My Dad Killed 20 People in a McDonald's

Zelia Huberty explains what it's like for families of mass shooters
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 12, 2015 9:15 AM CST
My Dad Killed 20 People in a McDonald's
A police officer deploys tape in San Bernardino, Calif., Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015.   (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

The San Bernardino rampage was the deadliest mass shooting on US soil since Sandy Hook. But it stands out for another reason. Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik left behind a 6-month-old daughter. Few people know what it's like to be the child of a mass shooter because, as an expert explains, most shooters are childless or their children become victims. But Zelia Huberty knows what it's like. On July 18, 1984, she watched as her dad, James Huberty, left their apartment in San Ysidro, Calif., telling his 12-year-old daughter that he'd never be back. Then he drove 200 yards to a McDonald's and started shooting, killing 20 people and injuring 20 more before he was killed by a sniper's bullet. "If I could go back in time I probably would have killed my father before any of this would have occurred," Zelia Huberty tells Vocativ in her first interview in 30 years.

"I had a perfect view of it. I saw the car there. I saw everything. I saw people I knew, who I went to school with," she says. "I wasn't thinking anything that time, except, 'Better them than me.' I know that's a horrible thing to say, but as a 12-year-old, that's the sort of thing you think." For 12 weeks, she kept silent in mandated therapy sessions. She took on an assumed name in high school—an expert says families of mass shooters "often become demonized"—and for a time feared she would become just like her old man. But "I moved forward and proceeded with life," Huberty says. "I'm a nurse, so I help others. And that's been my own therapy." What advice does she have for Farook and Malik's daughter, whom Farook's sister is attempting to adopt, per the San Bernardino Sun? "I would tell that little girl: You have a choice to make. You can feel sorry for yourself or you can say, 'F*** It,' and move on. You’re not like them." (More mass shootings stories.)

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