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Society had its chance.

James Oliver Huberty was an American mass murderer who perpetrated the San Ysidro McDonald's massacre on July 18, 1984. The massacre killed twenty-one people and wounded nineteen others before he was killed by a sniper.


Born in Canton, Ohio, on October 11, 1942, Huberty contracted polio when he was three years old, which left him with permanent difficulty walking. In the early 1950s, his mother left him upon refusing to move into the Pennsylvania Amish Country after his father Earl purchased a farm there, and he has since been withdrawn; a minister later claimed that Huberty "blamed God" for taking his mother away from him. In his early adulthood, Huberty gained an interest in firearms and began using them. In 1962, he attended Malone College, a Jesuit community college, where he earned a bachelor's degree in sociology, and also gained a license for embalming after attending the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science, although he did not pursue a job as an embalmer altogether. At the institute, he met a woman named Etna and married her in 1965. Having two daughters, Zelia and Cassandra, together, Huberty and Etna moved the family to Massillon, Ohio, where the former found work as a funeral home undertaker but also had to hold down a number of other jobs that he lost quickly. The family then moved to Huberty's hometown of Canton after a fire completely demolished their residence, and he became a welder there. Huberty and Etna had a history of domestic violence, and both also displayed signs of violent behavior: Etna attempted to instruct Zelia to physically assault a classmate during a birthday party and then later threatened the same classmate's mother with a 9mm pistol (being subsequently arrested for the act, but the pistol wasn't confiscated), while Huberty threatened to shoot a neighbor's dog after it defecated on his lawn and also killed his own dog in a separate incident after a neighbor complained about it damaging his vehicle. As a result of several run-ins with Huberty and Etna, local police knew the family well.

Huberty Home

The home the Huberty family lived in during their time in Ohio.

Huberty began to develop beliefs that foreign bankers were manipulating the Federal Reserve System, intentionally bankrupting the U.S., and breaking down society; he also blamed the failures of numerous businesses and Soviet aggression for the increasingly strict federal government regulations. As a result, he became a survivalist, purchasing thousands of dollars of non-perishable food and six firearms as preparations. He also threatened to shoot any random people if he was fired from his job. At one point, after getting another job but then losing it shortly afterward, he attempted to commit suicide, but Etna stopped him. In September 1983, Huberty became involved in a motorcycle accident that left his right arm twitching uncontrollably after lingering damage caused by his childhood polio was aggravated by the incident. As a result, he was forced to resign from his occupation as a welder. He later experienced legal problems after a botched sale of a six-unit apartment complex in Canton, when a real-estate company that previously made a generous offer on the property later allegedly reneged on its part of the deal. Presumably, in response to the motorcycle accident, the family moved to Tijuana, Mexico, in January 1984, but then later moved to San Diego, California, specifically in the San Ysidro neighborhood. There, Huberty became a security guard, only to be dismissed two weeks prior to the massacre.

The Massacre[]

McDonald's crime scene

Aftermath of the massacre.

On the day before the massacre, Huberty called a mental health center, but his surname was misspelled as "Shouberty" and his call wasn't returned due to his statement that it wasn't an emergency. On July 18, 1984, the day of the massacre, he took his family to the San Diego Zoo, and then ate at a McDonald's restaurant in the Clairemont neighborhood; it wasn't the McDonald's that was the target location of the massacre. After coming home from the restaurant, Huberty armed himself with his weapons and left his apartment, wearing fatigue pants and a dark shirt and also carrying a bag. Before leaving, he told Etna that he was "hunting humans" when she questioned his departure. During her interrogation, Etna provided no explanation as to why she didn't think of reporting her husband. She also cited the failed real-estate deal in Canton regarding the apartment complex as the primary motivator for the massacre. After visiting a Big Bear supermarket and a post office, apparently searching for locations to commit his massacre, Huberty then decided to choose the San Ysidro McDonald's restaurant as his target. As he walked down San Ysidro Boulevard with his guns in plain sight, a witness spotted them and called the police, but accidentally gave them the wrong address. Meanwhile, Huberty walked into the restaurant at around 3:40 p.m. and ordered everyone inside to lie down. When they did, he opened fire on them, injuring and/or killing many. He then methodically executed any who survived before firing at people as they fled and then those in the parking lot. During the shooting, he would shout that he had killed thousands more prior.

Huberty's Body

James O. Huberty after being shot by the sniper, Chuck Foster.

Into the shooting, then-patrol officer Miguel Rosario arrived on the scene at 4:07 p.m., believing the incident to be accidental. He witnessed Huberty walk outside with his Uzi in his hand; Huberty promptly opened fire on the officer, shattering the car's windscreen and emergency lights and forcing him behind a parked pickup truck. Rosario refused to return fire, believing that Huberty had accomplices that would back him up. So, he called for a Code 10 to send in SWAT, then a Code 11 to "send in everybody". When SWAT arrived, Huberty fled back inside the restaurant and a standoff ensued; six blocks encompassing the McDonald's were closed off as a result. The officers readied themselves with the special equipment in their squad cars as reporter Monica Zech reported on the progressing events from the view of a small airplane flying overhead. The nearby Interstate 5 highway and Tijuana border crossing were forced to be closed down for the day, as both were right in the line of Huberty's fire. Finally, a sniper named Chuck Foster positioned himself at a post office south from the McDonald's restaurant and was able to get a good shot at Huberty, who was near a counter. At around 5:16 p.m., Foster fired one shot that pierced through a glass window and hit Huberty in the heart, killing him instantly. The entire event lasted for a total of 77 minutes, and when authorities entered the restaurant, they found 21 dead bodies, along with an additional 19 injured victims. A total of 257 bullets were fired by Huberty during the massacre.


Due to the number of fatalities, the San Ysidro Civic Center had to be used to hold all the wakes for local

Joseph Harris

Joseph Harris

funeral homes. The McDonald's restaurant was razed, with the property being reestablished as the Southwestern Community College's Education Center, with a memorial for the deceased victims at its front. Also, due to the fact that Huberty easily outgunned Officer Rosario with his Uzi submachine gun, San Diego increased its special police unit training and gave its officers high-power firearms so they could deal with similar situations in the future with ease. Additionally, psychiatric counseling was introduced to San Ysidro-based officers involved in traumatic incidents such as Huberty's massacre. The families of the deceased victims banded together in an attempt to sue the McDonald's Corporation, but their case was appealed.

Patrick Sherrill

Patrick Sherrill.

In 1986, Etna also made an attempt to sue McDonald's, along with Huberty's former employer company Babcock and Wilcox, for $5 million. The claim she made was that Huberty's homicidal behavior was triggered by a combination of eating McDonald's chicken nuggets (which were filled with monosodium glutamate) and working around highly-poisonous metals (specifically lead and cadmium) induced his delusions and rage. While Etna's lawsuit didn't succeed, an autopsy did find high levels of lead and cadmium in Huberty's system. Also, a California appellate opinion was filed against McDonald's, stating that it had no duty of care to prevent the massacre. On September 27, 2012, the appellate opinion became the basis for a motion filed by catastrophic personal injury defense law firm Taylor|Anderson LLP, which was speaking for Cinemark Theatres when three injured victims of the 2012 Aurora shooting sued the movie-theater chain for neglecting to provide adequate security and safety measures.


George Hennard.

Huberty's massacre seems to have also prompted a string of other massacres, mostly workplace-based assaults. First, on August 20, 1986 at Edmond, Oklahoma, a U.S. Postal Service worker named Patrick Sherrill used a pair of .45-caliber Colt 1911A1 pistols to kill fourteen employees and wound an additional six before committing suicide. Then, on October 10, 1991, at Ridgewood, New Jersey, another U.S. Postal Service worker named Joseph Harris shot and killed two employees at his workplace after killing his former supervisor and her boyfriend at their home. A month later, on November 14 at Royal Oak, Michigan, yet another U.S. Postal Service worker named Thomas McIlvane used a Ruger 10/22 rifle to kill four employees, then himself. Finally, on the most well-known occasion, a man named George Hennard committed a massacre similar to that of Huberty's on October 16, 1991, opening fire at a Luby's restaurant in Killeen, Texas, with two semiautomatic pistols, killing 23 and injuring 20. According to a TruTV article mentioning him, Hennard was actually motivated to do so after watching a documentary about Huberty.

There is also the possibility that Huberty's massacre was an influence for Australia's Port Arthur Massacre, although this has never been confirmed.

Modus Operandi[]

Uzi long gun

A long-barreled, 9mm Uzi submachine gun, similar to the one Huberty primarily used in the massacre.

Huberty shot his victims with a long-barreled, 9mm Uzi submachine gun (the primary firearm used in the massacre); a 12-gauge Winchester pump-action shotgun; and a 9mm Browning HP semiautomatic pistol. His victims were mostly Mexican immigrants and Mexican-American; whether or not it was intentional or merely because of the area the massacre occurred at is unknown. He would sometimes toss fast food at his victims before shooting them.

Known Victims[]

Huberty victim map

Hand-drawn map denoting the group locations of the massacre victims, as well as Huberty when he was shot by police.

McDonald's Memorial

Memorial of those killed in the massacre.

All of the following were attacked in the 1984 San Ysidro McDonald's massacre.


  • Neva Caine, 22 (McDonald's manager; shot in the face)
  • Victor Maximilian "Chito" Rivera, 25 (shot fourteen times)
  • María Colmenero-Silva, 19 (shot in the chest)
  • Claudia Pérez, 9 (shot in the cheek, torso, thigh, hip, armpit, and head)
  • Jackie Reyes, 18 (shot 48 times; was pregnant)
  • Carlos Reyes, 8 months (Jackie Reyes's son; shot in the back)
  • Laurence Herman "Gus" Versluis, 62
  • Blythe Herrera, 31 (shot repeatedly in the head)
  • Matao Herrera, 11 (Blythe Herrera's son; shot repeatedly in the head like his mother)
  • Arisdelsi Vargas, 31 (shot in the back of the head; survived, but died of her gunshot wound the next day)
  • Hugo Vasquez, 45 (shot in the chest)
  • Omar Hernández, 11 (killed outside the restaurant; shot in the head and body)
  • David Delgado, 11 (killed outside the restaurant; shot in the head and body like the previous victim)
  • Aida Victoria, 69 (killed outside the restaurant; shot in the face)
  • Miguel Victoria Ulloa, 74 (Aida Victoria's husband; wounded by buckshot, then shot in the head)
  • Paulina Auquino López, 21 (McDonald's employee)
  • Elsa Borboa-Firro, 19 (McDonald's employee)
  • Margarita Padilla, 18 (McDonald's employee)
  • Jose Pérez, 19
  • Gloria González, 23
  • Michelle Carncross, 18


  • John Arnold, 16 (shot in the torso)
  • Imelda Pérez, 15 (Claudia Pérez's sister)
  • Aurora Peña, 11 (Jackie Reyes's niece; shot in the leg, then shot again in the jaw, neck, and arm)
  • Keith Thomas, 12 (shot twice in the shoulder and arms)
  • Ronald Herrera, 33 (Blythe Herrera's husband and Matao Herrera's father; shot eight times in the stomach, arm, hip, shoulder, and head)
  • Guadalupe del Rio, 24 (shot repeatedly)
  • Joshua Coleman, 11 (wounded outside the restaurant; shot in the stomach, buttocks, hands, and arms)
  • The Felix family (all wounded outside the restaurant):
    • Maricela Felix, 23 (shot in the head, arms, and chest; was partially blinded and paralyzed)
    • Karlita Felix, 4 months (Astolfo and Maricela Felix's daughter; shot in the head and torso)
    • Astolfo Felix, 31 (Maricela's husband; shot in the chest and neck)
  • Alberto Leos, 17 (McDonald's employee)
  • Shot in an unknown order:
    • Juan Acosta, 33
    • Anthony Atkins, 36
    • Astolfo Cejundo, 26
    • Francisco Lopez, 22
    • Maria Rivera, 25
    • Mireya Rivera, 4
    • Keith Thomas, 12
    • Juan Tokano, 33
    • Kenny Villegas, 22

On Criminal Minds[]

  • Season Five
    • "Public Enemy" - Huberty was mentioned along with George Hennard (who was stated by Reid to have been inspired by him) as examples of mass murderers (even though in the episode, they are erroneously referred to as spree killers).


  • The San Ysidro McDonald's massacre is currently the deadliest shooting by a lone perpetrator in U.S. history.