If you know of a restaurant, store, or anywhere else that has a 'no firearms' sign posted, be sure to inform and remind them of the Luby's Cafeteria massacre that happened in 1991 in Texas.
October 17, 1991
Gunman Kills 22 and Himself in Texas Cafeteria
By THOMAS C. HAYES,
A man smashed a pickup truck into a busy restaurant at lunchtime here today, stepped out of the cab, shot 22 people dead and wounded at least 20 others.
As blood-drenched patrons and employees tried to scramble to safety, dozens of police officers arrived and exchanged gunfire with the man, apparently wounding him. He then shot and killed himself with a bullet through the left eye, witnesses said.
The 23 deaths make the attack the worst mass shooting ever to occur in the United States. The police said the killer, a 35-year-old man, reloaded and emptied his Glock-17, a semiautomatic .9 millimeter pistol, several times.
About 80 people were in the restaurant, many of them taking a break from work with their superiors on National Boss's Day.
Tonight the police identifed the killer as George Jo Hennard of Belton, which is about 10 miles east of this Central Texas town. They declined to provide any more information about him.
"He was firing at anyone he could shoot," Sam Wink, a Killeen resident, said in a television interview. Mr. Wink said he was in the restaurant, Luby's Cafeteria, at the time of the shooting and saw the pickup plow through the window. The gunman "had tons of ammo on him," Mr. Wink said.
He said the gunman noticed him on the floor and pointed his pistol at him. "I thought I bought the farm," Mr. Wink said, adding that he was saved when a woman got up to run and the gunman fired at her instead.
Another witness described the gunman shooting "as fast as he could pull the trigger."
Police Chief Francis L. Giacomozzi said he knew of no motive for the shootings.
House Is Cordoned Off
Twenty miles away, in Belton, law-enforcement officials cordoned off the four-bedroom house where Mr. Hennard lived alone. The house belonged to his parents and was up for sale.
Tonight, Mr. Hennard's father arrived at house. He declined to answer questions, but did say: "It's a tragedy; it's monstrous. It was a nightmare driving here. I can't believe it."
Gina Hennard, Mr. Hennard's mother who lives in Henderson, Nev., said in a telephone interview that she had been out of the house and was not aware of the killings late tonight. When contacted later, she said: "I just can't talk now. My concern is my son is dead and those other people."
Neighbors of Mr. Hennard in Belton said that on occasion he would come out of his house screaming. The neighbors, Jana Jernigan, Jill Fritz and their mother, Jane Bugg, produced a a photocopy of a long, rambling letter Mr. Hennard had sent to them this summer from Henderson. They said they turned over the letter to the police when it arrived.
"Please give me the satisfaction of some day laughing in the face of all those mostly white treacherous female vipers from those two towns who tried to destroy me and my family," one passage said.
Tonight Belton Police Chief Roy Kneese also responded to assertions made by neighbors that the police should have acted in some way after Mr. Hennard wrote the letter.
"There was nothing we could file charges on him for," Chief Kneese said. "There was nothing in that letter. It seemed like he had a crush on the girls, but there was nothing that in any way that discredited them or embarrassed them. It was just a letter."
But today shocked residents of Killeen cried that nothing had been done to divert the killer from his deadly path.
Outside the Sheraton Hotel here, three flags waved at half-mast, lit by flood lights. Gov. Ann W. Richards sent trauma teams to the town to help families cope.
Hundreds of onlookers -- fathers with children on their shoulders and mothers with babies in strollers -- hovered around the yellow police tape that kept them at bay from Luby's Cafeteria.
Some witnesses said the gunman talked to the cafeteria patrons as he killed them.
"As he approached people, he would say, 'Was it all worth it?' " said Lee Whitney, 41, a Centel manager in Killeen, who was standing with his wife Brenda, 33, at the back of the food line when the truck crashed through the window.
"A lot of people were taking their bosses to lunch," he said. "It was really crowded. He immediately started shooting. A lot of shots right away -- boom, boom, boom, boom."
He Talked to His Victims
Mr. Whitney said the gunman "walked right over my head and there was a lady whose head was eight inches away and he shot her -- for some reason, he didn't shoot us."
Betty May, a 67-year-old Killeen resident who was in the cafeteria when the shootings occurred, said she and her friends escaped after a man threw a chair through a window.
She said she cowered beneath a table after the gunman began shooting, and he was almost at her table when another patron broke the window behind them.
Ms. May said she cut her foot on the glass as she ran through the broken window, and needed 14 stitches on her left foot. "I didn't know I could run, but I did today," she said.
She and Evelyn Seales, 60, a friend from the East Side Baptist Church who were having lunch, said the cafeteria was unusually full because many people were there celebrating Bosses Day.
'You Saved Our Lives'
Ms. May said afterward she found the man who had broken the window. "I went up and thanked him," she said. "I said, 'You saved our lives today. We'd have been dead.' "
As the sun set, officers said the cafeteria in Luby's remained as the gunman had left it. Drapes were pulled for privacy across the front window where the pickup burst through only hours earlier. At the back, where some diners had escaped, one chair held drapes in place and three other chairs were strewn amid the plants behind the building. People kneeled to peer at what they could see in the gap of the drapes where the chair's legs stood.
Late tonight about 15 people gathered in an adjacent parking lot, holding candles and singing "Give Peace a Chance" and "Amazing Grace." One of them Tim Snyder, 29 years old, said he used to drink in a local park with the gunman, who was called "Big George."
"He's nice when he's sober," Mr. Snyder said, "but when he got drunk he acted berserk. He talked crazy."
Chief Giacomozzi said that the bodies were being taken to Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas because it is better able to perform the number of autopsies required.
He did not make public the ages or addresses of the dead, but said they included 8 men and 14 women, in addition to the gunman.
Eight victims' next of kin were notified, and the victims were identified as Olgica Taylor, Thomas Simmons, Nancy Stansbury, Juanita Williams, Zona Hunnicut Lynn, Clodine Humphrey, Ruth Pujol and Pat Carney.
If police officers had not responded as rapidly as they did, Chief Giacomozzi said, "we would have had a much longer list."
He also said Luby's had contributed $10,000 to help the victims and their families.
Killeen, a city of 45,000 people about 50 miles north of Austin, is on the edge of Fort Hood, a huge Army base that sent tens of thousands of soldiers to the Persian Gulf.
The police said Mr. Hennard was not connected to the military, and it was not clear how many of the victims were. Many of Killeen's residents have retired from the military or are military dependents.
Many military people, some dressed in camouflage uniforms, were among those watching the scene at Luby's. Chaplins, psychiatrists, social workers and medical workers from Fort Hood, the nation's largest military base, came to help.
Lieut. Gen. H. G. Taylor, the Fort Hood commander, said he had sent helicopters and ambulances to evacuate the wounded to local hospitals.
Class for Police Officers
Five state law-enforcement officials were leading a class for local police officers in a hotel near the restaurant, said Michael Cox, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety. Only a bank separated the buildings, and the officers ran to the restaurant as soon as they heard the shots, he said.
Mr. Cox was not among those at the class, but he inspected the restaurant after the shooting and called the scene gruesome. The floor was covered with glass, blood and spent bullets, he said.
Most of the bodies were slumped in the southeast corner of the cafeteria, he said, but others were in a hallway, in the food line, and one elderly woman was slumped over a table with food on it.
"You have to push yourself and remind yourself that it's not a movie scene," Mr. Cox said. "There's that terrible stillness of death."
Mr. Cox identified the gun that Mr. Hennard used as a Glock-17. The gun, which is made in Austria, normally carries a 17-round dmagazine.
Gunman Was Wounded First
Mr. Cox said that after the gunman drove his truck through the cafeteria window he crouched behind the pickup for cover. After he was wounded, he said, Mr. Hennard went into a hall that leads to the restrooms at Luby's and shot himself in the head.
"He was already wounded when he committed suicide," Mr. Cox said, adding that the gunman had been shot several times.
Residents from Killeen flocked to the Luby's to see what was happening. Barbara Smith said she drove there as fast as she could after her 21-year-old son, Shelton, a porter at the cafeteria, called her.
"He just said, 'Mom, they're shooting!' " Mrs. Smith said. We heard shots over the telephone. When she arrived, she said, "I kept telling them I need to find my son."
Her son was one of those who escaped. He had been working at the Luby's since it opened in February 1990.
Vernon Schrader, a vice president for Luby's Cafeterias Inc., said no employees were wounded or killed.
Mr. Schrader, the Luby's vice president for marketing, said there were probably 40 employees on duty at the time of the shooting. Luby's, based in Austin, is a publicly traded company that owns 151 cafeterias in Texas and its surrounding states and in Florida, Tennessee, Arizona and Missouri.
Mr. Schrader said sales last year totaled $320 million last year. Trading on the stock exchange was suspended this afternoon but he said he expected it would resume on Thursday.
He said the layout of the cafeterias is fairly standard. Most have a glass storefront and are about 11,000 square feet, with seating for 270 people.