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Youngster hides in dishwasher to escape gunman

By MARK LANGFORD

KILLEEN, Texas -- Mark Mathews made sure that he was not going to be another victim of the crazed gunman at Luby's Cafeteria.

The 19-year-old Luby's employee ducked inside the restaurant's large dishwashing machine when the shooting started at 12:40 p.m. Wednesday and stayed there the rest of the day and through the night until awakened by a police officer Thursday morning.

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'I'am happy, man, I'm happy to be here,' Mathews said Thursday.

Mathews said he was afraid to come out of the dishwasher because he did not know the gunman had killed himself. Even as police poured over the scene, Mathews said he heard voices but was not sure it was safe.

'I dozed off a couple of times but I tried to stay awake to see what was going on,' he said.

A Luby's manager found Mathews inside the dishwashing machine early Thursday and thought the youth was dead. He called another officer to take Mathews' pulse. Mathews recognized the officer from a lecture at his school.

'I said Officer Chapin I'm glad to see you.'

When 35-year-old George Hennard, an unemployed Belton man, drove his truck through the cafeteria window and began firing at patrons during the busy lunch hour, Mathews said he first thought some one had dropped some dishes.

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Later, he ran into the kitchen and got inside the washer from where he said he could hear the shots from Hennard's pistols.

'I stayed inside there just to be safe,' Mathews said. 'I knew I would have a better chance.'

Pete Erben, the chief executive officer of Luby's Cafeterias, said he and other officials knew Mathews was missing Wednesday night and that everyone was relieved when he was found safe Thursday morning.

'He (Mathews) said that was the place to avoid what was going on and he didn't feel secure enough to get out of there,' Erben said.

Mathews is a graduate of Ellis High School in Killeen and hopes to attend college next year.

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