The Horrific McDonald's Massacre | James Huberty | Part Three

(Investigators at the scene after the massacre. Photo credit: historycollection)

Continued from part two...

As the clock approached 4pm on that warm Wednesday of July in 1984, James Huberty, carrying his weapons and ammunition, walked into the crowded McDonald's restaurant. There was 45-50 people inside. Once the door closed behind him, he aimed his shotgun at one of the employees, 16 year old John Arnold. The assistant manager who could see what was going on, shouted to John ''Hey John, that guy's going to shoot you.''

Still pointing the gun at John, James pulled the trigger to which nothing happened. With all the commotion, Neva Caine who was the manager of the restaurant, came over to where John was as he started to walk away from James. At that point, John thought the whole thing was just a sick prank. James then pointed his gun at the ceiling and fired before pointing his gun at 22 year old Neva, he shot her once and the bullet entered under her left eye, she fell to the floor and died minutes later. 

It was clear that this was no joke or a prank, the panic and sheer terror that the customers would have felt in that moment is unimaginable. James wasn't finished and pointed his gun again at John and caught him in the chest. Survivors claim that James shouted ''Freeze'', ''Everybody on the ground'' and referred to everyone as ''Dirty swines.'' He also said that he had killed thousands and that he intended to ''Kill a thousand more.''

A 25 year old man named Victor Rivera tried to calm James and tried to persuade him not to shoot anyone else. James turned to Victor and shot him 14 times and shouted ''Shut up'' as Victor screamed in agony. 

Most of the customers did their best to hide underneath the tables and service booths but there was limited places to hide with there being so many people in the restaurant. James spotted 6 women and children huddled together and pointed his gun at 19 year old Maria Colmenero and shot her in the chest. He then began shooting 9 year old Claudia Perez, killing her instantly. She was hit in the stomach, cheek, thigh, hip, leg, chest, back and armpit. He then wounded Claudia's 15 year old sister, Imelda by shooting her in the chest. 

He then shot 11 year old Aurora Pena, wounding her in the leg, she had been shielded by her 18 year old pregnant aunt, Jackie Reyes. James shot Jackie 48 times. Beside his mother's dead body, 8 month old Carlos Reyes sat up and was crying. James shouted and pointed the gun at the baby's back and fired.

James then shot and killed Laurence Versluis, a 62 year old truck driver before moving onto one of the families in the play area who were trying to protect their children underneath the tables. Thirty one year old Blythe Regan Herrera was trying to protect her eleven year old son, Mateo beneath one booth and her husband, Ronald was trying to shield twelve year old Keith Thomas under the booth across from them. 

James began shooting the people who were sat at the tables with nowhere to go and frozen in fear. As he walked towards people who were hiding under the tables, Ronald urged Thomas not to move, shielding the boy with his body. Thomas was shot in the shoulder, arm, wrist and left elbow but was not seriously wounded. Ronald was shot 8 times in the stomach, chest, arm and head but survived. Ronald's wife Blythe and son Mateo were both killed by numerous gunshots to the head.

Nearby, two women were trying to hide beneath a booth, Guadalupe Del Rio, who was 24 years old and her friend, Arisdelsi Vargas who was 31. Guadalupe was shot several times in the back, abdomen, chest and neck but was not seriously wounded. Arisdelsi was shot in the back of the head, she died of her wound the next day in the hospital. She was the only person fatally wounded who lived long enough to reach a hospital.

James shot and killed Hugo Velaszquez who was a 45 year old banker. He died instantly from a gunshot to the chest. 

At 4pm, the first of emergency calls were made but the dispatcher mistakenly sent the police to the wrong location. This meant that the restaurant was not on lock down until several minutes later. The only warnings about the shooter would come from people outside the restaurant. Shortly after 4pm, Lydia Flores drove into the McDonald's parking lot, oblivious to what was going on. As she stopped her car at the food pickup window, she noticed what looked like bullet holes in the windows and heard the sounds of gunshots, then she suddenly saw James in the restaurant shooting people. She reversed her car and accidentally crashed into a fence in panic. She took her two year old daughter out of the car as quick as she could and hid until the shooting was over.

Three boys who were out riding their bikes, decided to get some ice cream as it was so warm. As they approached the restaurant they could hear some people shouting something from across the street. The boys had no idea what they were saying and amongst the confusion, James spotted the boys and fired at them. Joshua Coleman fell to the ground critically wounded in the back, arm and leg. Joshua later recalled looking towards his two friends, Alfonso Hernandez and David Flores Delgado, noting that Alfonso was on the ground with multiple gunshot wounds to his back and he was vomiting. David had received several gunshot wounds to his head. Joshua managed to survive but his two friends had died at the scene. 

An elderly couple, Miguel Victoria Ulloa who was 74 and his wife 69 year old Aida Velasquez Victoria were walking towards the entrance of the restaurant when James spotted them. He fired at the couple and shot Aida in the face and wounded Miguel. An uninjured survivor, Oscar Mondragon, later reported that he saw Miguel holding his wife in his arms, trying to wipe the blood from her face and shouting curses at James before James fatally shot him. 

At approximately 4:10pm, Astolfo and Maricela Felix drove towards one of the service areas of the restaurant where they noticed the damaged windows. Astolfo thought that the restaurant must have been under renovation and when he saw James coming towards them, he assumed that he was a repairman. James shot towards the couple and their four month old baby daughter, Karlita. Maricela was hit in the face, arms and chest, blinding her in one eye and permanently rendering one hand unusable. The baby was critically wounded in the neck, chest and abdomen. Astolfo was wounded in the chest and head. As the couple tried to move away to a safe spot, Maricela gave her daughter to a young woman called Lucia Velasco and told her to take the baby to the hospital. Maricela collapsed against a car and Astolfo helped to move her to a nearby building. All three members of the Felix family survived. 

Approximately 10 minutes after the first 911 call, the police arrived at the scene. they imposed a lock down spanning 6 blocks from the site of the shootings. The police established a command point two blocks from the restaurant  and deployed 175 officers in strategic locations. These officers were joined within the hour by SWAT team members who took positions around the McDonald's restaurant.

Several survivors later reported that they saw James walk towards the service counter where he adjusted a radio as if he was looking for news reports, when he couldn't find any, he switched the dial to a music station and started shooting again. He started to search the kitchen area and found six employees who were hiding. He shot and killed 21 year old Paulina Lopez, 19 year old Elsa Borboa Fierro, and 18 year old Margarita Padilla. Alberto Leos, who was 17, was critically wounded. Immediately before James had started shooting again, Margarita had urged her friend and colleague, 17 year old Wendy Flanagan to run, before being fatally shot. Wendy, four other McDonald's employees and a female customer hid inside a basement utility room. They were later joined by Alberto who had managed to crawl to the utility room after being shot several times.

A fire engine arrived outside the restaurant and James began shooting towards it. The vehicle was struck with bullets but nobody inside the vehicle was harmed. Inside the restaurant, as 19 year old Jose Perez was screaming in agony, James shot him in the head. Jose died alongside his friend and neighbour, 22 year old Gloria Gonzales and a young woman named Michelle Carncross.

Aurora Pena who was trying to play dead whilst lying beside her dead aunt, baby cousin and two friends, thought that James had finished shooting or run out of ammunition. She opened her eyes slightly to see where he was and to her horror, he was stood staring back at her. James swore at Aurora and threw a bag of french fries at her before shooting her in the arm, neck and chest. Although Aurora managed to survive, she would take longer to recover in the hospital than some of the other injured survivors.

By this time, the police established a command post two blocks from the restaurant but it was still unclear to them how many shooters were inside. The windows were all shattered and because James was using three different weapons and shooting so rapidly it gave the police the impression at first that there was more than one shooter.

Charles ''Chuck'' Foster, a police SWAT sniper was positioned on the roof of the post office next door to the McDonald's. He was authorised to kill the shooter if he could get a clear shot of him.

Continued in part four...

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