Guest Author - Vance R. Rowe
It was this day in history; August 1, 1966 that former United States Marine Charles Whitman climbed up to the observation deck of a tower at the University of Texas and began shooting people on the ground below.
Charles Whitman became distraught and began to suffer from serious mental problems when his mother had left and divorced his father in March of 1966. He even began to see a therapist for his “uncontrollable fits of anger” and it is also reported that he told his doctor that he was thinking about climbing the now infamous tower and shooting people. However, the doctor never addressed this concern.
Finally, on July 31, 1966, his uncontrollable rage took over and he went to his mother’s house that night and killed her by shooting and stabbing her and when he returned home, he stabbed his own wife to death as well. Charles Whitman had written a note earlier that day that read: [i]After my death, I wish an autopsy to be performed on me to see if I have any mental disorders.[/i] The note also described his angst against his parents and his intentions on killing them.
The next morning, Charles Whitman went to the 300 foot high tower at the University of Texas armed with several pistols, a carbine rifle, boxes of ammunition, food and other supplies. Whitman killed the receptionist and two tourists at the observation platform even before he unpacked his weapons. Once he was out on the observation deck, Charles Whitman began killing people below the tower for the next ninety minutes before he was killed by police officers.
He was an expert marksman for the Marines and used that skill to kill people as far away as five hundred yards from the tower. The police could not get a shot at him from the ground so members of the Austin Police Department, led by Officer Ramiro Martinez, charged up the stairs to the observation deck and Charles Whitman was killed by a shotgun blast and his death was ruled as a justifiable homicide.
The tower was closed to the public that day and remained closed for the next twenty-five years until it was re-opened in 1999. When it was all said and done, Whitman had killed sixteen people and wounded thirty-two others. Interestingly enough, one of the wounded victims died in 2001 due to complications of being shot in his only good kidney and thirty-five years after he was wounded, David Gunby’s death was ruled as a homicide.
This was the very first public massacre in our recorded history and was historically the worst college campus massacre until 2007 when thirty-two people were killed and seventeen people were wounded in the Virginia Tech college massacre.