Movie theater shooter known as extremist with anti-Semitic ideas

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — John Russell Houser, the man who opened fire on a movie theater in Lafayette, La., killing 2, was known as a right-wing extremist who espoused anti-Semitic ideas.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups and individuals involved in them, had Houser’s name on file since 2005, the Associated Press reported. He expressed support for Hitler, anti-Semitic ideas and white power groups.

Houser, 59, on July 23, fired with a semi-automatic handgun on the audience during a showing of the new film “Trainwrecked,” killing 2 moviegoers and injuring 9. As police closed in on him in the theater complex, he shot himself in the head and died.

Houser admired the Greek neo-Nazi Golden Dawn polit­i­cal party, describ­ing them in 2014 as “com­posed of moral peo­ple and their ideas as “a legit­i­mate effort to solve prob­lems” and their lead­ers as “intel­li­gent, well spo­ken, and exer­cis­ing good faith,” the Anti-Defamation League reported.

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Houser also admired extrem­ist groups and move­ments, includ­ing rad­i­cal Islamists, according to the ADL. “Yes, I am salut­ing the fun­da­men­tal­ist Mus­lims,” he said in Jan­u­ary 2015, “They have stood against evil.” He added, in a follow-up post, “They have my com­plete Chris­t­ian respect.”

The ADL said in a statement that it is possible that Hauser deliberately chose “Trainwreck” due to writer and star of the movie come­dian Amy Schumer, who “has received con­sid­er­able media atten­tion thanks to the movie and her pop­u­lar tele­vi­sion show, and, given her cho­sen comedic per­sona of a sex­u­ally free-wheeling woman, as well as her lib­eral opin­ions, one could imag­ine how a dis­turbed mind like Houser’s could come to focus on the movie as a sym­bol for all of his dark fan­tasies about moral decay in America.”

Houser had been in Louisiana since early July, staying in a Motel 6 room, and had visited the theater several times. He purchased the handgun legally at a pawnshop in Alabama.

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