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Friday, July 24, 2015

Theater Gunman's Family Called Him Mentally Ill, Violent

LAFAYETTE, La. — The man who killed two people and wounded nine others at a movie theater was so mentally ill and violent that years ago, his wife hid his guns and his family had him hospitalized against his will before obtaining a court order to keep him away.
John Russel Houser, 59, stood up about 20 minutes into the "Trainwreck" movie and fired first at two people sitting in front of him, then aimed his handgun at others. Police said Friday they found 13 shell casings.
"They heard a couple of pops and didn't know what it was," said Randall Mann, whose 21-year-old daughter, Emily, was sitting in the same row as the shooter.
She told her father that she did not hear the shooter say anything before opening fire. "And then they saw the muzzle flashes, and that's when they knew what was going on. She hit the floor immediately."
Mann said his daughter and her friend escaped, uninjured but traumatized.
Police say Houser had one additional magazine of bullets for his handgun as he tried to escape. Then, when he spotted police officers outside, he turned around and pushed back through the fleeing crowd. The officers tailed him into the theater and heard a single shot before finding him dead inside, police said.
Houser parked his 1995 blue Lincoln Continental — with a mismatched license plate — by the theater's exit door, and disguises including glasses and wigs were found in a search of his room at a nearby Motel 6, police said.
"It is apparent that he was intent on shooting and then escaping," Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said.
Police were looking at online postings they believed Houser wrote to learn more about him and try to figure out his motive, superintendent Col. Michael D. Edmonson said.
In the 1990s, he frequently appeared on a local television call-in show, advocating violence against people involved in abortions, said Calvin Floyd, who hosted the morning show on WLTZ-TV in Columbus, Georgia.
Houser also espoused other radical views, including his opposition to women in the workplace. Floyd described Houser as an "angry man" who made "wild accusations" about all sorts of topics, and said he put him on to counter a Democratic voice because "he could make the phones ring."
The two fatalities were identified as 33-year-old Jillian Johnson and 21-year-old Mayci Breaux. At least one of the wounded, ranging from their late teens to their late 60s, was in critical condition, Craft said. Two were released from the hospital.
Theatergoers said the gunman sat alone and said nothing before he stood up and opened fire at Thursday's 7:10 p.m. showing of "Trainwreck" at the Grand 16 theater.
"We heard a loud pop we thought was a firecracker," Katie Domingue told The Advertiser. "He wasn't saying anything. I didn't hear anybody screaming either."
Domingue said she and her fiance ran for the nearest exit, leaving behind her shoes and purse.
Stories of heroism emerged. A teacher jumped in front of her colleague, taking a bullet for her, and the second teacher pulled a fire alarm to alert other moviegoers, said Gov. Bobby Jindal, a presidential hopeful who traveled to the scene.
"Her friend literally jumped over her and, by her account, actually saved her life," Jindal said.
Houser studied accounting in Georgia and earned a law degree at Faulkner University in Alabama. There's no record he ever became a lawyer in either state.
Houser "has a history of mental health issues, i.e., manic depression and/or bi-polar disorder," his family said in court documents in 2008, when he made violent threats in an effort to stop his daughter's wedding. A judge granted the family's petition to have him involuntarily committed to a hospital as "a danger to himself and others."
Houser refused to back down after getting out, however, so his wife, daughter and other relatives also obtained a protective order after accusing him of having "perpetrated various acts of family violence."
His daughter, Kirbey Ellen Houser, was engaged to Andrew Michael Broome at the time, and though they were 23 and 26, he felt they were too young to be married. "He has exhibited extreme erratic behavior and has made ominous as well as disturbing statements" that their marriage would not occur, the filing says.
Police weren't sure why Houser ended up in Louisiana years after becoming estranged from family living in Alabama and Georgia. Police said his mother had recently loaned him some money because he said he was trying to get his life together.
"It just seems like he was kind of drifting along," Craft said. He had an uncle that once lived in Lafayette, but he died 35 years ago. "We don't know why he decided to stop and stay in Lafayette."
There were about 300 people inside the theater building at the time of the shooting and 25 people in "Trainwreck." Keys, shoes and purses were all left behind.
About a dozen law enforcement personnel descended on the Motel 6 in Lafayette where Houser had been staying. An officer carried out a cardboard box from the room and other officers could be seen knocking on neighboring doors.
State police superintendent Col. Michael D. Edmonson said police believe the gunman did not wage any other attacks Thursday night before opening fire in the theater.
"Trainwreck" star Amy Schumer tweeted: "My heart is broken and all my thoughts and prayers are with everyone in Louisiana." The comedy stars Schumer as a magazine writer who decides to live a life of promiscuity after her father convinces her that monogamy isn't realistic, but in spite of her best efforts, finds herself falling in love with one of her interview subjects.
Gov. Jindal called the shooting "an awful night for Louisiana."
"What we can do now is we can pray," Jindal said. "We can hug these families. We can shower them with love, thoughts and prayers."
President Barack Obama was briefed on Air Force One while on his way to Africa. He asked his team to keep him updated on the investigation and the status of the wounded, and offered his thoughts and prayers to the families of those killed, the White House said.
The Louisiana shooting happened three years after James Holmes entered a crowded movie theater in suburban Denver and opened fire during the premiere of a Batman film, killing 12 people. The jury found Thursday that the death penalty is justified, and is hearing evidence about Holmes' schizophrenia before issuing a sentence.
Associated Press writers Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama; Kate Brumback and Kathleen Foody in Atlanta; and Kevin McGill in New Orleans contributed to this report.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Bill Clinton: Garner 'didn't deserve to die'

By Alexandra Jaffe, CNN

updated 1:36 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014

Clinton: Garner 'didn't deserve to die'

  • Clinton acknowledged that Garner's cigarette sale was illegal, but said he 'didn't deserve to die'
  • He said while economic opportunities have improved for minorities, issues remain
  • Clinton urged Americans to get past their "preconceptions" that are "wired into" their lives
(CNN) -- Former President Bill Clinton said that the African American man killed with a chokehold by a white police officer "didn't deserve to die," and that while race relations have improved, Americans have to move beyond harmful preconceptions that are "almost wired into" their experience.
In an interview with Fusion that aired Monday, a network aimed at younger Latino viewers, Clinton acknowledged that Eric Garner, the man who died by chokehold after police found him illegally selling loose cigarettes on the street, was "obviously not well, overweight and vulnerable therefore to heart and lung problems" and that he was "doing something that was illegal."
But he added: "He didn't deserve to die because of that."
Clinton has spent much of the past week speaking on the killing of Eric Garner, telling CNN En EspaƱol last Friday that the "The fundamental problem you have anywhere is when people think their lives and the lives of their children don't matter, they they are somehow disposable, just like a paper napkin after a lunch at a restaurant or something."
"If we want our freedom to be in deed as well as word in America, we have to make people feel that everybody matters again," Clinton said last week.
The police officer in the case was not indicted, sparking a new wave of protests following months of unrest surrounding a similar incident involving Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen who was shot dead by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. That officer was also cleared by a grand jury, and the two incidents have prompted a nationwide discussion surrounding race relations and attitudes in the United States.
Clinton said in Monday's interview while Brown's killing "may not be a crime ... it shows you the divide that exists between the community and the police."
He did say that economic opportunities have improved for minorities, that "there are more opportunities for people, without regard to race, to be accepted into every business profession and avenue of American life than ever before."
But Clinton also said that there remain "preconceptions that, when people are scared, are triggered again."
"And when people like this get killed, the people in their neighborhoods, they feel almost that they're disposable ... like they're not really important, they don't really matter," he said.
Clinton added: "Whenever there's insecurity, these preconceptions are almost wired into us and we have got to get beyond them."
Clinton's wife, former secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is considering a presidential bid and has been more reserved in addressing the issue of race in her recent public appearances. She recently said the nation needs to face some "hard truths" about race.

Ex-Marine wanted in 6 killings committed suicide

Associated Press
PENNSBURG, Pa. (AP) — An Iraq War veteran suspected of killing his ex-wife and five of her relatives was found dead of self-inflicted stab wounds Tuesday in the woods of suburban Philadelphia, ending a day-and-a-half manhunt that closed schools and left people on edge.
Bradley William Stone's body was discovered a half-mile from his Pennsburg home, about 30 miles northwest of Philadelphia. The 35-year-old former Marine sergeant had cuts in the center of his body, and some kind of knife was found at the scene, Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said.
Stone, who had been locked in a custody dispute so bitter that his ex-wife feared for her life, went on a 90-minute shooting and slashing rampage before daybreak Monday at three homes a few miles apart, authorities said.
"There's no reason, no valid excuse, no justification for snuffing out these six innocent lives and injuring another child," Ferman said. "This is just a horrific tragedy that our community has had to endure. We're really numb from what we've had to go through over the past two days."
The killings set off the second major manhunt to transfix Pennsylvania in the past few months. Eric Frein spent 48 days at large in the Poconos after the September ambush slaying of a state trooper.
This undated photo provided by the Montgomery County Office of the District Attorney in Norristown, Pa., shows Bradley William Stone, 35, of Pennsburg, Pa., a suspect in six shooting deaths in Montgomery County on Monday, Dec. 15, 2014. District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said all of the victims have a "familial relationship" to Stone. © AP Photo/Montgomery County Office of the District Attorney This undated photo provided by the Montgomery County Office of the District Attorney in Norristown, Pa., shows Bradley William Stone, 35, of Pennsburg, Pa., a suspect in six shooting deaths in… Stone's former wife, 33-year-old Nicole Stone, was found shot twice in her apartment after a neighbor heard glass breaking and saw Stone fleeing around 5 a.m. with their two young daughters, authorities said. The girls were later found safe with Stone's neighbors.
Police went to two other homes and discovered five more people dead: Nicole Stone's mother, grandmother, sister, brother-in-law and 14-year-old niece. A 17-year-old nephew suffered knife wounds to the head and hands, and Ferman said he was in "very serious" condition.
The adults were all shot. The teens were slashed.
Authorities said Stone bashed in the back doors of the first two homes and smashed his ex-wife's sliding glass door with a propane tank.
"It's a relief that they found him," said Stone's neighbor Dale Shupe. "Now we know he's not out trying to do more harm to anybody else."
As the manhunt dragged on — with SWAT teams making their way through neighborhoods and the Philadelphia police sending in a heat-sensing helicopter — at least five schools within a few miles of Stone's home closed, and others were locked down. Veterans' hospitals and other places tightened security.
Ashley Tessier, of Pennsburg, took her sick 7-month-old son to the pediatrician in a stroller Tuesday as SWAT teams knocked on doors along her route. She said she felt she had no choice, since she postponed Monday's doctor visit because residents were told to take cover.
"Seeing all this is really terrifying — the dogs, the guns, the SWAT team," she said.
The rampage unfolded in the towns of Harleysville, Lansdale and Souderton.
A police officer moves near a home Monday in Souderton, Pa., where a suspect is believed to have barricaded himself inside after shootings at multiple homes. © AP Photo/Matt Rourke A police officer moves near a home Monday in Souderton, Pa., where a suspect is believed to have barricaded himself inside after shootings at multiple homes.
Stone and his ex-wife had fighting over their children's custody since she filed for divorce in 2009. He filed an emergency request for custody this month and was denied Dec. 9, Ferman said.
Neighbors said Nicole Stone lived in such fear of her ex-husband that she would sometimes ask her apartment complex's maintenance staff to go in and check her place first because she was afraid he might be lying in wait.
"She would tell anybody who would listen that he was going to kill her and that she was really afraid for her life," said Evan Weron, a neighbor in Harleysville.
Stone was in the Marines from 2002 to 2008. His specialty was listed as "artillery meteorological man."
Stone told a 2011 child support hearing that Veterans Affairs deemed him permanently disabled and that he was collecting benefits from the agency, according to court documents. The VA had no comment Tuesday.
Ferman said Stone sometimes used a cane or walker, but she said had no evidence he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Stone faced several driving-under-the-influence charges, and Ferman said he was undergoing treatment through veterans' court as part of his sentence.
Stone remarried last year, according to his Facebook page and court records, and has an infant son. Neither his wife nor the son was injured. Nicole Stone became engaged over the summer, neighbors said.
Associated Press writer Michael Rubinkam in Pennsburg contributed to this report.