“Well, society had their chance.”

James Huberty fits the profile of a mass shooter perfectly: Socially awkward, misanthropic, and solitary are perhaps the best words to describe the Ohio-born shooter. He was also bullied in school, like the majority of shooters.

Despite his obnoxious personality, he ended up getting married to his wife, Etna, who he met at mortuary school. He even became a father,  but he was no ordinary family man: Huberty was described as a “survivalist”, and was obsessed with the idea of the Apocalypse. He made a bunker in his basement which doubled up as a D.I.Y shooting range where he would spend most of his spare time testing out various dangerous weapons.

In 1984, the family moved to San Ysidro in California following an motorcycle accident that made it impossible for James to work as a welder, something he’d been doing for quite some time. He eventually found a new job as a security guard, but was fired for his erratic behaviour. This was the final straw for the would-be killer, and he ended up going on a rampage at a McDonald’s three blocks away from his apartment. On the morning of July 18th, 1984, James left the house and told Etna; “I’m going human hunting”. When she asked him what he meant, he replied with “Well, society had their chance” and with that, he proceeded to the restaurant carrying a 9 mm Uzi. In total, he killed 22 people and injured 19 others. His youngest victim was an 8 month old baby, who he shot in the face, and the oldest was a 74-year-old man who bled to death from his injuries. After a stand-off with SWAT, Huberty was fatally shot by a sniper.

“We’d had a very good time that day and we went to McDonald’s, had chicken mcnuggets, french fries, some cokes, and we went to the zoo. We came home and he went upstairs and I was downstairs putting away the dishes. Zelia had come downstairs and told me he was messing around with some ammunition, but that’s nothing unusual. I got things cleared up in the kitchen, went upstairs, I was hot, tired. The bedroom door was closed, so I just went into the other bedroom and stretched out on the bottom bunk. While I was resting, he came to the doorway and he said he was going to kiss me goodbye, and I said okay. And he started to walk away and I just motioned for him to come back, he said ‘what?’, I said ‘well I’ll kiss you goodbye.’ He did. He made reference to he was going hunting, he said, ‘I’m going to hunt humans.’ I didn’t pay any attention to him. Well, I felt, you know, he used to do things to get me excited and figure he could make me pry or get me upset, and I just decided he wasn’t going to. And he just pointed thumbs up and took off.”

- Etna Huberty describing the moment before her husband James Huberty entered a McDonald’s restaurant in San Ysidro, California and killed 21 people, injuring 19 others before being fatally shot in the heart by a SWAT team sniper on July 18, 1984.


The San Ysidro McDonald’s massacre was a mass murder that occurred on July 18, 1984 in San Ysidro, California, a neighborhood in southern San Diego, California. James Oliver Huberty entered a McDonald’s restaurant and fatally shot 21 people, five of them children, and injured 19 others, before he was eventually shot dead by a police sniper. It was the deadliest shooting rampage in the United States until the 1991 Luby’s massacre, and remains the deadliest shooting rampage in the United States in which the perpetrator didn’t commit suicide.

On July 17, 1984, the day before the massacre, James Oliver Huberty called a mental health center. The receptionist misspelled his name on intake as Shouberty. Since he did not claim there was an immediate emergency, his call was not returned. He and his family went to the San Diego Zoo on the morning of July 18. They ate at a McDonald’s restaurant in the Clairemont neighborhood in north-central San Diego a few hours before the massacre, then returned home. When Huberty left home that afternoon, his wife Etna asked him where he was going. Huberty responded that he was “hunting humans”. Earlier that day he had commented to her, “Society had its chance.” When questioned by police, Etna gave no explanation as to why she failed to report this bizarre behavior. When Huberty left his apartment and proceeded down San Ysidro Boulevard with two firearms, a witness spotted him and phoned the police, but the dispatcher gave the responding officers the wrong address.

At 3:59 p.m. on July 18, Huberty entered the McDonald’s in San Ysidro carrying a 9 mm Uzi semi-automatic (the primary weapon fired in the massacre), a Winchester pump-action 12-gauge shotgun, and a 9 mm Browning HP pistol. The massacre lasted for 77 minutes, during which time Huberty shot to death 21 people and wounded 19 others. The victims were predominantly Mexican and Mexican-American and ranged in age from 8 months to 74 years, with the average age being 26 years old. Huberty fired 257 rounds of ammunition before he was fatally shot by a SWAT team sniper, Chuck Foster, perched on the roof of the post office adjacent to the restaurant.