Police on Monday afternoon relinquished custody of the Lafayette theater where a gunman last week killed two people and injured nine before turning the gun on himself, now turning their attention to processing the massive trove of information collected after Thursday’s shootings.
Although authorities have not released many new details about 59-year-old John “Rusty” Houser since he opened fire during a showing of the comedy film “Trainwreck,” information has been pouring in from interviews with his relatives, his acquaintances and people who have had interactions with Houser in the recent past — along with his personal property seized from both his car and a Lafayette motel room.
“It’s a large volume of property as well as a long laundry list of things that need to be looked at in the case,” Lafayette Police Department spokesman Cpl. Paul Mouton said.
Included in that property are disguises like wigs and glasses and at least one journal investigators say they found in Houser’s room at the Motel 6 on University Avenue.
Police shipped off the journal “for analysis,” Mouton said, but he did not disclose where, nor did he divulge details about the writings contained in that journal.
State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson told ABC News that Houser wrote in the journal about his plans for the shooting.
“Everything’s in there. He made comments that he was coming here. It was written down — the movie theater, the time. Everything,” Edmonson told ABC reporter Ryan Owens.
In addition to Houser, 24 other people bought tickets to the film that night. Two of the nine injured by his .40-caliber bullets remained in the hospital in good condition Monday afternoon.
The two women killed — Mayci Breaux, 21, of Franklin, and Jillian Johnson, 33, of Lafayette — were buried Monday after separate funerals in their respective hometowns.
From the moment first-responders identified Houser in the 7:30 p.m. shooting, law enforcement officers at the local, state and national level kicked into high gear to learn about Houser’s history before releasing his name to the media.
On Friday morning, about 12 hours after the shooting, law enforcement officers had interviewed a number of Houser’s family members and acquaintances in Alabama and Georgia, learning his mother had given him $5,000 several months ago when he planned to turn his life around, Edmonson said during a news conference.
Police described the man as a drifter from Alabama, with a criminal history that included arson, but no known connections to Lafayette. He had been staying in a Motel 6 on University Avenue since the first week of July, Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said during a news conference.
They described how Houser parked outside the side-door exit for The Grand 16 Theatre’s screen 14 — that’s the auditorium where he opened fire — and placed a set of keys atop a tire on his blue, 1995 Lincoln Continental before standing in line to buy a ticket to the film.
Based on witness interviews, authorities believe Houser visited other theaters in Baton Rouge, Lake Charles and Lafayette, Edmonson, the State Police superintendent, said in an interview on Monday.
Edmonson also said investigators at the State Police-led “fusion center” in Baton Rouge have focused on the trail of information Houser left across the Internet on blogs and social media posts.
Founded as a 24-7 operation in collecting, evaluating and disseminating homeland security and crime-related information, the Louisiana State Analytical and Fusion Exchange provides a central location where law enforcement from numerous local, state and federal agencies coordinate intelligence-gathering efforts across a number of sources, Edmonson said.
Investigators at the fusion center have been tracing Houser’s past while working to anticipate any potentially related threats looking forward.
Agencies involved include the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the U.S. Secret Service; the FBI; and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“They have resources and programs that are assisting us in taking the information and deciphering it,” Mouton, the Lafayette Police Department spokesman, said of the center’s help in the case.
It’s “a mass amount of information” and evidence, Mouton said, but the investigation has no time frame for completion.
Houser emptied a 10-round clip in the theater before trying to run out with the crowd, police have said. As two officers — who happened to be in the theater’s parking lot exchanging paperwork — responded to the scene in less than a minute, Houser re-entered the theater, reloading and firing another few shots before killing himself.
Records show Houser legally purchased the semi-automatic handgun he used in the shooting from a pawn shop in Phenix City, Alabama, in February 2014.
It’s unclear when The Grand 16 Theatre on Johnston Street will reopen, although police will remain on scene in an off-duty capacity to provide security as cleanup crews begin restoring the crime scene to a functional auditorium, Mouton said.
A spokesman for Southern Theatres, L.L.C., which owns the facility, did not respond to a message Monday seeking comment.
A two-sentence statement posted on the theater’s website offers “thoughts and prayers” for the victims and the community and a note of gratitude to “local officials and to the governor.” Other than that, no one with the company has spoken publicly since the shootings.
After a multi-agency response on Thursday that required mobilization of a large number of the city’s police force throughout the weekend, some investigators are now returning to the other cases they were working prior to the shooting.
“The city still continues to move,” Mouton said. “We’re going to try to attribute the maximum amount of resources available to us to this case. Our priority right now is to try to gather information and work on as many different angles as possible. But at some point we have to give attention to other things.”
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.