Two moviegoers who suffered bullet wounds at the hands of John “Rusty” Houser remained hospitalized in Lafayette on Tuesday afternoon as the Coroner’s Office prepared to release the gunman’s body to his out-of-state relatives.
After the 59-year-old Houser shot 11 people during a screening of the comedy film “Trainwreck” on Thursday night, he opened his mouth and fired a final, fatal round, according to a preliminary report from the Lafayette Parish Coroner’s Office.
A final autopsy will be completed within a few months and will reveal whether Houser had any drugs or alcohol in his system during the shooting, said Chief Investigator Keith Talamo, of the Lafayette Parish Coroner’s Office. Talamo has been in contact with Houser’s family members about retrieving his body sometime this week.
Houser’s suicide marked the end of a rampage that lasted less than a minute but took the lives of two women and injured nine other people at The Grand 16 Theatre in Lafayette.
Behind the bright-yellow crime-scene tape that’s surrounded the 16-screen facility since 7:30 p.m. Thursday, a chain-link fence with an opaque and dark-colored privacy screen on Tuesday marked the perimeter of the building as police asked media to vacate the premises.
The theater’s future is uncertain. Spokespeople for the theater’s parent company, Southern Theatres LLC, have not spoken with the media since the shooting, although Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said its owners hired off-duty police officers to maintain security while cleanup efforts are underway.
“It was a pretty horrific sight, as you can imagine,” Craft said at the Tuesday meeting of the Lafayette City-Parish Council.
Families on Monday buried Jillian Johnson, 33, of Lafayette, and Mayci Breaux, 21, of Franklin, in their respective hometowns.
Craft said he personally returned Breaux’s belongings to her family on Saturday and did the same with Johnson’s family on Sunday.
Breaux died in the theater, and Johnson died on the way to an area hospital, Craft said. One person injured in the shooting remains in fair condition at Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center, while another is in good condition at Regional Medical Center of Acadiana, according to hospital representatives.
Four officers were able to respond within a minute from the shooting’s first report at 7:28 p.m. and used first-aid kits to stop the bleeding on some of the victims until medics arrived about six minutes later, Craft said. The kits are meant for use when officers are shot in the line of duty.
“We train for this all the time. We certainly hope something like this doesn’t happen, but we train for it,” Craft said.
Police on Tuesday released photos of Houser’s powder blue, 1995 Lincoln Continental in the hope people recognize the vehicle and any possible encounters they might have had with the man from Phenix City, Alabama, who had been staying at a University Avenue motel in Lafayette since the first week of July.
The images show the vehicle with its windows blown out. Bomb squad investigators with Louisiana State Police used a robot late Thursday to explode a suspicious item sniffed out by a police dog inside Houser’s car. What that item might have been has not been released.
Police finished processing the crime scene by 3 p.m. Friday but remained on-site throughout the weekend, and investigators did another sweep on Monday before releasing the property, Craft said.
Yet as Craft continued dedicating as many resources as possible toward the investigation following four days on scene at the theater, those efforts were halted Monday afternoon when someone shot two teenagers, killing 18-year-old Dravin Stevenson, on Sunnyside Lane near East Pinhook Road and Southeast Evangeline Thruway. The fatality is the fifth in north Lafayette since May but the only one that’s resulted in arrest warrants for suspects in the crime.
“It’s been a pretty busy past four or five days,” Craft said.
Police on Tuesday afternoon began investigating another shooting on North Loop Street near the University Avenue and Cameron Street intersection. The two injured men, 20 and 27 years old, are expected to recover.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.