A middle-aged man described by authorities as a “drifter” opened fire on people watching a movie Thursday evening in a theatre in Lafayette, Louisiana killing two of them.
John R Hauser, 59, then bolted for the exit, where he had left his car for easy getaway. But seeing police officers already there, he went back into the theatre and killed himself.
“Here’s a guy who was a drifter. . .who just happened to be in this theater and took two beautiful lives,” Louisiana state police superintendent Michael D. Edmonson said Friday.
Hauser, a white male from Alabama, had a criminal history. And had been living in Lafayette since early July, in a motel.
Investigators have not yet established his motives.
The shooting highlighted once again easy gun laws that continue to defy calls for change despite many mass killings because of a powerful and unrelenting gun lobby.
Bobby Jindal delivers statement following a deadly shooting at the Grand Theatre
The Thursday evening shooting came the day an Aurora, Colorado jury considered the death penalty for James Holmes who shot dead 12 people in a similar theatre shooting in 2012.
Hauser’s motives are no known yet, but some law enforcement officials and experts described the Lafayette shooting as a copycat crime, with chillingly similar details.
Hauser, like Holmes, watched the movie — in this case romantic comedy “Trainwreck” — for 20 minutes. He then rose in his seat and opened fire using a handgun.
The two people who died — both women — were sitting right in from of him. Nine people suffered injuries that ranged from non-life-threatening to critical, according to authorities.
President Barack Obama, who had left for a state visit to Kenya — his father’s country, had been informed of the shooting, his aides said.
In an interview to BBC recorded before the shooting, the president said gun control remained one area in which he has felt “most frustrated and stymied”.
“The United States of America is the one advanced nation on Earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense, gun-safety laws,” the president said. “Even in the face of repeated mass killings.”
When asked about gun laws, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, who is running for president, said now is not the time for politics. “Let’s focus on the victims right now.”