San Ysidro McDonald's massacre

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San Ysidro McDonald's massacre
Location San Diego, California, United States
Date July 18, 1984
3:59 p.m. – 5:16 p.m.
Attack type
Massacre, mass murder
Weapon(s) Uzi carbine, Browning HP, 12-gauge Winchester 1200
Deaths 22 (including perpetrator)
Non-fatal injuries
Perpetrator James Huberty

Coordinates: 32°33′22″N 117°03′15″W / 32.556119°N 117.054189°W / 32.556119; -117.054189

The San Ysidro McDonald's massacre was a mass murder that occurred on July 18, 1984 in San Ysidro, California, a neighborhood in southern San Diego, California. James Oliver Huberty entered a McDonald's restaurant and fatally shot 21 people, five of them children, and injured 19 others, before fatally shot by police. It was the deadliest American spree until the 1991 Luby's massacre, and remains the deadliest shooting rampage in which the perpetrator died by police and not by self.


  • Elsa Herlinda Borboa-Firro, 19
  • Neva Denise Caine, 22
  • Michelle Deanne Carncross, 18
  • María Elena Colmenero-Silva, 19
  • David Flores Delgado, 11
  • Gloria López González, 23
  • Omar Alonso Hernández, 11
  • Blythe Regan Herrera, 31
  • Matao Herrera, 11
  • Paulina Aquino López, 21
  • Margarita Padilla, 18
  • Claudia Pérez, 9
  • Jose Rubén Lozano Pérez, 19
  • Carlos Reyes, 8 months
  • Jackie Lynn Wright Reyes, 18
  • Victor Maxmillian Rivera, 25
  • Arisdelsi Vuelvas Vargas, 31
  • Hugo Luis Velazquez Vasquez, 45
  • Laurence Herman Versluis, 62
  • Aida Velazquez Victoria, 69
  • Miguel Victoria Ulloa, 74

On July 17, 1984, the day before the massacre, James Oliver Huberty called a mental health center. The receptionist misspelled his name on intake as Shouberty. Since he did not claim there was an immediate emergency, his call was not returned. He and his family went to the San Diego Zoo on the morning of July 18. They ate at a McDonald's restaurant in the Clairemont neighborhood in north-central San Diego a few hours before the massacre, then returned home. When Huberty left home that afternoon, his wife Etna asked him where he was going. Huberty responded that he was "hunting humans".[1] Earlier that day he had commented to her, "Society had its chance."[2][3] When questioned by police, Etna gave no explanation as to why she failed to report this bizarre behavior. When Huberty left his apartment and proceeded down San Ysidro Boulevard with two firearms, a witness spotted him and phoned the police, but the dispatcher gave the responding officers the wrong address.

At 3:59 p.m. on July 18, Huberty entered the McDonald's in San Ysidro carrying a 9 mm Uzi semi-automatic (the primary weapon fired in the massacre), a Winchester pump-action 12-gauge shotgun, and a 9 mm Browning HP pistol. The massacre lasted for 77 minutes, during which time Huberty shot to death 21 people and wounded 19 others. The victims were predominantly Mexican and Mexican-American and ranged in age from 8 months to 74 years, with the average age being 26 years old. Huberty fired 257 rounds of ammunition before he was fatally shot by a SWAT team sniper, Chuck Foster, perched on the roof of the post office adjacent to the restaurant.[4][5]

Although Huberty stated during the massacre that he had killed thousands in Vietnam, he had never actually served in any military branch. Eyewitnesses stated that he had previously been seen at the Big Bear supermarket and later at the U.S. Post Office. It was believed that he found the McDonald's to be a better target.


Monument to Victims of Massacre - San Diego, California
Close up of Monument to Victims of Massacre

Due to the number of victims, local funeral homes had to use the San Ysidro Civic Center to hold all the wakes. The local parish, Mount Carmel Church, resorted to holding back-to-back funeral masses to accommodate all the dead.

After razing the building at the site of the massacre, McDonald's built another restaurant nearby[5] and gave the former property to the city, which established the Education Center on the site as part of Southwestern Community College. This location was built in 1988 as an expansion of its off-campus locations. In front of the school is a memorial to the massacre victims, designed by Roberto Valdes, consisting of 21 hexagonal white marble pillars ranging in height from one to six feet and each bearing the name of one of the victims.[6] Valdes, a former student at Southwestern, said of the sculpture "The 21 hexagons represent each person that died, and they are different heights, representing the variety of ages and races of the people involved in the massacre. They are bonded together in the hopes that the community, in a tragedy like this, will stick together, like they did."[6] Every anniversary, the monument is decorated with flowers and on the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead, candles and offerings are brought on behalf of the victims.[7] The location of the monument and the former McDonald's is at 460 West San Ysidro Boulevard.[5]

In response to the incident, the city of San Diego increased training for special units, and purchased more powerful firearms to counteract future situations.[4] The San Ysidro incident also led police departments across the United States to provide their officers with higher power firearms and training for stopping violent criminals and protecting those around them.[4]

The families of the deceased victims along with the surviving victims together tried (unsuccessfully) to sue the McDonald's Corporation and the local franchisee. The cases were in San Diego Superior Court and were consolidated. The court ultimately dismissed before trial on defendants' motion for summary judgment, but the plaintiffs appealed. On July 25, 1987, the California Court of Appeal (Fourth District, Division One) affirmed summary judgment for the defendants because (1) McDonald's or any other business has no duty of care to protect patrons from an unforeseeable assault by a murderous madman; and (2) plaintiffs could not prove causation because the standard reasonable measures normally used by restaurants to deter criminals, like guards and closed-circuit television cameras, could not possibly have deterred the perpetrator because he did not care about his own survival.[8]

In 1986, Etna Huberty, the widow of James Huberty, unsuccessfully attempted to sue McDonald's and Babcock and Wilcox, his longtime former employer, in an Ohio state court for $5 million. She claimed that the massacre was triggered by the combined mixture of eating too many of their chicken nuggets and working around highly poisonous metals. She alleged that monosodium glutamate in the food, combined with the high levels of lead and cadmium in his body, induced delusions and uncontrollable rage. An autopsy did reveal high levels of the metals,[2] most likely built up from fumes inhaled during 14 years of welding. Autopsy results also revealed there were no drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of the killings. Etna Huberty died in 2003.[1]

James Huberty[edit]

James Huberty
James Oliver Huberty.jpg
Perpetrator James O. Huberty
Born (1942-10-11)October 11, 1942
Canton, Ohio, U.S.
Died July 18, 1984(1984-07-18) (aged 41)
San Diego, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Fatally shot by Chuck Foster, a San Diego Police Department SWAT team sniper
Occupation Former welder and security guard
Spouse(s) Etna Huberty
Date July 18, 1984
4:00 pm – 5:17pm (PST)
Location(s) San Ysidro, San Diego
Killed 21
Injured 19
Weapon(s) Uzi carbine, Browning HP, 12-gauge Winchester 1200

James Oliver Huberty was born in Canton, Ohio on October 11, 1942. When he was three he contracted polio,[9] and even though he made a progressive recovery, the disease caused him to suffer permanent walking difficulties. In the early 1950s, his father bought a farm in the Pennsylvania Amish Country. His mother refused to live in the Amish country, and soon abandoned her family to do sidewalk preaching for a Southern Baptist organization.

In 1962, Huberty enrolled at a Jesuit community college and earned a degree in sociology. He would later receive a license for embalming at the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.[10] In 1965, he married Etna, a woman he met while attending mortuary school. They had two daughters, Zelia and Cassandra. The Huberty family settled in Massillon, Ohio near Canton, where James worked as an undertaker at the Don Williams Funeral Home. They were forced to relocate to Canton in 1971 after their house in Massillon was set ablaze.

Huberty found work as a welder for Union Metal Inc. while living in Canton. He and Etna had a history of domestic violence, with Etna filing a report with the Canton Department of Children and Family Services that her husband had "messed up" her jaw. She would produce tarot cards and pretend to read his future to pacify him and his bouts of violence, thus producing a temporary calming effect.

Huberty, a survivalist,[11] saw signs of what he thought was growing trouble in America, and believed that government regulations were the cause of business failures, including his own. He believed that international bankers were purposefully manipulating the Federal Reserve System and bankrupting the nation. Convinced that Soviet aggression was everywhere, he believed that the breakdown of society was near, perhaps through economic collapse or nuclear war. He committed himself to prepare to survive this coming collapse and, while in Canton, provisioned his house with thousands of dollars of non-perishable food and six guns that he intended to use to defend his home during what he believed was the coming chaos. When he moved from Ohio he left the food behind but brought the guns with him.[12]

Huberty had an uncontrollable twitch in his right arm as a result of a motorcycle accident, a condition that made it impossible to continue as a welder. He was the builder-owner of a six-unit apartment complex in Canton which he had to sell before he could relocate from Canton. A real estate brokerage made a generous offer on the property and came to some sort of agreement with Huberty. Then, much to Huberty's dismay, the real estate company reneged on its part of the deal or at least Huberty thought so. This triggered a series of legal wranglings including lawsuits and disciplinary filings against the brokerage as a response to his having to settle for a lower sales price of $115,000.00 for the building, which he thought he had sold for $144,000.00.

The Huberty family left Canton in January 1984 and briefly stayed in Tijuana, Mexico. They then returned to the United States and settled in San Diego's San Ysidro neighborhood. Huberty was able to find work as a security guard. He was dismissed from this position two weeks before the shooting. His apartment was three blocks away from the site of the massacre. After the massacre, his wife cited the failed Ohio real estate deal as a principal motivating factor for his behavior as she claimed he was still deeply resentful over the incident.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Gresko, Jessica (July 18, 2004), "20 Years later, San Ysidro McDonald's massacre remembered", North County Times (Escondido, CA), Associated Press, archived from the original on August 31, 2009 
  2. ^ a b "The Chemistry of Violence", Popular Mechanics, March 1998, archived from the original on March 6, 2008 
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b c Kavanagh, Jim (July 24, 2009), "Slaughter at McDonald's changed how police operate", CNN, retrieved June 3, 2010 
  5. ^ a b c "A massacre in San Ysidro", The San Diego Union-Tribune, retrieved August 11, 2011 
  6. ^ a b Ben-Ali, Russell (December 14, 1990), "After a Long Wait, Monument Is Dedicated at Massacre Site", Los Angeles Times, retrieved June 3, 2010 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Lopez v. McDonald's Corp., 193 Cal. App. 3d 495 (1987).
  9. ^ The Evil 100 at Google Books
  10. ^ Encyclopedia of murder & violent crime at Google Books
  11. ^
  12. ^ Mitchell, Richard Sheppard (2002). Dancing at Armageddon: Survivalism and Chaos in Modern Times. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. [page needed]. ISBN 978-0-226-53244-8.