Incident Summary:

11/18/1978: Leo Ryan, a California Democrat, was shot while trying to leave Jonestown with a group of unhappy sect members. Ryan had initially gone to Guyana to investigate abuses of members of the “Peoples’ Temple,” founded by Reverend Jim Jones. After being threatened with a knife by one of the members, Ryan decided to cut his visit short. As he was boarding an aircraft to leave, reports claim that between 8 and 12 members of the cult were responsible for firing approximately 50 shots. The shots killed three American investigators traveling with Jones, as well as an 18-year-old American woman who was trying to leave. Larry John Leyton, a man posing as a defector, was the only person charged in America for involvement in the murder. Jones organized the murder of Ryan and members of his party in order to keep them from revealing the true conditions at Jonestown.




South America

region/u.s. state:


Port Kaitmu

Location Details:
The shooting took place at an airstrip at Port Kaituma, eight miles south of the settlement, and 150 miles northwest of Georgetown. It was located near the Venezuelan border.

Attack Information
Type of Attack (more) Assassination
Successful Attack? (more) Yes
Target Information (more)
Target Type: Government (General)
Name of Entity Representative of California
Specific Description Leo Ryan
Nationality of Target United States
Additional Information
Hostages No
Ransom No
Property Damage Yes
Extent of Property Damage Unknown
Value of Property Damage Unknown
Weapon Information
Type Sub-type
Firearms Rifle/Shotgun (non-automatic)
Additional Information
Suicide Attack?No
Part of Multiple Incident?No
Criterion 1 (more) Yes
Criterion 2 (more) Yes
Criterion 3 (more) Yes
Additional Information Larry John Leyton , the only person charged in America for the murder of Ryan, was told to pose as a fleeing Peoples Temple member, and to kill other defectors so an ambush squad could murder Ryan and his associates. Founder of Jonestown and the Peoples' Temple, and organizer of the conspiracy, Jim Jones, was said to have shot himself and thus could not be held accountable for the death of the congressmen, his associates, or the 912 sect members he poisoned.
Perpetrator Group Information
Group Name Claimed Responsibility
People's Temple No
Perpetrator Statistics
Number of Perpetrators 8
Number of Captured Perpetrators 9
Casualty Information
Total Number of Casualties 5 Fatalities / 0 Injured
Total Number of Fatalities 5
Number of U.S. Fatalities 5
Number of Perpetrator Fatalities 0
Total Number of Injured 0
Number of U.S. Injured 9
Number of Perpetrators Injured 0
The Associated Press and Reuter News Agency. “400 Bodies Are Found After Guyana Killings,” The Globe and Mail, November 20, 1978
Egelko, Bob. “ Lawyer: Layton a Scapegoat, Not Conspirator,” The Associated Press, November 19, 1986
MacLean, Pamela A. United Press International, November 20, 1986