainwreck, the movie playing in the auditorium where the shooting happened. He also said of those 300 people inside the theater at the time, 160 have been interviewed.

According to Craft, investigators are still processing the crime scene. He said they are being slow and methodical. Authorities expect to continue to process the scene through the afternoon. The Lafayette Police Department and Louisiana State Police are working together on the investigation.

"They had a face, they had a name, they had a future," Col. Mike Edmonson, superintendent with Louisiana State Police, said. "It wasn't to die in this theater."

Edmonson said the goal of investigators is to find a motive for the shooting. He added they want to try to find some type of closure for the victims and their families.

State Rep. Terry Landry, D-Lafayette, said it's legislators' job to close loopholes. He added they need to talk about gun laws.

Gov. Bobby Jindal issued an executive order Friday morning calling for the flags at all state buildings to be flown at half staff until July 31 out of respect for the victims of the shooting.

"Your heart sinks into your chest as you begin to think that, 'Wow, I did hear gunshots,'" Jaylen Fernell, who was in the theater at the time of the shooting, said.

"You never thought this would happen in Louisiana," Jindal said. "You never thought it would happen in Lafayette on Johnston Street. We're just blocks away from UL."

"You turn the corner and you see a female lying on the ground with blood everywhere from her leg. She was shot," Fernell added.

That was the scene in the moment as it was happening at the Grand 16 Theater in Lafayette. There was a shooter in the building and people were running for their lives.

"Everyone is evacuating. People are running, trying to get to the exits. People are falling down trying to get to the exits because everyone is scared. Once we get outside, the first thing you hear is sirens everywhere, everywhere. Every corner where you look, you see a cop with a gun just trying to watch the whole building," Fernell explained.

Those officers were on the scene almost instantly because they were already there.

"There were two officers on this parking lot when that call came in," Craft said. "So, we had less than a one minute response time."

Two more officers arrived very quickly after that. They made it inside so fast that they were making their way in as the alleged shooter, John Russell Houser, was making his way out.

"He either spotted the officers coming in or he tried to exit, blend in with the crowd and exit the theater where his car was parked at an emergency entrance," Craft added.

"Now, think about this. Parked his car at an exit, so had thought about this and put some planning into this. Sees the police officers come quicker than he expected. Rushes into the theater. Takes his own life. Who knows how many lives they saved?" Jindal stated.

Tragically, two lives were lost and nine others were shot, with one of those still in critical condition. It was the aftermath of what appears to be one man's rampage.

"The situation is all at this point, based on what happened. Now, we just need to find out what the motive was and there is nothing leading us that way," Edmonson said.

"A lot of people have questions, including the police department," Craft commented.

And with the alleged shooter dead, many of those questions may never be answered. The city of Lafayette and the state of Louisiana now joins a long and growing list of communities devastated by a seemingly random act of mass gun violence.

Another news conference is scheduled for 5 p.m.

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