Recordings of 911 emergency calls and police-radio traffic released Thursday depict the fear and adrenaline among moviegoers and officers after a gunman opened fire 20 minutes into a screening of the film “Trainwreck” at a Lafayette theater.
In response to a number of records requests from media outlets, Joy Rabalais — a Lafayette attorney representing city-parish government — released the audio, a responding officer’s dash-cam footage and The Grand 16 Theatre’s surveillance video showing the shooter’s entrance into the cineplex on July 23.
Mobile/table users: Click here to hear audio of 911 calls.
“He shot right at people,” the first caller told a 911 dispatcher, also reporting through labored breathing that the “older guy” in a white shirt fired “six or seven” shots.
Five calls later, another woman, through tears and panicked breaths, gave a similar description of the shooter. The next caller reported the shooting as he ran through the parking lot toward Johnston Street. Both said they were inside the theater when the shooting began.
Another woman calls next, and in a calm demeanor reported a woman who had been shot had walked out of the theater as she walked inside. Two calls later, a man calmly told the dispatcher, “we need more ambulances.”
A more chaotic scene is heard when a theater employee who worked in the box office reported to a dispatcher that a second person had been wounded.
“There’s two people shot, two people shot,” she said while running toward the victims.
“The ambulance is on the way,” she told someone on scene as people in the background are heard crying.
Mobile/tablet users: Click here to see police dashcam video.
As one officer arrived at the theater, his dash-cam footage shows a crowd of moviegoers congregated on the opposite side of the theater from where the shooting happened.
“He had a handgun!” one woman yelled.
Authorities released only six 911 calls of at least more than two dozen, citing exemptions protecting the victims’ information and extent of injuries along with witness accounts said to be useful to the police department’s open criminal investigation into the shooting, Rabalais said.
Another 500 direct calls made to the Lafayette Police Department about the shooting have not yet been reviewed by the city’s legal representatives.
But another collection of recordings distributed Thursday offer a window into what officers learned as they spoke over police radios that night, gradually realizing the magnitude of what happened in the theater.
“Can you give me any information on a suspect or anything? I don’t want to walk into a guy with a gun,” an officer said.
A dispatcher responded with information about two reported victims, telling the officer “the white male was last seen behind the theater.”
As the officer tells the dispatcher he’s headed toward the back of the theater, another intervened with new information.
“They said he is inside. He is in number 14 — that he is reloading,” an officer said. “He has a weapon. We have an active shooter here.”
“Headquarters, get as many units as you can. Call the S-O and state if we have to,” another officer said to dispatchers, referring to the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office and Louisiana State Police.
“10-4, 10-4,” a dispatcher replied.
“I need units, and I need units with rifles in here,” an officer said.
“All right headquarters, listen. We need everybody over here. Send anybody you got.”
“10-4,” a dispatcher replied. “We are sending everybody. S-O is also in route.”
“Take it easy,” an officer said. “Everybody’s en route. We’re coming.”
Seconds later, the recording captures the radio calls of out-of-breath and anxious officers entering the theater.
“OK. We’re just advised the suspect shot himself,” a dispatcher told one of the officers.
“What number? What number theater? We are in the theater,” an officer replied.
“Fourteen. Number 14,” the dispatcher said.
“We got one subject down,” an officer said as he enters the crime scene.
“All right, we got several more victims inside!” another officer shouted, his voice quavering with adrenaline. “Suspect is down! Suspect is down! We have several more victims inside with gunshot wounds!”
“We got an additional four or five victims in number 14,” an officer said.
“Actually, six victims. Number 14.
“Headquarters, we got one subject down. With a black handgun.”
“We have the suspect. He is down. We need more units inside to start helping triage. Also, bring first-aid kits. Immediately.”
Authorities also released surveillance video showing the gunman as he purchases a ticket, enters the lobby and walks about 10 minutes late into Screen 14, where he would soon kill two people and injure nine others before turning his .40-caliber, semi-automatic handgun on himself.
The timestamp on the footage is 18 minutes and 25 seconds faster than the real time that night, Rabalais, the city-parish attorney, said.
John “Rusty” Houser, 59, is seen in the video at about 7:20 p.m. purchasing a ticket to the 7:10 p.m. showing of the film. He walked through the lobby, entered a hallway and trailed a man and woman holding hands as they moseyed toward their screen destination.
Houser, of Phenix City, Alabama, began to follow the couple into another auditorium before he turned around and enters Screen 14.
Initial police reports indicate he opened fire inside the auditorium at 7:28 p.m.
The two women who died in the shooting, 21-year-old Mayci Breaux, of Franklin, and 33-year-old Jillian Johnson, of Lafayette, were buried Monday. Of nine who were injured, one person remained in a Lafayette hospital on Thursday.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825