(JTA) – The gunman who went on a deadly shooting spree in a Louisiana movie theatre was known as a right wing extremist who espoused anti-Semitic ideas.
John Russell Houser, 59, expressed support for Hitler, anti-Semitic ideas and white power groups, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which had his name on file since 2005, the Associated Press reported Friday. The centre tracks hate groups and the individuals involved in them.
On July 23, Houser opened fired with a semi-automatic handgun on the audience at a Lafayette theater during a showing of the new film Trainwreck. He killed two and injured nine, then took his own life as police closed in on him in the theatre complex. Houser reportedly had a history of mental health problems.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported Friday that he admired the Greek neo-Nazi Golden Dawn political party, describing it in 2014 as “composed of moral people”; its ideas as “a legitimate effort to solve problems”; and its leaders as “intelligent, well spoken, and exercising good faith.”
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. “They have stood against evil.” He added in a follow-up post, “They have my complete Christian respect.”
Houser may have deliberately chosen Trainwreck, the ADL said in a statement, because of its star, Amy Schumer, who also wrote the film.
Schumer “has received considerable media attention thanks to the movie and her popular television show, and, given her chosen comedic persona of a sexually freewheeling 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,” the ADL wrote.
Houser had been in Louisiana since early July, staying at a Motel 6 after being evicted from his Alabama home, and had visited the theatre several times. He purchased the handgun legally at a pawnshop in Alabama.