The Luby’s Shooting

George Jo Hennard
George Jo Hennard

The Luby’s shooting was a mass shooting that took place on October 16, 1991, at a restaurant in Killeen, Texas. The perpetrator, George Hennard, crashed his pickup truck through the front of a Luby’s Cafeteria, and immediately shot and killed 23 people, and wounded 27 others before shooting and killing himself. It is the third-deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, behind only the Virginia Tech and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. It remains the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. that did not occur at a school.

Incident

On October 16, 1991, 35-year-old George Jo Hennard, an unemployed merchant mariner who was described by others as angry and withdrawn, with a dislike of women and minorities, drove his blue 1987 Ford Ranger pickup truck through the plate-glass front window of a Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas. Yelling, “All women of Killeen and Belton are vipers! This is what you’ve done to me and my family! This is what Bell County did to me…This is payback day!” Hennard opened fire on its patrons and staff with both a 9mm Glock 17 pistol and a 9mm Ruger P89 pistol. He stalked, shot, and killed 23 people, ten of them with single shots to the head, and wounded another 27 before committing suicide. Approximately 140 people were in the restaurant.

It was National Boss’s Day and the restaurant was crowded. At first, bystanders thought the crash was an accident, but the shooting started almost immediately. The first victim was veterinarian Michael Griffith. Another patron, Tommy Vaughn, threw himself through a rear window of the restaurant, sustaining injuries, but providing an escape route for himself and other customers.

Hennard reloaded at least three times before fleeing to the bathroom after a brief shootout with police officers. During the shootout, Hennard was wounded by the police. The incident ended when he committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.

– Possible motive

Numerous reports included accounts of Hennard’s hatred of women. An ex-roommate said, “He hated blacks, Hispanics, gays. He said women were snakes” and “always had derogatory remarks about women, especially after fights with his mother.”

Survivors said Hennard passed over men to shoot women. Fourteen of the 23 people killed were women, as were many of the wounded. He called two women “bitch” before shooting them.

Victims

Murdered in the shooting were:

Name Age Hometown
Jimmie Caruthers 48 Austin
Connie Peterson 43 Austin
Patricia Carney 57 Belton
Al Gratia 71 Copperas Cove
Ursula Gratia 67 Copperas Cove
Debra Gray 33 Copperas Cove
Michael Griffith 48 Copperas Cove
Ruth Pujol 36 Copperas Cove
Su-Zann Rashott 30 Copperas Cove
John Romero, Jr. 33 Copperas Cove
Thomas Simmons 55 Copperas Cove
Lt. Col. Steven Dody 43 Copperas Cove/Fort Hood
Glen Arval Spivey 44 Harker Heights
Nancy Stansbury 44 Harker Heights
Kriemhild Davis 62 Killeen
Sylvia King 30 Killeen
Clodine Humphrey 63 Marlin
Zona Lynn 45 Marlin
Venice Henehan 70 Metz, Missouri
Juanita Williams 64 Temple
Olgica Taylor 45 Waco
James Welsh 75 Waco
Lula Welsh 64 Waco

Perpetrator

George Jo Hennard was born Georges Pierre Hennard on October 15, 1956 in Sayre, Pennsylvania, the son of a Swiss-born surgeon and a homemaker. He had two younger siblings, Alan and Desiree. His family later moved to New Mexico, where his father worked at the White Sands Missile Range near Las Cruces. Upon graduating from Mayfield High School in Las Cruces in 1974, he enlisted in the U. S. Navy and served for two years until he was honorably discharged in 1976. He later worked as a merchant mariner, but was dismissed for drug use. Early in the investigation of the shooting the Killeen police chief said that Hennard “had an evident problem with women for some reason.” After his parents divorced in 1983, his father moved to Houston, and his mother moved to Henderson, Nevada. The Glock 17 and Ruger P89 9mm handguns used were purchased between February and March 1991 at a gun shop in Henderson.

Hennard stalked two sisters who lived in his neighborhood prior to the shooting. He sent them a letter, part of which said: “Please give me the satisfaction of some day laughing in the face of all those mostly white treacherous female vipers from those two towns [Killeen and Belton] who tried to destroy me and my family.” He also wrote that he was “truly flattered knowing I have two teenage groupie fans.”

Aftermath

An anti-crime bill was scheduled for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives the day after the incident. Some of the shooting victims had been constituents of Representative Chet Edwards, and in response he abandoned his opposition to a gun control provision that was part of the bill. The provision, which did not pass, would have banned some assault rifles and magazines like one used by Hennard.

The memorial to those killed.
The memorial to those killed.

The Texas State Rifle Association and others preferred that the state allow its citizens to carry concealed weapons. Democratic governor Ann Richards vetoed such bills, but in 1995 her Republican successor, George W. Bush, signed one into force.

The law had been campaigned for by Suzanna Hupp, who was present at the shooting where both of her parents were killed. She later testified that she would have liked to have had her gun during the shooting, but said, “it was a hundred feet away in my car.” (She had feared that if she was caught carrying her gun she might lose her chiropractor’s license.) She testified across the country in support of concealed handgun laws, and was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1996.

A pink granite memorial stands behind the Killeen Community Center with the date of the event and the names of those killed.

The present site

The Luby’s reopened five months after the shooting, but closed permanently in September 2000. As of 2006, a Chinese-American buffet occupied the location.

Source

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