Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

'Movies Made Me Murder'

Not on the Menu

George Hennard
George Hennard

George Hennard had watched a documentary about James Huberty, a disgruntled man who'd shot at customers at a McDonald's restaurant in San Ysidro, California on July 18, 1984, killing 21.  He had also watched the Fisher King, a 1991 movie directed by Terry Gilliam and starring Jeff bridges and Robin Williams, in which a fan of a despondent shock rock talk radio host takes the man's remarks seriously, goes to a restaurant, and opens fire, murdering numerous diners.  The DJ takes a downhill turn and to redeem himself tries to assist a homeless man who lost his wife in the massacre.

James Huberty
James Huberty

Apparently the tale about Huberty mingled with the image of shooting into a restaurant, then exacerbated by Hennard's anger.  He decided to make a public statement as dramatic as Huberty's. Hennard had a habit of talking in a way that made people think he was a bit crazy.  He'd tell strangers such things as, "I want you to tell everyone that if they don't quit messing around my house, something awful is going to happen."  He was upset about the recent hearings in which Anita Hill had accused judicial candidate Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, and disliked any "female viper" who harassed men.  Apparently he believed he'd had his share of that. 

Movie Poster: The Fisher King
Movie Poster: The Fisher King

Having just turned 35 on October 15, 1991, the following day Hennard rammed his blue Ford pick-up through the plate glass window of Luby's Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas.  He hit an elderly man, and the patrons who ran to the victim's aid initially believed that the whole thing was an accident.  But then Hennard jumped among them with a Glock 17 semi-automatic and a Ruger P89 and began to shoot.  Yelling that it was "payback day," he snarled at diners to "take that!"

Stopping once to reload, he had enough clips of ammunition to spray the weapon many times across the room.  Inexplicably, he allowed one women with a child to leave, although she was forced to abandon her dead mother.  One person who escaped recalled later that Hennard had been smirking the whole time.

The police arrived and commanded Hennard to drop his gun, but he ignored them, turning his weapons on them.  Two bullets hit him, forcing a retreat, and he took cover.  Apparently he realized it was now over, so he put one pistol to his head and pulled the trigger, killing himself.  When police went in, they found twenty-two people dead and twenty-three wounded.  On Hennard's body, according to Coleman, they found a ticket to The Fisher King.

While Hennard was a loner, he had no apparent reason to be so angry.  He lived in a nice home and was fairly attractive.  His father was a surgeon.  He was not the typical man down on his luck.  Yet he had made an appeal to be reinstated in the Merchant Marines, in which he had served for eight years, which had been denied six months before the incident.  Someone who had served with him said he'd harbored a violent hatred toward his domineering mother, whom he regarded as a snake, and Hennard had an unfounded delusion that women were harassing him.

Although there is no record that he sought help or was assessed as mentally ill, his reputation for lashing out without provocation, as well as his extreme beliefs about women, could be considered paranoia-induced psychosis.  Unlike the characters in the film, he seemed to have no particular reason to act out that day.  It wasn't like our next story, in which a man was seeking the attention of a character from a film.


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