University of Texas Tower Shooting
|University of Texas Tower Shooting|
Main building of the University of Texas
|Location||University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, U.S.|
|Date||August 1, 1966
Stabbing: c. 12:15 a.m. – 3:00 a.m.
Shooting: 11:48 a.m. – 1:24 p.m. (UTC-06:00)
|School shooting, mass shooting, familicide, matricide, uxoricide, mass murder, stabbing|
|Deaths||18 (including Whitman)|
On August 1, 1966, Charles Whitman, a former Marine sharpshooter, took rifles and other weapons to the observation deck atop the Main Building tower at The University of Texas at Austin, then opened fire on random persons on the surrounding campus and streets. Over the next 96 minutes he shot and killed fourteen people and injured thirty-one others. The incident ended when police reached Whitman and shot him dead.
Before going to the campus Whitman had killed his mother and wife. It has been suggested that his violent impulses, with which he had been struggling for years, were due to a small tumor found in his brain on autopsy.
Charles Whitman, 25, was studying architectural engineering. Whitman was extremely intelligent; at the age of six, he scored 139 on an IQ test.:6 At twelve years old he became the youngest person to become an Eagle Scout.:6 He joined the Marines after high school, and earned a Sharpshooter’s Badge, Good Conduct medal, and Marine Corps Expedition medal.:19
In 1961 he was admitted to the University of Texas at Austin on a scholarship from the Naval Enlisted Science Education Program.:19 While at UT, Whitman met and married his wife, Kathleen. Whitman struggled with gambling and bad grades, and he lost his scholarship in 1963. Before the attack, Whitman had sought professional help for "overwhelming violent impulses" including fantasies about shooting people from the tower. A small brain tumor found after his death may or may not have been the cause of these impulses.
Timeline of events
Murders of Margaret and Kathy Whitman
Whitman killed his mother Margaret Whitman, and his wife Kathleen Leissner Whitman,:53 between midnight and 3:00 a.m. on August 1. In a note he professed his love for both women, saying he had killed them to spare them future humiliation.
Later that morning, Whitman rented a hand truck and cashed $250 (equivalent to $1,800 in 2016) worth of bad checks at a bank. He then drove to a hardware store, where he purchased a Universal M1 carbine, two additional ammunition magazines and eight boxes of ammunition, telling the cashier he planned to hunt wild hogs.:32 At a gun shop he purchased four further carbine magazines, six additional boxes of ammunition, and a can of gun cleaning solvent, and at Sears he purchased a Sears Model 60 12 gauge semi-automatic shotgun before returning home.
Whitman sawed off the barrel and butt stock of the shotgun, then packed it into his footlocker along with a Remington 700 6-mm bolt-action hunting rifle, a .35-caliber pump rifle, a .30-caliber carbine (M1), a 9-mm Luger pistol, a Galesi-Brescia .25-caliber pistol, a Smith & Wesson M19 .357 Magnum revolver, and over 700 rounds of ammunition. He also packed food, coffee, vitamins, Dexedrine, Excedrin, earplugs, jugs of water, matches, lighter fluid, rope, binoculars, a machete, three knives, a transistor radio, toilet paper, a razor, and a bottle of deodorant.:31 He put khaki coveralls on over his shirt and jeans.:28
Whitman arrives on campus
At approximately 11:25 a.m.,:31 Whitman reached the University of Texas at Austin, where he showed false research assistant identification to obtain a parking permit.:31 Whitman wheeled his equipment toward the Main Building of the University.:29 Entering the Main Building, Whitman found the elevator didn't work. An employee activated it for him; Whitman thanked her, saying: "You don't know how happy that makes me.":32
Exiting the elevator on the 27th floor he hauled the dolly and equipment up a flight of stairs to a hallway, from which another flight led to the rooms skirted by the observation deck.:126 There he encountered receptionist Edna Townsley.
- Persons killed or injured on the University campus
|Edna Elizabeth Townsley||51||F||K||Observation deck receptionist||Whitman knocked Townsley to the floor and split the back of her skull with his rife butt, then struck her above the left eye before dragging her behind a couch. As Cheryl Botts and Don Walden entered the reception area from the observation deck, Walden noticed Whitman's guns and assumed that he was going to the observation deck to shoot pigeons. Whitman smiled, "Hi, how are you?" as they went down to the elevator.:128-9 He then pushed a desk across the entrance from the stairway.:30
M.J. Gabour, his wife Mary Frances Gabour, and their sons Mike and Mark were in Austin visiting M.J.'s sister Marguerite Lamport and her husband William Lamport . Around 11:45 am they were climbing the stairs from the 27th floor when they encountered the desk Whitman had placed in the entrance to the reception area. As Mike and Mark squeezed past, Whitman came forward and fired his shotgun, hitting Mike in the shoulder and Mark in the head, then fired down the stairs, striking Marguerite and Mary Frances. M.J. and William, further down the stairs, were not hit and went for help at Mike's urging. Whitman then shot Townsley in the head before exiting to the observation deck.:135
Mike Gabour's injuries left him unable to complete his Air Force training, and Mary Frances was left paralyzed from the neck down and legally blind.
|Mike Gabour||19||M||I||Cadet, US Air Force Academy|
|Martin (Mark) Gabour||16||M||K||High school student|
|Mary Frances Gabour||F||I|
|Claire Wilson||18||F||I||Student||At 11:48 a.m. Whitman began shooting from the observation deck 231 feet (70 m) above the ground, targeting people on the campus and on a section of Guadalupe Street known as the Drag, which was home to coffee shops, bookstores, and other student hangouts.
Wilson was the first person Whitman shot from the tower. She and Eckman were leaving the Student Union when Wilson, eight months pregnant, was shot in the abdomen at 11:47 am; her baby was killed. As Eckman went to her aid he was shot in the chest and died instantly. Passerby Rita Star Pattern lay next to Wilson, and for an hour comforted her and kept her conscious. Eventually James Love and John "Artly" Fox rescued[further explanation needed] them. Wilson spent three months in the hospital.
|Baby Boy Wilson||M||K||Unborn child|
|Thomas Frederick Eckman||18||M||K||Student|
|Robert Hamilton Boyer||33||M||K||Mathematician||Boyer, the third person shot from the tower, was struck in the lower back. Huffman was shot next, in the arm, and fell to the ground feigning death. Secretary Charlotte Darehshori came under fire as she ran to help Boyer and Huffman; she took refuge behind a concrete flagpole for an hour and a half and was not injured.|
|Devereau Huffman||31||M||I||PhD student|
|David Mattson||22||M||I||Peace Corps volunteers||Mattson, Ehlke, and Herman were walking to lunch when a bullet blew off part of Mattson's wrist. Ehlke was struck in the arm by shrapnel, then in the leg by a bullet when he left cover to bring Mattson to safety. Kelley was shot in the leg while helping Mattson, Ehlke, and Herman into his shop.:177-8 Ashton was shot in the chest on his way to meet Mattson and Ehlke for lunch.|
|Thomas Aquinas Ashton||22||M||K|
|Homer J. Kelley||64||M||I||Shopkeeper|
|Nancy Harvey||21||F||I||Student||Harvey and Evganides, were leaving the tower for lunch when they heard shots. They returned inside, where a guard told them it was safe to leave again. About 100 yards from the tower Harvey was shot in the hip; Evganides was struck in the left leg by the richocet of the same shot.|
|Ellen Evganides||F||I||UT employee|
|Aleck Hernandez||17||M||I||High school students||Hernandez was shot in the leg around 11:45 am while delivering newspapers on his bicycle near the West Mall entrance. Soon after, Griffith was shot in shoulder and chest and her right lung was pierced; she died seven days later. Karr was hit in the spine while coming to Griffith's aid.|
|Thomas Ray Karr||24||M||K||Student|
|David Hubert Gunby||23||M||K||Student||About 11:55 am Gunby was returning to the library for a forgotten book when a shot passed through his upper left arm and entered his abdomen, severing his small intestine. The Littlefields, married nine days, were leaving the tower when Brenda was shot in the hip; Adrian was struck in the back as he bent over her. After some time all three were rescued by an armored car which had been pressed into service to reach the injured.
During surgery it was discovered that Gunby had only one functioning kidney to begin with, which had now been severely damaged; he was in great pain for the rest of his life. In 2001 he died one week after discontinuing dialysis. His death was ruled a homicide.
|Claudia Rutt||18||F||K||Student||Rutt and her boyfriend Sonntag had just run into Wheeler, a friend, when they heard shots. They took refuge behind a construction barricade but nonetheless Whitman hit Sonntag in the mouth, killing him instantly.:171 Rutt tried to reach Sonntag as Wheeler restrained her; a shot passed through Wheeler's left hand and struck Rutt in the chest. Sonntag's grandfather, KTBC-TV news director Paul Bolton, learned of Sonntag's death as victims' names were read on the air that day.|
|Paul Bolton Sonntag||18||M||K||Student|
|Carla Sue Wheeler||18||F||I||Student|
|Roy Dell Schmidt||29||M||K||Electrician||Schmidt took cover with others behind his car some 500 yards from the tower, but after about 30 minutes stood up in the belief they were out of range, and was immediately shot in the abdomen.:173 He was the fatality farthest from the tower.|
|Billy Paul Speed||24||M||K||Police officer||At 12:08 pm Speed was with another officer and others behind decorative balusters on the South Mall when he was shot through a gap in the masonry. He died soon after at the hospital.|
|Harry Walchuk||38||M||K||PhD student||About noon Walchuk was leaving a magazine store on Guadalupe when he was shot in the chest.|
|Billy Snowden||35||M||I||Basketball coach||Snowden, believing himself out of range, was struck in the shoulder while standing in a barbershop doorway. At over 500 yards, he was the victim furthest from the tower.|
|Sandra Wilson||21||F||I||Student||Wilson was shot in the chest on Guadalupe Street.|
|Abdul Khashab||M||I||Student||Khashab, an exchange student from Iraq, and Paulos, his fiancée, were shot near Guadalupe and 24th St.|
|Lana Phillips||21||F||I||Student||Phillips believed she was out of range but was shot in the shoulder.|
|Oscar Royvela||21||M||I||Student||Royvela and Garia, his girlfriend, were shot near Hogg Auditorium. Students Jack Stephens and Jack Pennington dragged them both to safety.|
|Avelino Esparza||26||M||I||Carpenter||A shot struck Avelino's left arm near the shoulder, shattering the bone. His brother and uncle dragged him to safety.|
|John Scott Allen||18||M||I||Student||Allen was looking at the tower through a window of the Student Union when a bullet struck the window, followed by a second shot which severed an artery in his right forearm.|
|Morris Hohman||30||M||I||Funeral director||Hohman was using his business' ambulance to take victims to the hospital when he was shot in his right leg at the corner of 23rd and Guadalupe. He later recalled, "I laid there for about forty to forty-five minutes ... listening to two construction workers arguing about who was going to expose themselves to recover me."|
|F.L. Foster||M||I||Foster and Frede were wounded in the cross fire.[further explanation needed]|
|Della Martinez||F||I||Della and Marina Martinez, visiting from Monterrey, Mexico, were both wounded by shell fragments.[further explanation needed]|
|Delores Ortega||30||F||I||Student||Ortega suffered a cut on the back of her head either from flying glass or a direct hit.|
|C.A. Stewart||I||Stewart was not shot but was injured in the commotion.|
Some mistook the sound of shots for the noise from a nearby construction site, or that persons falling to the ground were part of a theater group or an anti-war protest. One victim recalled that as she lay bleeding a passerby reprimanded her and told her to "Get up." Among those who grasped the situation, many risked their lives to take the wounded to safety. An armored car and ambulances from local funeral homes were used to reach the wounded.
Four minutes after Whitman began shooting from the tower, a history professor was the first to telephone the Austin Police Department, at 11:52 a.m.:38 Patrolman Billy Speed, one of the first officers to arrive, took refuge with a colleague behind a columned stone wall. Whitman shot through the six-inch space between the columns of the wall and killed Speed.
Officer Houston McCoy, 26, heard of the shooting on his radio. As he looked for a way into the tower, a student offered to help, saying he had a rifle at home. McCoy drove the student to his home to retrieve the rifle.
Allen Crum, a 40-year-old retired Air Force tail gunner, was a manager at the University Book Store Co-Op. Across the street he saw a 17-year-old newspaper boy being dragged and went to break up what he thought was a fight. Learning the boy had been shot, and hearing more shots, Crum rerouted street traffic out of harm's way. Unable to make his way back to the store safely, he then made his way to the tower, where he offered to help the police. Inside the tower, he accompanied Department of Public Safety Agent Dub Cowan and Austin Police Officer Jerry Day up the elevator; Cowan provided Crum with a rifle.:176
Around noon, Officer Ramiro "Ray" Martinez was off duty at home when he heard about the attack on the news. Having called the police station, he was instructed to go to the campus and direct traffic. Once there he found other officers already doing that, so he went to the tower. He assumed he would find a team of officers there, but when he reached the 27th floor he found only Cowan, Crum, and Day.
Officers attempting to reach the tower were forced to move slowly and take cover often, but a small group of officers including Houston McCoy began making their way to the tower via underground maintenance tunnels.  Officers and other persons shot at Whitman from the ground with small weapons and hunting rifles, forcing Whitman to stay low and fire through storm drains at the foot of the observation deck's wall. A police sharpshooter in a small plane was driven back by Whitman's return fire but continued to circle at a distance to distract Whitman and limit his freedom to choose targets.:38
Martinez, Crum, and Day searched the 27th floor, where they found M. J. Gabour; Day removed him. Martinez started up the stairs to the observation deck, and Crum insisted on covering him, asking Martinez to deputize him first.:39
Beneath the stairwell leading to the reception area, Martinez found Marguerite Lamport, Mark Gabour, Mike Gabour, and Mary Gabour. Mike Gabour gestured to the observation deck, saying: "He's out there.":39
Martinez reached the observation deck first. He told Crum to remain at the door. McCoy and Day reached the observation deck a few minutes later. Day, after helping M. J. Gabour, had returned to the 27th floor. He realized Martinez had gone up to the observation deck and told McCoy. Around 1:24 p.m. Martinez and McCoy rounded the northeastern corner of the observation deck. Martinez fired on Whitman with his revolver, missing, and McCoy hit Whitman twice with his shotgun, which Martinez took from him, having emptied his own weapon, and fired a final shot at point-blank range. In the immediate aftermath, Martinez was nearly shot himself by those on the ground, who did not yet realize that Whitman was dead.:124, 214-5
Legacy and memorials
Martinez and McCoy were awarded Medals of Valor by the city of Austin.
Following the shootings the tower observation deck was closed. The various bullet holes were repaired and the tower was reopened in 1968. It was closed again in 1975 following four suicides.:289 After a stainless steel lattice and other security features were installed, it was again reopened in 1999, but only to by-appointment guided tours, and all visitors are screened by metal detectors.
In 2006 a Memorial Garden was dedicated to those who died or were otherwise affected. A monument listing the names of the victims was added in 2016 on the shootings' fiftieth anniversary; the tower’s clock was stopped for 24 hours beginning at 11:48 a.m. The day was declared by the City of Austin as "Ramiro Martinez Day".
In 2008 the following names—officers and civilians who helped stop Whitman—were added to a plaque on an Austin police precinct building.
- Officer Billy Paul Speed
- Officer Phillip Conner
- Officer Jerry Day
- Lt. Marion Lee
- Officer Ramiro Martinez
- Officer Houston McCoy
- Officer Harold Moe
- Officer George Shepard
- Officer Milton Shoquist
- Department of Public Safety Agent W.A. Cowan
- Jim Boutwell
- Allen Crum
- Frank Holder
- William Wilcox
In popular culture
- Peter Bogdanovich's 1968 film Targets features a character based on Charles Whitman and the UT Tower Shooting.
- In the 1987 film Full Metal Jacket, the character of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman praises Whitman's marksmanship, along with that of Lee Harvey Oswald, emphasizing that they were both former Marines.
- Charles Whitman is mentioned in the 1994 film Natural Born Killers.
- In the 1991 film Slacker, the character of the "Old Anarchist", played by Louis Mackey, retired professor from the University of Texas at Austin, laments that he missed the shooting because his wife had sent him on an errand that day to the opposite side of the town.
- The 2016 film Tower is an animated documentary about the event.
- The 1975 television film The Deadly Tower featured Kurt Russell as Whitman. McCoy filed a lawsuit over the movie, alleging it portrayed him as a coward. The suit was eventually thrown out of court and McCoy ordered to pay the the fees of the opposing attorney.
- The Mad Men episode "Signal 30" references the UT tower shooting.
- The case was revisited by Investigation Discovery's series A Crime to Remember in 2014 (Season 2 Episode 4, "The 28th Floor").
- Harry Chapin's song "Sniper" was inspired by the UT tower shooting.
- Singer, humorist, and politician Kinky Friedman wrote a song about the shooting called "The Ballad of Charles Whitman."
- Insane Clown Posse's song "The Tower", from their 2007 album The Tempest, was inspired by the events.
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