Also see: Lafayette movie theater shooter 'had hate in his heart':
The media always grope for politically-correct words to describe right-wing terrorists. News writers are apparently incapable of finding the word "fascist" in the dictionary ...
by ERIK ORTIZ and TRACY CONNOR
John Russell Houser, 59, had "always been a little off, quite obviously," ex-attorney John Swearingen told NBC News on Friday.
Swearingen said Houser had once tried to burn down his Columbus, Georgia, law office in the 1980s.
Calvin Floyd, the host a Georgia TV talk show on which Houser occasionally appeared, said the gunman was known to be erratic.
"He was a radical guy," Calvin Floyd told NBC News.
Police are looking for a motive for why Houser opened fire at the Lafayette Grand Theater 16 during the 7:10 p.m. screening of the comedy "Trainwreck."
Law enforcement personnel were searching a room of a nearby Motel 6 in Lafayette, where they say Houser had kept "disguises," such as wigs and glasses, as well as license plates for his car.
Lafayette Police Chief: 'Very Proud' of Officers' Response to Shooting 0:28
Authorities believe the gunman had been living in the Lafayette area since earlier this month. He was originally from Phenix City, Alabama, about 500 miles northeast of Lafayette, they said.
Houser had parked his 1995 blue Lincoln Continental with switched license plates near the exit of the Grand Theater 16, officials said — indicating that he planned to flee after using a .40 caliber handgun inside the multiplex.
Police said that Houser fired off 13 rounds, only stopping to reload. During that moment, they said, a patron, identified as a teacher, was able to pull the fire alarm, potentially saving more lives.
Houser tried to exit the theater as about 100 people scrambled for safety, investigators said. But he remained inside as police closed in, and then killed himself at the scene.
"The gunman's original plan was to leave the theater alive," Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal told reporters.
Related: Lafayette, Louisiana, Theater Shooting: What We Know About the Victims
Police said he had an uncle who lived in the Lafayette area, but died about 35 years ago. He was also previously married, but became estranged from his family.
"He just seemed like he was drifting along," Craft said. "We're not sure why he chose to stay in Lafayette."
Police said Houser did have a criminal record, but it was about 10 to 15 years old and included an arson arrest and selling alcohol to a minor.
Col. Michael Edmonson of the Louisiana State Police said they believe Houser was working alone, and are asking the public for any tips about who he was.
While a motivation for the carnage remains unclear, Swearingen said Houser's attempt to burn down his law office was jarring. He hadn't seen him for 20 years.
A LinkedIn page with Houser's name and photo said he was an entrepreneur who owned a Columbus, Georgia, pub from 1979 to 1980, and then another establishment north of Columbus from 1998 to 2000.
The page said he was interested in real estate and finance:
The page said he was a regular guest on a TV talk show in Columbus:
Calvin Floyd, who hosted the "Rise & Shine" television show on NBC affiliate WLTZ, said Houser had extreme views.
"His father was tax commissioner in the county," he added. "That's how I knew him, but I had him on my show because he was a very radical person."
Police Identify Movie Theater Gunman as 'Drifter' Who Intended to Flee 1:14
A couple of years ago, Floyd recalled, he was on vacation in Texas when Houser called asking for help with an issue. When Floyd said he was unavailable, Houser became angry. Floyd recalled that when he last saw Houser a year ago, Houser walked past him in the street and would not say hello.
"He seemed very angry at me," Floyd said.
"The association I had with him was for entertainment," he added. "He was very entertaining. He made for good TV and when it was over, you would leave shaking your head."
Floyd said Houser was recently selling car parts at a local flea market. Asked if he was surprised when he heard Houser was the shooter, according to police, Floyd said "no."