Last week, I told you about the 1984 McDonald’s massacre in San Ysidro, California. Today I talk about an eerily similar crime, the Luby’s massacre, which occurred in 1991 in Killeen, Texas. Killeen would also be the site of two more mass shootings in 2009 and 2014, both at the nearby Fort Hood military base.
Luby’s is a popular cafeteria chain, located mostly throughout Texas, but there are also Luby’s restaurants in Arkansas and Mississippi. About 140 lunchtime diners filled the Luby’s location at 1705 East Central Texas Expressway in Killeen. It was National Boss’s Day, Wednesday, October 16, 1991.
The Luby’s massacre began at 12:39 p.m. when one George Hennard drove his blue 1987 Ford pickup truck through the restaurant’s plate glass front window. At first, diners naturally thought the crash was an accident. But Hennard emerged from the truck, shouting “All women of Killeen and Belton are Vipers! This is what you’ve done to me and my family! … This is payback day!” With that, the shooting started. Armed with two semi-automatic pistols, a Glock 17 and a Ruger P89, he then began stalking and shooting both customers and employees. His attack killed 23 people and wounded 17 others.
After police arrived, Hennard engaged in a brief shootout with officers. Wounded twice in the abdomen by police bullets and running low on ammunition, he shot and killed himself.
George Hennard was a native of Pennsylvania, the son of a Swiss surgeon. His family later moved to New Mexico, where his father worked at the White Sands Missile Range near Las Cruces. He served in the U.S. Navy for three years and earned an honorable discharge. After that, he worked as a sailor in the Merchant Marine but was fired for possessing marijuana and racial incidents. He was unemployed at the time of the Luby’s massacre.
People who knew him described Hennard as reclusive and belligerent. He also had an explosive temper. A former roommate said that he hated blacks, Hispanics, and gays. He also hated women, often calling them “snakes.” Survivors of the attack at Luby’s reported him passing over men to shoot women, calling at least two of them “bitch” before pulling the trigger.
One customer survived by crashing through a back window. He injured himself in the process but he also creating an escape route for others. Otherwise, the number of victims likely would have been higher.
The Texas Rifle Association tried to use the Luby’s massacre as a lever to pass legislation allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons. Governor Ann Richards vetoed two such bills. But her successor, George W. Bush, signed a similar bill into law.
Luby’s reopened on the site five months after the shootings but it closed permanently on September 9, 2000. Today, the location is home to a Chinese-American buffet.
A red granite memorial to the massacre victims sits behind the Killeen Community Center.