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The Luby's massacre
Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Revenge - Shooting rampage into a cafeteria
Number of victims: 23
Date of murder: October 16, 1991
Date of birth: October 15, 1956
Victims profile: Men and women
Method of murder: Shooting (Glock 17 pistol and a Ruger P89)
Location: Killeen, Texas, USA
Status: Committed suicide by shooting himself in the head after being cornered and wounded by police the same day

The Luby's massacre was a mass killing that took place on October 16, 1991, in Killeen, Texas, United States when George Jo Hennard drove his pickup truck into a Luby's Cafeteria and shot and killed 23 people, wounded 20 and then committed suicide by shooting himself. It was the deadliest shooting rampage in American history until the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre.


On October 16, 1991, Hennard drove his 1987 Ford Ranger pickup truck through the front window of a Luby's Cafeteria at 1705 East Central Texas Expressway in Killeen, then opened fire on the restaurant's patrons and staff with a Glock 17 pistol and later a Ruger P89. About 80 people were in the restaurant at the time.

He stalked, shot and killed 23 people and wounded 20 before committing suicide. One patron broke a back window with a chair, allowing others to escape, including the family of three-month-old Sommer Isdale, who would later become Miss Texas Teen USA.

Hennard allowed a mother and her four-year-old child to leave. He reloaded several times and still had ammunition remaining when he committed suicide by shooting himself in the head after being cornered and wounded by police.


Reacting to the massacre, in 1995 the Texas Legislature passed a shall-issue gun law allowing Texas citizens with the required permit to carry concealed weapons. The law was sponsored by Suzanna Gratia Hupp, who was present at the Luby's massacre and both of whose parents were shot and killed. The 1995 Texas law, signed by Governor George W. Bush, became part of a broad movement to allow U.S. citizens to easily obtain permits to carry concealed weapons.


The Luby's massacre remained the deadliest criminal mass shooting by a single gunman in United States history until April 16, 2007, when the Virginia Tech massacre occurred.


Fatalities from this shooting included:

Name Age Home
Patricia Brawn Carney 57 Belton, Texas
Jimmie Eugene Caruthers 48 Austin, Texas
Kriemhild A. Davis 62 Killeen, Texas
Lt. Col. Steven Charles Dody 43 Fort Hood, Texas
Al Gratia 71 Copperas Cove, Texas
Ursula Edith Marie Gratia 67 Copperas Cove, Texas
Debra Ann Gray 33 Copperas Cove, Texas
Dr. Michael Edward Griffith 48 Copperas Cove, Texas
Venice Ellen Henehan 70 Metz, Missouri
Clodine Delphia Humphrey 63 Killeen, Texas
Sylvia Mathilde King 64 Marlin, Texas
Zona Mae Lynn 45 Austin, Texas
Connie Dean Peterson 55 Austin, Texas
Ruth Marie Pujol 36 Copperas Cove, Texas
Su-zann Neal Rashott 30 San Antonio, Texas
John Raymond Romero Jr 33 Copperas Cove, Texas
Thomas Earl Simmons 55 Killeen, Texas
Glen Arval Spivey 44 Harker Heights, Texas
Nancy Faye Stansbury 44 Harker Heights, Texas
Olgica Andonovsk Taylor 45 Waco, Texas
James Walter Welsh 75 Waco, Texas
Lula Belle Welsh 64 Waco, Texas
Iva Juanita Williams 64 Temple, Texas

The present site

The Killeen Luby's closed after the massacre and was reopened after cleanup and redesign of the front wall of the building was complete; however, the restaurant struggled throughout the following years and finally shut down operations on September 9, 2000. A Chinese-American buffet called Yank Sing currently occupies the building and is ranked one of the top buffets in the central Texas area.


Gunman slays 22 in Texas

Then killed self after attack on restaurant

The Boston Globe

October 17, 1991

KILLEEN, Texas -- A man smashed a pickup truck through a restaurant window yesterday and fired on the lunchtime crowd with a high-powered pistol, killing 22 people in the deadliest mass shooting in US history, authorities said.

The gunman later killed himself in a restaurant bathroom, police said.


Methodical gunman kills 22

Philadelphia Daily News

October 17, 1991

Witnesses who watched helplessly as an loner who lived in a mansion shot 22 people to death in a crowded cafeteria said the gunman methodically shot his victims at close range, making sure each was mortally wounded before moving on to the next.

As terrified patrons scrambled across the blood-drenched floor and hid behind toppled tables, police arrived and wounded the gunman, who then shot himself in the head. Authorities called it the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.


Portrait of a madman

Loner lived in a mansion

Philadelphia Daily News

October 17, 1991

George Hennard, who gunned down 22 people in a crowded cafeteria before killing himself, was the handsome son of wealth and a loner who neighbors say was a fanatic about a neat yard and a clean pickup.

He was also a man who frightened them with outbursts, phone calls and a letter referring to "female vipers."


Police seek motives in Texas massacre

Letter from gunman shows 'a problem with women,' authorities said

The Boston Globe

October 18, 1991

KILLEEN, Texas -- As this town of 66,000 mourned the victims of the nation's deadliest shooting spree, police searching for a motive yesterday said that the gunman apparently had "a problem with women."

Police Chief F.L. Giacomozzi said that George Hennard, 35, of Belton, who on Wednesday killed 22 people and injured 20 more before turning the gun on himself, had sent a letter to neighbors that contained bizarre, hateful references to women.


Cops: Dis 'Fisher King' movie sway Hennard?

Philadelphia Daily News

October 19, 1991

Investigators in the nation's deadliest shooting said yesterday that they found on gunman George Hennard a movie ticket for "The Fisher King," a darkly comic fable marked by a massacre in a New York restaurant.

Police sources told The Dallas Morning News the ticket was among possessions recovered from Hennard, who killed himself Wednesday after he shot to death 22 people at a Luby's Cafeteria.


Gunman's autopsy finds no drugs, tumors

The Boston Globe

October 22, 1991

KILLEEN, Texas -- An autopsy on George Hennard, the gunman who killed 22 people in a cafeteria massacre last week before committing suicide, showed no signs of drugs or evidence of brain tumors, police said yesterday.

The autopsy confirmed that Hennard, 35, killed himself with a gunshot to the head at the end of Wednesday's rampage at a Luby's Cafeteria.


Sister of Killeen slayer: He didn't hate woman

Philadelphia Daily News

October 26, 1991

The sister of the gunman who fatally shot 23 people in a Killeen, Texas, restaurant before killing himself apologized for his rampage but denied that her brother was driven by a hatred of women.

Desiree Hennard said her family had no idea what drove her brother, George Hennard, to kill.


George Hennard's mounting fury

The lives of 23 victims -- ends in a rampage that became A TEXAS MASSACRE

As was his habit, George Hennard Jr. stopped at the Leon Heights Drive-In convenience store in Belton, Texas, before dawn on Oct. 16 for a junk-food breakfast. He had been going there on and off for more than a year -- a young man always in a hurry. He was ominous and brooding, with an unsettling hostility simmering in his eyes. "He seemed like he had a lot of problems," recalls cashier Mary Mead. "To be honest, I was scared of him."

But that Wednesday morning, Mead sensed something different as she rang up his orange juice, sausage-and-biscuit sandwich, candy bar, doughnuts and newspaper. "For some reason," she says, "he seemed almost calm, almost friendly, for the first time I can remember."

Seven hours later, Hennard arrived at Luby's Cafeteria in Killeen, 17 miles away. It was lunchtime, and business, as usual, was booming. The kind of community gathering spot where people come to plan weddings, cut business deals or just chat and gorge on rich desserts, Luby's was packed with 150 people when Hennard's blue 1987 Ford Ranger pickup truck crashed through the plate-glass front window.

Almost immediately came the sound -- POP, POP, POP -- as Hennard, armed with two powerful 9-mm semiautomatic pistols, began the massacre. With cold-blooded efficiency, he stalked the restaurant and chose those who would die -- most of whom were women. "All women of Killeen and Belton are vipers! See what you've done to me and my family!" Hennard yelled, calmly carrying out his executions, often at point-blank range with a single shot to the head. "Is it worth it? Tell me, is it worth it?"

Among his victims, actual and potential, the terror and feeling of utter helplessness was so great that people could do nothing more than duck under tables, chairs and benches, clasping each other's hands and praying. There was no panic, no screaming, no mad scramble for the door -- and the eerie silence persisted even during the lulls when Hennard paused methodically to reload his weapons and continue the slaughter.

By the time police arrived, Hennard had killed 22 people at the scene; one more died later and 27 others were wounded. Exchanging fire with two officers for a few minutes, Hennard suffered four wounds before ending the madness: He dashed toward the rest rooms and, using the final bullet in his clip, committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.

Only 10 minutes had passed; still, it was the worst mass murder in U.S. history, and it left the people of Killeen (pop. 66,932) asking in anguish, Why? As investigators tried to piece together the fragments of Hennard's life, they found few could remember anything about the man called Joe or Jo-Jo (to distinguish him from his father), save that he was a loner, withdrawn and sullen.

From what people could recall came a dark portrait of a disturbed young man from a wealthy yet troubled family who was known for his hatred of women and minorities, his violent temper and the angry, piercing brown eyes that made people afraid. But no one pretended to know what triggered the bloody carnage at Luby's.

Hennard was born in Sayre, Penn., where his father, Dr. Georges Marcel Hennard, was a resident in orthopedics. From the time he was 5, Hennard and his family -- mother Gloria Jeanne and younger siblings Alan Robert and Desiree -- were shuttled across the country as his father worked at various Army hospitals. "He was quite an outgoing kid," recalls Lou Catoggio, who met Hennard when both boys were in grade school and lived at the White Sands Missile Range Army base near Las Cruces, N.Mex. "Everybody thought he was cool. He was a good-looking kid.

Everybody looked up to Jo-Jo." But all that changed the following year when Hennard got into a fight with his father, who had a reputation for toughness. "Joe came to school the next day looking like he'd been mauled," says Catoggio. "It looked like his old man had taken a butcher knife and cut his hair. He was never the same after that. He was completely introverted."

In fact, Hennard kept to himself throughout high school. "You never saw him with girls. He never hung around with anybody," says Paul Crowe, a neighbor at White Sands. "His parents never did care and were hardly ever around." After graduating in 1974, Hennard joined the Navy and three years later signed up with the Merchant Marine, working mostly in the Gulf of Mexico until 1981, when he set out on the first of 37 overseas voyages. As his sojourns multiplied, so did his troubles.

He was arrested for marijuana possession in Texas in 1981 and had his seaman's papers suspended after a reported racial argument with a shipmate in May 1982. "He hated blacks, Hispanics, gays. He said women were snakes," recalls Jamie Dunlap, who briefly shared an apartment with Hennard in Temple, Texas, that year. "He always had derogatory remarks about women, especially after fights with his mother."

In 1989, shortly after losing his seaman's license again, for marijuana possession aboard a cargo ship, Hennard enrolled in a substance-abuse program in Houston. He began drifting from job to job, working on construction crews in South Dakota and Killeen and living part-time in Henderson, Nev., with his mother (she had divorced his father in 1983) and at the sprawling, redbrick colonial home in Belton that his family had bought in 1980 after moving to Fort Hood.

In February 1991 he legally purchased two pistols -- a Ruger P89 and a Glock 17 -- in Henderson. This past summer, his behavior became increasingly bizarre. Jill Fritz, 23, and Jana Jernigan, 19 -- two sisters who lived a couple of blocks away from Hennard in Belton and whom he had apparently been admiring from afar -- received a rambling, five-page letter from him in June. "You think the three of us can get together some day ((sic))?" he asked. "Please give me the satisfaction of someday laughing in the face of all those mostly white tremendously female vipers . . . who tried to destroy me and my family."

A week and a half before the Luby's massacre, Hennard picked up his paycheck at a cement company in Copperas Cove and announced he was quitting; he also wondered aloud what would happen if he killed someone. "He got to talking about some of the people in Belton and certain women that had given him problems," says coworker Bubba Hawkins. "And he kept saying, 'Watch and see, watch and see.' "

On Oct. 15 -- his birthday -- he spoke briefly with his mother on the phone. That evening, while having a cheeseburger and fries at a small grill outside Belton, Hennard exploded with rage as he watched television coverage of Clarence Thomas's confirmation hearings. "When an interview with Anita Hill came on, he just went off," said manager Bill Stringer. "He started screaming, 'You dumb bitch! You bastards opened the door for all the women!' "

The afternoon sun was bright, the air festive inside Luby's cafeteria on Oct. 16. It was National Bosses' Day, and Sam Wink, 47, an attendance officer for the Killeen Independent School District, and some fellow employees were treating their boss to lunch.

The group was seated at a big round table in front when Hennard's truck crashed in, sending a wave of glass shards into the air. "I leapt into the aisle," says Wink. "Then I heard sounds like light bulbs popping." Hennard was shooting from inside the truck before he got out -- a pistol in each hand, a cigarette dangling from his mouth, his shirt and pockets bulging with clips -- and began firing methodically down the serving line of customers getting their food.

As people hit the floor, Hennard circled the room, slowly and coolly selecting his victims. Glaring at one woman, he said, "You bitch," then shot her to death. To another, cowering under a bench near the serving line, he said, "Hiding from me, bitch?" Seconds later, she too was dead. "I heard him snap in his third clip,"says Wink. "He was about 12 feet from me. When he turned, our eyes met for a second. They were mean. There was a smirk on his face, as if he was thinking, 'I've been waiting for this a long time.' He was very intense, well-prepared, almost as if he had practiced at home. And even though he was yelling, he was very calm. The contrast between the fire in his eyes and the calm on his face was unbelievable."

Dr. Shawn Isdale, 31, a chiropractor from nearby Harker Heights, who was there with his wife, infant daughter and parents, also noticed Hennard's strange composure. "His whole face was completely relaxed, no emotion at all," says Isdale, who watched Hennard approach Steve Ernst, a friend of Isdale's who was hiding under a table, and shoot him. "I heard Steve yell, 'Oh, God!' and saw him roll over, grasping his stomach." Hennard then shot Ernst's wife, Judy, in the arm; the bullet went clean through and killed Venice Ellen Henehan, 70, Ernst's mother-in-law.

Between gunshots there was an eerie silence among the diners. ''It was the silence of death," says Wink. "I guess everyone was waiting their turn." Auto mechanic Tommy Vaughan, 28, was certain his was coming when, during a brief lull in the shooting, Hennard began approaching his table in the rear of the cafeteria. Huddled on the floor beside a window, Vaughan hurled his 6 ft.6 in., 300-lb. frame through the glass.

Within moments, dozens of people were pushing, shoving and knocking each other down as they made their escape; by the time police arrived a few minutes later, a third of the lunchtime crowd had managed to escape. "As time goes by, I think about things I could have done that would have ended things more quickly," says Vaughan. "I don't know. But I'll say this: I now understand what it means to be paralyzed with fear. That's how we all were feeling."

Killeen is struggling with its grief. Last week, flags were flying at half- staff and the city launched a 30 Days of Unity campaign, urging everyone to wear white ribbons; by assigning such a deadline, residents were hoping in time to put the tragedy behind them. Families of the slain, survivors and even policemen are receiving counseling for grief, shock and stress.

Still, the mystery of George Hennard Jr. persists. Both his mother and father have declined to speak publicly, other than to say they don't know what caused the rampage; as of last week, no one had been able to locate Hennard's brother and sister. Murder experts have theories about Hennard's life of isolation and rejection and his pent-up rage at women and the world, but that offers cold comfort to the residents of Killeen. "We talk about it among ourselves, but I don't know how we'll live with it," says Elaine Wood, 47, who survived the slaughter. "Nobody knows why it happened, and they are never going to have the answers."


Ten minutes in hell

In the worst mass murder in U.S. history, a gunman turns a Texas cafe into a killing field, leaving 23 dead.

At first it seemed like a freak accident. As the usual lunchtime crowd jammed Luby's Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, last Wednesday, a blue Ford Ranger pickup tore across the parking lot and barreled straight through the restaurant's plate-glass window. A few startled customers ran to help the driver. To their horror, a muscular young man in a green shirt sprang from behind the wheel with a semiautomatic pistol and began firing. "This is what Bell County did to me . . . This is payback day!" he shouted as he made his way through the crowd, pumping bullets in every direction.

One of the gunman's first victims was an elderly man who was struck by the truck and shot in the head as he attempted to get up. The gunman then fired on a grandmother, and killed 71-year-old Al Gratia, who ignored his daughter's pleas and rose to confront the killer. As screams pierced the air, the gunman moved toward the crowded serving line and continued firing.

Pausing only long enough to pack fresh clips into his two semiautomatic pistols -- a Glock 17 and a Ruger P-89 -- he worked his way methodically around the rectangular, beige-colored hall. Cool and deliberate, he felled most of his victims point-blank in the head or chest, sometimes reaching under tables where many diners had huddled and flattened themselves on the gray carpet.

Mere chance seemed to determine who lived and who died. At one instant, the killer spared a mother and child, barking at her to get the youngster "out of here." An elderly woman put her arm around her husband, who had been wounded. As the killer approached her, she looked up, then bowed her head, and he shot her.

The gunman faced down another patron, Sam Wink, but when a woman nearby tried to race off, he was distracted and fired at her, allowing Wink to flee. " It just seemed like slow motion, and he shot forever," Wink recalled. One woman survived by hiding in a freezer; she was later treated for hypothermia. Food preparer Mark Mathews, 19, escaped by hiding inside an industrial dishwasher. He was so frightened that he did not come out until the following day.

The killer continued for a full 10 minutes, until four police officers arrived on the scene, returned his fire and wounded him four times. The gunman then stumbled into a rear alcove, where he pumped a bullet into his own head. By the time he slumped to the floor, the death toll stood at 23. It was the worst mass murder in U.S. history, surpassing the 1984 massacre at a McDonald's restaurant in San Ysidro, Calif., that left 21 dead.

The killer was quickly identified as George Hennard, 35, an unemployed seaman with a reputation as an oddball. An intemperate recluse who apparently hated women, Hennard was thrown out of the merchant marine in 1989 for possessing a small amount of marijuana.

He lived alone in his mother's stately brick house in nearby Belton, where he delighted in screaming obscenities at passing females and harassing neighbors with threatening letters. But Hennard's strange life-style could not begin to explain the enormity of his act. Said police chief Francis Giacomozzi: "There was nothing we recovered to show he was capable or intended to do anything like he did. The whos, whats, whens and whys -- we may never be able to figure them out."

Because 14 of his 22 victims were female, there was speculation that he had been driven by misogyny. As Hennard stomped through the restaurant, he shouted, "Bitch!" and "Take that, bitch!" several times before firing. For years he fought furiously with his mother, who now lives in Nevada; he used to draw caricatures of her with a serpent's body, and once reportedly threatened to kill her. A sometime rock drummer, he liked music with lyrics that expressed violence toward women. "He used to say that women are vile and disgusting creatures," fellow musician Alexandria Garner told the Austin American-Statesman.

An Army surgeon's son, Hennard moved often with his family and graduated from high school in Las Cruces, N. Mex., in 1974. After a brief stint in the Navy, he joined the merchant marine. The ending of Hennard's sea duty following his 1989 marijuana bust left him "very, very depressed," his mother told the Houston Post.

Hennard said to a judge at the time, "It means a way of life, it means my livelihood. It means all I've got. It's all I know." He underwent drug treatment at a Houston hospital that year, but in recent months had lived a secluded life in the expansive colonial home at Belton. The house, which his mother had kept after divorcing her husband in 1983, was up for sale.

Hennard had several run-ins with the local cops. Last May, for example, neighbor Judy Beach complained that he had shouted epithets at her and her son as they searched for a lost baseball glove near his home. "I'll never forget how he was looking at me," she said, recalling that Hennard wound a garden hose around his hands "in a threatening manner" and screamed, "Bitch!" No charges were pressed. When he frightened two young sisters with a letter describing women in the community as "treacherous female vipers," their mother reported it to the police. But the cops did not consider him dangerous.

Hennard was meticulous, always cleaning his truck or the yard, and would curse out garbagemen for leaving litter on his lawn. He was also a creature of habit, eating the same sausage-and-biscuit breakfast each day at a neighborhood convenience store. Owner Mary Mead recalls that "he always had such a look on his face, we were scared." But just before the massacre last Wednesday morning, she says, "he seemed real nice" for some reason.

Hennard had had no trouble obtaining his weapons. He purchased both the lightweight, plastic-framed Glock and the Ruger in Nevada, and registered them with the Las Vegas police last winter. In Texas, where the Glock is valued by cops and criminals alike for its rapid-fire action, the pistol can be bought at gun shops and variety stores by filling out nothing more than a brief federal form. After attending a prayer service for the dead and injured, Governor Ann Richards renewed a call for controls on automatic weapons. "Dead lying on the floor of Luby's should be enough evidence we are not taking a rational posture," she said.

As authorities probed Hennard's murky past for answers, Killeen set about burying its dead and consoling the survivors. Townsfolk who had worn yellow ribbons while troops from nearby Fort Hood were in the Middle East began wearing white ones last week. Others left flowers outside the cafeteria's shattered facade. There was talk that the restaurant, like the McDonald's in San Ysidro, might be permanently closed.

In its grief, Killeen could be thankful for the network of psychological counselors who rushed in to assist. The Army had brought them to the Fort Hood region to deal with the heavy casualties that were expected during Desert Storm. As it turned out, the community lost twice as many people in last week's rampage as it did in the entire gulf war.


One year later, survivors recall the killing spree at Luby's

KILLEEN, Texas -- John Marr can still see the bodies.

October 15, 1992

He points to the front of Luby's recently remodeled cafeteria and says in a measured voice, "There was a woman at a table up there, still sitting, dead."

A year has gone by since the nation's deadliest mass shooting, and the words of so many survivors whose lives were changed immeasurably seem almost eerily calm in the retelling.

At lunchtime on Oct. 16, 1991, George Hennard smashed his pickup through the front window and emptied and reemptied two semiautomatic weapons, a Glock 9mm and a Ruger. Of more than 40 people hit, 23 died. The ex-merchant seaman then killed himself, leaving behind no explanations. "There are a couple of faces you don't see anymore, and you miss them," said Marr, 29, now Luby's assistant manager. He speaks not only of the dead but of the surviving regular customers who never returned.

Church bells will toll at noon tomorrow, and Luby's will close in the afternoon. A group of survivors has organized an evening candlelight ceremony.

The cafeteria's old facade has been redone. The window that Hennard drove through is now part window, part wall. The dark brick exterior has been repainted in eggshell. Luby's billboard, "Good Food From Good People" is the first to greet visitors to the town of 63,000 nestled against Fort Hood, the nation's largest Army installation, 60 miles northwest of Austin.

"Killeen is a large town with a small-town atmosphere," said Sam Wink, a Texan who came to Fort Hood with the Army. "People come and go and come back again."

Wink, 48, a Killeen school district employee, was eating with six others when Hennard's truck came to a halt about eight feet away. He is patient with the many friends and strangers who have asked him to recall what happened. "I've done a lot of talking," he said. "I've tried to put it behind me. I just want to go on with my life."

Hazel Holley, 71, who broke her arm escaping through a broken window, refuses to say Hennard's name but says, "I have never felt any anger toward that man, only pity. My sympathy goes to his family." Marr is not as charitable. "I'm glad he's dead," he said. "I tend to think people get what they deserve, and he got what he deserved."

Dreams of the massacre occur less often for Susanna Gratia, whose father, Al, was shot to death as he tried to stop Hennard. She remembers thinking her mother was with her as she escaped through the back door. "I had a real hard time right at first because I wondered, had I spent 5 more seconds, could I have gotten my mom out? Well as it turned out, and what the cops told me later, I guess she didn't want to get out." As Hennard closed in, Ursula Gratia, who had crawled to her husband, raised her head, looked at the gunman, bowed it again and was shot in the skull at point-blank range.

Ms. Gratia, a chiropractor, said she is busy and coming to terms with the calamity, though she wonders still about leaving her gun in her parked car. "It's very easy for me to get very angry at myself for not having a gun with me," she said.


High Noon

Six mornings a week, George Hennard stopped at the same convenience store in Belton, Texas, and made the same breakfast purchase: a sausage-and-biscuit sandwich, orange juice, doughnuts, and a newspaper. Ordinarily, clerks at the store would have been glad for the steady business, but in Hennard's case, they'd have been happy to see him take his trade elsewhere. He was scary. He behaved as though he hated the whole world. Once, for no apparent reason, he said to the women behind the counter, "I want you to tell everybody if they don't quit messing around my house something awful is going to happen."

On October 16, 1991, the day after his 35th birthday, Hennard turned up at the convenience store as usual, but he seemed different. He was calm, even friendly. Seven hours later, at the height of the noontime rush, he rammed his light blue pickup truck through the plate-glass window of Luby's Cafeteria in the town of Killeen, some 19 miles from Belton. He was about to turn the popular eatery into a slaughterhouse, the scene of the worst mass shooting in the history of the United States.

Hennard's crashing entrance into Luby's seemed at first to be a freak accident. His truck hit an elderly man, and patrons rushed to try to help the victim. But then Hennard leaped from the truck with two pistols - a Glock 17 semiautomatic and a Ruger P89 - and the horrified diners quickly realized that this wasn't an accident.

As the man felled by the truck struggled to rise, Hennard shot him in the head. Then, moving from one victim to another, the gunman shot most of them in the head or chest, sometimes passing by several people people before taking aim at the next unlucky soul. Against the cacophony of screams, Hennard shouted, "Is it worth it? This is payback day!" And: "This is what Belton did to me!" To women he snarled, "Take that, bitch!" or simply, "Bitch!"

The killer seemed intent on thoroughness. He returned to several victims he'd wounded and shot them again. He interrupted his savage spree only to reload. In his only show of mercy, he pointed a pistol at a blood-splattered woman who'd just seen her mother shot dead and said, "You with the baby, get out."

The woman and her four-year-old daughter ran to safety. A number of people escaped death via the kitchen door, and when a burly mechanic hurled himself through a rear window, several customers followed him through the jagged opening and thereby survived. One escapee could not forget the look on the killer's face: "He was smiling," the man recalled, "kind of a grin, like a smirk."

Even when police arrived and began firing at him, the gunman directed a few more rounds at the customers before taking aim at the officers. Hit by two police bullets, Hennard retreated to the rest-room corridor. There he put a pistol to his right temple and with his last bullet blew a fatal hole in his head. In the dining room 22 people were dead and 23 others were wounded, one fatally.

The investigation that followed the bloodbath suggested that Hennard conformed to the profile typical of mass murderers: He was a loner and a loser, though a casual glance might have suggested otherwise. He was a handsome, muscular man - the sort who might have appealed to woman - and he lived in an upscale house, impeccably kept. And he was hardly a social outcast by birth. His father, who lived in Houston, was a surgeon.

But just beneath the surface, Hennard's apparent assets turned upside down. His good-looking features were often disfigured by a scowl, directed particularly at women. He commonly shouted obscenities at females as they drove down the street, and he'd been seen quarreling violently with one women in the middle of the street he lived on.

His impressive two-story brick house, complete with six columns and a backyard pool, belonged not to him, but to his divorced mother, who'd moved to Nevada in 1989. Hennard took great pains to keep up the place, but he lived in it alone. He seldom saw his father. In his neighborhood, Hennard was reclusive, and his neighbors were glad to leave him alone.

Investigation revealed that Hennard had spent time in February and March of 1991 with his mother in Nevada, where he bought the murder weapons. Early in February he'd received bad news: His appeal to be reinstated in the merchant marine had been denied.

From 1981 until 1989 he'd worked as a deck hand, but his license was lifted when he was caught smoking marijuana. His failure to win reinstatement was a bitter blow, for Hennard had considered his years at sea the best in his life. Not that they were placid. A maritime union agent said, "He would come in with a very cold look and be very argumentative." Hennard moved from ship to ship, never lasting long on any of them.

Shut out of the merchant marine, Hennard worked in construction, drank heavily, kept his truck spotless - and alarmed the people of Belton, especially the women.

Most of the victims at Luby's were women, and in the wake of his rampage, the depth and extent of Hennard's hatred of women became clear. The most explicit evidence of his anti-female sentiments was a bizarre five-page letter he sent four months before the shootings to two sisters who lived on his street. Noting that he'd found the best and worst women in Belton, he assured the young women - whom he'd seen but not met - that they were among the best.

As to the others, he wrote, "Please give me the satisfaction of some day laughing in the face of all those mostly white treacherous female vipers." Disturbed by the letter, the young women's mother complained to the Belton police, but no charges were brought against Hennard.

The killer's loathing of women may have been rooted in his relationship with his mother, reportedly a high-strung and domineering person. The two fought frequently, and a seaman who bunked with Hennard in 1982 recalled that he often talked about killing his mother.

Moreover, Hennard was given to drawing caricatures of his mother, depicting her as a snake. The viper motif seemed to extend eventually to women in general, and in his paranoia Hennard sometimes complained that he had to hide from women who were harassing him.

It seems evident that murder was on Hennard's mind well in advance of the massacre. Less than a month before it took place, he asked a fellow worker what he should do if he killed someone. The man answered that he should kill himself. Shortly after this conversation, Hennard tried twice to sell his guns. Unfortunately for his future victims, there were no takers.


George Hennard (October 15, 1956–October 16, 1991) was a mass murderer who claimed twenty-four victims at a cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, USA.

After graduating from high school, he joined the US Navy, then later transferred to the Merchant Navy, from which he was discharged in 1989 for possessing marijuana as well as for making racist remarks. Reportedly a misogynist, he wrote to a friend in early 1991: "Please give me the satisfaction of one day laughing in the face of all those mostly white treacherous female vipers." He lived in Bell County, Texas, and during 1991 he began to purchase several firearms.

On October 16, 1991, the day after his 35th birthday, Hennard drove to Luby's Cafeteria in the city of Killeen. He crashed his pick-up truck through the front window and leapt out, opening fire with two pistols, a GLOCK 17 and a Ruger P89, gunning down screaming diners seemingly at random, while yelling "this is what Bell County did to me".

One man managed to leap through a plate-glass window, suffering numerous cuts in the process, and allowed a number of people to escape. For reasons known only to himself, Hennard let one young woman flee unharmed, telling her to take her four-year-old daughter and leave before he continued shooting at other people.

Armed police were soon on the scene and Hennard exchanged shots with them. Injured by police bullets, Hennard staggered into the back of the restaurant where he fatally shot himself through the head. In the time period of only ten minutes, he had killed twenty-two people and fatally injured another two victims, who later died of their wounds.

Dr. Suzanna Gratia Hupp's parents were among the 24 killed by Hennard in the attack. Hupp possessed a gun but left it in her car in compliance with laws against carrying a concealed weapon; she felt that, had her gun been on her person, she could have prevented the tragedy or limited the casualties. Hupp has since crusaded successfully for a concealed carry law and was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1996.


Shooting rampage at Killeen Luby's left 24 dead

Aug. 10, 2001

Before Oct. 16, 1991, the Central Texas town of Killeen was perhaps best known for its proximity to the Army base at Fort Hood, and Luby's was known only regionally as a popular cafeteria chain that served a wide variety of inexpensive dishes.

But on that day, both came to be linked to what was then the worst mass murder in U.S. history.

At 12:45 p.m., 35-year-old George Hennard of nearby Belton drove his pickup truck through a window at the Killeen Luby's and killed 24 people.

His 15-minute rampage ended when he shot himself after being wounded by police officers.

A team of Chronicle reporters and photographers was dispatched immediately, arriving while victims lay where they had fallen.

Under the Thursday, Oct. 17, headline "Bloodbath in Killeen," a story by Chronicle reporter Cindy Rugeley summarized what witnesses had seen: "He calmly and methodically strolled through the cafeteria, randomly shooting innocent people as they crouched under tables. Often he would stick the gun at a victim's head or body and fire."

Details related by shocked witnesses were sometimes incorrect. An unidentified Fort Hood soldier was reported to have thrown a chair through a plate-glass window, allowing 20 or 30 people to escape.

Actually, the heroic act was performed by auto technician Tommy Vaughn, who had thrown himself, not a chair, through the window. He was treated at the hospital for deep cuts on his shoulder.

Among those Rugeley interviewed was Anica McNeil, whose mother was shot dead next to her before Hennard told her to grab her 4-year-old daughter Lakeichha and run.

The story included an officer's description of the scene: "DPS spokesman Mike Cox said after the attack that the cafeteria looked like a slaughterhouse or a scene from a movie. 'There are bodies scattered throughout the entire cafeteria,' Cox said. 'The floor is covered with broken glass, bullet holes, bullet fragments, blood. It's almost a surrealistic, nightmarish scene.' "

Mark Smith and Rugeley did a front-page feature on Eddie Sanchez and girlfriend Angela Wilson. Sanchez had just dropped off Wilson, an employee of Luby's, when he saw Hennard drive his truck through the window.

"Sanchez hollered Wilson's name. He said the man calmly looked up after shooting his second victim and fired a shot at him. 'I ducked and he didn't get a second chance,' said Sanchez, who turned and ran around to a 'food-to-go' side entrance to find Wilson."

The Chronicle immediately began trying to find out the killer's motive.

"Hennard -- described by acquaintances as being bitter, disgruntled and deranged during the past several months -- fatally shot himself after a Texas Department of Public Safety officer charged into the building and chased Hennard into a restroom."

Witness John Fitzwater told reporters, "As he shot people, he said, 'Is it all worth it, what they have done to me in Texas and Belton?' "

That same day, Kim Cobb and Steven R. Reed wrote a front-page story about a creepy letter Hennard had sent to two sisters who lived down the street from him in nearby Belton.

"Hennard wrote the letter in June to Jana Jernigan, 19, and her sister, Jill Fritz, 23. Over the space of four handwritten pages, Hennard's ramblings illustrated a fantasy relationship with the young women."

The letter read, in part, "It is very ironic about Belton, Texas. I found the best and worst in women there. You and sister are the one side. Then the abundance of evil women that make up the worst on the other side. ... I will no matter what prevail over the female vipers in those two rinky-dink towns in Texas.

"I will prevail in the bitter end."

The young women's mother, Jane Bugg, was unnerved enough to take the letter to Belton police, but got little response. She then called her daughters' father, who was the administrator of a Tennessee hospital.

"Jernigan said her father showed the letter to a staff psychiatrist, who labeled the letter an indication of obsessive infatuation with the two young women," the story said. "The psychiatrist interpreted the letter to mean that Hennard was carrying a lot of anger and humiliation that could be dangerous."

A story by business reporter Ralph Bivens told of the reaction from Luby's founder Robert M. Luby and company president Ralph Erben, who flew in immediately from San Antonio.

George Hennard's former roommate told reporter Smith he was not surprised by the murders.

" 'He talked once or twice about killing himself,' said James Dunlap of Austin, a friend of Hennard's from late 1979 to the fall of 1984.

" 'He said he didn't have any friends or girlfriends. He said he didn't respect his mother,' he said.

" 'I worked nights as a grocery stocker,' Dunlap said, 'but Hennard would get up at the crack of dawn and turn on the stereo or television. He did whatever he wanted to do.' " Among the stories on Friday, Oct. 18, was one about a frightened 19-year-old Luby's employee who spent 20 hours inside the cafeteria's dishwasher, accompanied by a photograph of him next to his hiding place.

Also on the front page was a piece on Hennard's father, a Houston doctor, and the fact he had been disciplined by the state medical board three years earlier. A photo of the elder Hennard ran on page 20, as well as photos of the two Belton women Hennard had threatened and the removal of Hennard's pickup from Luby's.

Saturday's coverage led with Gov. Ann Richards' attendance at an emotional memorial service:

"The governor spent 15 minutes inside the church, much of it with her head bowed and her forehead braced by her tightly clenched fist. She was visibly emotional, frequently dabbing at tears on her cheeks as she talked with the church's pastor."

The story also revealed that Buggs, the mother of the two threatened young Belton women, was a cousin of Richards.

A separate story ran on page 16 on McNeil, who was still reeling from seeing her mother shot dead in front of her. Also on that page was a biographical piece on Hennard.

In 1992, the Chronicle won the Team Effort Award from the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors Association for its coverage. A May story quoted Judge Bob Burdick, editor of the Los Angeles Daily News:

"The Chronicle went beyond the story and delved into the increasing incidents of mass murder. This was a fine example of a newspaper team making sense of a senseless act."

On Sept. 9, 2000, the Chronicle reported that the cafeteria was closing due to competition.


George Hennard

"Take that, Bitch!"


Hennard lived in Belton, Texas, and to be frank, he scared the shit out of most of those that had the misfortune to run into him. He was a very angry man, described by many as seeming to hate everyone and everything. And this would probably the best way to described the man who would become the greatest mass murder in the U.S. history.

He was known to go to the same convenience store every morning, except sundays, for breakfast. He always ordered the same meal - a sausage and biscuit sandwich, donuts, orange juice and a newspaper. And he scared the crap out of their staff here as well. But on October 16, 1991, Hennard was a different man. In fact staff at the convenience store said he was more friendly than every before. Maybe it was because he had just celebrated his 35th birthday, perhaps he was really happy. Or maybe he had accepted what was to follow.

Around noon on the day after his 35th birthday Hennard's car rammed through the front window of Luby's Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas. As he smashed through the window the car hit an elderly man, and worried people in the restaurant and fro outside, thinking it was an accident, gathered round to see if they could help the old fellow or the driver. Just as the man was starting to make his way to his feet Hennard came bursting out of the driver side door holding a Glock 17 semiautomatic and a Ruger P89. He walked up to the old man and blew his brains out. I think it was around this time that the onlookers realized this wasn't no accident.

Over the next few minutes Hennard strolled around the inside of the restaurant shooting people in the head and chest, leaving some to live, choosing others to die. As one can imagine there was a fair amount of screaming going on at this time, but Hennard could be heard yelling over the top of them,

"Is it worth it? This is payback day!" and

"This is what Belton did to me." or just simply


Once he'd done his first tour of the cafe, he returned to those that were injured. He then showed something similar to remorse - He blew their fuckin heads off. The only time that he stopped firing was when he was reloading, and for the strangest thing to happen during these few minutes of mayhem.

Hennard, who seemed to really have it in for women, decided to spare a life. He allowed a woman and her 4-year-old daughter to leave. Although one shouldn't get too carried away and think things like, "oh, what a nice man" because he'd just killed both her parents right in front of her, but still it was a nice gesture.

A few people got out through the kitchen exit, and one fat bastard smash out a window for a few other to escape through, but basically most were trapped by the psycho. One survivor said, "He was smiling... kind of a grin, like a smirk." So at least we know that he was still happy.

It all ended soon after police arrived. Hennard kept on firing, even after police fired back, striking him twice. As Hennard loss more blood from his wounds he must have realized it was almost over because he took retreat into the corridor leading to the toilets. He sat down and in a final moment of clarity scattered his own brains against the corridor wall.

Once police checked the place out the found 23 dead bodies (including Hennard's), with 23 more injured. One of these seemed to be pretty fucked up because they died not long afterward, giving Hennard 23 - A NEW U.S. RECORD and one that still hasn't been broken, despite many attempts.

Interesting Bits

Hennard twice tried to sell the guns used in the massacre in the month before it. Unluckily for his victims he couldn't seem to get rid of them.

Hennard was known to drive around the streets of Belton screaming obscenities at women. This would be a funny sight I think.

Most of the victims at Luby's were women.

Q: I wonder if he had a problem with one?

A: he hated his mummy. He told anyone that would listen that he wanted to kill her, he liked to draw her as a snake, and almost everyone describes her as a right old bitch.

Four months before his final glory day he wrote in a letter;

"Please give me the satisfaction of one day laughing in the face of all those mostly white treacherous female vipers."

The Wacky World of Murder


George Jo Hennard


Ambulances lined up at the Luby's in Killeen after the worst one-day shooting in Texas history. Gunman George Hennard killed 23 people and wounded dozens others.



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