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John Russel Houser identified as Louisiana theater shooter who killed 2 and himself

A gunman opened fire in a movie theater in Lafayette, La., on Thursday night, killing two people and injuring nine, officials said.

The shooter -- identified early Friday as John Russel Houser, a 59-year-old drifter from Alabama -- is also dead, authorities said. No motive for the attack has been established, they said.

“It appears that the shooter has died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after discharging his weapon numerous times,” Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft told reporters late Thursday.

Three of the nine people wounded suffered critical injuries, Craft said. The weapon was a handgun, he said, but he would not provide further details.

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The gunman’s identity was not disclosed until Friday morning to avoid impeding the investigation, officials said. The victims’ identities have not been released.

The shooting took place about 7:30 p.m. local time at Lafayette’s Grand Theatre, officials said. At least 100 people were in the theater, which was showing the movie “Trainwreck.”

The gunman initially tried escaping by blending into the fleeing crowd but turned back when he saw police heading inside from the parking lot, the Associated Press reported. Officers tailing him back into the theater then heard a single gunshot and found him dead inside, police said.

Craft said Houser was by himself and started the rampage by shooting the two people sitting in front of him.

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Stories of heroism began to emerge from the tragedy Thursday night, with presidential hopeful Gov. Bobby Jindal, who traveled to the scene within hours of the shooting, telling reporters that a teacher who was in the theater jumped in front of a second teacher, saving her life. The second teacher then managed to pull a fire alarm to alert other moviegoers, he said.

“Her friend literally jumped over her and, by her account, actually saved her life,” Jindal said.

“This is an awful night for Lafayette. This is an awful night for Louisiana. This is an awful night for the United States,” the governor told reporters.

Keifer Sanders, 23, told the Los Angeles Times that he was in an adjacent theater during the shooting.

“The emergency evacuation alarm went off,” he said. “We evacuated through the back. ... The cops were already out there.”

Authorities were taking the precaution of checking the theater for explosive devices, Craft told reporters Thursday. State police, FBI agents and agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were also at the scene.

“My heart is broken and all my thoughts and prayers are with everyone in Louisiana,” Amy Schumer, the writer and star of “Trainwreck,” said on Twitter.

NBCUniversal, the distributor of the film, declined to comment on the shooting.

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Three years ago -- on July 20, 2012 -- gunman James Holmes stormed into a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., a suburb of Denver, killing 12 people and injuring 70. He was found guilty last week of 165 counts of murder and attempted murder. The penalty phase of his trial is underway.

Staff writers Meg James and Julie Westfall and the Associated Press contributed to this report. 

For more news, follow @raablauren on Twitter

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