Lafayette Shooter Purchased Gun Legally Despite History of Mental Illness

John R. Houser is shown in this undated handout photo provided by the Lafayette Police Department in Lafayette, Louisiana July 24, 2015. Lafayette Police Dept/Handout/Reuters

Authorities have determined John Russell Houser legally purchased the handgun he used to kill two people and injure nine others inside a Lafayette, Louisiana, movie theater this week.

Speaking at a press conference, authorities confirmed Houser purchased the handgun legally in his hometown, Phenix City, Alabama.

When law enforcement stormed the theater, Houser shot himself and died on the scene. Authorities believe he was planning to escape, as his car was parked by the exit and he had disguises with him.

It is unclear exactly what Houser was doing in Lafayette, though authorities believe he may have been considering opening an oil service business in the area. The motive for the shooting is not known.

Houser had a history of mental illness and crime. More than 30 years ago, he wanted to destroy the office of a lawyer who worked as counsel for pornographic movie theaters. Not wanting to carry out the act himself, Houser sought to hire an arsonist on his behalf, but it turned out to be an informant. A deal was struck under which Houser would not be criminally prosecuted if he received mental health treatment.

In 2008 and 2009, Houser was sent to a mental health facility in Alabama involuntarily, at the request of his family, and his wife removed his weapons from his home. Houser's criminal history includes domestic violence.

In 2008, a protective order filed by his daughter in Georgia determined he was manic depressive and had bipolar disorder, and forgot to take his medication at times. In one instance, Houser showed up at his daughter’s home to voice negative sentiments about her upcoming nuptials. As a result, the local police department investigated Houser as a “mentally disturbed person” who “exhibited extreme erratic behavior and has made ominous as well as disturbing statements [that his daughter’s] marriage will not occur.” Houser was arrested for stalking.

Though Houser was able to purchase a weapon legally, the arson charge prevented him from receiving a concealed carry weapons permit in Alabama.

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