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Two women killed in Louisiana theater shooting ‘had a future’

Posted at 7:06 PM, Jul 25, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-25 19:11:03-04

One co-owned a gift and toy shop. Another was a college student who loved to dance and planned to start radiology school in the coming days.

Jillian Johnson, 33, and Mayci Breaux, 21, were among those shot Thursday night by a gunman at a Lafayette, Louisiana, movie theater at a showing of the Amy Schumer comedy, “Trainwreck.”

Breaux, of Franklin, Louisiana, was shot dead at the scene, and Johnson, who was from Lafayette, died a short time later at a hospital, police Chief Jim Craft said.

“Don’t lose sight of the fact that these two individuals had a vision, had a name, had a future,” said Col. Michael Edmonson of Louisiana State Police. “It wasn’t to die as they did horribly in this theater here.”

Authorities identified the gunman as 59-year-old John Russell “Rusty” Houser.

An online business profile identifies Johnson as the co-owner of the Red Arrow Workshop. The business is described as a gift, apparel, accessories and toy shop. Johnson owned the shop with her husband, Jason Brown, the website says.

She was “obsessed with Fats Waller,” and her all-time favorite movie was “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” according to the site.

“Pretty much any time you go in, she is there and doing work,” a friend, Caitlin Sonnier, said of Johnson’s presence at the shop. “She was very devoted to it.”

Johnson was also part of a band, the Figs, which was at the “forefront of a movement of a younger generation embracing Cajun/folk music traditions and making them popular and ‘cool’ again,” Molly Rowe, who knew her, said via email.

“She was … a phenomenal musician, which is what most of the community knew her for,” Rowe said.

A friend and band member, Caroline Clem, said in a statement that news of Johnson’s death was devastating.

“I wish there were words to penetrate the hearts of the people watching or listening (to) the news and to make them understand the kind of person Jillian was,” Clem said. “Jillian made everything more beautiful. 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 a mother, a wife, a sister, an artist, a collaborator, a band member, a friend to so many.”

Kimberly Wooten said the impression Johnson made on people was lasting.

“She was a creative being,” Wooten said. “She made life better, from what she said … from her hand to what she made. Her and her husband are just such a presence here in Lafayette, and Lafayette has become such a better place just for not only Jillian but her entire family.”

The Red Arrow Workshop posted a message on its Facebook page.

“Our hearts are shattered,” the post said. “We will love you forever. 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.”

Tributes to Johnson appeared on her Facebook page.

E. Joseph Savoie, president of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, offered thoughts and prayers for the families and friends of the victims. Johnson graduated from the university in 2004.

“The entire campus mourns the loss of lives in our Lafayette community,” Savoie said in a statement.

The statement said Johnson founded apparel store Parish Ink in downtown Lafayette and River Ranch as well as Red Arrow Workshop in Lafayette and New Orleans. She had been a producer at KRVS, a National Public Radio affiliate on campus.

“Jillian Johnson was a much-loved creative talent known throughout the community,” Savoie said.

Her smile lit up ‘even the darkest of rooms’

Mayci Marie Breaux was “a loving, kind, beautiful, and vibrant young lady, who had a wonderful personality and a smile that would light up even the darkest of rooms,” according to her obituary.

Breaux attended Louisiana State University-Eunice, according to LSU President F. King Alexander, and was supposed to start radiology school at Lafayette General Hospital in the coming days, according to David Callecod, president of Lafayette General Health.

“All the folks in this very close-knit community have been affected by the horrific events,” Callecod said, adding that Johnson was well-known to the hospital staff. “We’re very close-knit here at Lafayette General, and we certainly had many ties to the victims as well.”

“One of her many loves in life was dancing, which she started at a very young age,” read the tribute posted on the website for Ibert’s Mortuary, the Franklin funeral home handling the arrangements. “But her true passion in life was being surrounded by her family.”

“She will be deeply missed and fondly remembered by all who knew and loved her.”

Breaux will be laid to rest Monday in Franklin. Her boyfriend of about three years, Matthew Rodriguez, was shot in the neck and armpit, according to his cousin.

“Although he’s in a lot of pain right now, it is nothing compared to the mental anguish he’s going through,” said the cousin, Patrice Rodriguez Picard. “The whole family is completely distraught.”

Houser killed both women and wounded the others after opening fire from the back of the theater before shooting himself, Craft said. Authorities said he was a “drifter” from Alabama who had arrived in Lafayette in early July and didn’t appear to know anybody there, much less the victims.