While I never thought much about notoriety as an officer of the law there were always reporters and or camera crews following any major event that happened in Killeen. Being seen on the evening news was not new but the events of October 16, 1991 brought worldwide attention to this small military town.
Wednesday, October 16, 1991, was 'BOSSES DAY'.
It was a sunny crisp and cool morning. It was a day for my regular bowling league at 9:00 a.m. at the Hallmark Lanes on the southeast side of town. After we finished bowling we all usually go to the Luby's Cafeteria for lunch. We'd be done by 10:30 or 11:00 a.m. and the business would just be opening about then.
The league finished that day quite early so those of us that usually went to lunch decided that this day we wouldn't go as it was going to be crowded with professionals from the Killeen School District for the bosses day celebration. And it was not going to open for at least another hour. So we talked over coffee about our scores and upcoming tournaments. I drove by Luby's on my way home and noticed the parking lot was beginning to fill up with customers. I no sooner got home and changed my clothes when I began to hear sirens. There were lots of them! Something was wrong as this was highly unusual for this time of day. My home phone began to ring and it was the police department calling in for all available personnel to report immediately. Something major was happening.
The following is a brief synopsis of what we were told;
'At 12:39 p.m. GEORGE JO HENNARD, 35 years old, drove his pickup truck through the front window of Luby's Cafeteria. As he exited his truck he started firing two semi-automatic pistols at the occupants. Members of the Killeen Police Department and Texas Department of Public Safety arrived less than five minutes later and a gun battle commenced. At approximately 12:51 p.m., Hennard shot himself after being wounded by police.'
After this chain of events recovery of the wounded during a medical evacuation, we found thirty three people wounded. This was deemed the worst mass-shooting in the United States history as of that date.
Within 3 heartbeats, of the initial crash, everyone knew the unexpected, unbelievable, terrifying truth. The driver had two semi-automatic pistols and the pops were the methodical discharge of their combined thirty-four cartridges. From surviving witnesses the shooter was calm and would occasionally smirk as he fired point blank shots to the heads of his targets. He would shout, 'This is for what Bell County did to me and my family! This is payback! Was it worth it!' His face was a steel mask of insane determination. He was a killing machine without logic, remorse, or tangible motive.
The crime scene would take nearly 12 hours to process and the bodies of those who were already deceased stayed in the building during the entire processing. It became apparent that the shooter zeroed in on young blonde females. The lady that was a local beautician, another lady and her friend, also blondes, were found hugging each other in their death pose. It was heartbreaking and a war zone that a lot of officers and myself had never been fully prepared for. The victims worked for the school district, local car dealership, utility company or WalMart and were known to officers.
Removing the wounded from the scene became even more heartbreaking. As we loaded mortally wounded men and women on medi-vac helicopters, some were begging us to 'not let me die'! To comfort them we would tell them we were not going to let them die. Little did we know that as soon as we let go of their hands they died. The chopper would lift off and head for the trauma center only to discover that saving these lives was futile and that GOD had already taken them home. A moment of reassurance for these victims was all we could give as our Heavenly Father was in charge at this crime scene.
The shooter was known to me as was his sister and his father. His father was an Army doctor on Ft. Hood. The family was very dysfunctional but no one saw this coming.
This is a true tale of good and evil.
Outside the Community Center off of W.S. Young Drive in Killeen now stands a bench with a monument listing the date and the names of the 23 victims of the Luby's Masssacre. The defining events of October 16, 1991, will not slip from time for everyone within the emotional radius of Luby's four minutes of murder. This has created a life's mission for all who participated in the event or suffered because of it. The mission is-HOPE FROM DESPAIR.
A book was written documenting the entire episode of the day. The authors, Jason and Elinor Karpf, entitled it ANATOMY OF A MASSACRE. The book is dedicated to all the victims, the rescuers, law enforcement officers, healers, and everyone caught in the shock wave from this devastating act of evil.
Looking back my memory is as clear now as it was in 1991. Now, I have reassurance that Jesus Christ was with all of us that day. He was there to bring home all of the innocent victims and one day they will be reunited with their loved ones. He brought me to it, he took me through it, and today, I am who I am because of his unwavering love and support he provided during the tough days following it. Jesus Christ is my Salvation.