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Outcry From San Ysidro : Cox Cable Scrubs Program on Massacre

Times Staff Writer

San Diego’s largest cable company, under pressure from community leaders in San Ysidro, has agreed to black out tonight’s Home Box Office documentary, “Acts of Violence,” which in part examines the July 18 massacre at a McDonald’s restaurant in San Ysidro.

“We’re not going to run it, primarily out of respect for the people massacred and for their relatives and friends,” said Robert McRann, vice president and general manager for Cox Cable, which provides service to San Ysidro.

“Acts of Violence,” scheduled to air at 10 o’clock tonight, is part of HBO’s documentary series “America Undercover.”

Cox will not air any program on the HBO channel during the time the program was scheduled. Instead the screen will carry a message saying why the program is not being shown, according to a Cox customer service representative.

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Tom Tanno, a spokesman for HBO, said the documentary focuses on the psychological and sociological aspects of three violent crimes in America’s history--including the San Ysidro massacre, in which James Huberty killed 21 and wounded 15 in a McDonald’s restaurant. Huberty was killed by a police sharpshooter.

The program includes news footage of the massacre and interviews with Huberty’s widow, Etna, and her children.

“I don’t think it’s going to do anything but cause people anguish,” said Paul Clark, president of the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce. “It’s an insult and a slap in the face to the City of San Diego and County of San Diego. I don’t think it’s going to help people. Enough is enough.”

Bertha Alicia Gonzalez, publisher of Ahora Now, a San Ysidro community newspaper, said, “The community is up in arms.

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“In all respects--survivors and relatives cannot overcome their suffering if it is rehashed over and over.”

“We have a great opposition” to the documentary, Gonzalez said. “A lot of people are still hurting. A year from now we may be able to cope with it (the documentary), not now. It’s very painful.”

Cox Cable’s McRann said that “there’s nothing to be gained” from carrying the documentary. “We do have the legal right to be able to delete programs,” he said, adding that such deletion is rare. The last time Cox deleted a program was in 1977, he said.

“We very, very rarely do this sort of thing. It isn’t anything we do lightly,” McRann said.

McRann said Cox received calls from viewers from all areas it services in San Diego County expressing concern over the program.

Cox serves 255,000 customers in the cities of San Diego, La Mesa, El Cajon, Lemon Grove, Poway, Santee, Chula Vista, National City, Imperial Beach and other areas of the county.

Tom Rackerby, president of Southwestern Cable, the next largest cable company in San Diego, said Southwestern will run the documentary but will add viewer discretion advisories on the content of the program.

“Our primary concern is that people should be aware that the program might contain graphic material,” Rackerby said.

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He added that because of the media’s coverage of the program, “There’s probably going to be a lot of viewer interest. “It’s a strange situation--I understand the concerns of the folks in San Ysidro.

“Whether or not people have cable TV, they have a channel knob. If they choose to watch it and be offended, that’s a personal choice,” Rackerby added.

Southwestern serves 88,000 customers in an area generally defined as north of Interstate 8 and west of Interstate 15.

The other two segments of the one-hour show examine accused serial murderer Henry Lee Lucas and Arthur Bremer, who in 1972 shot and paralyzed Alabama Gov. George Wallace. The documentary is scheduled to be aired nationwide several times this month.


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