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SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Like Uvalde, Texas, this week, all eyes were on San Ysidro, California, some 38 years ago when a lone gunman shot dozens of people inside a McDonald’s in the small community about a mile from the border.
Armed with several weapons, including an Uzi and a shotgun, James Huberty, 41, walked into the restaurant at 3:56 p.m. on Wednesday, July 18, 1984, and went on a killing spree, reportedly telling his wife beforehand that he was going “hunting for humans.”
It would be 77 minutes before a sharpshooter with the San Diego Police Department took Huberty’s life to end the bloodshed.
Huberty killed 21 people and wounded 19 others. The youngest victim was 4 months old; the oldest was 74.
Entire families huddled together pleading for their lives and he shot them.
Huberty gunned down three 11-year-old boys who rode up on their bikes to get strawberry shakes. Only one of the boys would survive.
He also killed employees who were working the front counter or making Big Macs and french fries in the back.
Huberty discovered five employees hiding in a storage area and shot them, too.
Two young workers are said the have held hands and tried to run away but only one got away as Huberty shot the other in the back.
As police and firefighters arrived, they had to duck bullets as Huberty opened fire on first responders.
Members of the news media who showed up to cover the story were also shot at but weren’t hit.
Huberty was an unemployed welder from Ohio who moved his family to San Ysidro after briefly living in Tijuana.
His family said he had a fascination with guns and at one point tried to seek counseling.
On the day of the shooting, he took his wife and two daughters to the San Diego Zoo and for a late lunch at a different McDonald’s.
As he left his apartment just down the street from the McDonald’s, he reportedly told his wife he was going “hunting for humans.”
He told his daughters he was never coming back.
The McDonald’s massacre at the time was the deadliest mass shooting carried out by one person in U.S. history until George Hennard shot and killed 23 people at a Luby’s restaurant in 1991 in Killeen, Texas.
A doctor who responded to the McDonald’s via helicopter later said he vividly remembered hamburger patties burning on the grill and a dead elderly man covered in blood with a box of donuts next to him.
In the following months, the restaurant would be torn down and rebuilt down the street.
Later, a Southwestern College satellite education center was constructed on the site.
Also built was a memorial for the victims.
It sits out front along San Ysidro Boulevard with 21 white marble hexagonal pillars measuring from 1 to 6 feet tall.
The names of the victims, almost all with Spanish surnames, are listed on a plaque.
McDonald’s massacre victims
- Elsa Herlinda Borboa-Firro* (19)
- Neva Denise Caine* (22)
- Michelle Deanne Carncross (18)
- María Elena Colmenero-Silva (19)
- Gloria López González (22)
- 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 Velázquez Vasquez (45)
- Laurence Herman Versluis (62)
- David Flores Delgado (11)
- Omarr Alonso Hernandez (11)
- Miguel Victoria-Ulloa (74)
- Aida Velázquez Victoria (69)
But almost 40 years later, most people ignore it as or are simply unaware of what it represents they walk past it.
“I never heard of it,” said Jose Fernandez when asked if he knew what the memorial was about.
Border Report explained the shooting and other details surrounding the incident, and the 22-year-old Fernandez said he couldn’t believe it.
“I’ve known San Ysidro for all my life, I had never heard of that incident, it’s news to me,” he said.
Fernandez also realized this type of senseless killing has been going on for a long time.
“It’s not an issue of today, but forever. I think of the news right now of the Uvalde, Texas, shooting,” he said of Tuesday’s mass shooting that left 19 young students and two teachers dead at Robb Elementary school.
Days after the McDonald’s massacre, then-San Diego Police Chief Bill Kolender was asked if he thought Huberty’s actions were racially motivated. He said no.
“Huberty just didn’t like anybody,” Kolender said.