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McDonald's survivor says police could have saved lives

SAN DIEGO -- A survivor of the McDonald's massacre, disputing police accounts that all the killing was done in the first five minutes, says there were 'bullets whistling by me, at other people, one hour or so later.'

Ronald Herrera, 33, Monday became the fourth person to dispute police accounts that mass killer James Huberty shot virtually all his victims in the first salvo of what turned into a standoff that lasted more than an hour.

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Herrera said the police SWAT team should have attacked Huberty sooner. A police sniper finally killed the gunman about 73 minutes after he entered the restaurant in suburban San Ysidro.

The police, Herrera said, should have risked killing innocent people in an effort to take Huberty out because, 'so many people died anyway.

'I got shot in the first 15 minutes and again 45 minutes later,' Herrera, 33, told the San Diego Union in an interview from his hospital bed in Santa Ana, Calif.

'There were bullets whistling by me, at other people, one hour or so later.'

On July 18, Huberty, 41, an unemployed gun fancier who told his wife he was going 'hunting for humans' shortly before the slaughter, blasted away with three weapons in the restaurant for more than an hour. He killed 21 people and wounded 19 others.

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Six hours after Huberty was drilled through the chest by a SWAT team marksman, Police Cmdr. Larry Gore told newsmen the killer 'shot all the people the moment he went in -- in the first five minutes.'

'No way, no way,' said Herrera, who was wounded in the neck, chest, abdomen, stomach, buttocks and shoulder.

He remained conscious throughout the massacre, which left his wife, Blythe, and their 11-year-old son, Matao, dead.

'Up until the time that the SWAT team entered the restaurant, there were people alive who you could hear moaning. He was shooting people up to the point that he was killed,' Herrera said.

'It took too long for the SWAT team. It was a major error in their chain of command, I think. I just think that in this day and age they should have acted sooner.'

Herrera's account paralleled those of survivors Guadalupe del Rio and Oscar Mondragon of Tijuana, Mexico, and Alberto Leos of Chula Vista, Calif., who said Huberty was shooting people for about 40 minutes.

The survivors said the killer went from table to table, sipping soft drinks and dancing to music from a portable radio, between bursts of gunfire, mainly from his 9-mm Uzi semiautomatic rifle.

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San Diego County Coroner David Stark concluded that most of those fatally shot had little chance of living through the gunfire -- even if rescued sooner -- since 13 had been shot in the head, seven in the chest and one in the back.

Dick Starmann, spokesman for McDonald's corporate headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill., said Monday it has yet to be decided if the massacre site willbe turned into a memorial to the victims.

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