Charles Whitman

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Charles Whitman

Charles Whitman, pictured in 1963
Background information
Birth nameCharles Joseph Whitman
Also known asThe Texas Sniper
OccupationFormer U.S. Marine
Engineering student
Born(1941-06-24)June 24, 1941
Lake Worth, Florida, United States
DiedAugust 1, 1966(1966-08-01) (aged 25)
Austin, Texas, United States
Cause of deathGunshot wounds to the head, neck and body. Justifiable homicide
ParentsCharles and Margaret Whitman
Spouse(s)Kathy Leissner
DateAugust 1, 1966
c. 00:15:00 - 03:00 (family)
11:48 am - 1:24 pm (random targets)
Location(s)Austin, Texas and University of Texas
Target(s)Family, students, teachers and police
Killed16 (including unborn child)
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Charles Whitman

Charles Whitman, pictured in 1963
Background information
Birth nameCharles Joseph Whitman
Also known asThe Texas Sniper
OccupationFormer U.S. Marine
Engineering student
Born(1941-06-24)June 24, 1941
Lake Worth, Florida, United States
DiedAugust 1, 1966(1966-08-01) (aged 25)
Austin, Texas, United States
Cause of deathGunshot wounds to the head, neck and body. Justifiable homicide
ParentsCharles and Margaret Whitman
Spouse(s)Kathy Leissner
DateAugust 1, 1966
c. 00:15:00 - 03:00 (family)
11:48 am - 1:24 pm (random targets)
Location(s)Austin, Texas and University of Texas
Target(s)Family, students, teachers and police
Killed16 (including unborn child)

Charles Joseph Whitman (June 24, 1941 – August 1, 1966) was an engineering student and former Marine who killed 14 people and wounded 32 others in a shooting rampage located in and around the Tower of the University of Texas in Austin on the afternoon of August 1, 1966. Three persons were killed inside the university's tower, with 11 others murdered after Whitman fired at random targets from the 28th-floor observation deck of the Main Building. Whitman was shot and killed by Austin Police Officer Houston McCoy.[1][2][3][4][5]

Prior to starting the shootings at the University of Texas, Whitman had murdered both his wife and mother in Austin.


Early life and education

Charles Joseph Whitman was born on June 24, 1941 in Lake Worth, Florida, the eldest of three sons born to Margaret E. (Hodges) and Charles Adolphus Whitman, Jr.[6] Whitman's father had been raised in an orphanage in Savannah, Georgia[7] and described himself as a self-made man. In 1940, he had married Margaret, then 17 years old. The marriage of Whitman's parents was marred by violence: Whitman's father was an admitted authoritarian who provided for his family, but demanded near perfection from all of them. He was known to physically and emotionally abuse his wife and children.

The boy Whitman was described as a polite, well-mannered child who seldom lost his temper.[8] He was extremely intelligent: an examination at the age of six revealed his IQ to be 172.[9] 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.

Margaret Whitman was a devout Roman Catholic who raised her sons in the same faith. The Whitman brothers regularly attended Mass with their mother, and all three brothers served as altar boys at the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church.[10]

Whitman Sr. was a firearms collector and enthusiast, who taught each of his sons from an early age how to shoot, clean and maintain weapons. He regularly took them on hunting trips, and Charles became an avid hunter and accomplished marksman. His father said of him: "Charlie could plug (shoot) the eye out of a squirrel by the time he was sixteen."[11]

At the age of eleven, Whitman joined the Boy Scouts and earned a total of twenty-one merit badges in fifteen months.[12] In September 1953, at the age of twelve years and three months, Whitman also earned the rank of Eagle Scout. It has been claimed that Whitman is the youngest person in the world ever to become an Eagle Scout.[7][13][14] The Boy Scouts of America do not publish their official records.

Whitman became an accomplished pianist at the age of twelve. At around the same time, Whitman undertook an extensive newspaper route delivering the Miami Herald in and around his neighborhood. As he had many households to cover, on occasions, his parents used their car to assist their son on his route - particularly in bad weather.[15]

High school

On September 1, 1955, Whitman entered St. Ann's high school in West Palm Beach, where he was regarded as a moderately popular student whose intelligence was noted by teachers and his peers alike.[16] By the next month, he had saved enough money from his newspaper route to purchase a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, which he used on his route.[17]

At the age of sixteen, Whitman underwent a routine appendectomy and was hospitalized following a motorcycle accident.[18] In February 1958, Whitman was hospitalized for surgery to remove a blood clot which had formed around his left testicle.[19] On this occasion, Whitman missed a total of 16 schooling days.

One month after his June 1959 graduation from high school (where he had graduated seventh in a class of seventy-two students),[7] Whitman enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He had not told his father beforehand. Whitman told a family friend that the catalyst was an incident a month before. His father had beaten him and thrown him into the family swimming pool, almost drowning him, when the younger Whitman had come home drunk after an evening socializing with friends.[20] Whitman left home on July 6, having been assigned an 18-month tour of duty with the Marines at Guantanamo Bay. His father still did not know he had enlisted.[7]

As Whitman traveled toward Parris Island, his father learned of his action and telephoned a branch of the federal government, trying unsuccessfully to have his son's enlistment canceled.[10]

U.S. Marine and college student

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.[21] After completing his assignment, Whitman applied to a U.S. Navy and Marine Corps scholarship program, intending to complete college and become 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 in mathematics and physics before being approved to transfer to the University of Texas to study mechanical engineering. Later he majored there in architectural engineering. As a student, he received his regular active-duty military pay as he was still in the Marines.

University life

Whitman entered the mechanical engineering program at the University of Texas on September 15, 1961. Whitman was initially a poor student whose grades were largely unimpressive. At the time, he was courting his future wife.[20] His hobbies included karate, scuba diving, gambling and hunting.[22] 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 them to police. The trio were butchering the deer in the shower at Whitman's dormitory when arrested.[10] Whitman was fined $100 for the offense.

Whitman acquired a reputation as a practical joker in his years as an engineering student, but friends also noted he made some morbid and chilling statements. On one occasion in 1962, as he and a fellow student named Francis Schuck, Jr. browsed the bookstore in 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."[23]


Shortly after his enrollment in the University of Texas, Whitman met and courted Kathleen Frances Leissner, a teaching student two years his junior.[24] Leissner was Whitman's first serious girlfriend, and he went to great lengths to both attract and keep her attentions.[25] The couple courted for a total of five months before announcing their engagement on July 19.

On August 17, 1962 Whitman and Leissner married in a Catholic ceremony held in Leissner's hometown of Needville, Texas. The couple chose the 22nd wedding anniversary of Whitman's parents as the date for their wedding.[23] Whitman's family drove from Florida to Texas to attend the event and his younger brother Patrick served as best man. Fr. Leduc, a Whitman family friend, presided over the ceremony. Leissner's family and friends approved of her choice of husband,[26] describing Whitman as a "handsome young man."[27]

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 in terms of the scholarship. It returned Whitman to active duty in February 1963.[28] Whitman returned to active duty at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina to serve the remainder of his five-year assignment.

Camp Lejeune

Whitman apparently resented the end of his college studies. He was automatically promoted to the rank of lance corporal. On one occasion during his service at Camp Lejeune, Whitman and two other Marines were involved in an accident in which their Jeep rolled over an embankment. After single-handedly lifting the vehicle to free a fellow Marine,[29] Whitman fell to the ground unconscious from the effort. He was hospitalized for four days.[18]

He had a reputation among his fellow Marines as an exemplary Marine, but Whitman continued to gamble during his time 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. Sentenced to 30 days of confinement and 90 days of hard labor, he was demoted in rank from lance corporal to private.[30]

Charles Whitman.

Documented frustrations

In 1963, as he awaited his court martial, Whitman began to write a diary entitled "Daily Record of Charles J. Whitman".[31] He covered his daily life in the Marine Corps and his interactions with Kathy and other family members. He also wrote about his upcoming court martial and contempt for the Marine Corps; he criticized them for inefficiencies. In his writings about his wife, Whitman often praised her; and wrote how he longed to be with her. He wrote about his efforts and plans to free himself from financial dependence on his father.

Whitman's journal.

In December 1964, Whitman was honorably discharged from the Marines. He returned to the University of Texas, enrolling in the architectural engineering program. To support himself and Kathy, he worked as a bill collector for the Standard Finance Company. (Later, he worked as a bank teller at the Austin National Bank.) In January 1965, Whitman took a temporary job with Central Freight Lines 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 begun her career as a teacher) worked as a biology teacher at Lanier High School.

Two close friends of Whitman, John and Fran Morgan, later told the Texas Department of Public Safety that he had told them of striking Kathy on three occasions.[32] They said that Whitman had despised himself for it and confessed to being "mortally afraid of being like his father."[33] Whitman lamented his actions in his journal, and resolved to be a good husband and not abusive like his father.

Divorce of Whitman's parents

In May 1966, Margaret Whitman announced her intention to divorce Whitman's father because of his physical abuse.[34] The younger Whitman drove to Florida to help his mother move to Austin. Whitman's youngest brother, John, chose to leave Lake Worth and move to Austin with his mother. The middle Whitman brother, Patrick, remained in Florida. He worked with his father in the elder's plumbing supply business.

In Austin, Whitman's mother found work in a cafeteria and moved into her own apartment. She remained in close contact with Charles.[34]

Whitman's father later admitted to having spent over a thousand dollars on regular long-distance phone calls to both his wife Margaret and Charles, pleading with his wife to return and trying to enlist his son to convince her to return.[34] At this stressful time, Charles Whitman was abusing amphetamines and having health issues including severe headaches. He described these later as "tremendous."[35]

On the eve of the shootings at the University Tower, Whitman wrote in his journal, reaffirming his love for his wife Kathy. These final entries were written in the past tense, suggesting he may have already killed Kathy and his mother.

Family murders

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 picked up his wife from her summer job as a telephone operator, before meeting his mother for lunch at the Wyatt Cafeteria, located close to the university.

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 5:50 so that Kathy could get to 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."[36]

He said he had decided to kill both his mother and wife. Expressing uncertainty about his reasons, he said he wanted to relieve his wife and mother from the suffering of this world. He did not mention planning the attack at the university.

Just after midnight on August 1, Whitman drove to his mother's apartment at 1212 Guadalupe Street. After killing his mother, he placed her body on her bed and covered it with sheets.[37] His method is disputed, but officials believed he 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."[38]

Whitman returned to his home at 906 Jewell Street. He stabbed his wife three times in the heart as she slept, killing her instantly. He covered her body with sheets. He resumed the typewritten 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."[37]

Whitman continued the note, finishing it by 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."[36]

He requested an autopsy, to determine if there was an organic reason for his actions and increasing headaches. Whitman wrote personal notes to each of his brothers, and a final note to his father (the contents of which were never made public). He left instructions in the apartment to develop two rolls of film he had left, and to give the couple's puppy 'Schocie' to Kathy's parents.[36]

Whitman last wrote on an envelope labeled, 'Thoughts For the Day,' in which he stored a collection of written admonitions. He added on the outside of the envelope:

"8-1-66. I never could quite make it. These thoughts are too much for me."[37]

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

The rifles and sawed-off shotgun used by Whitman in the massacre.

August 1, 1966

Preparations for attack

On the morning of August 1, Whitman rented a hand truck from Austin Rental Company and cashed $250 ($1791 in 2012 dollars) of worthless checks at the bank before driving to a hardware store, where he purchased a Universal M1 carbine, two additional ammunition magazines and eight boxes of ammunition, explaining to the cashier that he planned to hunt wild hogs.[39] Whitman drove to Chuck's Gun Shop, where he purchased four more carbine magazines, six additional boxes of ammunition, and a can of gun cleaning solvent. He went to Sears, where he bought a 12 gauge semi-automatic shotgun and a green rifle case. He returned with his purchases to his home.

Inside his garage, Whitman sawed off the barrel of the 12-gauge shotgun, and 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. He had already packed in it food, coffee, vitamins, Dexedrine, Excedrin, earplugs, jugs of water, matches, lighter fluid, rope, binoculars, a machete, three knives, a transistor radio, toilet paper, a razor and a bottle of deodorant.[40] Before heading to the tower about 11:00 a.m., Whitman dressed in khaki coveralls over his shirt and jeans.[41]

At approximately 11:35 a.m.,[40] Whitman arrived at the University of Texas. Showing a security guard, Jack Rodman, false identification as a research assistant, he obtained a 40-minute parking permit, saying he was delivering equipment.[40] Whitman wheeled a rented dolly carrying his equipment toward the Main Building of the University.

Entering the Main Building, Whitman tried to activate the elevator. Vera Palmer, an employee, said it had not been powered and turned it on for him. Whitman thanked her, saying: "You don't know how happy that makes me [...] how happy that makes me."[39] He ascended to the 27th floor of the tower (the highest floor the elevator reached); just one floor beneath the clock face.[42]

Main building of the University of Texas at Austin from where Whitman fired upon those below from the observation deck.

Whitman lugged the dolly and equipment 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 51-year-old Edna Townsley. She may have asked to see his university work identification. Whitman knocked her to the floor and hit her in the head with his rifle butt, splitting the back of her skull.[43] He struck her above the left eye, causing a second fracture, before dragging her behind a couch. Townsley later died from her injuries.

Moments later, Cheryl Botts and Don Walden returned to the reception area, after having been on the observation deck. They encountered Whitman holding a rifle in each hand. Botts observed a dark stain on the floor beside the reception desk, and later said she thought it was varnish. She said she thought Whitman was there to shoot pigeons. Whitman and the couple exchanged brief pleasantries before the couple left. Whitman barricaded the stairway.

As he prepared to enter the observation deck, he saw 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 toward his makeshift barricade. Mary Gabour later recollected that she and her sons had thought the barricade was in place for cleaning the reception area and that Whitman—still donned in khaki overalls—was the janitor.

As 16-year-old Mark Gabour and his 18-year-old brother Mike tried to look beyond the barricade and open the door, Whitman fired his shotgun at them, instantly killing Mark with shots to the head and neck. He shot Mike in the head, shoulder and left leg, knocking him unconscious. Both brothers fell down the staircase in front of their family. Whitman fired the sawed-off shotgun three more times through grates, hitting and wounding Mary Gabour in the head and killing 56-year-old Marguerite Lamport with a shot to the chest.[44] Whitman closed and barricaded the door to the reception area. He shot Edna Townsley in the left side of her head[45] before walking to the observation deck. It is a vantage point 231 feet (70 m) above ground level.

Sniper in the tower

Charlotte Darehshori takes refuge behind the concrete base of a flagpole as a wounded student lies beside a hedge.

Whitman fired his first shots from the tower's outer deck at approximately 11:48 a.m. He first hit Claire Wilson, an 18-year-old anthropology student who was eight months pregnant. Whitman shot Wilson in the abdomen, killing her unborn baby. Wilson fell to the floor as her fiancé and companion, 18-year-old Thomas Eckman, asked her, "What's wrong?"[46] Whitman shot and killed Eckman as he tried to help Wilson. He next shot Robert Boyer, a 33-year-old mathematician, who was killed instantly by a single shot to the lower back.[47] He next hit Devereau Huffman, who fell wounded beside a hedge.[48] When Charlotte Darehshori, a young secretary, ran to help Boyer and Huffman, she came under fire.[49] She crouched beneath the concrete base of a flagpole for an hour and a half, hiding from Whitman. Nearby, Whitman shot David Gunby, a 23-year-old engineering student walking in the courtyard; he died of his lower back wound.[50][51] Whitman fatally shot Thomas Ashton, a 22-year-old, in the chest. Next he shot Adrian and Brenda Littlefield as they walked onto the South Mall.[52] Two young women, Nancy Harvey and Ellen Evganides, were wounded as they walked down the West Mall. Whitman shot Harvey, who was five months pregnant, in the hip, and Evganides in the leg and thigh. Harvey survived and later gave birth successfully.

Karen Griffith, aged 17.

Whitman began to fire upon people walking on Guadalupe Street; he shot and wounded 17-year-old newspaper delivery boy Alex Hernandez, before fatally wounding 17-year-old Karen Griffith[53] with a shot to the shoulder and lung. The next victim was a 24-year-old senior named Thomas Karr, whom Whitman fatally shot through the spine as the youth walked to his residence after completing an exam. On the third block, Whitman shot and wounded 35-year-old basketball coach Billy Snowden from a distance of over 1,500 feet (460 m). Nearby, he shot 21-year-old Sandra Wilson in the chest.

On the corner of 24th and Guadalupe, Whitman shot and wounded two students, Abdul Khashab and Janet Paulos, outside a dress shop. Khashab, a 26-year-old chemistry student from Iraq[54], was shot in the elbow and his 20-year-old partner in the chest.[55] The next to be shot was a 21-year-old named Lana Phillips, whom Whitman wounded in the shoulder. Phillips' sister ran from cover to drag Lana to safety.[56]

"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."

Live broadcast by KTBC news reporter Neal Spelce[57]

Three Peace Corps trainees, Tom Herman, Roland Ehlke and David Mattson, were Whitman's next targets. The trio were shot as they walked toward a luncheon for volunteers. Mattson had part of his wrist blown off.[58] Ehlke subsequently recalled that he heard Mattson scream as the bullet hit him in the wrist; the youth saw shrapnel from the shot had embedded into his own left arm. Ehlke was shot in the left biceps before he dove for cover.[59] Ehlke emerged from cover to drag his friend to safety and was shot again in the leg.[60] A 64-year-old local shopkeeper named Homer Kelly helped drag the wounded duo—plus Herman—into his shop, before he was shot and wounded in the leg.

To the rear of the intersection of 24th and Guadalupe Street, Whitman targeted two 21-year-olds, Oscar Royvela and Irma Garcia, as the pair walked toward the university's biology laboratory. Shot first, Garcia later said the bullet spun her "completely around" and she fell to the ground. Royvela tried to help Garcia when he was shot through the shoulder blade; the bullet exited through his left arm. Students Jack Stephens and Jack Pennington ran from cover and dragged the pair to safety. Whitman targeted a 26-year-old carpenter named Avelino Esparza and seriously wounded him in the left shoulder.[61]

Directly in front of the entrance to the West Mall on Guadalupe Street, two 18-year-old students named Paul Sonntag and Claudia Rutt had taken refuge behind a construction barricade alongside teenager Carla Sue Wheeler. Whitman started shooting in that direction and hit Sonntag in the mouth, killing him instantly. Sonntag's body fell against a parking meter and knocked the barricade slightly open.[62] Rutt tried to reach Sonntag while Wheeler restrained her; Whitman shot a bullet that took three fingers of Wheeler's left hand, and hit Rutt in the chest. She died later in hospital.[53] Wheeler survived.

The .357 Magnum used by Whitman in the massacre

A block north of where Sonntag and Rutt were killed, Whitman shot and killed Harry Walchuk, a 38-year-old doctoral student and father of six. He next shot the 36-year-old press reporter Robert Heard in the arm as Heard ran toward two highway patrolmen coming on the scene.[63] Slightly north, 18-year-old freshman John Allen was wounded in the forearm as he and acquaintances looked toward the tower from the University of Texas Union.

Having seen several students shot in the South Mall, a history professor was the first to telephone the Austin Police Department at 11:52 a.m.;[64] four minutes after Whitman had first fired from the tower. Austin patrolman Billy Speed was one of the first police officers to arrive at the University. He and a colleague took refuge behind a columned stone wall but Whitman shot through a space and killed Speed. At a distance of approximately 1,500 feet (460 m), Whitman shot and killed 29-year-old electrical repairman Roy Schmidt as he tried to hide behind a parked car.

As students and university staff worked to assist and move the wounded to safety, medical personnel used an armored car and provisioned ambulances from local funeral homes to reach the wounded. The ambulance driver 30-year-old Morris Hohmann was shot in the leg on West 23rd Street as he tried to evacuate the numerous wounded. The wound severed a major artery. A fellow ambulance driver gave him first aid before he was taken to Brackenridge Hospital, the only one with a local emergency room. The Brackenridge Hospital administrator declared a state of emergency. Medical staff raced there to reinforce the on-duty shifts. Numerous volunteers donated blood at both Brackenridge Hospital and the Travis County Blood Bank.

The shootings and news of the sniper caused panic in and around the University. All active police officers in Austin were ordered to the campus. Off-duty officers, Travis County Sheriff's deputies, and Texas Department of Public Safety troopers also converged on the area.

Approximately 20 minutes after first shooting from the observation deck, Whitman began to encounter return fire from both the police and other armed citizens. At this point, Whitman chose to fire through waterspouts located on each side of the tower walls. This protected him from gunfire below, but limited his range of targets. Police sharpshooter Marion Lee reported from a small airplane that he had observed a single sniper firing from the observation deck. Lee tried to shoot Whitman from the plane, but the turbulence proved too great. Whitman shot at the plane, and it moved off to circle from a greater distance.

Entering the tower

Three officers who responded to reports of the sniper were Ramiro Martinez, Houston McCoy and Jerry Day.[64] Prior to advancing upon the tower, McCoy had seen his colleague Billy Speed killed.[64] Both Martinez and Day had driven to the University of Texas after listening to radio reports.[65]

Accompanied by 40-year-old Allen Crum—whom the trio encountered as they ran toward the tower—they were the first to reach the tower's observation deck. After reaching the 26th floor by elevator, they encountered M. J. Gabour. Gabour—clutching his wife's shoes[7]— screamed that his family had been shot and tried to wrestle the rifle from Day to shoot Whitman himself. Day consoled Gabour and led him to safety before joining McCoy, Crum and Martinez as they walked up to the 27th floor.[7]

Beneath the stairwell leading to the reception area, Officer Martinez saw the body of a teenage boy, Mark Gabour. Next to him lay a middle-aged woman, Marguerite Lamport.[66] Nearby, Mike Gabour lay slumped against the wall, with his mother lying face down in a pool of blood. The officers turned Mary Gabour onto her side to prevent her from drowning in her own blood. Mike Gabour gestured to the observation deck and said, "He's out there."[66]

End of the massacre

Stepping outside the south door at approximately 1:24 p.m., Martinez, closely followed by McCoy, proceeded north on the east deck, while Day, followed by Crum, proceeded west on the south deck, with the intention of encircling Whitman. Several feet before he reached the southwest corner, Crum accidentally discharged the borrowed rifle.[65] As Whitman sat crouched with his back positioned on the north wall, and looking in the northwest corner area of the observation deck where Crum's shot was heard, Martinez jumped around the corner into the northeast area and rapidly fired all six rounds from his .38 police revolver from a distance of approximately 50 feet (15 m) at Whitman - all of which missed. As Martinez fired, McCoy jumped to the right of Martinez and fired two fatal shots of 00-buckshot with his 12-gauge shotgun, hitting Whitman in the head, neck and left side.

The body of Charles Whitman lies upon the observation deck.

Whitman was apparently initially unaware of Martinez and McCoy on the observation deck, being partially shielded by the deck tower lights and in a position to defend against assaults from either corner, as his attention was drawn to where Crum had accidentally discharged his rifle.[65]

Martinez threw down his now-empty revolver 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, Austin Police Department (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. Moe heard Martinez as he ran past shouting "I got him," and relayed his words to the APD radio dispatcher's[2] hand-held radio.

Houston McCoy subsequently appeared before the Travis County Grand Jury on August 5, 1966, where Whitman's death was ruled to be justifiable homicide.[citation needed]



  • Margaret Whitman, 43. Mother of Charles Whitman. Killed by bludgeoning and stab wounds in her Austin apartment.
  • Kathy Whitman, 23. Wife of Charles Whitman. Killed instantly by a stab wound to the chest as she slept.
  • Edna Townsley, 51. Bludgeoned and shot by Whitman in the reception leading to the tower observation deck.
  • Marguerite Lamport, 56. Killed by a shotgun wound to the chest on the tower stairs leading to the observation deck.
  • Mark Gabour, 16. Killed by a shotgun wound to the head on the tower stairs leading to the observation deck.
  • Claire Wilson, student, lost the baby she was carrying after being shot through the abdomen. She survived the wounding.
  • Thomas Eckman, 18. Shoulder wound. Eckman was kneeling over Claire Wilson when he was shot and killed on the mall.
  • Dr. Robert Boyer, 33. A visiting physics professor killed by a single shot to the lower back.
  • Thomas Ashton, 22. A Peace Corps trainee killed by a gunshot to the upper left chest.
  • Karen Griffith, 17. Gunshot wound to the shoulder which pierced her lung.[67] Griffith died one week after the shooting spree.
  • Thomas Karr, 24. University senior. Karr was killed by a single shot through the spine a few feet north of Karen Griffith.[68]
  • Billy Speed, 22. A police officer killed by a shot to his shoulder which traveled into his chest.
  • Harry Walchuk, 38. A doctoral student killed by a single shot to the chest at a newsstand on Guadalupe Street.
  • Paul Sonntag, 18. Shot through the mouth while hiding behind construction barriers.
  • Claudia Rutt, 18. Killed by a gunshot to the chest immediately after her fiancé, Paul Sonntag, had been shot.
  • Roy Schmidt, 29. An electrician killed by a single shot to the stomach.

Later deaths


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 the brain stem).[70] This tumor would have proven fatal by the end of the year in which Whitman died.

Although Whitman had been prescribed drugs, and had Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine) in his possession at his death, the autopsy was unable to establish if he had consumed any drugs prior to the shooting. Whitman's bodily fluids had been removed and his body embalmed prior to the autopsy; therefore, no urine was available to test for traces of amphetamine having been consumed.


A joint funeral service for Charles Whitman and his mother, Margaret, was held at their family's home parish of Sacred Heart in Lake Worth on August 5, 1966. The service was officiated by Fr. Tom Anglin. As a veteran, Whitman was entitled to burial with full military honors; his casket was draped with the American flag. He was buried in Florida's Hillcrest Memorial Park next to his mother[71] and, later, his brother John (who was murdered outside a Lake Worth nightclub in 1973).[72][73][74]

Prescription vials at Whitman's home.

Connally Commission

Findings of Connally Commission

In the days following the shootings, Texas Governor John Connally commissioned a task force of professionals to examine the physical autopsy findings and material related to Whitman's actions and motives. The commission was composed of neurosurgeons, psychiatrists, pathologists, psychologists and the University of Texas Health Center Directors, Dr. White and Dr. Maurice Heatly. They examined 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,[75] the Commission said 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 Whitman's actions. They also said that a vascular malformation located around the tumor may have been congenital; based on the necrosis surrounding the tumor, they thought it may have been dormant and suddenly become active.[18] They suggested that Whitman was predisposed to develop the tumor and die from its effects at an early age, regardless of other circumstances.[76]

Their report also said this lesion "conceivably could have contributed to his inability to control his emotions and actions."[18] Forensic investigators have theorized that the tumor may have been pressed against the nearby amygdalae regions of his brain. The amygdalae are known to affect fight/flight responses. Some neurologists have since speculated that his medical condition was in some way responsible for the attacks, in addition to his personal and social frames of reference.[77]

Commission recommendations for victim aid

The Connally Commission recommended that the university and state 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 medical and mental issues, and support rehabilitation. Neither the university nor state acted on these recommendations.[78]

Investigation related to visits to medical personnel

Investigating officers found that Whitman had visited several University doctors in the year prior to the shootings, who had prescribed him various medications. Whitman had seen a minimum of five doctors between the fall and winter of 1965, before he had visited a psychiatrist (he received no prescription from the latter). He was prescribed Valium by Dr. Jan Cochrum, who recommended he visit the campus psychiatrist. Whitman met with Maurice Dean Heatly, the staff psychiatrist at the University of Texas Health Center, on March 29, 1966.[30]

Whitman referred to his visit with Heatly in his final suicide note. He said, "I talked with a Doctor once for about two hours and tried to convey to him my fears that I felt come (sic) 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."[36]

During Whitman's command of the tower, the university learned that the shooter may have been a student. Once his identity was released, officials conducted a search of Whitman's records and found that Whitman had visited the University Health Center on several occasions. The University did not release the medical records and academic history of Whitman at the University of Texas, citing legal and ethical issues.[79] The only medical record released was that of Dr. Heatly, who subsequently released his medical records regarding Whitman once it became known to the press that Whitman had visited him prior to the shootings.

Dr. Heatly's notes on the visit reflected Whitman's own comments about feeling hostility:

"This massive, muscular youth seemed to be oozing with hostility [...] that something seemed to be happening to him and that he didn't seem to be himself."

Dr. Heatly also referred to a statement by Whitman:

"He readily admits having overwhelming periods of hostility with a very minimum of provocation. Repeated inquiries attempting to analyze his exact experiences were not too successful with the exception of his vivid reference to 'thinking about going up on the tower with a deer rifle and start shooting people'."[80]

After the one session with Dr. Heatly, Whitman never visited him again.

The south door to the observation deck, where Whitman began his siege.


Observation deck operations

Following the shootings, the Tower observation deck was initially closed for two years before reopening in 1968. Following the suicides between May 1971 and October 1974 of four students—each of whom jumped to death from the observation deck,[81] it was closed to visitors in 1975. It re-opened September 15, 1999, but only by controlled access. Visitors are allowed only with guided tours scheduled by prior appointment, and after being screened by metal detectors. Other security measures are also in place. Repaired scars from bullets are still visible on the limestone walls.

University of Texas Memorial Garden

In January 2003, the University of Texas committed $200,000 and sought another $800,000 to redesign the "Memorial Garden" dedicated to recognize the deaths of August 1, 1966. The Memorial Garden was dedicated in 2006, forty years after the event, at an unknown cost and for minimal materials.[82] A bronze plaque, dedicated to all who were affected, was placed near the pond.[83]

Dedication of "Tower Heroes" plaque

In 2008, on the 42nd anniversary of the attacks, the following names were added to a plaque on an Austin police precinct building, dedicated to officers and other persons who helped stop Whitman on August 1, 1966. With the exception of Billy Speed, the only officer killed by the sniper, and Marion Lee, a sharpshooter trying to operate from a plane, the names on the plaque are of persons who acted within the tower; it is recognized that the list is incomplete.[2]

  • Officer Billy Paul Speed. The only Austin police officer slain August 1, 1966.
  • Officer Phillip Conner of Austin. An ex-Army medic who administered first aid and who covered the west window of the tower while officers went onto the observation deck.
  • Officer Jerry Day of Universal City. Moved a wounded victim out of the line of fire before ascending alone to the top of the tower.
  • Lt. Marion Lee. The police sharpshooter in the airplane piloted by Jim Boutwell.
  • Officer Ramiro Martinez of New Braunfels. Made his way onto the tower deck and was the first to shoot at Whitman.
  • Officer Houston McCoy of Menard. The officer who killed Whitman and ended the siege.
  • Officer Harold Moe of Marble Falls. Instrumental in saving the lives of two gunshot victims. Moe used the only portable two-way radio to notify police that the siege was over.
  • Officer George Shepard. Instrumental in saving the lives of two gunshot victims.
  • Officer Milton Shoquist of Fair Oaks Ranch. Instrumental in saving the lives of two gunshot victims.
  • Department of Public Safety Agent W.A. Cowan. Instrumental in setting up communications in the tower and removing people to safety on the 27th floor.
  • Jim Boutwell. Volunteered use of his airplane and flew it around the tower to gather information and help subdue the sniper.[84]
  • Allen Crum. Made his way atop the UT Tower with a weapon provided by Agent Cowan, assisted Officer Martinez, and backed up Officer Day on the south side of the observation deck.
  • Frank Holder. Elevator mechanic for Otis Elevator Co. led officers up the tower and helped them negotiate the stairs leading to the observation deck.
  • William Wilcox. Engineer for UT Physical Plant, led officers through the underground tunnels to safely enter the tower building.[85]

See also


  1. ^ "Casting off shadow of UT Tower shooting." "Austin American Statesman,"May 14, 2011. Retrieved: May 16, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c Flippin, Perry. "UT Tower Heroes to be Honored." SA Standard Times,August 6, 2007. Retrieved: November 2, 2010.
  3. ^ "Sixty years serving those who answer the calls.The Police Line. via Austin Police Association, Volume 1: 2009. Retrieved: August 1, 2010.
  4. ^ "Camp Sol Mayer-Houston McCoy.", August 1, 2010. Retrieved: November 2, 2010.
  5. ^ Mass Murderers ISBN 0-7835-0004-1 p. 39-40
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ a b c d e f Mass Murderers ISBN 0-7835-0004-1 p. 40
  8. ^ Miami News Aug. 9, 1966.
  9. ^ Cawthorne, Nigel. "Spree Killers". Retrieved: November 2, 2010.
  10. ^ a b c "Chaplain Leduc." Retrieved: November 2, 2010.
  11. ^ p. 5
  12. ^ p.22.
  13. ^ "Early Charlie." Charles Whitman: The Texas Tower Sniper, Crime Library, 2005. Retrieved: November 2, 2010.
  14. ^ Aiken, Tom. "Boom Boom... Out Go the Lights." Austin Chronicle. Retrieved: November 2, 2010.
  15. ^ p. 7
  16. ^ Ocala Star Banner Aug. 3, 1966
  17. ^ p 7
  18. ^ a b c d "Deranged tower sniper rained death on UT campus." Houston Chronicle. Retrieved: November 2, 2010.
  19. ^ p 7-8.
  20. ^ a b
  21. ^
  22. ^ "The Madman in the Tower", TIME Magazine, 12 August 1966.
  23. ^ a b Mass Murderers ISBN 0-7835-0004-1 p. 46
  24. ^ p. 11.
  25. ^ p. 11
  26. ^ p. 12
  27. ^ p. 12.
  28. ^ "Handbook of Texas Online." Retrieved: November 2, 2010.
  29. ^ Mass Murderers ISBN 0-7835-0004-1 p. 48
  30. ^ a b MacLeod, Marlee. "Charles Whitman: The Texas Tower Sniper", Crime Library. Retrieved: November 2, 2010.
  31. ^ Mass Murderers ISBN 0-7835-0004-1 p. 47
  32. ^ "John and Fran Morgan statement." The Whitman Archives via Austin American-Statesman. August 2, 1966.
  33. ^ Mass Murderers ISBN 0-7835-0004-1 p. 50
  34. ^ a b c Mass Murderers ISBN 0-7835-0004-1 p. 49
  35. ^ Whitman, Charles. "Typewritten letter by Charles Whitman",, August 1, 1966. Retrieved: November 2, 2010.
  36. ^ a b c d Whitman, Charles. "Whitman Letter", The Whitman Archives. Austin American-Statesman. July 31, 1966.
  37. ^ a b c Mass Murderers ISBN 0-7835-0004-1 p. 53
  38. ^ Whitman, Charles. "Whitman Note Left with Mother's Body", The Whitman Archives via Austin American-Statesman, August 1, 1966.
  39. ^ a b Mass Murderers ISBN 0-7835-0004-1 p. 32
  40. ^ a b c Mass Murderers ISBN 0-7835-0004-1 p. 31
  41. ^ "UT tower gunman put an end to honeymoon." The Paris News. Retrieved: November 2, 2010.
  42. ^ Hicks, Jesse. "What Charlie Saw.", April 2006. Retrieved: November 2, 2010.
  43. ^ p. 145.
  44. ^ p. 132-133.
  45. ^ p. 151.
  46. ^ Times Daly Jul. 30, 1967.
  47. ^ Mass Murderers ISBN 0-7835-0004-1 p. 34
  48. ^ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Sept. 5, 1966.
  49. ^ 8 July 2011.
  50. ^
  51. ^ Scribd p. 160.
  52. ^ p. 187
  53. ^ a b
  54. ^,4001512
  55. ^ Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Sept 5, 1966.
  56. ^ p. 178.
  57. ^ p. 187.
  58. ^ Texas Monthly Aug. 2006 edition.
  59. ^ Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 17, 2007.
  60. ^ p. 177
  61. ^ p. 191.
  62. ^ p. 171.
  63. ^ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Sept. 5, 1966'
  64. ^ a b c Mass Murderers ISBN 0-7835-0004-1 p. 38
  65. ^ a b c Mass Murderers ISBN 0-7835-0004-1 p. 39
  66. ^ a b Texas Monthly, Aug. 2006
  67. ^ Eugene Register Guard Aug. 8, 1966.
  68. ^
  69. ^ "Victim of UT Tower shooting dies after 30 Years: David Gunby dies." Texas History and Landmarks, November 7, 2001.
  70. ^ [Mass Murderers ISBN 0-7835-0004-1 p. 39-40/ Mass Murderers p. 32]
  71. ^ Reading Eagle Aug. 5, 1966.
  72. ^ Mass Murderers ISBN 0-7835-0004-1 p. 56
  73. ^
  74. ^,1776266
  75. ^ News and Courier, Aug. 5, 1966
  76. ^ "The Whitman Archive." Statesman, Retrieved: November 2, 2010.
  77. ^ "Amygdala." Retrieved: November 2, 2010.
  78. ^ "Whitman Findings", November 2, 2010.
  79. ^ "Exceptions to disclosure". Attorney General of Texas. Archived from the original on 2009-07-06.
  80. ^ Heatly, Maurice. "Whitman Case Notes", The Whitman Archives. Austin American-Statesman. March 29, 1966.
  81. ^ The Acalade
  82. ^ "University unveils redesign plans for Tower Garden Memorial", University of Texas, 6 January 2003, Retrieved November 2, 2010.
  83. ^ "University Of Texas Tower Sniper Recalled", CBS, 16 April 2007. Retrieved: November 2, 2010.
  84. ^ Victoria Advocate Dec. 9, 1993.
  85. ^ Standard-Times (San Angelo)
  • Douglas, John and Mark Olshaker. The Anatomy of Motive. New York: Scribner, 1999. ISBN 0-7567-5292-2.
  • Lavergne, Gary M. A Sniper in the Tower. Denton, Texas: University of North Texas Press, 1997. ISBN 1-57441-029-6.
  • Levin, Jack and James Alan Fox. Mass Murder: America's Growing Menace. New York: Plenum Press, 1985. ISBN 0-306-41943-2.
  • Martinez, Ramiro. They Call Me Ranger Ray: From the UT Tower Sniper to Corruption in South Texas. New Braunfels, Texas: Rio Bravo Publishing, 2005. ISBN 0-9760162-0-6.
  • Tobias, Ronald. They Shoot to Kill: A Psycho-History of Criminal Sniping. Boulder, Colorado: Paladin Press, 1981. ISBN 0-87364-207-4.

External links