San Ysidro Massacre/ Wrongful Death Penalty

Hosted byDave Schrader

San Ysidro Massacre/ Wrongful Death Penalty

About the show

On July 18, 1984, a killer walked into a McDonald's restaurant in San Ysidro, California, and committed one of the deadliest mass shootings in history. Filmmaker Charlie Minn has chronicled the tragic story of the victims as well as the brave survivors, some of whom used their own bodies to shield others from bullets. In the first half of the show, he joined Dave Schrader (email) to discuss the details of the horrific incident.

The murderer could not keep a job and blamed Mexican immigrants in the community for his plight, Minn explained, noting the shooting took place at a McDonald's only 200 yards from the killer's house. The day of the attack, he attended a court appointment, went to the zoo, and then back home, where he told his wife he was going to "hunt humans" and informed his daughter he would not be back, Minn continued.

Forty people were shot and 21 killed, he reported, revealing many of the victims were shot multiple times and some were infants—one victim was riddled 48 times with an Uzi, and an 8-month old was shot point blank in the back. The police arrived within five minutes but were somehow unable to end the deadly 77-minute standoff, Minn questioned. Eventually, the shooter was fatally shot by a sniper. Minn admitted he made his documentary to honor the victims. "The victims are the heroes here," he said.


On the High Plains of Texas, Johnny Frank Garrett, a 17-year-old mentally-challenged boy, was arrested, convicted, and ultimately executed for the 1981 Halloween night rape, mutilation, and murder of a nun while she slept in her room at the Convent. Garrett claimed his innocence from the time of his arrest until his dying breath. Sixteen years after Garrett's execution new evidence has emerged proving they executed the wrong man. During the latter half of the program, filmmaker Jesse Quackenbush spoke about Garrett's story as chronicled in his new documentary.

Garrett had the IQ of an 8-year-old, grew up in poverty, and was physically and sexually abused by various men that came into his mother's life, Quackenbush explained. He lived a block away from the crime scene, and the system was gamed against him from the beginning, he added. "It's almost as though it was all being set up to arrest this kid," Quackenbush said, noting Garrett also had an incompetent court-appointed attorney.

Hair samples found at the scene belonged to someone of African American heritage, not Garrett, and the most important evidence, the semen sample, was mysteriously lost. Quackenbush is convinced this missing evidence could have exonerated Garrett. He suggested the murder of Sister Tadea Benz was committed by violent Cuban refugees (part of the Mariel boatlift), as was a similar murder months earlier. "[Narnie Box Bryson] was raped, mutilated, and left in a crucifix position in exactly the way [Benz] was found," he reported. Quackenbush also spoke about a curse Garrett placed on those involved in his wrongful conviction and execution.

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