SAN DIEGO -- Mass murderer James Huberty tried to get help from a mental health clinic one day before he killed 21 people in the McDonald's massacre but refused to state the nature of his problem, police disclosed Thursday.
Huberty, the day before his tragic shooting attack, asked for an appointment from the San Ysidro Health Center's mental health unit and was told officials would get back in touch with him, Police Chief Bill Kolender said.
But the next day, the unemployed security guard killed 21 people and wounded 19 in a McDonald's restaurant in San Ysidro, San Diego's Mexican border community. It was the worst mass murder by a single gunman in American history.
Kolender disclosed the results of a one-week police department inquiry into the July 18 bloodbath at a crowded news conference Thursday.
He said Huberty had contacted the health center July 17 and was put in contact with the mental health unit. Due to a clerical error, his name was recorded as 'Suberty.'
Huberty requested an appointment and was told the clinic would contact him in one or two days, Kolender said.
According to the police official, Huberty refused to discuss the nature of his problem and limited himself to saying he had not been hospitalized for it, was not taking medication nor was currently under treatment.
The next day, 'a woman who said she was Huberty's wife called the National City Health Center and said her husband had guns and was going to kill someone. She was told to call police. She did not call police,' Kollender said.
Police and county mental health authorities were looking into the National City Health Center's failure to report Mrs. Huberty's call to police.
Kolender also admitted being stung by the criticism from some survivors, some of whom were wounded, that police acted too slowly in the incident. It was 73 minutes from the first report of the shootings until a SWAT marksman dropped Huberty.
But Kolender said all the killings happened within the first 15 minutes and the police sniper who downed Huberty had the first open and safe shot at the gunman.
'Huberty was taken down in judicious time, given the circumstances,' Kolender said. 'I believe the operation was handled the way it should have been handled.'
The police report said Huberty drank soft drinks, listened to rock music on a portable radio and threw french fries at one of his victims as he systematically carried out the slaughter.
The report said fired a total of only five rounds while Huberty fired a total of 245 9-mm rounds from his Browning pistol and semiautomatic Uzi rifle. He also fired 12 12-gauge shotgun rounds.
Some of the Uzi rounds were test-fired and penetrated an 18-layer police protective vest, the report said.
'Huberty belonged to no organizations advocating violence and his act was that of a demented, mentally unbalanced man bent on murder and self-destruction,' it said.
'Once inside the restaurant he began systematically and without warning to shoot and kill people. This continued up to 30 minutes with breaks in between to drink soft drinks, shoot at arriving police officers, and spray bullets indiscriminantly throughout the building.'
Kolender said it would have been 'ludicrous' for police to storm the restaurant.
'Nine people walked out with no injuries and 11 were taken out wounded and they survived ... Also, we would have had some dead cops. If police had overreacted, in my opinion, many innocent people could have been killed.'
He said police could not get a clear shot because the windows had been spider-webbed by bullet punctures, making visibility difficult.
'When he heard moaning, and saw eyes open, he did shoot,' Kolender said, adding that Huberty threw french fries at one wounded woman before shooting her again.
He conceded that the SWAT team was slowed by afternoon rush-hour traffic.
In addition to the weapons, Huberty had brought a portable radio to the restaurant that contained a tape deck and a cartridge entitled 'Heartbeat City,' by The Cars, the police report said.