As police entered the Lafayette movie theater where a 58-year-old gunman had fired into a crowd Thursday night, the shooter turned his weapon on himself, Police Chief Jim Craft said.
Witnesses told police that the man, who has not yet been publicly identified, had been trying to leave the theater with others when police entered. At that point, he fired the shot that killed him, Craft said.
In an early Friday morning briefing to media, Craft said that police know who the shooter is, but are tracing his history. The man had several addresses across several southern states, he said.
Police had finished interviewing witnesses by 2 a.m. Friday morning, but were still working on processing the scene. Two dead bodies — including the shooter — were inside the theater. A third victim died at the hospital.
Of the nine other victims who were injured in the shooting and taken to the hospital, one remained in critical condition.
“It was a pretty horrific scene with that many people being shot,” Craft said, describing the inside of the theater.
Craft said there was no evidence at this time that the shooter knew any of the victims.
The shooter opened fire about 20 minutes into the 7 p.m. showing of the comedy “Trainwreck” at The Grand 16 Theatre. The first two people he shot were those sitting right in front of him, Craft said.
The victims ranged from teenagers to people in their 60s.
The motive still remains unclear. Asked about the weapon, Craft would say only that “it was a handgun.”
Four nearby officers heard the shots and ran into the theater on Johnston Street, hearing more shots as they entered, the police chief said.
Craft said the shooter acted alone in what appeared to be an isolated incident.
Shortly before midnight police exploded a suspicious package in what they believe to be the suspect’s vehicle. An apartment building near the theater remained evacuated as of 2 a.m.
Gov. Bobby Jindal arrived at the scene earlier in evening. He praised the actions of the first responders.
“They ran toward shots fired, toward danger, not away from it,” Jindal said, adding that “Lafayette is a strong community. We will get through this.”
The governor also said he plans to meet with the families of the victims.
“A lot of us are horrified and shocked,” he said, asking the public to “shower” the families with “thoughts, hugs and prayers.”
Earlier in the evening, witnesses at a nearby bar told The Advocate they were having drinks when a woman with no shoes ran up to the group telling them she was in the front of the theater when she heard popping sounds.
In her haste to escape, she lost her shoes and purse, she told them.
University of Louisiana at Lafayette students Jacob and Jordan Broussard, 19-year-old twin brothers from Lafayette, and Jalen Fernell, 20, of Lafayette, said they were across the hall from the shooting site, watching the thriller “Southpaw”, when they heard gunshots and the evacuation siren. When they ran through the front of the theater, they saw a woman lying on the ground, covered in blood.
Traffic was snarled down Johnston Street and all roads leading to the theater were blocked off while police processed the scene.
People were standing on the sidewalks on the perimeter of the parking lot and ambulances were lined up at the side of the theater.
Craft said the investigation will take a number of days, as authorities talk to the many witness and to people who knew the shooter, whose identity they have not yet released.
Lafayette Police were assisted by the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office, FBI, State Police, the District Attorney’s Office, the state Fire Marshal and the Lafayette Fire Department.
Advocate staff writers Billy Gunn and Jim Mustian contributed to this report.