911 calls describe harrowing scene after theater shooting

Published 10:09 am Friday, July 31, 2015

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.”

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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.”