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Police May Never Learn What Motivated Gunman : Massacre: Hennard was seen as reclusive, belligerent. Officials are looking into possibility he hated women.

October 18, 1991|J. MICHAEL KENNEDY and RICHARD A SERRANO | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

KILLEEN, Tex. — After more than a day of combing through every piece of evidence they could find, police Thursday said they may never know what caused an unemployed former Merchant Marine seaman to crash his pickup truck into a cafeteria here and then systematically kill 22 people, the deadliest shooting spree in the nation's history.

At the same time, a clearer picture began to emerge of George Jo Hennard, 35, a reclusive, belligerent man with an explosive temper who was drummed out of the Merchant Marine because of drug use. He was also painted by neighbors as a man who once stalked two young women who lived nearby, while police said they were also looking into the possibility that he hated women in general.

At a mid-afternoon press conference, Killeen Police Chief F. L. Giacomozzi said investigators had found no clues in the sprawling, 3,500-square foot home where Hennard lived in Belton, 15 miles from the slaying scene.

In addition to the 22 shot to death, 23 people were wounded in the rampage. At least 11 remained hospitalized Thursday, two in critical condition.

Wounded himself by police, Hennard put a 9-millimeter Glock 17 semiautomatic pistol to his head and killed himself.

Killeen, a town of 65,000 on the outskirts of Ft. Hood, in Central Texas, was in a state of shock Thursday. The death toll was more than twice as high as the 10 servicemen from Ft. Hood who died in combat in the Persian Gulf War.

Flags flew at half-staff. Counselors, clergy and volunteers tried to console residents. Luby's Cafeteria remained roped off, but spectators stopped and stared at the scene. Hennard's blue Ford pickup truck was removed before dawn.

Among the dead at Luby's were school administrators and educators, a veterinarian, a career military officer, a woman who was treating her daughter and granddaughter to lunch and a woman from Missouri in town for a wedding.

"The whos, whats and whys we may never be able to figure out," said Giacomozzi in what he said would be the last press conference on the slayings. "The reason we may never be able to find out is because Hennard is truly the only one who knows. He left behind nothing that we have found that would indicate he was going to do this."

However, police did clear up several details. Giacomozzi had said earlier that Hennard still had bullets in his pistol and that quick action by police had prevented him from emptying all of the cartridges in the clips of his two pistols. On Thursday, the police chief said that in fact all six clips for Hennard's two pistols were empty at the end of the rampage, indicating Hennard saved his last bullet for himself.

In a related issue, the police chief said the first policemen were on the scene one minute after the first call for help, contradicting statements by survivors that Hennard fired into the crowded cafeteria for 10 minutes before he shot himself. Giacomozzi also said that an autopsy was performed on Hennard at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas and that he was shot by police four times in the chest, fell to the floor, rolled on to his back, looked at the ceiling and, police said, shot himself in the head.

Giacomozzi said Hennard "had an evident problem with women for some reason" and noted that of the victims, 14 of them were females. He said the only type of written communication found in the house were "like notes you write to yourself." He did not elaborate, and also said that no drugs were found. Both guns, he said, were purchased last February and March in Henderson, Nev., and were registered with the Las Vegas police authorities.

In dozens of interviews with neighbors and other people who knew him, Hennard was almost universally described as a very difficult man who had spent much of his life wandering the world as a seaman. Two years ago, his Able-Bodied Seaman's card was revoked by the Coast Guard after a bag of marijuana was found in his possession while on board the Green Wave on a return trip to the United States from Asia.

He appealed the revocation, but it was upheld last February when officials noted "by his own admission" Hennard had been "addicted to marijuana for a 'long time" before being caught. The Coast Guard released Hennard's appeals documents Thursday, which stated that he had undergone voluntary drug treatment at St. Joseph Hospital in Houston. Hennard claimed in his appeal that an unnamed psychiatrist had testified "that there would not be any danger to the public interest in putting appellant back on the ship."

A spokeswoman for the hospital confirmed Thursday that Hennard had undergone treatment from July 14 to July 31, 1989.

"He came in voluntarily," said Ellen Durckel, the hospital spokeswoman. "He reported smoking one or two (marijuana cigarettes) a day. The care was basically routine. He was discharged on an outpatient basis. There was no indication (in his records) of the kind of behavior he exhibited (Wednesday)."

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