911 calls describe scene after La. theater shooting

The collection of audio and video paints a picture of moviegoers and police trying to make sense of a dangerous and chaotic scene that was swiftly unfolding

By Michael Kuzelman
The Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. — The urgent call went out across a police radio only minutes after gunfire erupted inside a Lafayette movie theater: The suspect was inside an auditorium and had reloaded his gun.

"We have an active shooter here," one officer said, calling for help from others with rifles. "Listen, we need everybody over here. Send anybody you got."

"Take it easy," another officer interjected. "Everybody is en route. We're coming."

Police radio transmissions released Thursday — a week after the rampage — show that John Russell Houser was dead within four minutes of a dispatcher broadcasting his bare-bones description: white male, white shirt, khaki shorts.

Officers found Houser's body inside the same auditorium at The Grand 16 theater in Lafayette where he opened fire 20 minutes into a screening of "Trainwreck" on the night of July 23. Houser shot and killed two people and wounded nine others before fatally shooting himself, police said.

Authorities also released a batch of 911 emergency calls in response to public records requests by The Associated Press and other news outlets.

In one 911 call, a man breathing heavily said he heard six or seven shots from a man who "shot right at people." In another, a man pleads for the dispatcher to send more ambulances. A woman in another call says she saw a girl who got shot walking out of the theater as she was walking in.

Authorities also released video from the dashboard of a police vehicle and brief snippets of surveillance video that shows Houser purchase a ticket at the theater and walk through the lobby and down a hallway toward the auditorium where the shooting occurred.

The collection of audio and video painted a picture of moviegoers and police trying to make sense of a dangerous and chaotic scene that was swiftly unfolding.

While many of the 911 callers appear to be out of breath, they also seemed remarkably collected as they relayed gruesome details of what the victims were wearing or where on their bodies were shot. Many used "Ma'am" to refer to the female 911 operators and took the time to use courtesies like "Thank you" and "please."

Theater patrons who could be seen leaving as the first police officer drove up were walking instead of running.

Although terse and often speaking in codes, the voices over the police radio provided a clearer, real-time narrative of how quickly the rampage ended.

After the officer relayed a report that the shooter was reloading, another called for setting up a perimeter.

"Don't forget the exit doors. And then we'll start making our way inside to get people out," the officer said.

"Alright, headquarters we are making entry," an officer said.

"He's in Theater 14, I'm advised," a woman said. "OK, we're just advised the suspect shot himself."

"Alright we've got several more victims inside," an officer said. "Suspect is down. Suspect is down. We have several more victims inside with gunshot wounds."

"We need more units inside to start helping triage. Also, bring first-aid kits. Immediately," another officer said.

A lawyer for the city said the tapes don't include hundreds of other calls to police. Names of the police officers and 911 callers on the tapes were withheld.

Investigators found wigs and disguises in Houser's Lafayette motel room, suggesting he hoped to escape after the shooting. They said he tried to blend in with the crowd of fleeing people but turned back after spotting officers entering the theater.

A police spokesman said investigators also recovered a "journal type book" from the Motel 6 room where Houser had been staying since early July. Authorities haven't disclosed any details about the journal's contents.

In 2008, a Georgia judge ordered Houser detained for a mental evaluation after relatives claimed he was a danger to himself and others. But the judge says she didn't have him involuntarily committed, which could explain how he passed a federal background check last year that enabled him to buy the .40-caliber handgun.

Funeral services were held Monday for 33-year-old Jillian Johnson and 21-year-old Mayci Breaux, the two women killed by Houser.


Associated Press writers Rebecca Santana and Kevin McGill in New Orleans contributed to this report.

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