KILLEEN, Texas -- A gunman crashed a pickup truck into a cafeteria and opened fire on a lunchtime crowd Wednesday, killing 22 people and himself in the worst one-day shooting massacre in the nation's history, police said.
Witnesses said the unemployed Belton, Texas, man jumped from the truck inside Luby's Cafeteria, yelled at the customers and then walked around shooting people and reloading his Austrian-made 9mm Glock semi- automatic pistol.
Police identified the gunman as George Hennard, who celebrated his 35th birthday on Tuesday. Residents who knew Hennard in Belton, about 10 miles east of Killeen, said he had lived there about 10 years and was a veteran.
Hennard, described by a witness as 'nice looking, nice cut,' was later found dead in a restroom of Luby's where he had taken his own life.
Police Chief F.L. Giacomozzi said 23 people were killed, including the gunman, and 18 were wounded in the restaurant massacre at Killeen, an Army town of 60,000 about 60 miles north of Austin.
The restaurant was crowded with about 100 lunchtime diners when the blue Ford pickup truck smashed through the southside window, running over two people before coming to rest, a Luby's busboy said.
'I was comin' out the door, bringing out some trays, when a truck came drivin' through the window,' said busboy Shelton Smith. 'The guy jumped out of the truck and said 'This is what Bell County done for me.'
'He opened fire and as he opened fire the guy that he ran over with the truck was trying to get up and he shot him and he pointed towards the (cafeteria) line where the servers was and he started shootin' down the line,' Smith said.
The servers on the cafeteria line ducked and ran out a back door, he said.
Smith said the gunman was a white man in his 30s, 'nice looking, nice cut.'
'He was just randomly walking across the restaurant,' another witness said. 'You could see he had the gun down just shooting people. He had an automatic. Just as fast as he could pull the trigger, he was shooting people.'
The witness crouched beneath a table with several other people.
'We weren't going to look out from under the table. We were underneath the table just trying to keep from getting hit,' another witness said.
A diner, Jackie Pleasant, 18, said Hennard stared at her as she huddled under a table before he shot a fellow school district employee in the head only a few feet away.
'The man jumped out of the pickup, and said this is what Belton made me do. Is it worth it? Is it worth it? And then he shot about eight people, and then he started shooting around in a circle and the circle got bigger and bigger,' Pleasant said.
Giacomozzi said had it not been for the proximity of three undercover officers to the scene when the call was received there would have been more deaths.
'If they had not arrived it is probable that the shooting of civilians would have continued and more people would have been killed,' he said. 'He wasn't out of bullets when the officers arrived.'
When the officers stormed inside, there was an exchange of gunfire, but the gunman retreated to the restroom and killed himself, the chief said.
Giacomozzi released the identities of eight victims. He said said 14 females and eight males were killed.
The Army sent in a medical team from nearby Fort Hood. Helicopters ferried the wounded to area hospitals.
Darnell Army Hospital at Fort Hood had 12 patients, two of them in critical condition. The other six injured were taken to Metroplex Hospital in Killeen and Scott and White Hospital in Temple, officials confirmed.
Metroplex Hospital said one woman locked herself in a freezer at the cafeteria when the shooting started. She was being treated for exposure.
One customer, reportedly a soldier, broke out a northside window of the cafeteria and allowed 15 people to flee the gunman's bullets.
Luby's chief executive officer Pete Erben flew to Killeen along with other senior management personnel who expressed their sympathy over the tragedy and offered their help to survivors and families of victims.
The previous worst one-day slaughter in U.S. history occurred July 18, 1984, when James O. Huberty, 41, opened fire at the bordertown McDonald's restaurant in San Ysidro, Calif., fatally shooting 21 people.
Huberty, an unemployed security guard, stormed the crowded restaurant with an Uzi semi-automatic rifle and pistol. Nineteen people also were wounded before a police sharpshooter killed Huberty.
It was the worst mass killing in Texas since sniper Charles Whitman perched on the 27th floor of the University of Texas tower on Aug. 1, 1966, killing 16 people and wounding 31 others.