Inside the Twisted Mind of John Russell Houser

The Lafayette theater shooter was a frequent online commenter, with numerous posts on immigration, free speech, and his fears about America’s future.

Lafayette Police Department

The man named by police as the shooter inside a Lafayette, Louisiana, movie theater appears to have been a Tea Party sympathizer with strong views on race, immigration, and the future of America.

John Russell Houser, most recently of Phenix City, Alabama, was a frequent poster in online forums on those topics. He appears to have gone by the nickname Rusty Houser—a name tied to him by an email address listed on a LinkedIn page of the man wanted in the shooting.

Some news reports identify Houser spelling Russell as Russel. On his LinkedIn page, however, Houser identifies past self-employment as “John Russell Houser.”

A Tea Party Nation page was registered to that name in 2013. He said he was from Phenix, Alabama, but does not appear to have been very active on the site.

On PoliticalForum.com, a user identifying as Rusty Houser boasted about posting with his real name and that he “say(s) what he thinks.” In another foreboding post on the site in 2013, he welcomed a newcomer to the forum: “Jump in the deep end, I don’t think we have that long.”

A Debate Politics page registered to Rusty Houser lists his political viewings as “very conservative.” Among his interests, Houser lists the Greek nationalist party Golden Dawn. It also identifies him as having a hometown of Phenix City, Alabama—and having a JD and CPA certification, just like on the John Russell Houser LinkedIn profile.

Houser’s posts on the site were made in early 2014. In one about Golden Dawn, he called the group “a legitimate effort to solve problems.” “The leaders of the group are in fact leaders,” he wrote. “Intelligent, well spoken, and exercising good faith.”

"Type in WHITE POWER GROUPS and you get mag articles about their never ending claims of racism, and no information of how to find White power groups you might want to join," he continued.

A poster responded: “Evidently you’re from Alabama. You don’t need the Internet to find a white power group. Just stick a sheet over your head and run around in traffic. Somethings bound to hit you.”

In multiple posts, Houser seemed obsessed with comparing America to Iran. On January 18, 2014, he posted a screed about censorship in response to a thread on coverage of Chris Christie’s scandals versus those of President Obama. “The US heavily censors. Why wouldn’t they twist. You say there is no censorship?” he wrote. ”Tell me how I can read any of the 30 newspapers printed in Iran. How to find White rights groups on the internet. What your computer gives you when you type AMERICA CENSORS INTERNET, or censors anything.”

Another post on that site echoes distrust of mainstream media. Houser implied that he hopes young people “will not watch any source of ‘news.’”

Yet Houser appeared on a local TV show many times in the early 1990s. He boasted on LinkedIn that he “Invited political controversy on every one of them, and loved every minute of it.”

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The host told NBC News on Friday morning that Houser was a “radical guy.” “He was on from time to time because he was a very radical person with radical views,” Calvin Floyd said. Floyd answered “no” when asked if he was surprised that Houser is accused of shooting up the Louisiana movie theater. “The association I had with him was for entertainment,” he said. “He was very entertaining. He made for good TV and when it was over, you would leave shaking your head.”

On a forum about car parts, Houser described himself as “not brainwashed.”

Other details of Houser's past also raise eyebrows. Authorities say he was arrested for arson in Columbus, Georgia, but don't have an exact date. The arson charge meant that Houser was denied a concealed carry permit in 2006. His violent streak continued when he was evicted from his home in 2014. Russell County, Georgia, Sheriff Heath Taylor said that Houser then damaged the Phenix City home, and disconnected the gas line to the fireplace.

On a Topix thread, a Rusty Houser commented on an article about a Georgia farm hiring foreigners: “The more hard working people with family values we have, the better. What we need to worry about is those who WILL NOT WORK and have no concept of family. They may largely be identified by race also.”

He was obsessed with the idea that his rights to free speech were being censored, posting about that on multiple Topix forums. He also lamented the death of a man in the deer-processing business. “Most people over 50 in certain businesses are just as their parents were, rock solid morally,” he wrote. “I am also sorry for what is to come for the other very few moral souls left in the entire US.”

It quickly got dark. “I am not sorry for the 90% immoral population which will be meeting the same fate. Filth is rampant. That none have stood against it causes me to take rest in the worse than MAD MAX near future which approaches,” he said.

A smattering of his online activity concerns reselling used car parts. In a lighter post, Houser created a profile on InterPals.com, an e-penpal site, where he posted an image of a cat and outdoor spaces. The activity tracker shows he last signed on a year ago.