Police investigators are still trying to determine the motive behind John Russell “Rusty” Houser’s shooting rampage at the Grand Theatre in Lafayette, Louisiana. On Sunday, Louisiana State Police Colonel Michael Edmonson said Houser had written down the date, time, location and movie title for the Trainwreck screening in his journal, indicating the shooting was pre-meditated.
As details of Houser’s troubled history with the women in his life emerge — including protective orders filed against him by both his daughter and estranged wife, and multiple television appearances filled with anti-women rhetoric — there has been increasing speculation that the man was, in many respects, a misogynist. As such, questions have been raised about whether he intentionally targeted Trainwreck, a movie about a sexually empowered woman, written by and starring proud feminist Amy Schumer.
Houser vocalized his anti-feminist views about women in the workplace and abortion in frequent appearances on a talk show called Rise and Shine in Georgia in the 1990s. He spoke about a wide range of far-right topics and a popular theme was women’s rights. “Rusty had an issue with feminine rights,” former host Calvin Floyd told The Washington Post. “He was opposed to women having a say in anything.”
Houser’s wife and daughter both sought protective orders against him in 2008 (Houser’s wife filed for divorce in March of this year, but it was never finalized). The man was also vehemently opposed to pornographic theaters, and in the late 1980s allegedly tried to hire a man to set fire to the law office of a lawyer who represented them, according to a report from the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.
In addition to being a feminist, Schumer is also Jewish — and Houser regularly praised Hitler in online forums.
Houser began shooting about twenty minutes in to the 7:10 p.m. screening. The beginning of the film highlights Schumer’s character’s active sex life with multiple men. Survivor Emily Mann, who was in the theater when Houser started shooting, told ABC she remembers him firing the first shot after she laughed at a raunchy moment in the film.
Much of the evidence at this point in the investigation suggests Houser had meticulously planned every detail of the mass shooting.
Police investigators and Governor Bobby Jindal say Houser was even “slow and methodical” during the shooting itself. He had visited the theater before the shooting, had left his key on the tire of his car which was parked near an exit and had disguises ready, presumably for his escape.
There was initial speculation that Houser chose the Trainwreck auditorium for its proximity to an emergency exit, but Lafayette PD’s public information officer Paul Mouton tells The Hollywood Reporter that all of the auditoriums in the Grand Theatre have emergency exits. The Trainwreck auditorium isn’t the only one near the parking lot either; Mouton says many of the emergency exits are near parking spaces.
Houser also could have chosen an auditorium with the capacity to hold a larger audience, but he didn’t. The Trainwreck screening room happens to be one of the smaller ones in the complex, says Mouton.
It’s worth noting, however, that Houser didn’t target only women on his rampage. In her conversation with ABC, Mann says Houser aimed and fired in a semi-circle in front of him. While the two victims who died were both female, Mouton tells THR that of the 11 people Houser shot, excluding himself, six were men.
Houser was also known to have suffered from mental health issues. As Mouton points out, police right now “can only speculate as to why he chose that movie.” He adds that while they are “absolutely” looking at all angles to try and determine Houser’s motive, they may never find all of the answers.
Universal declined to comment.