Huffpost Crime

Sam Wink, Mass Murder Witness: 'He Just Started Shooting People Point-Blank'

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A news clipping featuring Sam Wink's story.
A news clipping featuring Sam Wink's story.

In March, The Huffington Post began talking to teens and adults throughout the U.S. about their experiences with gun violence. This is one individual's story. You can read others here.

In 1991, a mass murderer killed 23 people at a Luby’s cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, before shooting himself. It was the deadliest shooting in American history for 16 years, until it was exceeded by the death tolls at Virginia Tech and, later, Newtown, Conn. Sam Wink, a former school district administrator, was there.

I remember quite a bit about that day ... it didn’t go away, seems like, sometimes. It was Oct. 16, 1991, and it was Bosses’ Day, you know, that’s the day you’re supposed to treat your boss to lunch and all that. And so the cafeteria was completely packed at the time, and I remember we got seated at a large round table about, oh, a third of the way into the restaurant. It had a really large glass window in front, like the whole front of the cafeteria was glass.

It was probably five or six minutes after we’d been seated, there was a uniformed police officer who’d been eating lunch, well, he got up and left. It wasn’t five or six minutes after that that the pickup drove through the plate glass window in front. It came to rest probably 10 feet from our table or so. And I thought that he had probably suffered a heart attack, the driver had, and just lost control and hit the gas instead of the brake and drove through the window. I was going to get up and see if I could be of any help to him and about that time he stuck a pistol out the window and started firing. I said, whoops, this is not the case.

When he got out, you could tell he had several clips. We were lucky back then that they didn’t have a 30-clip ammo. All they had were like the 9-clip, and the 9-millimeters, and the Glocks. He could change a clip pretty quickly, but not as fast as you could if you were shooting a 30-round clip. He had two weapons, and he just started shooting people dead point-blank, you know? And screaming and hollering about things that happened to him and he was upset about. So before it was all over, he’d killed 23 people. Or was it 24?

There was one person at our table who was killed, and another person he thought he had shot. Where we were sitting, there was kind of a round atrium that had some plants and stuff in it, and they had hidden in those plants and they were kind of laying head-to-head. Well, he shot one, and the blood spattered on the other person -- he thought he killed both of them. That’s the only way she survived. And she came out screaming, and had blood all over herself.

I was a school district administrator at that time, and we had our bosses there. I guess a third of the cafeteria, maybe more than that, was school district employees. And so we lost five or six school district employees that day. He shot point-blank range, you know, just within two feet of you, he pulled the trigger.

And they had rumors that another one’s going to strike an elementary school, and how the rumors grow, you know, but he was the only one, and he was by himself. He was just mad at the world and he snapped. So he really ... he chose mostly women. Why, I think he just hated women, I guess, I don’t know. The only person he let go was a woman holding a baby, a little tiny baby, maybe six months old or something like that, maybe a year at the most. And he said, “Take the goddamn baby and get out of here, lady,” and that was the only person he let go.

It was devastating. People just ... it was hard to talk about it, you know. All these people ... it was a smaller town. Killeen, Texas, is home of Ft. Hood, the largest military base in the world. But it’s really a small community, you know, because everybody knows everybody that’s not military, and half the military wives, they teach schools.

It’s still vivid, it still is. A lot of times I like to sit with my back to the wall in a restaurant. I’m not actually paranoid, but cautious. Everybody said, well, if we had some guns in there, we could have gotten him. No, you wouldn’t have, it would have been mass chaos in there if that had happened. Especially one lady who was a big NRA member was in there, “Oh, I’d have killed him, I’d have shot him, my gun was in the car, I wasn’t allowed to bring it in, I’d have killed him.” Yeah, you’d have killed him. You’d probably have killed me in the act trying to shoot him.

As told to Ariel Edwards-Levy.

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Gunman Kills 22 and Himself in Texas Cafeteria - New York Times