After killing his mother and wife, went to the top of
the University clock tower after the lunch break and began to pick off
the stragglers who remained.
3 police and one retired Air Force Tailgunner found their way into the
Tower, where they shot him 6 times with a .38, and twice in the face
with a 12-gauge shotgun from 5 feet away.
Charles Joseph Whitman (June 24, 1941 –
August 1, 1966) was a student at the University of Texas at Austin
who shot and killed 14 people (including those who survived the
initial shooting but later died as a result of their injuries) and
wounded 31 others from the observation deck of the University's Main
Building of The University of Texas at Austin on August 1, 1966,
after murdering his wife and mother, and before being shot by
The autopsy requested in the suicide note left by
Whitman revealed that he had a brain tumor. This has led to speculation
that the tumor was responsible for his rampage.
A widely released image, of Charles Whitman on a
family vacation holding two rifles.The eldest of three brothers raised
on South L Street in Lake Worth, Florida, Whitman, who had scored 138 on
an IQ test at the age of 6, attended St. Ann's High School in Palm Beach,
where he was a pitcher on the school's baseball team. He also took five
years of piano lessons.
All three brothers served as altar boys at Sacred
Heart Roman Catholic Church, and Whitman chose the Confirmation name
Joseph for himself. As a 12-year-old, he was among the youngest ever to
achieve Eagle Scout, to his father's delight.
When Whitman was 14 and still serving as an altar
boy, his Scout leader Joseph Leduc completed seminary and served as the
priest of Sacred Heart for a month. Leduc, later a confidant of Whitman,
was a family friend who had accompanied Whitman and his father on
several hunting trips. At the age of 16, Whitman underwent a routine
appendectomy and was hospitalized following a motorcycle accident.
The wedding of Kathy Leissner and Charles
WhitmanAgainst his father's wishes, Whitman joined the Marines on July
6, 1959. He explained to Fr. Leduc that he had come home drunk several
weeks earlier and his father had hit him repeatedly and pushed him into
the family's swimming pool.
While Whitman was aboard a train headed towards
Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, his father telephoned "some
branch of Federal Government" to have his son's enlistment cancelled,
but was rebuffed.
Following his enlistment, Whitman was accepted into
the University of Texas' mechanical engineering program on September 15,
1961 through a USMC scholarship. His hobbies at this point included
karate, scuba diving, and hunting. This last hobby got him into trouble
at the University, when he was involved in a "teenage prank" in which he
shot a deer, dragged it to his dormitory, and skinned it in his shower.
As a result of both this incident and sub-standard grades, Whitman's
scholarship was withdrawn in 1963.
In August 1962, Whitman married Kathleen Frances
Leissner, another University of Texas student, in a wedding that was
held in Kathy's hometown of Needville, Texas, but presided over by Fr.
The following year, he returned to active duty at
Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where he was both
promoted to Lance Corporal and involved in an accident in which his Jeep
rolled over an embankment. After rescuing his pinned comrade, Whitman
was hospitalized for four days.
That November, Whitman was court-martialed for
gambling, possessing a personal firearm on base, and threatening another
Marine over a $30 loan for which Whitman demanded $15 interest. He was
sentenced to 30 days of confinement and 90 days of hard labor and was
demoted to the rank of Private.
In December 1964, Whitman was honorably discharged
from the Marines and returned to the University of Texas, this time
enrolling in its architectural engineering program. Now lacking his
scholarship, Whitman worked first as a bill collector for Standard
Finance Company and later as a bank teller at Austin National Bank.
By 1965, he had taken a temporary job with Central
Freight Lines and worked as a traffic surveyor for the Texas Highway
Department. He also volunteered as a Scoutmaster for Austin Scout Troop
5, while Kathy worked as a biology teacher at Lanier High School.
The Whitman family had a long history of
dysfunctionality. By 1966, Whitman's mother Margaret had announced she
was divorcing his father. Whitman drove to Florida to help his mother
move to Austin, Texas, where she found work in a cafeteria. The move
prompted his youngest brother John to move out, as well. Meanwhile, his
brother Patrick decided to continue living with their father, whose
plumbing business employed him.
Whitman's father began to telephone Whitman several
times a week, pleading with him to convince his mother to give the
marriage another try, but Whitman refused.
Shortly afterwards, John was arrested for throwing a
rock through a window and released after paying a $25 fine.
Whitman's daily journal.In 1966, Whitman discussed
his depression with the University's doctor, Jan Cochrun, who prescribed
Valium and recommended he visit campus psychiatrist Maurice Dean Heatly.
On March 29, 1966, Whitman met with Heatly and spent an hour explaining
his frustration with his parents' separation and his increasing strains
at work and school.
During the interview, he made a remark about feeling
the urge to "start shooting people with a deer rifle" from the
University tower. Heatly noted that Whitman was "oozing with hostility",
yet never returned. Whitman mentioned the visit with Heatly in his final
suicide notes, saying that it was to "no avail". By the summer, Whitman
was prescribed Dexedrine.
Although Whitman had been prescribed drugs, the
autopsy could not establish if he had consumed any prior to the attacks.
However, it was revealed during the autopsy that Whitman had a cancerous
glioblastoma tumor in the hypothalamus region of his brain. Some have
theorized that it may have been pressed against the nearby amygdala,
which can affect emotive passion. This has led some neurologists to
speculate that his medical condition was in some way responsible for the
Fr. Leduc met with Whitman for the last time two
months prior to the shootings and said that Whitman had confided that he
had lost his faith, and no longer considered himself a practicing
After the attacks, a study of Whitman's journal
showed him lamenting that he had acted violently towards Kathy, and that
he was resolved both not to follow his father's abusive example and to
be a good husband. However, John and Fran Morgan, close friends of
Whitman's, later told the Department of Public Safety that he had
confided in them that he had struck Kathy on three occasions.
Leadup to the shootings
Six images from the two rolls of film Whitman asked
to be developed. They highlight a trip to Barton Springs and a trip with
Kathy and his brother John to the Alamo.The day before the shootings,
Whitman purchased binoculars and a knife from Davis' Hardware, as well
as Spam from a 7-Eleven store. He then picked up Kathy from her summer
job as a Bell operator, and they went to a matinée before meeting his
mother for lunch at her job.
Around 4:00 PM, they went to visit friends John and
Fran Morgan, who lived in the same neighborhood. They left at
approximately 5:30 so that Kathy could leave for her 6:00-10:00 PM shift
that night. At 6:45, Whitman began typing his suicide note, a portion of
I do not quite understand what it is that compels me
to type this letter. Perhaps it is to leave some vague reason for the
actions I have recently performed. I do not really understand myself
these days. I am supposed to be an average reasonable and intelligent
young man. However, lately (I cannot recall when it started) I have been
a victim of many unusual and irrational thoughts.
The note explained that he had decided to murder both
his mother and wife, but made no mention of the coming attacks at the
university. He also requested that an autopsy be done after his death,
to determine if there had been anything to explain his actions and
increasing headaches. He willed any money from his estate to mental
health research, saying that he hoped it would prevent others from
following his route.
Margaret Whitman, as found by policeJust after
midnight, he killed his mother Margaret. The exact method is disputed,
but it seemed he had rendered her unconscious before stabbing her in the
heart. He returned to his suicide note, now writing by hand:
To Whom It May Concern: I have just taken my mother's
life. I am very upset over having done it. However, I feel that if there
is a heaven she is definitely there now...I am truly sorry...Let there
be no doubt in your mind that I loved this woman with all my heart.
Whitman returned to his home at 906 Jewell Street and
stabbed Kathy five times as she slept naked, leaving another note that
I imagine it appears that I brutally killed both of
my loved ones. I was only trying to do a quick thorough job...If my life
insurance policy is valid please pay off my debts...donate the rest
anonymously to a mental health foundation. Maybe research can prevent
further tragedies of this type.
He wrote notes to each of his brothers and his father
and left instructions in the apartment that the two canisters of film he
left on the table should be developed, and the puppy Schocie should be
given to Kathy's parents.
12 gauge shotgun
Remington 700 with 4x Leupold Scope
6 millimeter Remington rifle
Nesco machete, scabbard
Ammunition box with gun-cleaning kit
Camillus hunting knife, scabbard
Randall knife inscribed with name
1' steel rebar
Hunter's body bag
Channel Master 14 transistor radio
Blank Robinson notebook
Black Papermate pen
light green towel
White 3.5 gallon jug full of water
Red 3.5 gallon jug of gasoline
Nylon and cotton ropes, and clothesline
1954 Nabisco premium toy compass
Davis Hardware receipt
Lighter fluid, lighter and box of matches
Alarm clock manufactured by Gene
Green and white flashlight, 4 C batteries
Two rolls of tape
Green duffel bag from the Marine Corps
Mennen spray deodorant
Twelve cans of food
Two cans of Sego condensed milk
Bread, honey and SPAM (incl. sandwiches)
Planters Peanuts and raisins
At 5:45 A.m. on August 1, 1966, Whitman phoned
Kathy's supervisor at Bell to explain that she was sick and could not
make her shift that day. He made a similar phone call to Margaret's
workplace about five hours later.
Whitman rented a dolly from Austin Rental Company and
cashed $250 worth of checks at the bank before returning to Davis'
Hardware and purchasing an M1 Carbine, explaining that he wanted to go
hunting for wild hogs. He also went to Sears and purchased a shotgun and
a green rifle case.
After sawing off the shotgun barrel while chatting
with postman Chester Arrington, Whitman packed it together with a
Remington 700 bolt-action hunting rifle with a 4x Leupold Scope, the M1
Carbine, a 6mm Remington rifle, three pistols, and various other
equipment stowed between a wooden crate and his Marine footlocker.
Before heading to the tower, he put khaki coveralls on over his shirt
and jeans and under a green jacket. Once in the tower, he also donned a
Pushing the rented dolly carrying his equipment,
Whitman met security guard Jack Rodman and obtained a parking pass,
claiming he had a delivery to make and showing Rodman a card identifying
him as a research assistant for the school. He entered the Main Building
shortly after 11:30 AM, where he struggled with the elevator until
employee Vera Palmer informed him that it had not been powered and
turned it on for him. He thanked her and took the elevator to the top
floor of the Tower, just beneath the clock face.
Whitman then lugged his trunk up three flights of
stairs to the observation deck area, where he found a receptionist named
Edna Townsley. He knocked her unconscious with the butt of his rifle and
concealed her body behind a couch; she later died from her injuries.
Moments later, Cheryl Botts and Don Walden, a young couple who had been
sightseeing on the deck, returned to the attendant's area, encountering
Whitman, who was holding a rifle in each hand. Botts later claimed that
she believed that the large red stain on the floor was varnish. Whitman
and the young couple spoke briefly and the couple left the room. When
they were gone, Whitman barricaded the stairway.
Shortly afterwards, two families of tourists were on
their way up the stairs when they encountered the barricade. Michael
Gabour was attempting to look beyond the barricade when Whitman fired
the shotgun at him. Whitman continued to shoot as the families ran back
down the stairs. Mark Gabour and his aunt Marguerite Lamport died almost
instantly; Michael and his mother Mary were permanently disabled.
Sniper fire commences
Main Building of The University of Texas at Austin.
Guadalupe Street is out of frame to the right. (Dobie Center, in the
background, was not constructed until 1972.)
The first shots from the tower's outer deck came at
approximately 11:48 AM. A history professor was the first to phone the
Austin Police Department, after seeing several students shot in the
South Mall gathering center; many others had dismissed the rifle reports,
not realizing there actually was gunfire.
Eventually, the shootings caused panic as news spread
and, after the situation was understood, all active police officers in
Austin were ordered to the campus. Other off-duty officers, sheriff's
deputies, and Texas Department of Public Safety officers also converged
on the area to assist.
Once Whitman began facing return gunfire from the
authorities, he used the waterspouts on each side of the tower as loop
holes, which allowed him to continue shooting largely protected from the
gunfire below, which had grown to include civilians who had brought out
their personal firearms to assist police.
Ramiro Martinez, an officer credited with
neutralizing Whitman's threat, later stated in his book that the
civilian shooters should be credited, as they made it difficult for
Whitman to take careful aim without being hit. Police lieutenant and
sharpshooter Marion Lee reported from a small airplane that there was
only one sniper firing from the parapet. The plane circled the tower
trying to get a shot at Whitman, until it came under fire and was forced
Whitman's choice of victims was apparently
indiscriminate, and most of them were shot on Guadalupe Street, a major
commercial and business district across from the west side of the campus.
Efforts to reach the wounded included an armored car and ambulances run
by local funeral homes. Ambulance driver Morris Hohmann was responding
to victims on West 23rd Street when he was shot in a leg artery.
Another ambulance driver quickly attended to Hohmann,
who was then taken about ten blocks south of UT to Brackenridge Hospital
and the only local emergency room. The Brackenridge administrator
declared an emergency, and medical staff raced there to reinforce the on-duty
shifts. Following the shootings, queues at both Brackenridge and the
Travis County Blood Bank stretched for blocks as people hurried to
Charles Whitman police report
Police Officer Conner and DPS Agent Cowan remained
inside the University to cover the windows on the southeast and
northeast sides of the reception area. Meanwhile three other officers,
Ramiro Martinez, Houston McCoy, and Jerry Day took hastily deputized
citizen Allen Crum up towards the observation deck.
Martinez and McCoy, armed respectively with a .38
revolver and a shotgun, went out on the observation deck, proceeded to
the north-east corner of the deck, and spotted Whitman seated on the
floor of the north-west corner, watching the south-west corner for any
signs of police.
Which of the officers actually killed Whitman has
been disputed; both claimed responsibility. McCoy fired his shotgun
twice, and Martinez fired six rounds from his revolver before taking the
shotgun and approaching the limp Whitman and firing again point-blank.
Day then took the green towel that Whitman had brought with him, and
waved it to those below, indicating that the sniper had been killed.
Although Whitman had requested cremation in his
suicide note, this was not carried out: Whitman and his mother shared a
funeral service officiated by Fr. Tom Anglim at his home parish of
Sacred Heart in Lake Worth. Due to his status as a former Marine,
Whitman had a casket draped with an American flag for his burial in
Section 16 of the Hillcrest Memorial Park in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Margaret Whitman, killed in her apartment
Kathy Whitman, killed while she slept
Edna Townsley, receptionist
Marguerite Lamport, killed by shotgun on stairs
Mark Gabour, killed by shotgun on stairs
Thomas Eckman, shoulder wound, kneeling over
Robert Boyer, back wound, visiting physics
Thomas Ashton, chest wound, Peace Corps trainee
Thomas Karr, spine wound
Billy Speed, police officer, shoulder/chest wound
Harry Walchuk, doctoral student and father of six
Paul Sonntag, shot through the mouth, age 18,
hiding behind construction
Claudia Rutt, age 18, killed helping fiancé
Roy Schmidt, electrician shot outside his truck
Karen Griffith, chest wound, age 17, died after
week in hospital°
David Gunby, survived the initial shooting but
required life-long dialysis as a result of his injuries. More than
30 years after the shooting, he announced he was quitting dialysis
and died within a week as a result.
° Survived the initial shooting and later died in
Allen, John Scott
Foster, F. L.
Gabour, Mary Frances
Kelley, Homar J.
Littlefield, Brenda Gail
Stewart, C. A.
Wheeler, Carla Sue
Extra Houston Chronicle, released within two hours of
the shooting.Together with the Watts riots of the early 1960s, Charles
Whitman's shootings were considered the impetus for establishing SWAT
teams and other task forces to deal with situations beyond normal police
procedures. It also led President Lyndon B. Johnson to call for stricter
gun control policies.
After the tragedy, the Tower's observation deck was
closed for two years, reopening in 1968. However, after several
suicides, it was closed again in 1974 and remained closed until
September 15, 1999. Access to the tower is now tightly controlled
through guided tours that are scheduled by appointment only, during
which, metal detectors and other security measures are in place.
Repaired scars from bullets are still visible on the limestone walls.
Houston McCoy was diagnosed with post-traumatic
stress disorder in 1998 by Dr. Mink of the Department of Veterans
Affairs in Waco, Texas, who related the diagnosis to the tower tragedy
three decades earlier. As of 2007, he is living in western Texas.
Ramiro Martinez became a narcotics investigator, a
Texas Ranger, and a Justice of the Peace in New Braunfels, Texas. In
2003, Martinez published his memoirs entitled, They Call Me Ranger Ray:
From the UT Tower Sniper to Corruption in South Texas.
On November 12, 2001, David Gunby died of long-term
kidney complications from a wound he received while on the South Mall.
He had been born with only one functioning kidney, which was nearly
destroyed by Whitman's shot. After the prospect of losing his eyesight,
he refused further treatment and died shortly thereafter. The Tarrant
County Coroner's report listed the cause of death as "homicide."
References in popular culture
Though many are unaware of the exact details
surrounding the event, Whitman's tower spree has remained at the
forefront of public consciousness, as evidenced by many references in
popular music, literature, film, and TV.
1966 — A photograph of Whitman appears on the August
12 cover of Time, highlighting an article entitled, "The Psychotic &
1966 — He also appears on the cover of Life for an
article entitled, "The Texas Sniper."
1968 — The poem "Dream Song 135" in John Berryman's
His Toy, His Dream, His Rest references Whitman, the murder of his wife
and mother, and the clock tower shootings.
1968 — Peter Bogdanovich's film Targets, largely
inspired by the Whitman case, is released; it describes a man murdering
his mother and wife, then embarking on a sniper spree.
1972 — Harry Chapin records an album entitled, Sniper
and Other Love Songs. "Sniper," the album's title song, was recorded
from both first and third-person points of view, referencing Whitman's
issues with his mother and highlighting his isolation.
1973 — Texas singer Kinky Friedman records "The
Ballad of Charles Whitman," a satirical tune, on the album Sold American.
Friedman attended the University of Texas and graduated in 1966, a few
months prior to the shooting.
1974 Movie Groove Tube Sketch Charles Whitman
1975 — The made-for-TV film The Deadly Tower stars
Kurt Russell as Whitman. Officer Ramiro Martinez later sued the
producers for its portrayal of him and his wife; Officer Houston McCoy
also sued. Martinez settled out of court, but McCoy received no
1987 — The movie Full Metal Jacket contains a scene
in which a USMC drill instructor tells his recruits that Whitman's
phenomenal accuracy was a result of his training as a rifleman in the
1991 — In the movie Slacker, filmed on location in
Austin, the Old Anarchist (Louis Mackey) proclaims, "Now Charles Whitman,
there was a man...!"
1993 — The movie True Romance references Whitman in
the hotel scene with the drug collector and Alabama Worley by way of the
line, "You know that guy in Texas...."
1993 — Macabre includes a song about Whitman called "Sniper
in the Sky" on the album Sinister Slaughter.
1994 — In the movie Natural Born Killers, Detective
Scagnetti tells Warden McClusky that he hunts serial killers because, as
a boy in Texas, he was holding his mother's hand when one of the bullets
had fatally wounded her.
1994 — The same year, a scene on an episode of The
Simpsons entitled, "Homer Loves Flanders" features a scene inspired by
1996 — Whitman features prominently in an episode of
American Justice entitled, "Mass Murderer: An American Tragedy."
1996 — The movie The Delicate Art of the Rifle
features a character based on Charles Whitman and tells of a clock tower
shooting from the shooter's point of view.
1996 - In the movie Do not Be a Menace to South
Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, a man portrayed as
Whitman shoots Malik from a tower as he goes on to college.
1997 — On the television program Murder One, attorney
Arnold Spivak (J. C. MacKenzie) notes the difference between a serial
killer and a mass murderer by invoking the Whitman massacre in some
level of detail; the reference is prompted by his firm's defense of
Clifford Banks, a serial killer played by Pruitt Taylor Vince.
1998 — The book Cat & Mouse by James Patterson,
contains numerous references to (fictional) killer Gary Soneji,
including his fantasies of being with Whitman in the bell tower.
2000 - In his book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures
in the Culinary Underbelly, Anthony Bourdain makes several joking
references to people under severe stress being considered likely to snap
and become Whitmanesque clock tower snipers.
2001 — Dateline NBC broadcasts a special on the tower
tragedy in a special called "Catastrophe." The same year, Fox's World's
Wildest Police Videos shows a brief clip of the tragedy in a segment
about the history of SWAT teams.
2002 — In the CSI: Miami episode "Kill Zone" Calleigh
Duquesne mentions Whitman's 14 kills in reference to the skill of
2002 — Rock band Tomahawk implores the crowd to chant
Whitman's name instead of booing during a show with Tool in Austin on
2006 — On Tom Waits' Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers &
Bastards, Whitman is mentioned in the song "Down There by the Train."
2006 — In the manga Black Lagoon, Dutch likens Revy's
homicidal tendencies to those of "Charles fucking Whitman".
2007 — On their album The Tempest, rap duo Insane
Clown Posse tell their take of Whitman on the track "The Tower". The
director's commentary for Texas Chainsaw Massacre mentions that during
filming, the crew were approached by a sheriff who objected to their
blocking off a road, and informed them he had been the officer shooting
at Whitman from the plane.
Clarke, James W. (1990). On
Being Mad or Merely Angry: John W. Hinckley, Jr. and
Other Dangerous People. Princeton University
Press. ISBN 0691078521.
Douglas, John; Olshaker, Mark (1999). The Anatomy
of Motive. Scribner. ISBN 0-7567-5292-2.
Lavergne, Gary M. (1997). A Sniper in the Tower.
University of North Texas Press. ISBN 1-57441-029-6.
Jack; Fox, James Alan (1985). Mass Murder:
America's Growing Menace. New York: Plenum Press.
Martinez, Ramiro (2005). They Call Me Ranger Ray:
From the UT Tower Sniper to Corruption in South
Texas. New Braunfels: Rio Bravo Publishing. ISBN
O'Brien, Bill (2000). Agents of Mayhem.
Auckland: Bateman, Ltd.. ISBN 1-86953-423-9.
Ronald (1981). They Shoot to Kill: A Psycho-History
of Criminal Sniping. Boulder, Colorado: Paladin
Press. ISBN 0-87364-207-4.
Charlie was born on 24 June 1941, the first of three
boys, to Charles and Margaret Whitman; the second boy was called Patrick
and the youngest John. The Whitman’s were aspiring, upwardly mobile
people – to all outward appearances a model American family – and
Charles Jun. Was a model American boy, the kind mothers of contumacious
youngsters looked at with wistful hearts. Charles was "high
spirited and lots of fun as a child, but gave no trouble,"
according to Mrs. L.J. Holleran, who lived across the street from the
Whitman’s’ large, ranch-style bungalow. Other neighbours held a
similarly high opinion of him.
In his youth, Charlie was an Eagle Scout – at the
time, one of the youngest to make the grade – and later he won the Boy
Scout "God and Country" award. He was also an altar boy, an
achievement that was especially pleasing for his mother, a devout Roman
Catholic. Margaret doted on all three boys but had a particular soft
spot for her first born.
Charlie had a paper round, delivering the Palm
Beach Post, and if it rained she would drive him around the route.
Charles Whitman Sen., a successful plumbing contractor – a self-made
man and proud of it – also indulged his sons: "I was raised as an
orphan, and didn’t have the advantages my boys did. So I gave them
everything I could – cars when they were just kids, that kind of
There were, though, strings attached to the father’s
material generosity: "I was a strict father… With all three of my
sons, it was ‘yes, sir’ and ‘no, sir.’ They minded me."
Margaret minded him, too: "I did on many occasions beat my wife…
I have to admit it, because of my temper, I knocked her around. But my
wife was a fine woman and she understood my nature."
If there were certain of his father’s predilections
that the young Charlie found unpalatable, there were others for which he
acquired an immediate taste. Charles Sen. Was a self-confessed gun
fanatic and there were guns hanging in just about every room of the
house. Charlie’s training in the use of firearms began just as soon as
he was strong enough to hold them steady. He was, according to his
father, "always a crack shot" and, by the time he graduated
from Cardinal Newman High School, could plug a squirrel in the eye.
On 6 July 1959, twelve days after his eighteenth
birthday, Whitman enlisted in the marines. With his powerful physique
– he was six-foot tall and weighed 200 pounds – his good looks, and
his neatly cropped, blond hair, he seemed the quintessential
all-American boy. A successful career in the Marine Corps looked very
much on the cards. To begin with, things went well for him. He gained
the rifle rating of sharpshooter, scoring 215 points out of a possible
250, and he qualified for a navy scientific training programme at the
University of Texas in Austin, which would have given him the equivalent
of a bachelor’s degree and an officer’s commission.
He began his studies at UT-Austin in September 1961.
He was soon dating a fellow student, Kathleen Leissner, a trainee
schoolteacher. Kathy was a couple years younger than Charlie and the
only daughter of a Texan rice farmer and real estate man. She was a
pretty, brown-haired girl and she and Charlie were "the perfect
couple," according to Frank Greenhaw, a close friend. They married
in the summer of 1962.
Less than a year after the wedding, Whitman received a
setback. In February 1963, he was forced to quit the University of
Texas, apparently because of unsatisfactory academic progress, and was
posted to the Second Marine Division, at Camp Lejeune in South Carolina.
Having blown his chance of a speedy rise in the ranks, he found it
difficult to readjust to life as a regular marine.
After a string of
violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, through the summer
and early autumn of 1963, he was court-martialled in November. Whitman
pleaded guilty to possessing a .25-calibre pistol aboard the USS Raleigh
in July, and to possessing the same weapon at Camp Lejeune in October,
along with two rounds of 7.62-mm ammunition (the standard round for an
M-14 rifle); he pleaded guilty to ten instances of lending money for
interest and to gambling with a member of his unit. In addition, he
denied a charge of "communicating a threat to another marine to
knock his teeth out," but was found guilty of that, too.
gone from bad to worse for him. Not only had his failure at UT-Austin
prevented him from gaining an officer’s commission, but the court
martial resulted in his being demoted from corporal to private. He also
received thirty days’ hard labour. On 4 December 1964, Pfc. C.J.
Whitman was honourably discharged from the Marine Corps.
Two years after his failure on the navy-sponsored
programme at the University of Texas, he returned to Austin and enrolled
in a mechanical engineering programme. Kathy had by this time graduated
from the university and was teaching science at Austin’s Lanier High
School. On a tight budget, the couple took a small brick cottage in
Jewell Street, in a modest suburb of the city south of the Colorado
River. Charlie hung a stout rope from the pecan tree in the yard, on
which he would do his Marine Corps exercises to the delight of
He did not last long on the mechanical engineering
course and switched to architectural engineering because, according to
his faculty advisor, Dr. Leonardt Kreisle, he felt he "could
express his artistic talents better." Study does not appear to have
come easily to Whitman. His friend Frank Greenhaw was not the only one
to notice how hard the ex-marine had to work in order to maintain a B
average for the course: "Charlie would stay up studying all night
in the engineering building, sometimes putting his head down on the
drafting table for a nap. And in the morning Kathy would come up with
In the spring of 1966, Margaret Whitman telephoned her
eldest son from the family home in Florida, telling him that she was
going to leave her husband. Charlie drove down to Lake Worth, picked her
up, and returned with her to Austin. She moved into an apartment across
the river from her son and daughter-in-law’s house, and apparently
took a job as a cashier in a cafeteria.
Pressure was beginning to mount on Whitman. He had
less than a year to go to graduation and had registered for an unusually
heavy fourteen-hour course load that summer. He quit as a scoutmaster
with a local troop, worried that he would be unable to maintain a good
grade average, but continued to work part time, about three hours a day
(he had a string of casual jobs while at college, including one as a
collector for a finance company). On top of the pressures of work and
study, he was anxious about his mother. "He took very good care of
her and tried to see that she wasn’t overworked. She was always over
at Charlie’s and Kathy’s" according to the manager of the
Penthouse Apartments, where Margaret lived.
Charlie was also being subjected to a torrent of
telephone calls from his father, petitioning him to persuade his mother
to return to Lake Worth. Charles Sen. was "not ashamed of the fact
I spent a thousand dollars a month on the phone bill, begging her to
come back. I loved my wife dearly, my sons dearly, and I wanted our home
to be happy. I kept begging Charlie to come back to me, too… I
promised Charlie that if he’d only persuade his Mama to come back,
I’d swear never to lay a hand on her."
Charlie began to suffer headaches and other signs of
stress; he complained to friends about overwork and mental strain. Larry
Fuess, a fellow engineering student and one of Charlie’s closet
friends, called at the Whitman’s place soon after Margaret moved to
"I walked into Charlie’s one morning and he was
packing his bags. He said he was going to leave everything – school,
his wife, everything – and become a bum." Fuess and Whitman
talked a while and in the end Charlie abandoned the plan. He stayed on
in Austin but, he was no longer the "happy Charlie" his
One man's massacre
In the early evening of Sunday 31 July 1966, Whitman
sat down at his desk in the living room of the house on Jewell Street.
The temperature had been up in the mid-nineties during the afternoon and
it was still very hot. Outside, the lawns, parched by the summer sun,
were full of dust. A month earlier, the United States had begun bombing
targets in the demilitarized zone in Vietnam and had launched the first
attacks against Hanoi, the North Vietnam capital, and the port city of
Haiphong. Whitman put a sheet of paper in an old, portable typewriter
and started to type: To whom it may concern. I don't understand what
is compelling me to type this note. I've been having fears and violent
impulses. I've had some tremendous headaches ...
At about 7:30 P.M. he was interrupted by a visit
from Larry Fuess and his wife, Elaine. The Fuesses asked him what he was
writing and he replied, "Letters to old friends," and put the
sheet away. Larry Fuess would later recall that Charlie "was in
good spirits. It didn't seem like anything at all was bothering him. In
fact it was strange because he had a test the next day and usually he
was very tense before tests ... Looking back, it seemed that he was
particularly relieved about something - you know, as if you had solved a
Whitman and the Fuesses chatted generally for an hour or
so, and at one point the conversation turned to Vietnam. Whitman
"said he couldn't understand why boys from the United States had to
go over there and die for something they didn't have anything to do
with." When Larry and Elaine left, Charlie returned to his
typewriter. I intend to kill Kathy. I love her very much, he
wrote. I intend to kill my wife after I pick her up from work. I
don't want her to face the embarrassment that my actions will surely
cause. He did not elaborate on what these actions might be, but did
write: I am prepared to die.
At about 10:00 P.M. Whitman drove into town to
pick up Kathy from the Southwestern Bell Telephone office where she was
working the summer as an information operator. He dropped her off at
home and then went out again to visit his mother. At the Penthouse
Apartments, he stabbed his mother in the chest and shot her in the back
of the head. Margaret may have put up a struggle because several bones
in her left hand were broken with such force that the band of her
engagement ring was driven into her finger. Detectives would find her
body the next day, together with a letter in her son's neat handwriting:
I have just killed my mother. If there's a heaven, she is going
there. If there is not a heaven, she is out of her pain and misery. I
love my mother with all my heart. He left the Penthouse Apartments
at around midnight, pinning another note on his dead mother's door: Roy,
mother ill and not able to come to work today. Then he drove home.
In the first hour of the morning of Monday 1
August, Whitman appended a hand-written note to the letter he had
earlier composed on the typewriter: 1230 A.M. - mother already dead. At
3:00 A.M. he added his final remark: Wife and mother both dead. He had
stabbed Kathy three times in the chest, apparently as she slept, and
carefully wrapped her naked body in a bed sheet. At 5:45 A.M. he
telephoned Kathy's supervisor at Southwestern Bell. She was scheduled to
start a shift at half past eight that morning. He told the supervisor
that she was ill and would not be in for work.
At 7:15 A.M. Whitman drove to the Austin Rental
Equipment Service office and hired for cash a three-wheeled dolly, used
for moving crates. At the drive-in window of an Austin bank, he cashed
two $125 cheques; one of the cheques was on his account and nearly
depleted it, and the other was on his mother's. At the Davis Hardware
store, he bought a reconditioned Second World War .30-calibre M-1
carbine, and at Chuck's Gun Shop, several magazines for the M-1 and
ammunition for it and for other rifles. He paid the bill by cheque for
which there were now insufficient funds in his account. A clerk
inquired, with friendly interest, what he wanted all the ammunition for
and he replied, "To shoot some pigs." The clerk thought
nothing of it; plenty of Austin hunters liked to shoot wild pig.
At 9:30 A.M. Whitman appeared at the large,
modem Sears Roebuck department store in downtown Austin. He bought a
twelve-gauge shotgun on credit and during the next hour sawed off part
of the stock and barrel. He put the shotgun in his old marine corps
footlocker, together with the M-1 carbine he had bought. Then, he added
a 6-mm Remington bolt-action rifle with a four-power Leupold telescopic
sight, a .35-calibre Remington pump rifle, a 9-mm Luger pistol, a
.25-calibre Galesi-Brescia pistol, a .357 Smith & Wesson Magnum
revolver, and well over 500 rounds of ammunition. Some of his guns,
including two Derringer pistols, he decided to leave at home. All his
weapons were legally owned.
In addition to the firearms, he also packed into
the footlocker a Bowie knife, machete and hatchet, two jerry cans - one
filled with water, the other with petrol - matches, lighter fuel,
adhesive tape, rope, a flashlight, a clock and a transistor radio,
various canned foods, including Spam and fruit cocktail, packets of
raisins, a bottle of deodorant and a roll of toilet paper.
It was about 11:00 A.M. and 90 degrees
Fahrenheit when Whitman's Chevrolet rolled into a parking area reserved
for executives at the northwest comer of the 307-foot tall Main Building
of the University of Texas. The granite tower, housing the university's
library and administrative offices, and the Hogg Foundation for Mental
Health, dominated the campus of otherwise low, Spanish-style buildings
with terracotta roofs. Whitman, wearing a grey, nylon boiler suit over
his blue jeans' white shirt and tennis shoes, loaded his marine corps
footlocker onto the rented dolly and wheeled it into the Main Building.
He smiled at a receptionist, who assumed he was a maintenance man, and
headed across the marble hall towards the two automatic lifts.
The lift went as far as the twenty-seventh
floor, and Whitman hauled the trunk up the last few flights of steps to
the top floor. Mrs. Edna Townsley, the receptionist on the top-floor
observation deck, apparently approached him to see what it was he
wanted. Whitman smashed her over the head with the butt of a rifle, with
such force that part of her skull was torn away. He then dragged her
limp body behind a couch in the reception room, put a bullet in her head
and left her for dead. She actually died some two hours later.
As Whitman manhandled the footlocker over to the
door that led out onto the open walkway around the top of the tower, a
group of sightseers arrived in the lift on the twenty-seventh floor:
M.J. Gabour, a gas station operator, his wife, Mary, and their two sons,
19-year-old Mike, a cadet at the Air Force Academy, and 15-year-old
Mark. Accompanying them were Gabour's sister, Mrs. Marguerite Lamport,
and her husband, William.
The two teenage boys were the first members of
the party to reach the top floor, a few steps ahead of their mother and
aunt. The women's husbands trailed a little behind. "Mark opened
the door to the observation deck and a gun went off," Gabour later
recalled. "Mike screamed." A sawn-off shotgun was discharged
twice in rapid succession. Mary, Marguerite, Mike and Mark, Gabour said,
"came rolling down the stairs. Whoever did the shooting slammed the
door." Gabour and Lamport hauled the four victims down to the
twenty-seventh floor. Mark was already dead.
Whitman, meanwhile, had barricaded the door from
the stairs to the reception room and now had the entire observation deck
to himself. He went out onto the open walkway and looked over the
chest-high, stone parapet. Immediately above him, the south clock face
was reading ten to twelve. Above the clock was the bell tower and above
the bell tower nothing but clear blue sky. Mapped out below him was the
232-acre university campus, the whole of the city of Austin and
sixty-five miles of Texas countryside in whichever direction he looked:
to the south and east, lush farmland; to the west, distant, mist-veiled
mountains and the road to the LBJ Ranch where one night, five years
earlier, he and a couple of companions shot a deer after it became
trapped in the headlights of their car.
Someone had noticed the
automobile, with the young buck lashed to the back of it, and telephoned
the licence number to the Texas Game and Fish Commission. At 4:30 A.M.
on the morning of 20 November 1961, Game Warder Grover Simpson and three
Austin police officers found Charlie and his roommates dressing the deer
in a dormitory bathroom. Now, five years on, Whitman was poaching
people. He opened fire from the top of the tower and the huge bell,
twenty feet above his head, began to chime. It was high noon in Austin.
A newsboy, 17-year-old Alec Hernandez, suddenly
teetered and fell from his bicycle. Denver Dolman, a bookstore operator
on the edge of the campus, unaware that a high velocity bullet had just
drilled through the newsboy's groin, looked on - bemused by what
appeared to be an inexplicable cycling accident. Then, he heard gunshots
and all around him "people started falling."
Claire Wilson, 18 years old and eight months
pregnant, had just left a first-year anthropology class in the company
of a fellow freshman, Thomas Eckman. The pair were strolling across the
sun-drenched South Mall when a bullet struck Claire in the lower
abdomen, tearing into her womb and shattering the skull of her baby.
Claire survived, but the baby was stillborn. As the horrified Eckman
knelt beside his wounded friend, a second shot was fired, killing him
Robert Boyer, a research physicist and lecturer in applied
mathematics, had just left the Main Building to meet a friend for lunch.
As he walked out onto the South Mall, heading away from the tower, he
suddenly collapsed, a bullet in his back. Seeing the first victims fall,
Charlotte Dareshori, a secretary in the Dean's office, rushed outside to
help - but was soon under fire herself. She found refuge behind the
concrete base of a flagpole and crouched there, under Old Glory, for
ninety minutes, isolated but safe, one of the few people to venture out
onto the exposed South Mall and survive.
Outside the Rae Ann dress shop, in a street
bordering the campus to the west, chemistry student Abdul Khashab, his
fiancée, Janet Paulos, and a friend Lana Phillips, all fell wounded
within a few seconds of each other. A jewellery shop manager was just
leaving the building to go to the aid of another trio of wounded victims
on the pavement, when the shop windows shattered and bullet fragments
tore into his leg. Harry Walchuk, a political scientist and graduate
student working towards his doctorate, suddenly gasped, staggered
backwards clasping his throat, and collapsed by a newsstand, mortally
wounded. A block away, 18-year-old Paul Sonntag, a summer lifeguard at
the municipal pool, was strolling north with Claudia Rutt, also 18, when
Claudia suddenly clutched at her chest, cried out and slumped to the
pavement. Seconds later, another bullet brought Sonntag down beside her.
Most of Whitman's victims were shot during the
first twenty minutes of sniping and he relied mainly on the 6-mm
Remington rifle with the four-power scope, a weapon and sight
configuration with which even a moderate marksman can consistently hit a
target the size of a human head at 300 yards. Thomas Karr, a senior from
Fort Worth, was shot dead at just about that range to the west of the
tower. Thomas Ashton, a Peace Corps trainee was shot dead to the east.
North of the tower, Associated Press reporter, Robert Heard, running at
full tilt, caught a bullet in the shoulder. It was a painful wound, but
not sufficiently serious to prevent him from marvelling "What a
South of the tower, one of the first police
officers on the scene, 23-year-old patrolman Billy Speed, took up a
position behind the stone columns of a balustrade. Leland Ammons, a law
student, saw the young cop suddenly go sprawling. "The shot hit him
high in the shoulder," Ammons said later. "It must have either
ricocheted or the bullet came through one of the slits between the fence
pillars." Whichever way he was hit, it made no difference to Speed;
the shot killed him.
At the top of the tower, Whitman frequently
changed his position, each time finding fresh prey in his sights. Karen
Griffith, a 17-year-old Austin girl, was shot in the chest and died a
week later from the wounds. Four students were wounded on Twenty-fourth
Street, north of the tower. Three people were wounded on the roof of the
Computation Center, just east of the tower.
Meanwhile, over 100 law enforcement officers had
responded to the trouble signal that had gone out over all police
channels, soon after the sniping started. City cops, highway patrolmen,
Texas Rangers, and even US secret servicemen from Lyndon Johnson's
Austin office, had converged on the tower. Off-duty officers began
showing up, as news of the shooting spread. Patrolman Ramiro Martinez
was at home cooking steak when he heard a newsflash on the radio. He
buckled on his service revolver and rushed to the scene. Local
gun-owning citizens materialized and started shooting at the tower. A
cop angrily demanded of one such public-spirited citizen what the hell
he thought he was doing. The man, reportedly dressed in battle fatigues
and with an M-14 rifle set up on a tripod, replied, "Just helping
Police desperately tried to seal off the area
around the tower but Whitman's wide shooting radius and easy access to
all points of the compass made the task impossible. Three blocks south
of the tower, Roy Dell Schmidt, an electrician with a service call to
make in the area, got out of his van to find out what a police roadblock
up ahead was all about. Told to leave the area, Schmidt retreated to
where a group of onlookers was gathered on the sidewalk. Suddenly, a
bullet tore through his chest. "He told me we were out of
range," the man who had been standing next to him revealed later.
The dead and the dying were scattered over an
everwidening area as Whitman looked farther afield for his victims. A
police marksman, Lieutenant Marion Lee, was sent up in a light aircraft
to try to pick the sniper off. Rescuers in an armoured car worked to
retrieve the wounded from the dangerous no-man's-land of the South Mall.
Unintimidated by the sharpshooting cop above him or by the barrage of
fire coming from the ground below him, Whitman first forced the plane to
retreat, with a few accurate shots at its fuselage, and then turned his
attention back to zeroing in on his human targets.
Three blocks north and two blocks west of the
tower, a basketball coach, Billy Snowden, was just stepping into a
barbershop when a bullet crashed into his shoulder. Way over to the
southeast, two students sitting near windows were nicked by bullets. An
ambulanceman, trying to help some of the wounded to the west of the
tower was himself shot and wounded.
In the meantime, the hail of police bullets
ricocheted from the bell turret at the top of the tower, peppered the
clock faces, or chipped away at the stone parapet around the walkway -
but failed to find the vulnerable flesh of the sniper's body. Whitman
stayed low. Utilizing the narrow drainage ducts as gunports, he was
virtually impossible to hit.
If an architect had set out to design a building
with the express intention of it being used by a sniper, he could have
done little better than produce the blueprint of the University of Texas
tower. For more than one and a half hours, Whitman's position was
unassailable. He had such an unobstructed view of the campus and its
environs that police were unable to rush the building, and he was so
well protected that they were unable to shoot him down at long range. It
was not until a few, resourceful officers found themselves together in
the tower, after gaining entry by various means - through underground
conduits or by zig-zagging from building to building - that the
initiative switched to the police. Ramiro Martinez, the off-duty
patrolman who had abandoned his steak dinner to come to the scene, was
joined by a handful of other officers, including Houston McCoy and Jerry
Day, and by a civilian, Allen Crum, an employee of the university and a
former air force tailgunner.
Crum was deputized on the spot. The group took
the lift to the twenty-sixth floor because, Crum later explained
"we didn't want to take a chance of running into [Whitman] if he
was waiting for us on the twenty-seventh." Cautiously, they made
their way up the final flights of steps. On the twenty-seventh floor,
they came across members of the Gabour and Lamport families, some dead,
some wounded and the remainder grief-stricken. While their colleagues
tended to the victims, officers Martinez and McCoy, and the newly
deputized Crum, continued up the stairs to the observation deck.
The door to the reception room was still
barricaded. Carefully, the trio pushed against the door, easing back the
desk that blocked it, until there was a sufficiently large gap to
squeeze through. They were advised, by radio, of the sniper's position -
he was on the north side of the roof - and Martinez crawled out onto the
walkway on the south side, and began moving stealthily eastwards. Crum
and McCoy followed, Crum turning to the west and McCoy backing up
Martinez. Martinez rounded the southeast comer of the tower, onto the
east walkway. If Whitman was in the position he was supposed to be,
Martinez would find him when he turned the next comer. He made his way
Crum, meanwhile, had turned onto the west
walkway. Suddenly, he heard footsteps up ahead. He fired a shot from his
rifle into the northwest comer to prevent the sniper from bursting
around it and shooting him. On the other side of the tower, Martinez
turned cautiously onto the north walkway. Fifty feet away crouched
Whitman, the M-1 in his hands. waiting for Crum at the opposite comer.
Martinez raised his .38 service revolver and shot into Whitman's left
side. "He jerked up the carbine toward me," the patrolman
later recalled. "He couldn't keep it level. He kept trembling,
going up instead of coming down with it. I don't know how many shots I
In fact, he fired all six, emptying his revolver. McCoy
moved up, stepped around him, and blasted Whitman with a shotgun.
Martinez grabbed the shotgun: "Mat guy was still flopping and he
had that carbine in his hands ... and I ran at him and shot at the same
time. I got to him and saw that he was dead." Crum took a towel
from Whitman's footlocker and waved it above the parapet signaling to
the men on the ground that it was all over.
Whitman was the eldest of three boys, his father, also
named Charles, owned his own plumbing business. Most family friends said
he was the model son, good-looking, intelligent, popular and all that
stuff. He was an Eagle scout, an alter boy and an accomplished pianist.
The only downfall in this seemingly perfect life was his father. It
seems old Charles Sr. like to make sure that everyone knew who was boss
of the house, and didn't mind reinforcing his rules with violence.
Remember - The 'American Dream' comes at a price.
Charles Jr.'s life got better in 1959 when he moved
out of home and joined the Marines. He received a scholarship to attend
the University of Texas, where he met his wife Kathy. But, as with all
things good in this world, it didn't work out. He was court marshaled
for money lending and gambling, which led to him loosing his scholarship.
He left the marines in 1964.
Following this Whitman went back to University. he was
in a hurry to graduate so he took on a big workload, taking extra
classes. He was also studying to be an estate agent, and also worked
part-time so his wife didn't have to support him.
In March 1966 Whitman's world began to fall apart. His
parents broke up and his temper began to get worse. He spoke to his
friends about leaving his wife as he was scared he would start to beat
her, but they talked him into staying in the relationship. Around this
time he also spoke with the University psychiatrist whom he told that he
felt like he would "go up on the tower with a deer rifle and start
shooting at people." He made a second appointment with the shrink
but never showed up.
The end finally came on July 31, 1966. He sat down at
his desk and typed: "I don't quite understand what is compelling me
to type this note. I have been to a psychiatrist. I have been having
fears and violent impulses. I've had some tremendous headaches in the
past. . . . After my death I wish an autopsy on me performed to see if
there's any mental disorder . . . I intend to kill my wife after I pick
her up from work. I don't want her to have to face the embarrassment my
actions will surely cause her. . . Life is not worth living"
After he picked his wife up from work he took a pistol
over to his mothers apartment. In the ensuing struggle she had all the
fingers on one hand broken.
She was also stabbed in the chest. But she was still
breathing, so Whitman pushed her down onto the ground and put a bullet
into the back of her head, killing her instantly. He then picked her up
and put her to bed to make it look as if she were sleeping. Next to the
body he left a note attacking his father.
The note signed off with - "I love my mother with
all my heart."
When he got back home he added to the bottom of his
letter - "12.30 a.m. Mother already dead." He then went into
the bedroom and stabbed his wife to death. He then added to his letter
again - "3.00 a.m. - Wife and mother both dead."
He left the house at 9.00 a.m. the next morning and
bought a second hand .30 M-1 carbine from a hardware store. He then went
on to another store and bought hundreds of rounds of ammo. At 9.30 he
was in Sears and Roebuck purchasing a 12-gauge shotgun. He then went on
to a tool supply shop where he rented a trolley. He then took his
supplies home where he altered the weapons a little, and even stopped
for a chat with the postman. Later the postman spoke about how he knew
that what Whitman was doing with the guns was illegal, but he didn't
think there was any harm in it. Whitman then grabbed his own guns and
put them with these two new ones (seven in all) in a metal trunk. He
then put on a pair of grey nylon overalls, placed the gun trunk into his
car and left to fulfill his destiny.
When Whitman reached his destination point, a 307 ft
clock tower at the university of Texas, it had reached 98º F. A bloody
hot day by all standards.
Whitman dragged his trunk to the tower elevator where
he went to the 27th floor (as far as it went). He then took the trunk
out of the elevator and walked toward a woman working behind a desk
there. She was Edna Townsley, 51, and she was about to die. Whitman
smashed her in skull with a rifle butt, but she was still alive at this
point. He then dragged his guns up the four remaining flights of steps
and walked out onto the platform overlooking most of Austin.
A few minutes later a family left the elevator and
started to head upstairs to the tower top when Whitman jumped out and
fired three shots into the group. He killed Mark Gabour, 15, and his
aunt Marguerite Lamport, 45. He also injured two others. Whitman then
barricaded the door, walked back to the receptionist, Edna Townsley, and
put a shot into her already smashed head, killing her this time. He then
went outside on to the viewing area of the tower where he found
protection from the chest high, 18 inch thick, limestone parapet that
surrounded the viewing area.
His first shot was fired at the people below at around
11.45 a.m. It was fired from his .35 Remington rifle and ripped through
the leg of Alec Hernandez, 17, who was delivering newspapers around
campus. He then fired at random at any and everything that he felt
worthy of his bullets. The first call went through to police at 11.52
a.m. and soon after every single available policeman in Austin was at
the scene. One cop, Billy Speed, 22, was sheltered behind a balustrade
when a Whitman bullet tore though him, ending his life. About 100 yards
away an electrician step out of his van to see what was going on when he
copped a bullet in the chest, he was soon dead also.
One of the most successful tactics used by Whitman was
the use of the injured as bait. As someone would try to help an injured
victim who was in the open, Whitman would pick them off. This happened
to Paul Sonntag, 18, who ran to help his girlfriend, Claudia Rutt, who
was shot by Whitman while shopping. As Sonntag bent to help Claudia he
was cut down. Both died before anyone else could reach them.
But the killing was not confined to a small distance.
One guy, Harry Walchuk, 38, was a few hundred yards away looking at
magazines at a newsstand when a bullet ripped his throat out, killing
him. Whitman was working his way around the lookout area and firing in
all directions. So much so that the police thought there was a gang up
in the tower doing the shooting. But they would soon learn.
Most of the deaths occurred in the first 20 minutes of
the massacre. He was deadly accurate, hitting most victims in vital
organs, in particular around the heart. It would seems that the Marines
had taught him well.
Police boarded a helicopter to try and get a good shot
at Whitman, but 30 minutes later it was given up as the wind was playing
havoc, and there was a fear Whitman might hit the Chopper. So eventually
police stormed the building.
Three officers made it into the tower, where they met
up with a former Air Force man, Alan Crumb, who they deputized on the
spot. They then went upstairs to make sure they had some level of
justice for the community. At around 1.20 p.m. two of the officers,
Ramiro Martinez and Houston McCoy, along with Alan Crumb stormed out
onto the tower to confront Whitman. They say that he attempted to shoot
them but they got him first, but as there is no evidence of this all we
have to go on is the fact that Whitman was filled with bullets (at least
six from Martinez's pistol, two shotgun blasts to the body at close
range and one shotgun blast at point blank range into his head.) and
there was not a scratch on any of the "hero's".
A few hours later Whitman's name was released to the
press. When his father heard the news he rang police and asked them to
check on Whitman's wife and mother - and we all know what they found
Once a body count was made it seems that Whitman had
scored 15 dead on arrivals.
One of the injured died soon after, and he also shot a
woman though the stomach who was eight months pregnant, killing the
fetus/baby, which would take the count up to seventeen if you believe
that counts. All in all Charles Whitman created himself a place in
America's history as one of the most influential mass murderers of this
century - if not the most.
When Whitman bought the Ammunition for the days
activities a clerk askerd him why he needed so much, he replied, "To
shoot some pigs."
Whitman's auytopsy showed that he a small brain tumour
in the part that controls emotianal responses. From here there were two
different findings. One report says that the tumour was malignant and
would have killed him within a year, and contributed to his complete
loss of control. But another report released prior to that one says that
the tumor was benign and could not have caused any pain.
Either way, at least it proved that Whitman wasn't
crazy by thinking he had something wrong in his head.
In 1972 Whitman's guns were sold by the Austin police
for only $1500 to a collector in Kansas.
The tower was reopened for the public in July, 1967.
It then became a very popular place for suicide attempts. At least three
every year until it was closed again in 1975. It was then reopened again,
and the suicide jumpers came back until a few months ago when it was
closed down for good.
"I taught all my boys to use guns. All of them
Charles Whitman Sr.
TEXAS UNIVERSITY SNIPER SHOOTS 12 DEAD
2 August 1966, THE TIMES
Bodies of wife and mother also found.
A deadly accurate sniper, firing from the windows of
the twenty-sixth floor of the University tower in Austin Texas, today
killed 12 people, including a policeman and a professor, and wounded 34
others on all sides of the campus below him, before he was fatally
wounded by policemen who ambushed him from above as he was still
For nearly an hour and a half, from just before midday
until 1.20 p.m., Whitman terrorized the whole campus and adjacent
streets, shooting indiscriminately at anyone who came in sight. Some
were killed at a range of 500 yards. The dead included at least one
women, while another nine women were wounded.
SNIPER IN TEXAS U. TOWER KILLS 12, HITS 33
WIFE, MOTHER ALSO SLAIN; POLICE KILL HIM
2 August 1966, THE NEW YORK TIMES
AUSTIN, Tex., Aug. 1 - An architectural honor student
carried an arsenal of weapons to the top of the 27-story tower on the
University of Texas campus today and shot 12 persons to death and
wounded at least 33 others before the police killed him.
Students, professors and visitors ran for cover. A
student on a bicycle was shot and toppled off. Passers-by ran to help
him, and began to fall. A small boy was shot. Three bodies lay on the
campus for nearly an hour in the 98-degree heat. Rescuers could not
reach them until an armored car was brought up.
SNIPER BROUGHT SHOTGUN ON CREDIT EARLY IN DAY
2 August 1966, THE NEW YORK TIMES
One of the guns used by Charles J. Whitman as he fired
at his victims was a .12-guage shotgun, bought on credit at Sears
Roebuck & Co. after 9:30 A.M. today, the police said.
Officers said Whitman cut off part of the stock and
barrel of the semiautomatic weapon.
27-STORY TOWER HAVEN FOR SNIPER
2 August 1966, THE NEW YORK TIMES
The tower that today served as a fortress for Charles
J. Whitman is the tallest building in Austin, jutting 27 stories above
the normally placid campus of Spanish-style buildings with their terra
The granite tower, which houses the university's
library and administrative officers, is the focal point of the campus
and its observation deck. This deck, from which the sniper did his
shooting, is one of the city's major attractions.
From it there is an unlimited view of the city and its
environs. To reach the top visitors take an elevator to the 27th
floor and then walk up five short flights of stairs to the open
SNIPER IN TOWER TERRORISES CITY
3 August 1966, THE NEW ZEALAND HERALD
15 Killed, 31 Wounded By Berserk Student
New York - An honours student and former marine
sharpshooter yesterday shot dead 13 people and wounded 31 from his
sniper's lair at the top of the 26-storey tower of Texas University at
Until an off-duty policeman pumped six bullets into
him at close range, he picked off his victims as far as two blocks away
in the main street of the city. Earlier he had murdered his wife and his
mother in their apartments - leaving a "do not disturb" note
outside his mother's door.
TEXAS SNIPER HAD BRAIN TUMOUR
3 August 1966, THE TIMES
Austin, Texas, is today a city of mourning, with flags
flying at half-mast and the university trying to recover from
yesterday's worst mass slaughter by an individual civilian in the
history of the nation.
A post-mortem examination made today revealed a small
brain tumour, which could have caused intense headaches and so
contributed indirectly to his murderous rampage. According to a police
surgeon, it was close to the brain stem. It did not directly affect the
frontal lobe, or thinking part, of the brain.
GUNMAN WAS THOUGHT "GREAT GUY"
3 August 1966, THE NEW ZEALAND HERALD
Fellow students described Charles Whitman as
"well liked" and "a great guy." A university advisor
said he "seemed to be more mature than most people his age."
Neighbours described him as a pleasant, easy-going young man. He and his
wife - a former science teacher and a graduate of the university - were
a happy couple, they said.
The Defence Department said records showed that
Whitman had qualified as a sharp-shooter.
FATHER SHOCKED BY SON'S CHARGE
3 August 1966, THE NEW YORK TIMES
The father of Charles J. Whitman, the Texas sniper,
said last night, "I just don't believe my boy could have told a
psychiatrist I was brutal and domineering and that was the cause of his
Charles A. Whitman, a plumbing contractor in Lake
Worth, Fla., said in a telephone interview that a report, prepared after
young Whitman visited a University of Texas psychiatrist, was "all
about a sick boy and not the boy I loved and who loved his father."
"It's true, just like the psychiatrist says, I
was a strict father," Mr. Whitman said. "With all three of my
sons, it was 'yes, sir' and 'no, sir.' They minded me. I was raised as
an orphan, and didn't have the advantages my boys did. So I gave them
everything I could - cars when they were just kids, that kind of
Mr. Whitman said he talked by telephone with his son
"no more than two weeks ago," and he said:
'I Love You as a Son'
"That boy told me, 'Daddy, I love you, I love you
as a son, and I'm just sorry Mama couldn't take it any more, your
Mr. Whitman said it was true that "I did on many occasions beat my
wife, but I loved her and I love her to this day."
FIRST USE FOR REVOLVER
3 August 1966, THE NEW ZEALAND HERALD
For the first time in his five years as a policeman
Romero Martinez fired his revolver at another person.
Mr Martinez, the policeman who killed Charles Whitman
in the University of Texas tower, was at home cooking a steak when he
heard a call on the radio for all officers to report to duty.
He drove his car to where the sniper was firing and
made his way to the building.
WHITMAN TOLD A DOCTOR HE SOMETIMES THOUGHT OF
3 August 1966, THE NEW YORK TIMES
A University of Texas psychiatrist said today that
Charles J. Whitman, who killed 14 persons and an unborn baby yesterday,
came to him in March for consultation, explaining that he had intense
periods of anger.
Dr. Maurice D. Heatly, the psychiatrist, said Whitman
"sometimes found himself thinking about going up the tower with a
deer rifle an start shooting people." Dr. Heatly said he had not
attached too much significance to Whitman's statement at the time.
TIGHT FIREARMS CURBS URGED AFTER MASSACRE
4 August 1966, THE NEW ZEALAND HERALD
The Governor of Texas, Mr John Connally, pledged
yesterday to re-examine his State's gun laws following the massacre at
the University of Texas in Austin.
The Governor, who was wounded in November, 1963, by
the sniper's fire that killed President Kennedy in Dallas, told
reporters in Miami after cutting short a Latin American tour that he
would take a good look at the gun law in Texas.
TROUBLE IN MARINES OVER GUNS
4 August 1966, THE NEW ZEALAND HERALD
The Pentagon disclosed yesterday that the Austin mass
killer, Charles Whitman, who grew up in a home full of guns, had been
court-martialed while he was a marine on charges that included illegally
possessing a pistol and ammunition. He was demoted from corporal to
DRUGS IN POCKETS OF KILLER
6 August 1966, THE NEW ZEALAND HERALD
Charles Whitman may have been under the influence of
stimulant tablets known as goofballs when he slaughtered 15 people in
Austin, Texas, on Tuesday.
A justice of the peace, Mr Jerry Dellana, told
reporters last night that some pills had been found in Whitman's pockets
and on the basis of his apperance doctors were testing his body for
traces of the drug.
SNIPER'S FATHER BEARS NO GRUDGE
9 August 1966, THE NEW YORK TIMES
AUSTIN, Tex., Aug. 8 - Charles J. Whitman's father
today told one of the policemen who shot and killed his sniper son:
"I have respect for you for doing your job."
Funeral services, meanwhile, were scheduled tomorrow
for 17-year-old Karen Griffith, of Austin who died early today - a week
after being shot in the chest by the sniper.
NO DRUGS DETECTED IN BLOOD OF SNIPER
11 August 1966, THE NEW YORK TIMES
AUSTIN, Tex., Aug. 10 - A laboratory report today said
that the blood of Charles J. Whitman, the University of Texas sniper,
contained no detectable alcohol, barbiturates or other drugs or
After Whitman was killed by police. It was found that
he possessed capsules of amphetamines, a stimulant. This led to an
analysis of his blood to see if he were under the influence of such a
Justice of the Peace Jerry Dellana said that the
filing of the report by the Texas Department of Public Safety completes
his formal inquest into Whitman's death.
TEXAS SNIPER'S TUMOR IS FOUND 'HIGHLY MALIGNANT'
9 September 1966, THE NEW YORK TIMES
AUSTIN, Tex., Sept. 8 - A "highly malignant"
brain tumor could have contributed to the murder rampage of Charles J.
Whitman last Aug. 1, a panel of 32 physicians and psychologists said
However, the committee, which included a number of
nationally known psychiatrists, said the relationship between the tumor
and Whitman's actions "on the last day of his life cannot be
established with clarity."
TEXANS CONFRONT AWFUL MEMORY OF TOWER SNIPER
5 September 1999, THE INDIANAPOLIS STAR
University will reopen its infamous landmark, 33 years
after a heavily armed gunman perched there and killed 16 people.
AUSTIN, Texas - For 33 years, the ghost of Charles
Whitman has peered down at the University of Texas' red-tiled campus, a
deer rifle in his hands.
They remember him, a flat-topped graduate student and
former Marine, the nice young fellow with the pretty wife. He ascended
the university tower one blazing August morning. Calm, polite, smiling
even, he lugged a footlocker up the stairs, loaded for Armageddon.
The Madman in the Tower
Friday, Aug. 12, 1966
In the forenoon of a blazing August day, a blond,
husky young man strolled into a hardware store in Austin, Texas, and
asked for several boxes of rifle ammunition. As he calmly wrote a check
in payment, the clerk inquired with friendly curiosity what all the
ammunition was for. "To shoot some pigs," he replied. At the time, the
answer seemed innocent enough, for wild pigs still abound not far from
the capital. The horror of its intent only became obvious a few hours
later, when the customer, Charles Joseph Whitman, 25, a student of
architectural engineering at the University of Texas, seized his grisly
fame as the perpetrator of the worst mass murder in recent U.S. history.
That morning, Charles Whitman entered two more stores
to buy guns before ascending, with a veritable arsenal, to the
observation deck of the limestone tower that soars 307 feet above the
University of Texas campus. There, from Austin's tallest edifice, the
visitor commands an extraordinary view of the 232-acre campus, with its
green mall and red tile roofs, of the capital, ringed by lush farm lands,
and, off to the west, of the mist-mantled hills whose purple hue
prompted Storyteller O. Henry to christen Austin the "City of a Violet
Crown." Whitman had visited the tower ten days before in the company of
a brother, and had taken it all in. Today, though, he had no time for
the view; he was too intent upon his deadly work.
Methodically, he began shooting everyone in sight.
Ranging around the tower's walk at will, he sent his bullets burning and
rasping through the flesh and bone of those on the campus below, then of
those who walked or stood or rode as far as three blocks away. Somewhat
like the travelers in Thornton Wilder's The Bridge of San Luis Rey, who
were drawn by an inexorable fate to their crucial place in time and
space, his victims fell as they went about their various tasks and
pleasures. By lingering perhaps a moment too long in a classroom or
leaving a moment too soon for lunch, they had unwittingly placed
themselves within Whitman's lethal reach. Before he was himself
perforated by police bullets, Charles Whitman killed 13 people and
wounded 31—a staggering total of 44 casualties. As a prelude to his
senseless rampage, it was later discovered, he had also slain his wife
and mother, bringing the total dead to 15.
In a nation that opened its frontiers by violence and
the gun, Whitman's sanguinary spree had an unsettling number of
precedents, both in fiction and in fact. The imaginary parallels are
grisly—and suggestive—enough: from The Sniper, a 1952 movie about a
youth who shoots blondes, to The Open Square, a 1962 novel by Ford
Clarke, whose protagonist climbs a tower on a Midwestern campus and
begins picking people off. (So far as police know, Whitman had neither
seen the movie nor read the book.) Even the fiction, however, pales
before the fact. There was Scripture-reading Howard Unruh's 20-minute
orgy that brought death to 13 people in Camden, N.J., in 1949, and bandy-legged
Charles Starkweather's slaying of ten during a three-day odyssey through
Nebraska and Wyoming in 1958. There were the two murderers of the
Clutter family, Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, now enshrined in Truman
Capote's In Cold Blood, the year's most talked-about bestseller. Only
last month, when eight student nurses were slain in a Chicago town house,
and Richard Speck was charged with the crime, an official there called
the murders "the crime of the century." Sadly, Austin Police Chief
Robert A. Miles observed last week: "It isn't any more."
Unusual Undercurrents. Like many mass murderers,
Charles Whitman had been an exemplary boy, the kind that neighborhood
mothers hold up as a model to their own recalcitrant youngsters. He was
a Roman Catholic altar boy and a newspaper delivery boy, a pitcher on
his parochial school's baseball team and manager of its football team.
At twelve years and three months, he became an Eagle Scout, one of the
youngest on record. To all outward appearances, the family in which he
grew up in Lake Worth, Fla.—including two younger brothers besides his
mother and father, a moderately successful plumbing contractor—was a
typical American family. Charlie joined the Marines in 1959 when he was
18, later signed up at the University of Texas, where he was a B student.
Yet beneath the easy, tranquil surface of both family
and boy there flowed some unusual undercurrents. Charlie was trained to
use guns as soon as he was old enough to hold them—and so were his
brothers. "I'm a fanatic about guns," says his father, Charles A., 47.
"I raised my boys to know how to handle guns." Charlie could plug a
squirrel in the eye by the time he was 16, and in the Marine Corps he
scored 215 points out of a possible 250, winning a rating as a
sharpshooter, second only to expert. In the Marines, though, he also got
busted from corporal to private and sentenced to 30 days' hard labor for
illegal possession of a pistol, was reprimanded for telling a fellow
Marine that he was going "to knock your teeth out." He rated his
favorite sports as hunting, scuba diving and karate.
A tense situation also prevailed behind the family
façade. His father was—and is—an authoritarian, a perfectionist and an
unyielding disciplinarian who demanded much of his sons and admitted
last week that he was accustomed to beating his wife. In March, Margaret
Whitman walked out on him, summoning Charlie from Austin to help her
make the break. While his mother was packing her belongings, a Lake
Worth police car sat outside the house, called by Charlie presumably
because he feared that his father would resort to violence. To be near
Charlie, Mrs. Whitman moved to Austin. The youngest son, John, 17, left
home last spring. When he was arrested for pitching a rock through a
storefront glass, the judge gave him a choice of a $25 fine or moving
back in with his father; he paid the fine. Patrick, 21, who works for
his father, is the only son who lives with him.
His parents' separation troubled Charlie deeply, and
last March 29, he finally went to Dr. Maurice Heatly, the University of
Texas' staff psychiatrist. In a two-hour interview, he told Heatly that,
like his father, he had beaten his wife a few times. He was making
"intense efforts" to control his temper, he said, but he was worried
that he might explode. In notes jotted down at the time, Heatly
described Whitman as a "massive, muscular youth" who "seemed to be
oozing with hostility." Heatly took down only one direct quote of
Whitman's—that he was "thinking about going up on the tower with a deer
rifle and start shooting people." That did not particularly upset Heatly;
it was, he said, "a common experience for students who came to the
clinic to think of the tower as the site for some desperate action."*
Nonetheless, Heatly urged Whitman to return the next week to talk some
more. Charlie Whitman never went back. Instead, some time in the next
few months, he decided to act.
"I Love My Mother." The evening before his trip to
the tower, Whitman sat at a battered portable in his modest brick
cottage. Kathy, his wife of four years (they had no children), was at
work. "I don't quite understand what is compelling me to type this
note," he began. "I've been having fears and violent impulses. I've had
some tremendous headaches. I am prepared to die. After my death, I wish
an autopsy on me to be performed to see if there's any mental disorders."
He also wrote: "I intend to kill my wife after I pick her up from work.
I don't want her to have to face the embarrassment that my actions will
surely cause her."
At one point he had to break off when a fellow
architecture student, Larry Fuess, and his wife dropped by to chat.
Fuess found him looking "particularly relieved about something—you know,
as if he had solved a problem." After the couple left, Whitman drove off
in his black '66 Chevrolet to pick up Kathy at her summer job as a
telephone information operator. He apparently decided not to kill her
immediately, instead dropped her off at their house and sped across the
Colorado River to his mother's fifth-floor flat in Austin's Penthouse
Apartments. There he stabbed Margaret Whitman in the chest and shot her
in the back of the head, somehow also breaking several bones in her left
hand with such force that the band of her diamond engagement ring was
driven into her finger and the stone broken loose. "I have just killed
my mother," Charlie wrote in a hand-printed note addressed "To whom it
may concern." "If there's a heaven, she is going there. If there is not
a heaven, she is out of her pain and misery. I love my mother with all
Tragic Timetable. Back home—it was now after midnight—Whitman
stabbed his wife three times in the chest, apparently as she lay
sleeping, and drew the bed sheet over her nude body. Then he returned to
the note—partially typewritten, partially handwritten, partially printed—that
was to be his valedictory. Included was a tragic timetable: "12:30 a.m.—Mother
already dead. 3 o'clock—both dead." He hated his father "with a mortal
passion," he wrote, and regretted that his mother had given "the best 25
years of her life to that man." Clearly, the erratic orbit of his mind
had already carried him off to some remote aphelion of despair. "Life is
not worth living," he wrote. He had apparently concluded that if it were
not worth living for him, it need not be for the others, either. With
the special lucidity of the mad, Whitman meticulously prepared to take
as many people with him to the grave as he possibly could.
Into a green duffel bag and a green foot locker that
bore the stenciled words, "Lance Cpl. C. J. Whitman," he stuffed
provisions to sustain him during a long siege and to cover every
contingency: Spam, Planters peanuts, fruit cocktail, sandwiches and
boxes of raisins, jerricans containing water and gasoline, rope,
binoculars, canteens, transistor radio, toilet paper, and, in a bizarre
allegiance to the cult of cleanliness, a plastic bottle of Mennen spray
deodorant. He also stowed away a private armory that seemed sufficient
to hold off an army: machete, Bowie knife, hatchet, a 6-mm. Remington
bolt-action rifle with a 4-power Leupold telescopic sight (with which,
experts say, a halfway decent shot can consistently hit a 6½-in. circle
from 300 yds.), a 35-mm. Remington rifle, a 9-mm. Luger pistol, a Galesi-Brescia
pistol and a .357 Smith & Wesson Magnum revolver. At home, he left three
more rifles, two derringers.
Whether Whitman slept at all during the following few
hours is not known. He was next seen at 7:15 a.m. when he rented a
mover's dolly from an Austin firm. Then, deciding that he needed even
more firepower, he went to Sears, Roebuck and bought a 12-gauge shotgun
on credit, sawed off both barrel and stock. He visited Davis Hardware to
buy a .30-cal. carbine. And at Chuck's Gun Shop, he bought some 30-shot
magazines for the new carbine. All told, he had perhaps 700 rounds.
Left to Die. Around 11 a.m., Whitman boldly breezed
into a parking spot reserved for university officials, near the main
administration and library building at the base of the tower. Dressed in
tennis sneakers, blue jeans and a pale polo shirt, he wheeled the loaded
dolly toward an elevator, gave passersby the impression that he was a
maintenance man. The elevator stops at the 27th floor; Whitman lugged
his bizarre cargo up three flights of steps to the 30th floor. There, at
a desk next to the glass-paneled door that opens onto the observation
deck, he encountered Receptionist Edna Townsley, 47, a spirited divorcee
and mother of two young sons. Whitman bashed her head in, probably with
a rifle butt, with such force that part of her skull was torn away, also
shot her in the head. Then he left her behind a sofa to die.
As Whitman began assembling his equipment on the deck,
six sightseers arrived, led by Mark and Mike Gabour, the 16-and 19-year-old
sons of M. J. Gabour, a service-station owner in Texarkana, Texas. "Mark
opened the door to the observation deck and a gun went off," said Gabour.
"Mike screamed." Then his sons, his wife and his sister, Mrs. Marguerite
Lamport, "came rolling down the stairs. Whoever did the shooting slammed
the door." Gabour turned his younger son over, saw he had been shot in
the head. He was dead. So was Gabour's sister. Critically injured, his
wife and his older son were bleeding profusely. Gabour and his brother-in-law
dragged their dead and wounded to the 27th floor, sought help but could
Splashed with Blood. Outside, on the six-foot-wide
walkway that runs around all four sides of the tower, Whitman positioned
himself under the "VI" of the gold-edged clock's south face. Looking
toward the mall, a large paved rectangle, he could see scores of
students below him. Had Mrs. Townsley and the Gabours not held him up,
he might have had another thousand students as targets when classes
changed at 11:30 a.m. Now, at 11:48 a.m., Charles Whitman opened fire.
The 17-chime carillon above him was to ring the quarter-hour six times
before his guns were silenced.
For a moment, nobody could make out what the odd
explosions from atop the tower meant. Then men and women began crumpling
to the ground, and others ran for cover. On the fourth floor of the
tower building, Ph.D. Candidate Norma Barger, 23, heard the noises,
looked out and saw six bodies sprawled grotesquely on the mall. At first
she thought it was just a tasteless joke. "I expected the six to get up
and walk away laughing." Then she saw the pavement splashed with blood,
and more people falling. In the first 20 minutes, relying chiefly on the
6-mm. rifle with the scope but switching occasionally to the carbine and
the .357 revolver, Whitman picked off most of his victims.
On the sun-dappled mall, Mrs. Claire Wilson, 18,
eight months pregnant, was walking from an anthropology class when a
bullet crashed into her abdomen; she survived, but later gave birth to a
stillborn child whose skull had been crushed by the shot. A horrified
classmate, Freshman Thomas Eckman, 19, knelt beside her to help, was
shot dead himself. Mathematician Robert Boyer, 33, en route to a
teaching job in Liverpool, England, where his pregnant wife and two
children were awaiting him, stepped out onto the mall to head for lunch,
was shot fatally in the back. More fortunate was Secretary Charlotte
Darehshori, who rushed out to help when the first victims dropped,
suddenly realized she was under fire and spent the next hour-and-a-half
crouched behind the concrete base of a flagpole—one of the few persons
to venture onto the mall and survive the siege uninjured.
At the south end of the mall, Austin Patrolman Billy
Speed, 23, one of the first policemen on the scene, took cover behind
the heavy, columnar stone railing, but a bullet zinged between the
columns and killed him. Still farther south, 500 yds. from the tower,
Electrical Repairman Roy Dell Schmidt, 29, walked toward his truck after
making a call, was killed by a bullet in the stomach. To the east, Iran-bound
Peace Corps Trainee Thomas Ashton, 22, was strolling on the roof of the
Computation Center when Whitman shot him dead.
Directing his fire west, Whitman found shop-lined
Guadalupe Street, the main thoroughfare off campus—known locally as "The
Drag"—astir with shoppers and strollers. Paul Sonntag, 18, lifeguard at
an Austin pool and grandson of Paul Bolton, longtime friend of Lyndon
Johnson and news editor of the Johnsons' Austin television station, was
accompanying Claudia Rutt, 18, for a polio shot she needed before
entering Texas Christian University. Claudia suddenly sank to the ground.
Paul bent over her, then pitched to the sidewalk himself. Both were dead.
A block north, Political Scientist Harry Walchuk, 39, a father of six
and a teacher at Michigan's Alpena Community College, browsed in the
doorway of a newsstand after working all morning in the college library.
He was shot dead on the spot. A few steps farther up the street, Senior
Thomas Karr, 24, was walking sleepily toward his apartment after staying
up almost all night for a 10 a.m. exam when he dropped to the pavement,
Impossible to Hit. Four minutes after Whitman opened
fire, Austin police received a report about "some shooting at the
University Tower." In seconds, a "10-50" trouble signal went out,
directing all units in the vicinity to head for the university. In a din
of wailing sirens, more than 100 city cops, reinforced by some 30
highway patrolmen, Texas Rangers and U.S. Secret Service men from Lyndon
Johnson's Austin office, converged on the campus.
The lawmen sent hundreds of rounds of small-arms fire
crackling toward the tower deck. A few smashed into the faces on the
clocks above Whitman, and most pinked ineffectually into the four-foot-high
wall in front of him, kicking up puffs of dust. Ducking below the wall,
Whitman began using narrow drainage slits in the wall as gunports. He
proved almost impossible to hit, but he kept finding targets—to the
north, where he wounded two students on their way to the Biology
Building; to the east, where he nicked a girl sitting at a window in the
Business Economics Building; but particularly to the south, where the
mall looked like a no man's land strewn with bodies that could not
safely be recovered, and to the west, where The Drag was littered with
four dead, eleven wounded.
Riding along The Drag, Newsboy Aleck Hernandez was
practically catapulted off his bicycle when a bullet slammed into its
seat—and his, inflicting a painful wound. Three blocks up The Drag,
Basketball Coach Billy Snowden of the Texas School for the Deaf stepped
into the doorway of the barbershop where he was having his hair cut and
was wounded in the shoulder. Outside the Rae Ann dress shop on The Drag,
Iraqi Chemistry Student Abdul Khashab, 26, his fiancée Janet Paulos, 20,
whom he was to have married next week, and Student-Store Clerk Lana
Phillips, 21, fell wounded within seconds of each other. At Sheftall's
jewelers, Manager Homer Kelley saw three youths fall wounded outside,
was helping to haul them inside when Whitman zeroed in on the shop.
Fragments from two bullets tore into Kelley's leg. Windows shattered.
Bullets tore huge gashes in the carpeting inside. North of the tower,
Associated Press Reporter Robert Heard, 36, was hit in the shoulder
while he was running full tilt. "What a shot!" he marveled through his
Green Flag. Unable to get at Whitman from the ground,
the police chartered a light plane, sent sharpshooting Lieut. Marion Lee
aloft in it. The sniper's fire drove it away. Finally four men, who had
made their way separately to the tower building through subterranean
passages or by zigzagging from building to building, decided to storm
the observation deck. Three were Austin patrolmen who had never been in
a gunfight: Houston McCoy, Jerry Day and Ramiro Martinez, who was off
duty when he heard of the sniper, got into uniform and rushed to the
campus. The fourth was Civilian Allen Crum, 40, a retired Air Force
tailgunner, who had "never fired a shot" in combat.
The four rode to the 27th floor, headed single file
up the last three flights, carefully removed a barricade of furniture
that Whitman had set at the top of the stairs. While cops on the ground
intensified their fire to divert Whitman's attention, Martinez slowly
pushed away the dolly propped against the door leading to the walkway
around the tower, crawled out onto its south side and began moving
stealthily to the east. Crum followed through the door and turned toward
the west. Hearing footsteps, Crum fired into the southwest corner to
keep Whitman from bursting around the corner and shooting him. Martinez,
meanwhile, rounded one corner, then, more slowly, turned onto the north
side of the walkway.
Fifty feet away from him, in the northwest corner,
crouched Whitman, his eyes riveted on the corner that Crum was about to
turn. Martinez poured six pistol shots into Whitman's left side, arms
and legs. McCoy moved up, blasted Whitman with a shotgun. Martinez,
noting that the sniper's gun "was still flopping," grabbed the shotgun
and, blasted Whitman again. As an autopsy showed, the shotgun pellets
did it: one pierced Whitman's heart, another his brain. Crum grabbed a
green towel from Whitman's foot locker, waved it above the railing to
signal ceasefire. At 1:24 p.m., 96 murderous minutes after his first
fusillade from the tower, Charlie Whitman was dead.
Tumors & Goof balls. Whitman's bloody stand
profoundly shocked a nation not yet recovered from the Chicago nurses'
murders. One effect was to prompt a re-examination of U.S. arms laws and
methods of handling suspected psychotics (see boxes). There was a spate
of ideas, some hasty and ill conceived. Texas Governor John Connally,
who broke off a Latin American tour and hurried home after the shootings,
demanded legislation requiring that any individual freed on the ground
of insanity in murder and kidnaping cases be institutionalized for life.
New York's Senator Robert Kennedy proposed that persons acquitted of all
federal crimes on the ground of insanity be committed for psychiatric
treatment. Had Whitman lived to face trial, said Kennedy, he would "undoubtedly"
have been acquitted because "he was so clearly insane."
An autopsy showed that Whitman had a pecan-size brain
tumor, or astrocytoma, in the hypothalamus region, but Pathologist
Coleman de Chenar said that it was "certainly not the cause of the
headaches" and "could not have had any influence on his psychic behavior."
A number of Dexedrine tablets—stimulants known as "goofballs" —were
found in Whitman's possession, but physicians were not able to detect
signs that he had taken any before he died.
Half-Staff. Precisely what triggered Whitman's
outburst is a mystery. And it is likely to remain so, though
psychiatrists will undoubtedly debate the causes for years. The role of
Whitman's father in shaping—or misshaping—his son's personality has
already come under intense scrutiny, but other psychiatrists feel that
the cause of his illness must be sought in his relationship with his
mother. Whatever its cause, Charlie Whitman's psychosis was poured out
in detail in his farewell notes, which, a grand jury said, will be
released only to "authorized investigating agencies, since they contain
unverified statements of an insane killer concerning an innocent
In the end, Charlie Whitman and his mother returned
together to Florida, he in a grey metal casket, she in a green-and-white
one. With hundreds of curiosity seekers gawking and jostling in a
rolling, palm-fringed cemetery in West Palm Beach, mother and son were
buried with Catholic rites. Charlie had obviously been deranged, said
the Whitmans' priest, and was not responsible for the sin of murder and
therefore eligible for burial in hallowed ground.
In Austin, where two of those wounded by Whitman
remain in critical condition and three in serious condition, most flags
flew at half-staff through the week. This week the flags go back to full
staff as the university and the capital attempt to return to normal.
That may take a while. The 17 chimes in the tower from which Charlie
Whitman shot peal each quarter-hour, resounding over the tree-shaded
campus and the mist-mantled hills beyond.
* Three persons have jumped from the tower to their
deaths since its completion in 1937. Two others have died in accidental
This is the letter written by Charles Whitman
the evening before his shooting rampage from the clock tower on the
University of Texas campus, which left 13 people dead and 31 wounded.
The first section was typewritten by Whitman, the second section
handwritten after he had murdered his mother and his wife. (mispellings
July 31, 1966
I don't quite understand what it is that compels me to
type this letter. Perhaps it is to leave some vague reason for the
actions I have recently performed. I don't really understand myself
these days. I am supposed to be an average reasonable and intelligent
young man. However, lately ( I can't recall when it started ) I have
been a victim of many unusual and irrational thoughts. These thoughts
constantly recur and it requires a tremendous mental effort to
concentrate on useful and progressive tasks. In March when my parents
made a physical break I noticed a great deal of stress. I consulted a
Dr. Cochrum at the University Health Center and asked him to recommend
someone that I could consult with about some psychiatric disorders I
felt I had. I talked with a Doctor once for about two hoursand tried to
convey to him my fears that I felt come overwhelming violent impulses.
After one session I never saw the Doctor again, and since then I have
been fighting my mental turmoil alone, and seemingly to no avail. After
my death I wish that an autopsy would be performed on me to see if there
is any visible physical disorder. I have had some tremendous headaches
in the past and have consumed two large bottlesof Excedrin in the past
It was after much thought that I decided to kill my
wife, Kathy, tonight after I pick her up from work at the telephone
company. I love her dearly, and she has been as fine a wife to me as any
man could ever hope to have. I cannot rationaly pinpoint any specific
reason for doing this. I don't know whether it is selfishness, or if I
don't want her to have to face the embrassment my actions would surely
cause her. AT this time, though, the p rominent reason in my mind is
that I truly do not consider this world worth living in, and am prepared
to die, and I do not want to leave her to suffer alone in it. I intend
to kill her as painlessly as possible.
Similar reasons provoked me to take my mother's life
also. I don't think the poor woman has ever enjoyed life as she is
entitled to. She was a simple young woman who married a very possessive
and dominating man. All my life as a boy until I ran away from home to
join the Marine Corps
( At this point in the note, Whitman broke off his
writing, picking it up later that same night )
I was a witness to her being beaten at least one a
month. Then when she took enough my father wanted to fight to keep her
below her usual standard of living.
I imagine it appears that I bruttaly kill both of my
loved ones. I was only trying to do a quick thorough job.
If my life insurance policy is valid, please see that
all the worthless checks I wrote this weekend are made good. Please pay
off my debts. I am 25 years old and have been financially independent.
Donate the rest anonymously to a mental health
foundation. Maybe research can prevent further tragedies of this type.
Charles J. Whitman
Give our dog to my-in-laws please. Tell them Kathy
loved "Schocie" very much.
R. W. Leissner
If you can find it in yourself to grant my last wish
Cremate me after The autopsy.
Whitman also left a handwritten note beside the body
of his mother. It read:
I have just taken my mother's life. I am very upset
over having done it. However I feel that if there is a heaven, she is
definitely there now, and if there is no life after, I have relieved her
of her suffering here on earth.
The intense hatred I feel for my father is beyond
description. My mother gave that man the 25 best years of her life and
because she finally took enough of his beatings, humiliation,
degredation, and tribulations that I am sure no one but she and he will
ever know - to leave him. He has chosen to treat her like a slut that
you would bed down with, accept her favors and then throw a pittance in
return. I am truly sorry that this is the only way I could see to
relieve her suffering but I think it was best. Let there be no doubt in
your mind that I loved the woman with all my heart. If there exists a
God, let him understand my actions and judge me accordingly.
Whitman was shot dead by police officers
Houston McCoy and Ramiro Martinez, 96 minutes after he began his deadly
51-year-old secretary was killed
Monday, August 1, 1966. She was at the observation deck check-in desk
waiting to be relieved for lunch, and was the first of Whitman's victims
on campus. Mrs. Townsley had worked at University of Texas since 1958,
first as an elevator operator, later as a secretary. Her co-workers
described her as a "real scrapper," and attested to her hearty
laughter which used to fill the halls of the tower. She left behind two
beloved sons: Danny Townsley, 16, and Terry Townsley, 12. She also left
a nameplate on her desk reading "Mrs. Edna Townsley."
16-year-old boy was killed Monday,
August 1, 1966. He and his family were visiting the University of Texas
observation deck immediately after Charles Whitman arrived. His family
was stopping to visit Marguerite Lamport (Gabour's aunt) on their way to
an All-Star High School football game. His family included his brother
Mike (18), who was critically wounded by Charles Whitman; his mother,
Mary, critically wounded by Charles Whitman (she later wrote the memoir
"The Impossible Tree"); and his father, M.J. 30 years later,
Mark's friend, John, voiced his grief.
45-year-old resident of Austin was
killed Monday, August 1, 1966. She was taking her brother, M.J. Gabour
of Texarkana, and his family--his wife Mary and their sons Mark and
Mike--on a tour of the tower when Charles Whitman attacked them.
18-year-old fiancee of Claudia Rutt,
died Monday, August 1, 1966. He was a recent graduate of Stephen F.
Austin High. At the time he was shot, he was a lifeguard at Reed Pool,
picking up his paycheck from the Parks and Recreation Department. His
last words to Josephine Bailey, the secretary, were: "As far as I
know, I'll be back next summer." As he stood up from a construction
barricade to glimpse Whitman in the tower, he said to Claudia and a
friend, Carla: "Carla! Come look, I can see him. This is for
real." He was shot immediately after finishing the last sentence.
He would have attended the University of Colorado in the fall. Instead,
Sonntag was buried at Austin Memorial Park.
18-year-old fiancee of Paul Sonntag,
died Monday August 1, 1966. She was a recent graduate of Stephen F.
Austin High. "Some sort of memorial" was planned for her and
Paul Sonntag, said Grady Rylander, Senior Class President of 1966. After
Sonntag fell, she moved from the baracade, and knelt beside him. Her
friend Carla tried to move her, but Claudia was struck by a bullet in
the chest. Claudia Rutt died wearing Sonntag's ring on a chain around
her neck. She was survived by her parents Mr. and Mrs. Melvin Rutt, and
one sister, Mary Anne Rutt. She was buried in the Beth Israel section of
Oakwood Cemetary. Her dream was to be a dancer.
Roy Dell Schmidt
29-year-old city of Austin employee
died at University of Texas on Monday, August 1, 1966. He was shot while
making a customer service call at the University for the electric
company. He stood behind his service vehicle and was shot; his last
words were, "I'm hit! I'm hit!" His survivors included his
widow, Nancy White Schmidt, and daughter, Kimberly Dawn Schmidt.
Thomas Aquinas Ashton
22-year-old college graduate from
Redlands, California, died Monday, August 1, 1966. He was at the
University of Texas attending a Peace Corps training class and would
have left for Iran on September 14. He was on his way to the Student
Union to meet a few friends for lunch. His survivors include his
parents, Mr. and Mrs. George F. Ashton.
18 year old from Barcelona, Spain, died
at a local hospital on Monday, August 1, 1966. He had just completed a
9-week exam for anthropology, and was walking with Claire Wilson near
Benedict Hall at the University. As Whitman began shooting, Eckman threw
himself onto Claire Wilson, in a vain attempt to protect her. A bullet
passed through him and into Claire Wilson's abdomen. He left behind his
mother, Mary Louise Eckman, his father, Frederick Eckman, and
half-brother, Michael R. Campbell. He was described as a "gentle
and affectionate boy."
Baby Boy Wilson
Died Monday, August 1, 1966, while
emergency surgery was being performed on his mother, Mrs. Claire Wilson,
who was shot in the abdomen by Charles Whitman. Mrs. Claire Wilson
24 year old died on the operating table
Monday, August 1, 1966. He had just left Batts Hall, pleased with a
Spanish test he had taken. His survivors included his parents, Mr. and
Mrs. Ray T. Karr.
17-year-old victim of Charles Whitman,
died Monday, August 8, 1966. Karen would have been a Lanier High School
senior. She left behind her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Griffith, and a
sister, Pamela Griffith.
Doctor Robert Boyer
33-year-old former mathematics
professor at the University of Texas was killed on Monday, August 1,
1966. Boyer had just completed a month of teaching in Mexico. He was
visiting friends in Austin, and was on his way to Liverpool University,
where he would have taught applied mathematics. Upset by a national
airline strike, Boyer left his friends' house to buy a train ticket. On
his way, he was to stop at the Main Building to take care of some
last-minute business. His survivors included his widow, Mrs. Lyndsay
Boyer, a daughter, Laura Boyer, and a son, Matthew Boyer.
Died Monday, August 1, 1966, while in
emergency surgery from a gunshot wound. He was at the University working
on his PhD, when, at lunch time, he crossed Guadalupe to buy a magazine.
The newsstand didn't have the magazine he was looking for. He was shot
and killed immediately afterward. His family included his widow, Marilyn
Walchuck, six children--John, Peter, Christopher, Jennifer, Thomas, and
Paul. By August 6, 1966, over $850 had been contributed to a memorial
fund in his honor, mostly by married students at the University of
Texas. He was well known for the love he held for his family.
22-year-old policeman who was killed
Monday, August 1, 1966, by Charles Whitman. He was commissioned into the
Austin Police Department on July 2, 1965. He was a veteran of the 82nd
Airborne Division and a member of the Austin Police Association.