Residents of Lafayette hold vigils for theater shooting victims

LAFAYETTE, LA (WAFB) - Several prayer vigils were held Friday night in Lafayette as the residents try to heal and understand how something like this could happen.

"I don't know why that would happen. I don't know why he would come all the way from Alabama and do this," said Mason Matthews, a young boy from Lafayette.

Police say 58-year-old John Houser, of Phenix City, Alabama, opened fire during a showing of "Trainwreck" at the Grand 16 Theatre on Johnston Street Thursday night. He killed two women and injured nine others. Five of the wounded remain in the hospital.

"It appears more and more that he thought about how to get away," said Governor Bobby Jindal. "It appears that the shooter actually took his time and was somewhat methodical as he shot folks from the top and back of the theater."

The victims, 21-year-old Mayci Breaux and 33-year-old Jillian Johnson, lost their lives just trying to watch a movie. From all accounts, they were bright, intelligent and incredible young women.

"It's hard for us to believe that this is happening to this Cajun community where everybody here's so friendly and kind to one another and want to help," said Lafayette principal Joni Duos.

The University of Louisiana - Lafayette campus opened its arms to the community on Friday night.

Nearly 100 students and community members gathered for a prayer vigil on the main campus quad. They lit candles and joined together in singing "Amazing Grace."

Local religious leaders and students led prayers honoring the victims and their families. Recent ULL graduate Jolan Jolivette helped organize the campus event.

"Lafayette is strong, and we're a family no matter who you are, what you're doing, they're there to help you out," Jolivette said. "And people, you know, are looking for answers, but one of the first things you need to do is pray."

Other vigils are planned for the days ahead, while investigators work to figure out the timeline and possible motive behind the shooting.

"We make things too complex. There's good and there's evil. This was evil. We must remove evil from our society. We must remove it," said Republican State Senator Elbert Guillory. "People talk about this guy, he was depressed or he was demented, and the same thing with the shooter in Charleston. No, it's one word: evil. And evil deserves to be removed from our society."

The nine victims who survived are expected to eventually make a full recovery. Doctors said Friday that should be sooner than later.

Copyright 2015 WAFB. All rights reserved.