Tragedy struck a Lafayette, LA movie theater on the evening of Thursday, July 23rd 2015, when a gunman, John Russell “Rusty” Houser, opened fire during a screening of “Trainwreck”. He fired 20 shots and hit 11 people, some multiple times, before turning the gun on himself and ending his own life. Two women, Jillian Johnson, 33, and Mayci Breaux, 21, were killed in the shooting spree.
This event comes almost exactly three years after James Holmes opened fire on a movie theater in Aurora, CO during a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.” He was convicted on the day of the Louisiana shootings. While there are obvious similarities between Holmes and Houser, these tragic cases are vastly different. In the three years since his actions in Aurora, Holmes has offered up little evidence of a motive. He wrote in his notebooks “‘The message is, there is no message.'” He wasn’t trying to prove anything or make a statement, he just wanted to commit a violent act.
Details about who Houser was are still coming out. While we will likely never hear his motive directly from him (save for notes or videos he may have left) we cannot rule out that this was a hate crime against women. According to The Washington Post, he “inveighed against women’s rights, liberals and minorities.” The New York Times describes him “as a man with a diffuse collection of troubles and grievances — personal, political and social — who had a particular anger for women…and a changing world.”
According to Calvin Floyd, who knew the shooter, Houser “‘had an issue with feminine rights. He was opposed to women having a say in anything.’” He attempted to control his adult daughter’s life, trying to halt her wedding and harassing her at her work place. The Times reports Houser had been accused of domestic violence and “believed that women should not work outside their homes.” His daughter and wife had to get a protective order against him.
Evidence suggests that what happened in Louisiana was not a spontaneous act and that Houser had planned to escape. It’s probable that he purposefully chose this particular movie–which has a clear feminist bent, a modern chick flick rom-com, written by and starring a woman–and though he injured at least one man, it is likely not a coincidence that the two people he killed were women.
While the police are, as-of-yet unable to name a motive, there is a good deal of evidence to suggest he carried out these actions because of his hatred for women. It seems that, in light of this, we should be thinking of Houser not as the latest James Holmes, but the latest Elliot Rodger.