The San Ysidro McDonald's massacre was an incident of mass murder that occurred on July 18, 1984, in a McDonald's restaurant in the San Ysidro section of San Diego, California, United States. The shooting spree, which resulted in 22 deaths (including the perpetrator's) and the injuries of 19 others, was fortunately not the deadliest act of mass murder in United States history though (see the Bath school bombings).
The massacre was carried out by James Oliver Huberty, a 41-year-old former Union Metal Inc. welder from Canton, Ohio. While living in Canton. Huberty and his wife "Etna" had a history of violent behavior. At a birthday party for a neighbor's daughter, Etna instructed her daughter to physically assault one of her classmates. In a related altercation with the child's mother, Etna threatened the woman with a 9mm pistol, although she was arrested, the Canton police failed to confiscate the weapon. At one point James shot his German Shepherd in the head when a neighbor complained about the dog damaging his car. Huberty was briefly employed as a funeral director but was fired due to his hostile attitude and poor people skills. When Huberty was in High School, his mother joined a Baptist cult, abandoning her family to do sidewalk preaching. This had a profound effect on James, who became sullen and withdrawn. Domestic violence was frequent in the Huberty household, with Etna once filling a report with the Canton Police that James beat her and "messed up" her jaw. In order to pacify James and reduce his fits of violence, Etna would produce tarot cards and pretend to read his future, thus producing a temporary calming effect. As a result of a motorcycle accident, James was afflicted with an uncontrollable twitch affecting his right arm, a condition which made it impossible to continue as a welder. In January 1984, Huberty had moved to San Diego with his wife and children, where he worked as a security guard until his dismissal one week prior to the murders. His apartment was located near the site of the shooting spree.
On the day before the massacre, Huberty had called a mental health center. The receptionist misspelled his name on intake as "Shouberty". Since he had not claimed there was an immediate emergency, his call was not returned. Huberty had eaten at a McDonald's in the Clairemont neighborhood in northern San Diego a few hours prior to the massacre.
Before Huberty left for McDonald's, his wife Etna asked him where he was going. Huberty responded that he was "hunting humans". Earlier that day he had commented to his wife, "Society had its chance." When questioned by police, Etna gave no explanation as to why she failed to report this bizarre behavior. A witness, who spotted Huberty leave his apartment and proceed down San Ysidro Boulevard with two firearms, phoned police, but the dispatcher gave them the wrong address.
Huberty used a 9mm Uzi semi-automatic (the primary weapon fired in the massacre), a Winchester pump-action 12-gauge shotgun, and a 9mm Browning HP in the restaurant, killing 21 people and wounding 19 others. Huberty's victims were predominantly Mexican and Mexican-American and ranged in age from 8 months to 74 years. The massacre began at 3:40 p.m. and lasted for 77 minutes. Huberty had spent 257 rounds of ammunition before he was fatally shot by a SWAT team sniper, Chuck Foster, perched on the roof of the Yum Yum Donuts adjacent to the restaurant. Initially, law enforcement and emergency crews responded to the McDonald's located at the U.S. International Border with Tijuana at 3:15 p.m., and 15 minutes later changed directions after they learned that the shooting was actually taking place at the McDonald's next to the post office approximately 2 miles away.
Although Huberty stated during the massacre that he had killed thousands in Vietnam, he had never actually served in any military branch. Eye witnesses stated that he had previously been seen at the Big Bear supermarket and later at the U.S. Post Office. It was surmised that he found the McDonald's a better target.
Due to the number of victims, local funeral homes had to use the San Ysidro Civic Center in order to hold all of the wakes. The local parish, Mount Carmel Church, had to have back-to-back funeral masses in order to accommodate all of the dead.