The San Ysidro McDonald’s Massacre

“God is not on the side of the big battalions, but on the side of those who shoot best.” —Voltaire

In a Nutshell

In July 1984, James Huberty walked into a McDonald’s with an Uzi, a shotgun, and a pistol and killed or injured 40 people before taking his own life—the largest massacre, at the time, in United States history.

The Whole Bushel

On the last day of his life—July 18, 1984—unemployed welder James Oliver Huberty went to the zoo with his wife and two children. Looking at the caged animals, his wife would later relate, Hubert made some chilling comments along the lines of “Society has had its chance.” When they got home, he announced that he was going hunting—“hunting humans.” He was equipped to do it, too; he left the house with a semi-automatic Uzi, a 12-gauge shotgun and a 9-millimeter pistol. Soon thereafter, he pulled into the parking lot of a suburban McDonald’s, and changed a great many things forever.

For one thing, he changed the lives of dozens of families in that one hellish afternoon. Between 3:40 and 4:57 PM—77 excruciating minutes—Huberty shot indiscriminately. He killed men and women, children and the elderly, even an infant.

He instantly changed the way police departments respond to shooting reports. The first police officer to respond, Miguel Rosario, was armed only with a .38 revolver—no policeman in the nation had seen a massacre of this scope, or been so ridiculously outgunned.

And he changed a country’s perception of its suburbs as being safe from this kind of insane, random violence. Never before had such a benign public venue been the scene of such utter carnage.

Said Chuck Foster, the police sniper who ended Huberty’s rampage—and life—with one well-placed bullet: “It was new then, as flying an airplane into the World Trade Center was new in 2001 . . . All of the responders—the police officers, the firefighters, the paramedics—weren’t foreseeing the scope of this killing spree.” That will certainly never be the case again. The final toll that day was 21 dead, 19 injured—at the time the largest mass murder in American history.

Show Me The Proof

Hunting Humans: The Rise Of The Modern Multiple Murderer, Elliott Leyton
Slaughter at McDonald’s changed how police operate
20 Years later, San Ysidro McDonald’s massacre remembered