Remembering the McDonald's massacre

SAN DIEGO - It was the worst mass shooting in U.S. history at the time.

This Friday marks 30 years since 21 people were killed and 19 injured in the McDonald’s Massacre in San Ysidro.

Two San Diegans shared their terrifying stories of the massacre with 10News Tuesday night: One as a SWAT commander and the other as a young victim.

Leading the San Diego Police Department’s SWAT team on July 18, 1984 was former San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, who recalled vivid details.

“You couldn't see inside the McDonald's,” Sanders said. “All the windows were spidered from all the gunshots. He fired about 245 rounds.”
Forty-one-year-old James Huberty had an Uzi, shotgun, handgun and hundreds of rounds of ammunition for each.

“Shots were still being fired out at the police officers when we arrived.”

Three decades later, Sanders’ recollection of the details of that day is haunting.

“He was wearing camouflage pants and a maroon pullover. Huberty walked in and immediately started shooting everybody in the restaurant, employees and customers.”

One of those employees was then 16-year-old Albert Leos. Today, he is a lieutenant with the San Diego Police Department.

“I saw everybody get killed that day, including the babies, moms, women, children, husbands trying to save their loved ones,” Leos said.  

Leos recounted his story at Tuesday’s San Diego City Council meeting, where city leaders commemorated the 30th anniversary of that horrific event.

Leos remembers hiding in a closet with some coworkers.

“He found me and my friends who were hunkered down and he ended up killing them in front of me.”

Leos was shot five times.

“I'm bleeding all over. I have a cloth in mouth, I'm biting it because of the extreme pain that I was in and I didn't want him to hear me.”  

Leos used his shoelaces as tourniquets for his arm and leg and survived.  

“When we made entry into the McDonald's, it was just mass carnage, bodies everywhere,” said Sanders. “There were about 18 bodies inside and three or four outside. I still have images of it. It was just something that San Diego hadn't seen before then.”

Sanders calls it the worst day of his life. He said it put everything else in perspective.

As for Leos, he remembers saying a prayer that day and promising God that if he let him live long enough to see his family one more time, he would to do something good with his life. Clearly a promise he made good on.

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