Despite being mentally troubled, John Russell Houser, gunman in the Lafayette theater shootout, was never committed to a mental hospital. Had he been, local authorities could have transmitted Houser’s mental health record to federal authorities.
Fifty-nine-year-old Houser was described as a “drifter” known for his erratic behavior. In 2008, his family petitioned the court for a personal protection order and further prayed for the court to order Houser to an involuntary treatment in a mental facility.
But there was no commitment from his side because Judge Betty Cason from Carroll County instead, issued an “order to apprehend.” Had it been otherwise, he could not have bought a gun, which he did six years later from a pawnshop in Alabama. The .40 caliber handgun purchased in 2014 was the weapon used in murdering two people and wounding 9 others. He shot himself thereafter.
The order would have permitted Houser to be examined by doctors for five days and to be observed for three days in a hospital, said Probate Judge Marc E. D’Antonio, who was chief clerk in Muscogee County where Houser’s supposed hospital was situated, as reported by NBC.
After the examination, the hospital could then petition D’Antonio, unless Houser would volunteer to stay. Investigators from Georgia said there was never a follow-up petition filed to involuntarily commit the gunman, and no Judge had ever signed.
Because of such, the situation did not reach the point where his mental history should be transmitted to the database of FBI, something that could have prevented the gunman from purchasing guns.
Further, D’Antonio said that had there been an order for Houser to undergo involuntary treatment, he could have reported the same to the bureau of investigation in Georgia, which in turn, should have reported it to FBI.
But that never happened, according to D’Antonio. The federal gun law, after the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, bolstered the requirement to make a state reporting.