A troubled drifter with radical political beliefs and a history of mental illness opened fire during a showing of “Trainwreck” at a movie theater in Louisiana Thursday evening.
The gunman, identified as 59-year-old John Russell Houser, shot and killed two young women 20 minutes into the Amy Schumer film at Lafayette’s Grand 16 theater. At least nine others were wounded.
On Friday morning, police identified the deceased as Mayci Breaux, a 21-year-old from Franklin, La., and Jillian Johnson, a 33-year-old from Lafayette.
Breaux died at the cinema, and Johnson died later at a local hospital.
Breaux was a student at Louisiana State University in Eunice. She intended to pursue a career as an ultrasound and radiology technician.
"We are in shock and mourning over the loss of one of our own, Mayci Breaux. Our thoughts are with all of the victims and their families," the school tweeted.
While pursuing her degree, she worked at the Coco Eros women’s clothing store in Lafayette. Management closed the store Friday in Breaux’s memory and a posted a photo of the young woman with her friends.
“Nothing ever prepares you for a loss... Much less the loss of such an amazing young woman. We are deeply saddened by this loss,” the photo’s caption reads. “Many of you had come to know and love Mayci and we ask that you pray for her family and friends during this tragic time.”
Breaux was in a long-term relationship with her high school sweetheart, Matthew Rodriguez, to whom she was deeply committed and whom she planned to marry, according to her family.
"They were so good for each other. They had so many plans — just to get married, have kids. I think it would have been soon," her mother, Dondie, said to the New York Daily News. "I feel angry that she was right there in front of him. I feel just angry and lonely. I'm just heartbroken."
A local newspaper, St. Mary and Franklin Banner-Tribune, published a short profile of Breaux in a February 2013 issue. It paints the picture of a much-loved and talented young woman with a promising future.
In 2012 she graduated from Roman Catholic Hanson Memorial High School in Franklin, where her senior class had voted her “most beautiful.”
She was also captain of the cheerleading team during her junior and senior years, as well as a finalist in the Louisiana Sugar Cane Festival beauty pageant.
Breaux was active in pro-life causes and traveled to Washington, D.C., in 2012 to participate in a march protesting abortion.
Johnson, another Louisiana native, owned and ran a gift boutique called Red Arrow Workshop with her husband, Jason Brown. It has three brick-and-mortar locations: two in Lafayette and one in New Orleans.
She also ran a “hip and fashionable line of apparel” known as Parish Ink with her brother and a friend, with three locations in the same cities.
In 2004 she graduated with a bachelor of fine arts in ceramics from the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, where she is remembered as “a much-loved creative talent known throughout the community.”
“The entire campus mourns the loss of lives in our Lafayette community. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends,” the university said in a statement.
She also studied graphic design briefly at Belmont University.
Johnson was a dedicated musician who sang lead vocals for a band called the Figs.
On Facebook, her bandmates posted a message saying they wish they could help people hearing the tragic news better understand what kind of person Johnson was.
“Jillian made everything more beautiful. She was boundlessly creative, passionate, generous, talented, brave, and hard-working,” it reads. “She took pride and care in every detail, and she was easy to delight. She appreciated small beauties. She worked to make Lafayette a more beautiful place, and one of the most tragic things that has ever happened here took her.”
She was also a producer for KRVS, an NPR affiliate on UL Lafayette’s campus.
Her shop, Red Arrow Workshop, has been closed indefinitely.
“Our hearts are shattered. We will love you forever,” a message reads on the store’s Facebook page. “She was a once-in-a-lifetime gal. A mother, daughter, sister and a truly exceptional wife. She was an artist, a musician, an entrepreneur and a true renaissance woman. She was the love of my life and I will miss her always.”
On the Red Arrow Workshop website, Johnson gave a brief glimpse into her sense of humor and musical tastes. She described herself as "both a sentimental hoarder, and an uptight minimalist."
Her favorite film was "Coal Miner’s Daughter," a biopic about country singer Loretta Lynn, and she was a big fan of jazz musician Fats Waller, R&B singer Tina Turner and novelist John Steinbeck.