California · Crime Scene Photography · Massacres/Mass Murder

Man shoots at customers at fast food restaurant, killing 21 and injuring 19

July 18, 1984
San Ysidro, San Diego, California
James Huberty fires indiscriminately on patrons in and near a local McDonald’s, killing 21 and injuring 19

Three days before the shooting, Huberty mentioned to his wife he believed he had a mental illness. On July 17, he called a mental health clinic requesting an appointment. The receptionist assured him he would be called back within hours, and his wife said he patiently waited by the phone for several hours before abruptly leaving the house, returning an hour later in a content mood. (The receptionist had misspelled Huberty’s name as “Shouberty” and had assumed by his polite, calm demeanor that his condition was not urgent. She logged his request as “non-crisis,” which meant he would be contacted within 48 hours.)

On July 18, Huberty and his family went to the San Diego Zoo. Huberty mentioned to his wife that his life was over and, referring to the mental health clinic failing to call him back, said “well, society had its chance.” The family ate lunch at McDonald’s and returned home. Huberty kissed his wife and said he was leaving. When she asked where, Huberty replied “to hunt humans.”

Shortly before 4 pm, Huberty entered the McDonald’s, aiming a shotgun at a 16-year-old employee. The gun failed to fire and, thinking the gun was a distasteful joke, the employee walked away. Huberty grabbed an Uzi as the manager, Neva Caine (22), approached him. He shot her once between the eyes, killing her, then shot the 16-year-old in the chest, though he survived the attack.

As Huberty ranted and screamed, a customer, Victor Rivera (25), tried to persuade Huberty to end his violence. Huberty responded by shooting Rivera 14 times yelling “shut up” as the victim screamed in pain. He then targeted a group of women and children, shooting María Colmenero-Silva (19) once in the chest with a shotgun, Claudia Perez (9) in the head, cheek, armpit, chest, back, stomach, hip, thigh, and leg. Claudia’s 15-year-old sister was shot once in the chest but survived. Jackie Reyes (18) was pregnant when she shielded her 11-year-old niece with her body; Reyes was shot 48 times while the young girl survived a shot to the leg. Reyes was also with her 8-month-old son Carlos who began crying. Huberty then shot Carlos in the center of his back, killing him.

Among other families and patrons in the restaurant, Huberty also shot at a group of boys in the parking lot on their bikes including Omarr Hernandez (11, pictured). Miguel Victoria Ulloa (74) and Aida Velazquez Victoria (69), unaware of the shootings, walked to the entrance. As Miguel opened the door for his wife, Huberty shot her in the face, killing her and wounding Miguel. A survivor later recounted watching Miguel cradle his wife, wipe blood from her face, and curse at Huberty shortly before Huberty shot him in the head.

Huberty, walking into the parking lot, approached a car with a couple and their 4-month-old baby. The wife was shot in the face, chest, and arms; the husband was shot in the head and chest; infant was shot in the neck, chest, and abdomen. The wife was able to bring her injured baby to a fleeing woman, urging her in Spanish to save her baby before she collapsed. All members of the family survived.

The entire attack lasted 78 minutes before a SWAT sniper, finding an opening, shot Huberty in the aorta, killing him within seconds. In total, 22 people were killed including Huberty, ranging from 8 months to 74 years, and 19 were injured, from 4 months to 36 years.

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