of the saddest days in Texas history occurred August 1, 1966. |
day a crazed man started firing from the observation deck at the University of
Texas tower picking random human targets on the ground and hitting them
with deadly accuracy.
He hit 48 people within a span of 96 minutes. According
to newspaper reports, from 1966, 15 were killed; he murdered his wife and mother
before he started shooting from the tower.
The following article tragedy
appeared in The Gonzales Inquirer on August 2, 1966; excerpts from that
story are the subject of this edition of Lone Star Diary.
Inquirer • August 2, 1966
[Headline: Worst Rampage in U.S. History]
Tex. (UPI) A crazed student went on an 80-minute campus rampage
with an armful of weapons Monday in the worst mass killing in U.S. history. He
killed 15 persons, including his mother and his wife, and gunned down 30 others
before a shaken off-duty policeman shot him dead atop the 27-story University
of Texas tower.
Charles J. Whitman, a 24 year-old architectural engineering
student who once rejected psychiatric help, climbed to a ledge near the top of
the 307-foot tower and calmly stalked scores of summer students, professors and
visitors to the rolling green campus.
Shortly before the tower's clock
struck noon, the first shot rang out. For the next hour and 20 minutes, the lazy
summer campus was turned into a hellish battleground of dead, dying and wounded.
it was all over, 16 were dead including Whitman and 30 others were
The noontime terror ended when patrolman Ramiro Martinez slowly
edged his way around the observation platform and pumped six pistol slugs and
a shotgun blast into the sniper, a Texas junior with a B average.
after Whitman's blood-covered and limp body was carried from the tower, police
found the young man's wife and mother. The wife, Kathleen, 23, was stabbed to
death in the Whitman apartment. His mother, Mrs. C.M. Whitman was shot to death
in her home.
Whitman, an ex-marine, ex-alter boy, ex-Eagle Scout, left
three notes, one a rambling two-page letter which said his mother would be better
off in heaven and that he hated his father "with a mortal passion."
also found a camera with a note which read: "Please have the film developed, Charles
Whitman." The film was sent to Dallas for processing.
Police Chief R.A.
(Bob) Miles gave this version of the last day of Whitman's life.
before 3 a.m., Monday he stabbed his wife to death and shot his mother to death.
"Wife and mother both dead," he noted in one of his letters.
hours later he purchased a 12-gauge shotgun on a time payment plan, carried it
home, cut off its stock and sawed off its barrel. At the same time, he assembled
an arsenal that included two Luger pistols, a 6.1mm rifle with a telescopic sight,
a 35-caliber rifle, a 30.06 rifle, a 357 magnum pistol, the new shotgun and three
He packed everything in a footlocker. Then he put away some water
in a container, some gasoline, some sandwiches. And late Monday morning he lugged
the entire thing to the campus tower, using a dolly to make the last part of the
trip to the elevator.
Getting off at the last stop, Whitman dragged his
footlocker off the elevator and hauled it, step by step, up a long flight of stairs.
The first killing occurred here.
woman elevator attendant whose job it is to greet visitors and have them sign
a register blocked the sniper's way. He shot her dead. He than came upon a woman
and two children, tourists visiting the campus landmark, and shot them down. The
father escaped to a nearby room.
Two unarmed campus security guards, hearing
the shots' report, entered the building and took the elevator to the top. They
found three bodies and quickly descended to warn others to stay away from the
City police were alerted and the siege was on a desperate,
nightmarish encounter between a small army of law officers and a single, well-armed
man who held the strategic heights.
A shot rang out. A bicycle rider careened
crazily in the midday sun. Then he and the bike fell over.
People fell like soldiers. More bullets rained down. A little boy, also on a bicycle,
fell dead. Three bodies lay together. Rescuers could not reach them.
officer Billy Speed crouched near the tower and a bullet ripped into his shoulder,
"Oh, I'm hit," he cried out, slumping over. He later died.
A student walking
from class fell. Then another and another. Many lay where they fell. No one could
One of the city policemen hugging the ground was Ramiro Martinez,
29, who had been cooking a steak at his home a few minutes before and contemplating
his duty shift to begin in three hours.
With officer Houston McCoy and
Allen Crum, a university employee, Martinez got to the top, making his way past
four bodies sprawled on the stairs and the landing.
He and Crum edged
around opposite sides of the observation walkway. The sniper saw Crum and fired.
Martinez emptied his service revolver into the sniper's body. McCoy burst on the
scene and fired a shotgun blast. Martinez grabbed the shotgun and fired another
blast pointblank at the sniper.
Shaking with shock, Martinez grabbed a
green flag and waved it. The siege was over.
September 18, 2012 column
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