Friday, 24 August 2012

Real Life Horror: Charles Whitman


Charles Joseph Whitman was an engineering student and former Marine who killed 16 people and an unborn child and wounded 32 others in a shooting rampage located in and around the Tower of the University of Texas on the afternoon of August 1, 1966.

Charles Joseph Whitman was born on June 24, 1941 in Lake Worth, Florida, the eldest of three sons born to Charles and Margaret Whitman. Whitman Sr. had been raised in an orphanage in Savannah, Georgia and described himself as a self-made man. In 1940, he had married Whitman's mother. Whitman's parents moved a total of eight times in the first six years of Charles's life before settling in a home in Lake Worth, where Whitman's father subsequently opened a plumbing contract business. Whitman Sr. was an admitted authoritarian who provided for his family, but demanded near perfection from all of them. He was also known to become physically and emotionally abusive and to be an avid enthusiast of firearms: Whitman Sr. was an extensive firearms collector who taught each of his sons how to shoot, clean and maintain weapons, later admitting: "My boys know all about guns. I believe in that." In addition, Whitman Sr. regularly took his sons on hunting trips, and Charles became an avid hunter and accomplished marksman.

The Whitman brothers were raised in a devout Catholic household. All three Whitman children served as altar boys at the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, Charles was an extremely intelligent child. At the age of six, an examination revealed his IQ to be 172. Whitman's academic achievements were encouraged by his parents, yet any indication of failure or a lethargic attitude would be met with discipline ,often physical, from his father. As a result of the nurturing and goading from his father, Whitman became an accomplished pianist at the age of 12. The same year, he also earned the rank of Eagle Scout, becoming the youngest person in the world ever to do so.


In 1955, Whitman entered a Catholic high school in West Palm Beach, where his intelligence was again noted by teachers and his peers alike. (Whitman was to graduate seventh in a class of 72.) The same year, his Scout leader, Joseph Leduc, completed seminary and served as the priest of Sacred Heart (the Catholic Church where Whitman and his brothers served as altar boys) for a period of one month. Leduc 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.

Following his graduation from high school, Whitman enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in July, 1959 without informing his father. Whitman explained to a family friend that the catalyst for his decision to join the Marines was an incident that had occurred the month prior to his enlistment when his father had beaten him and thrown him into the family swimming pool, almost drowning him, after he had returned home drunk after an evening socializing with friends. He left home to join the Marines on July 6, having been assigned an 18-month tour of duty at Guantanamo Bay with his father still unaware of his having enlisted. As Whitman travelled towards Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, his father became aware of his having enlisted and telephoned a branch of Federal Government in an unsuccessful attempt to have his son's enlistment cancelled.

Whitman's initial 18-month tour of duty in 1959 and 1960 was exemplary, and he earned a Good Conduct Medal, a Sharpshooter's Badge and the Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal. After completing his assignment, Whitman applied to a U.S. Navy and Marine Corps scholarship program with the aim of becoming a commissioned officer. He earned high scores on the required examination, and the selection committee approved his enrollment at a preparatory school in Maryland. Whitman successfully completed courses there in mathematics and physics before transferring to the University of Texas to study mechanical engineering, later switching his focus to architectural engineering. He continued to receive his regular active-duty military pay while a student.



Whitman entered the mechanical engineering program at the University of Texas on September 15, 1961. Perhaps because he was free of the discipline and routine he had experienced while stationed at Guantanamo Bay, plus his courtship of a fellow student, Whitman was initially a poor student whose grades were largely unimpressive. His hobbies at this point included karate, scuba diving, gambling and hunting. This last hobby earned Whitman his first encounter with police when, shortly after his enrollment at the University, he and two friends were observed poaching a deer: a passer-by noted Whitman's license plate number and reported the incident to police. The trio were in the act of butchering the animal in the shower at Whitman's dormitory when arrested. Whitman was given a $100 fine for the offence.

Whitman acquired a reputation as a practical joker in his years as an architectural engineering student. However, he was also known to make morbid or chilling statements. On one occasion in 1962, as he and a fellow student named Francis Schuck, Jr. browsed at the Main Building of the University of Texas, Whitman remarked: "A person could stand off an army from atop of it (the tower) before they got him." Shortly after his enrolment in the University of Texas, Whitman met and courted a fellow student named Kathleen Frances Leissner; a teaching student two years his junior. The couple courted for almost a year before they were married on August 17, 1962 (his parents' 25th wedding anniversary) in a ceremony held in Leissner's hometown of Needville and presided over by a family friend of his. Although Whitman's grades improved somewhat during his second and third semesters at the University of Texas, the Marine Corps deemed his academic performance unacceptable and returned Whitman to active duty in February, 1963. On this occasion, Whitman returned to active duty at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina to serve the remainder of his five-year assignment.

The termination of his studies evidently embittered Whitman, but he was soon promoted nonetheless to the rank of Lance Corporal. On one occasion during his service at Camp Lejeune, Whitman and two other soldiers were involved in an accident in which the Jeep carrying the trio rolled over an embankment. After single-handedly lifting the vehicle to free a fellow Marine pinned underneath it, Whitman fell to the ground unconscious from the effort and was subsequently hospitalized for four days. In spite of his reputation among his fellow recruits as an exemplary Marine, Whitman continued to gamble during his spell at Camp Lejeune. In November 1963, he was court-martialed for gambling, usury, possession of a personal firearm on base, and threatening another Marine over a $30 loan for which he had demanded $15 interest. He was sentenced to 30 days of confinement and 90 days of hard labour and was demoted in rank from Lance Corporal to Private.



In 1963, as he awaited his court martial, Whitman began to populate a diary entitled 'The Daily Record of Charles J. Whitman'. Within the journal are entries covering Whitman's everyday life in the Marine Corps and his interactions with Kathy and other family members. He also wrote about his then-upcoming court martial and his contempt for the Marine Corps, in particular the inefficiencies he perceived within the Corps. In his writings regarding his wife, Whitman often praised her; describing his adoration for her and—while separated from her during Marine Corps service, how much he yearned to be with her. He also chronicled his attempts and plans to free himself from financial dependence upon his father.

In December 1964, Whitman was honourably discharged from the Marines and returned to the University of Texas, this time enrolling in the architectural engineering program. Whitman worked as a bill collector for the Standard Finance Company. (Later, he was to work as a bank teller at the Austin National Bank.) In January 1965, Whitman took a temporary job with Central Freight Lines where he worked as a traffic surveyor for the Texas Highway Department. He also volunteered as a Scout leader for Austin Scout Troop 5 as his wife Kathy (having began her career as a teacher) worked as a biology teacher at Lanier High School.

Two close friends of Charles Whitman named John and Fran Morgan later told the Texas Department of Public Safety that Whitman had confided in them that he had struck Kathy on a total of three occasions, adding that Whitman had abhorred himself for having done so and had confessed to having been "mortally afraid of being like his father." Whitman also lamented his actions in his self-penned journal, in which he resolved to be a good husband and not an abusive husband as his father had been.



In May 1966, Whitman's mother announced her intentions to divorce her husband due to his continuous violence. Upon hearing the news, Whitman drove to Florida to help his mother move to Austin. The move prompted Whitman's youngest brother, John, to also opt to leave Lake Worth and move to Austin with his mother. The middle Whitman sibling, Patrick, remained in Florida with his father, where he continued to work at his father's plumbing supply business. Shortly after arriving in Austin, Whitman's mother found work in a cafeteria and moved into her own apartment. She remained in close contact with her eldest son.

Whitman's father later admitted to having telephoned his son several times a week, pleading with him to convince his mother to return to Lake Worth, but he refused. The frustrations Whitman endured regarding his dysfunctional family were complicated by his abuse of amphetamines and health issues including headaches which he reported in one of his final notes as being "tremendous." On the eve of the shootings at the University Tower, Whitman reaffirmed his appraisive feelings for his wife in reference to previous journal entries he had written regarding Kathy. These final entries were written in the past tense, suggesting he may have already killed Kathy and his mother when he wrote them.

The day before the shootings, Whitman purchased a pair of binoculars and a knife from a hardware store, and Spam from a 7-Eleven convenience store. He then picked up his wife Kathy from her summer job as a telephone operator, before meeting his mother for lunch at the Wyatt Cafeteria, located close to the university campus. At approximately 4:00 p.m. on July 31, Charles and Kathy Whitman visited their close friends, John and Fran Morgan. They left the Morgans' apartment at approximately 5:50 in order that Kathy Whitman could leave for her 6:00–10:00 p.m. shift. At 6:45, Whitman began typing his suicide note, a portion of which read:


"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 his intended attacks at the university. Expressing uncertainty about his actual reasons, he nevertheless observed that he felt he wanted to relieve his wife and mother from the suffering of this world. Just after midnight on August 1, Whitman drove to his mother's apartment, where he killed her before placing her body upon her bed and covering it with sheets. The exact method by which Whitman killed his mother is disputed, but it is believed he first rendered her unconscious before stabbing her in the heart. He left a handwritten note beside her body, which read in part:


"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 his wife Kathy three times in the heart as she slept, killing her instantly before covering her body with sheets. He then resumed the type-written note he had begun the previous evening. Using a ballpoint pen, he wrote at the side of the page:


"Friends interrupted. 8-1-66 Mon. 3:00 A.M. BOTH DEAD."

Whitman then continued to compose the note, although he finished the letter using the ballpoint pen:


"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 also requested that an autopsy be done after his death, to determine if there had been anything to explain his actions and increasing headaches. Whitman then wrote personal notes to each of his brothers, Patrick and John and a final note to his father (the contents of which were never made public). He also left instructions in the apartment that the two canisters of film he had left upon his table should be developed, and that the couple's puppy, 'Schocie', should be given to Kathy's parents. In his final written message, Whitman wrote upon an envelope entitled 'Thoughts For the Day' in which he stored a collection of personal written admonitions. Upon the envelope, Whitman had written:


"8-1-66. I never could quite make it. These thoughts are too much for me."

At 5:45 a.m. on August 1, 1966, Whitman phoned Kathy's supervisor at Bell System to explain that his wife was ill and therefore unable to work that day. He made a similar phone call to his mother's workplace approximately five hours later.



On the morning of August 1, Whitman rented a hand truck from Austin Rental Company and cashed $250 of worthless checks at the bank before driving to a hardware store, where he purchased a Universal M1 carbine, two additional magazine clips and eight boxes of ammunition, explaining to the cashier that he planned to hunt wild hogs. Whitman then drove to Chuck's Gun Shop, where he purchased four further carbine clips, six additional boxes of ammunition and a can of gun cleaning solvent, before driving to Sears, where he purchased a 12 gauge semi-automatic shotgun and a green rifle case. He then drove his purchases home.

Inside his garage, Whitman sawed off the barrel of the 12-gauge shotgun he had purchased, then packed the weapon together with a Remington 700 6mm bolt-action hunting rifle into his footlocker. The footlocker also held a 6mm bolt-action hunting rifle, a .35 caliber pump rifle, a .30 caliber carbine, a 9mm Luger pistol, a Galesi-Brescia .25-caliber pistol and a Smith & Wesson M19 .357 Magnum revolver and over 700 rounds of ammunition. In addition to the weaponry, the footlocker also held various items of food, a flask of coffee, vitamins, Dexedrine, Excedrin, earplugs, jugs of water, matches, lighter fluid, rope, binoculars, a machete, three knives, a transistor radio, toilet paper, a razor and a bottle of deodorant. Before heading to the tower at approximately 11:00 that morning, Whitman dressed in khaki coveralls over his shirt and jeans. Once in the tower, he also donned a white sweatband.

Pushing the rented dolly carrying his equipment, Whitman encountered a security guard named Jack Rodman from whom he obtained a parking pass under the pretence he had a delivery to make and showing Rodman a card identifying himself as a research assistant for the school. Whitman then entered the Main Building shortly after 11:30 a.m., where he attempted to activate the elevator until an employee named Vera Palmer informed him that it had not been powered and turned it on for him. Whitman thanked Palmer, stating: "You don't know how happy that makes me ... how happy that makes me" as the elevator doors closed. He then ascended to the 27th floor of the tower (the highest floor the elevator reached); just one floor beneath the clock face.


Whitman then lugged the dolly up the final flight of stairs to the hallway that led to a dog-legged stairway ascending to the rooms within the observation deck area. In the reception area, Whitman encountered the receptionist, 51-year-old Edna Townsley. Townsley observed Whitman's trunk and asked to see his University work identification. In response, Whitman knocked Townsley unconscious with the butt of his rifle, splitting her skull, then turned his weapon and shot her in the back of the head before dragging her body behind a couch; Townsley would later die from her injuries. Moments after he had hidden Townsley's body, a young couple named Cheryl Botts and Don Walden returned to the receptionist area, having been sightseeing upon the observation deck. The couple encountered Whitman holding a rifle in each hand. Botts observed a dark stain upon the floor beside the reception desk and later claimed that she believed that this large red stain was varnish, and that Whitman was there to shoot pigeons. Whitman and the young couple exchanged brief pleasantries before the couple left the reception area. After Botts and Walden had left the reception, Whitman barricaded the stairway.

As Whitman prepared to enter the observation deck, he became aware of two families: M. J. Gabour, his wife Mary and their teenage sons Mike and Mark and the boys' aunt and uncle, Marguerite and William Lamport, ascending the stairs towards the makeshift barricade he had assembled. Mary Gabour later recollected that she and her sons had assumed the barricade was in place because the reception area was in the process of being cleaned and that Whitman, still donned in khaki overalls, was the janitor. As 16-year-old Michael Gabour and his 18-year-old brother Mike attempted to look beyond the barricade and open the door to the reception area, Whitman fired his sawed-off shotgun at the brothers, hitting Mark in the head, neck and shoulder, and killing him instantly. Mike was shot in the head, shoulder and left leg and knocked unconscious: both brothers fell down the staircase in front of their parents and aunt and uncle. Whitman then fired the sawed-off shotgun three more times through grates on the stairway, hitting and wounding Mary Gabour in the head and killing 56-year-old Marguerite Lamport with a gunshot wound to the chest as the two women ascended the stairs. Whitman again closed and barricaded the door to the reception area before walking to the observation deck: a vantage point 231 feet above ground level.

The first shots fired from the tower's outer deck came at approximately 11:48 a.m. The first person to be hit was Claire Wilson, an 18-year-old anthropology student who was eight months pregnant. Whitman shot Wilson in the abdomen, killing her unborn child, then shot and killed her companion, 18-year-old Thomas Eckman, as he attempted to help her. The next to be shot was a 33-year-old mathematician and father of two named Robert Boyer, who was killed instantly by a single shot to the lower back as he walked onto the mall. Almost immediately after Boyer was shot, a 31-year-old student named Devereau Huffman fell wounded beside a hedge. A young secretary named Charlotte Darehshori ran to help Boyer and Huffman only to find herself under fire from Whitman. Darehshori crouched beneath the concrete base of a flagpole for an hour-and-a-half, escaping Whitman's fire. Whitman then shot a 23-year-old named David Gunby upon the courtyard, causing a wound which would ultimately prove fatal. A 22-year-old named Thomas Ashton was then fatally shot through the chest as he walked upon the roof of the University Computation Centre before Whitman targeted a married couple named Adrian and Brenda Littlefield as the couple walked onto the South Mall. 19-year-old Adrian Littlefield was shot from behind and wounded in the stomach before his 17-year-old wife, Brenda, was wounded in the hip. Two young women named Nancy Harvey and Ellen Evganides were then shot and wounded as they walked down the West Mall. Whitman shot Harvey, who was five months pregnant, in the hip; Evganides was shot in the leg and thigh. Harvey's unborn child was unharmed.



Whitman then began to fire upon people walking on Guadalupe Street, where he first shot and injured a 17-year-old newspaper delivery boy named Alex Hernandez, before fatally wounding a 17-year-old girl named Karen Griffith with a shot to the shoulder which destroyed Griffith's right lung. The next to be shot was a 24-year-old senior named Thomas Karr, whom Whitman fatally shot through the spine as the youth walked to his residence having completed an exam. On the third block, Whitman shot and wounded a 35-year-old basketball coach named Billy Snowden from a distance of over 500 yards as he stepped into the entrance of a barbershop. Nearby, 21-year-old Sandra Wilson fell to the ground, seriously wounded after Whitman shot her in the chest. Whitman then shot and wounded two students named Abdul Khashab and his fiancée, Janet Paulos, as the pair browsed outside a dress shop at the corner of 24th and Guadalupe. Khashab, a 26-year-old Chemistry student, was shot in the elbow and his partner was shot in the chest. The next to be shot was a 21-year-old named Lana Phillips, whom Whitman wounded in the shoulder. Phillips' own sister subsequently ran from cover to drag Lana to safety.

Three Peace Corps trainees named Tom Herman, Roland Ehlke and David Mattson were Whitman's next targets: the trio were shot as they walked towards a luncheon for Peace Corps volunteers. Mattson had just bought a new watch and had raised his arm to eye level to show his friends the watch when part of his wrist was blown off. Ehlke himself was to subsequently recall that he first became aware of his friend having been shot as he heard Mattson scream as the bullet hit him in the wrist. Ehlke then saw that shrapnel from the shot had embedded itself into his own left arm. Ehlke was again shot in the left bicep before he dived for cover. Upon seeing his friend lying prone, Ehlke emerged from cover to drag him to safety and was again shot in the leg as he did so. A 64-year-old local shopkeeper named Homer Kelly helped drag the wounded duo, plus Herman, into his shop, before he was himself shot and wounded in the leg.

To the rear of the intersection of 24th and Guadalupe Street, Whitman targeted two 21-year-olds named Oscar Royvela and Irma Garcia as the pair walked towards the university's biology laboratory. Garcia was shot first, later recalling the bullet spun her "completely around" as it hit her in the left shoulder. Garcia immediately fell to the ground. Royvela instinctively attempted to help Garcia when he too was shot through the shoulder blade; the bullet then exiting through his left arm. Two students named Jack Stephens and Jack Pennington instinctively ran from cover and dragged the pair to safety. Close to where Royvela and Garcia had been shot, Whitman focused his attentions upon a 26-year-old carpenter named Avelino Esparza. Whitman fired a single shot into Esparza's left shoulder, causing a severe wound, although Esparza was to survive. Two students, 18-year-olds Paul Sonntag and his fiancée, Claudia Rutt, had taken refuge behind a construction barricade alongside a teenager named Carla Sue Wheeler when Whitman had begun firing upon people on and around Guadalupe Street. Whitman shot Sonntag through his mouth when the youth peered from behind the barricade, killing him instantly. Sonntag's body fell against a parking meter and in doing so, knocked the barricade slightly open. Rutt attempted to move towards Sonntag's prone body as Wheeler attempted to restrain her before Whitman fired once more: the bullet blew off three fingers of Wheeler's left hand, then entered Rutt's torso through the upper left chest. Rutt died later in hospital. Wheeler survived her injuries.



A block north of where Sonntag and Rutt had been murdered, Whitman shot and killed a 38-year-old doctoral student and father of six named Harry Walchuk as he browsed at a newsstand. He then wounded a 36-year-old press reporter named Robert Heard in the shoulder. Slightly north of where Heard had been shot, an 18-year-old freshman named John Allen was wounded in the forearm as he and acquaintances looked towards the tower from the University of Texas Union. Having seen several students shot in the South Mall gathering centre, a history professor was the first to place a phone call to the Austin Police Department. The time of this phone call was 11:52 a.m., four minutes after Whitman had first fired from the tower. One of the first police officers to arrive was an Austin patrol-man named Billy Speed. Speed and a colleague took refuge behind a columned stone wall. Whitman shot and killed Speed, placing a shot through the six-inch spacing between the columns of the wall. At a distance of approximately 500 yards from the tower, Whitman shot and killed a 29-year-old electrical repairman named Roy Schmidt as he attempted to take refuge behind a parked car.

In addition to personal efforts made by both students and university staff to both comfort and assist as well as move the wounded to safety, efforts made to reach the wounded by medical personnel included an armored car and provisioned ambulances run by local funeral homes. One of the many ambulance drivers to attend the scene, 30-year-old Morris Hohmann, was shot in the leg on West 23rd Street as he attempted to evacuate the numerous wounded personnel, severing a major artery. Another ambulance driver quickly administered first aid to Hohmann, who was then taken to Brackenridge Hospital, which held the only local emergency room. In response to the influx of wounded and killed as a result of the Texas Sniper shootings, the Brackenridge Hospital administrator declared an emergency, and medical staff raced to this location to reinforce the on-duty shifts. (In response to the shootings, numerous volunteers also donated blood at both Brackenridge Hospital and the Travis County Blood Bank.) The shootings caused panic in and around the University of Texas as news of the sniper spread. In response to the shootings, all active police officers in Austin were ordered to the campus. Other off-duty officers, Travis County Sheriff's deputies, and Texas Department of Public Safety troopers also converged upon the area to assist.

Approximately 20 minutes after he had first fired from the observation deck, Whitman began to encounter return fire from both the authorities and armed civilians who had converged with personal firearms to assist police. It is believed that at this point, Whitman ceased to fire from above above the parapet surrounding the observation deck and instead chose to fire through waterspouts located upon each side of the tower walls; allowing him to fire largely protected from gunfire below, but also greatly limiting his range of targets. Ramiro Martinez, an officer who participated in stopping Whitman's rampage, later stated that civilian shooters should also be credited for their actions as the return fire Whitman encountered made it difficult for him to take careful aim at those whom he fired upon. A police sharpshooter named Marion Lee reported from a small airplane upon which he had been deployed in order to shoot the gunman or gunmen firing from the observation deck that he had observed a single sniper firing from the observation deck. The airplane carrying Lee circled the tower as Lee attempted to shoot the sniper; however, the turbulence proved too great to enable Lee to focus sufficiently to fire upon Whitman. Whitman was himself able to fire upon the airplane, although the airplane was able to continue to circle the tower from a greater radius until the end of the incident.



Three officers who responded to reports of a sniper firing upon the University of Texas tower were officers Ramiro Martinez, Houston McCoy and Jerry Day. 26-year-old McCoy had responded to reports of the shootings having heard police reports upon his radio. Prior to his advancing upon the tower, McCoy had seen his colleague, Billy Speed, shot and killed by Whitman. Ramirez had driven to the University of Texas having heard reports of the sniper shootings upon the radio; Day had also driven to the scene having heard reports of the shootings upon his radio. Accompanied by a 40-year-old civilian named Allen Crum, whom the trio encountered as they ran towards the tower, McCoy, Ramirez and Day were the first individuals to reach the tower's observation deck. Having first ascended to the 26th floor via the tower's elevator, the men encountered M.J. Gabour. Gabour, clutching his wife's shoes, screamed that his family had been shot and immediately attempted to wrestle the rifle from the hands of officer Jerry Day in order that he (Gabour) could shoot Whitman. Day consoled Gabour and led him to safety before joining McCoy, Crum and Martinez as they walked to the 27th floor.

Stepping outside the south door at 1:24 p.m. Martinez, closely followed by McCoy, formed one team and proceeded north on the east deck. Day, followed by Crum, formed a second team and proceeded west on the south deck, with Whitman believed to be between the two teams. Several feet before reaching the southwest corner, Crum accidentally discharged a shot from his borrowed rifle, causing Whitman to focus his attentions towards the direction of Crum's accidentally discharged shot. At the same time, Martinez jumped around the corner into the northeast area and rapidly fired all six rounds from his .38 police revolver from a distance of 50 feet at Whitman, all of which missed. As Martinez fired towards Whitman, McCoy jumped to his (Martinez's) right and fired two fatal shots of 00-buckshot with his 12-gauge shotgun into the head, neck, and left side of Whitman, who had been sitting with his back positioned toward the north wall in the northwest corner area of the observation deck at the time the officers shot towards him. Whitman was apparently initially unaware of the presence of Martinez and McCoy on the observation deck, being partially shielded by the deck tower lights and in a position to defend assaults from either corner, his eyes were strained towards the direction of where Crum had accidentally discharged a shot.

After firing a total of six rounds, Martinez threw his empty revolver onto the deck and grabbed McCoy's shotgun, running to Whitman's prone body and firing point blank into his upper left arm. Martinez then threw the shotgun onto the deck and hurriedly left the scene, repeatedly shouting the words "I got him." After tending to the wounded in the stairwell, APD Officers Milton Shoquist, Harold Moe and George Shepard made their way up the stairs to join APD Officer Phillip Conner and Texas Department of Public Safety Agent W.A. Cowan; arriving on the 28th floor as Martinez, McCoy, Day and Crum remained on the observation deck. Moe heard Martinez as he ran past shouting "I got him," and relayed his words to the APD radio dispatcher hand-held radio. Houston McCoy subsequently appeared before the Travis County Grand Jury on August 5, 1966, where Whitman's demise was ruled to be justifiable homicide.


An autopsy conducted upon the body of Charles Whitman, approved by his father, was performed at the Cook Funeral Home on August 2. The autopsy discovered a glioblastoma (a highly aggressive and invariably fatal brain tumor) in the hypothalamus (the white matter located above Whitman's brain stem). This tumor would have proven fatal by the end of the year in which Whitman died. Experts on the subsequently-convened "Connally Commission" concluded the tumor may have played a significant role in Whitman's actions on August 1. The document also stated that this lesion "conceivably could have contributed to his inability to control his emotions and actions." Forensic investigators have theorized that the tumor may have been pressed against the nearby amygdalae regions of his brain. The amygdalae are known to effect on fight/flight responses. This has led some neurologists to speculate that his medical condition was in some way responsible for the attacks, in addition to his personal and social frames of reference.

A joint funeral service for Charles Whitman and his mother, Margaret, was held at his home parish of Sacred Heart in Lake Worth on August 5, 1966. The service was officiated by Fr. Tom Anglin. Due to his status as a veteran Marine, Whitman was buried with full military honors and was laid to rest in a casket draped with the American flag. He was laid to rest in Florida's Hillcrest Memorial Park alongside his mother and, later, his brother John (who was murdered in 1973)

Whitman had visited several University doctors who had prescribed him various medications in the year prior to the shootings. According to a list subsequently compiled by investigating officers, Whitman had seen at minimum of five doctors between the fall and winter of 1965, before he had visited a psychiatrist from whom he received no prescription. He was prescribed Valium by a doctor named Jan Cochrum, who recommended he visited the campus psychiatrist. Maurice Dean Heatly, the staff psychiatrist at the University of Texas Health Center, subsequently met Whitman on March 29, 1966. Whitman had mentioned his visit with Heatly in his final suicide notes. This section of Whitman's final note had reflected: "I talked with a Doctor once for about two hours and tried to convey to him my fears that I felt come overwhelming violent impulses. After one visit, I never saw the Doctor again, and since then have been fighting my mental turmoil alone, and seemingly to no avail.



In the days following the shootings, Texas Governor John Connally commissioned a task force of professionals to examine the facts surrounding Whitman's actions and possible motives. The commission was composed of neurosurgeons, psychiatrists, pathologists, psychologists and the University of Texas Health Center Director, Dr. White and Dr. Maurice Heatly and was conducted using Dr. de Chenar's paraffin blocks of the tumor, stained specimens of it and Whitman's other brain tissue, in addition to the remainder of the autopsy specimens available. Following a three-hour hearing on August 5, the Commission opined that the findings of Dr. de Chenar's initial autopsy conducted on August 2 had been in error; that the glioblastoma tumor conceivably could have had an influence on his actions, and that a vascular malformation located around the tumor may have been congenital, suggesting that the tumor had been dormant and suddenly appeared due to the necrosis that surrounded it. This conclusion suggested that Whitman was predisposed to develop the tumor and die at an early age, regardless of other circumstances.

Although the panel's conclusions regarding the possible influence of the tumor on Whitman's violent actions were reasonable, the Commission's implication that Dr. de Chenar had initially made a misdiagnosis was incorrect: a Glioblastoma is, in fact, a high-grade form of astrocytoma and not a pathologic entity distinct from the latter neoplasm. Upon completing all the information that the Commission had gathered, recommendations were made to aid the wounded and those affected by the events. Aid to survivors and the wounded were to include loans, with University of Texas and State of Texas agencies to temporarily assist those with both medical and lingering mental issues and rehabilitation after the event. These recommendations were never followed

Following the Texas Sniper shootings, the Tower observation deck was initially closed for a total of two years, before reopening in 1968. Following the suicides of a total of four students, each of whom had jumped to their death from the observation deck, between May 1971 and October 1974, the observation deck was again closed in 1975 and remained closed until September 15, 1999. Access to the tower is now tightly controlled through guided tours that are scheduled by prior appointment only, during which metal detectors and other security measures are in place. Repaired scars from bullets are still visible on the limestone walls.




"This is a warning to the citizens of Austin: Stay away from the university area. There is a sniper at the University Tower firing at will, it's like a battle scene. He fires a shot, and another shot, and another shot, it's a battle between the sniper and the police."


If you want to watch a documentary on the "Texas Bell Tower Shootings" then just check out the links below:





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