8/1/1966 - After weeks of hearing voices and having strange thoughts he doesn't understand, twenty-five-year-old Engineering student and former Marine, Charles Joseph Whitman, once the youngest Eagle Scout in America, puts the plan he has to end his many pains into effect ... climbing to the top of the Main Building Tower of the University of Texas at Austin with a footlocker filled with weapons and ammunition, he begins shooting anyone his guns can target.
Familiar with guns and knives since boyhood from hunting expeditions with his father around Lake Worth, Florida, Whitman's rampage begins shortly after midnight with a visit to his mother's apartment. So she won't suffer and embarrassment from his coming actions, the madman renders the woman who gave him birth unconscious, then stabs her through the heart. Murder #1, before he is done there will be 16 more. Murder #2 is also a family member, this time his wife of four years, twenty-three-year-old Kathleen Francis Leissner, a teach at Lanier High School, stabbed four times in the heart as she is sleeping in the couple's bed.
Tyke with toys
Relatives taken care of, Whitman completes a suicide note and then starts gathering the supplies he will need for his mission of mayhem. He first rents a dolly, then drives to a local hardware store and purchases a Universal M-1 carbine, two ammunition magazines, and eight boxes of ammo, explaining to the cashier that he is going "wild hog hunting." Next stop is Chuck's Gun Shop where four more carbine magazines and six additional boxes of ammo are procured. Then he is off to Sears to buy a Sears Model 60 12-gauge, semi-automatic shotgun. Purchases complete, he returns to his home, saws down the barrel of the shotgun, and loads his supplies into the footlocker he acquired during his stint in the Marines ... a Remington 700 6mm bolt-action hunting rifle, the shotgun, a .35-caliber pump rifle, the carbine, a 9mm Luger pistol, a Galesi-Brescia .25-caliber pistol, a Smith & Wesson M19 .357 Magnum revolver, and over 700 rounds of ammunition go in, along with other items he might need for a long day on the campus, necessities like food, coffee, Dexedrine, Excedrin, ear plugs, water, binoculars, a machete, and toilet paper. By 11:35 a.m. Whitman is at the University of Texas, using false identification to get a 40-minute parking permit to deliver equipment to the Main Building.
Making his way to the 27th floor by elevator, Whitman takes his first campus victim, 51-year-old receptionist Edna Townsley, rifle butt clubbed and then shot in the head. Next his wrath is turned on a family trying to visit the observation deck on the 28th floor of the building ... hitting 16-year-old and 18-year-old brothers, Mark and Mike Gabour, their mother Mary Gabour, and their aunt, 56-year-old Marguerite Lamport with multiple rounds from the sawed-off shotgun. Finally free of distractions, Whitman then barricades the stairway to the observation deck, readies his Remington, and looks through the rifle's scope. He is 231 feet above the campus when he begins firing at 11:48 a.m.
A sharpshooter while with the Marines, Whitman spends the next hour circling the observation deck and sniping away at a multitude of lunchtime targets, hitting students, teachers, citizens, emergency personnel, and law enforcement officers ... anything that moves and doesn't keep out of sight, killing 15 people and seriously wounding another 32. Whitman's campus dead are:
Edna Townsley, 51
Marguerite Lamport, 56
Mark Gabour, 16
Claire Wilson, 18 ... she survives, but the baby she is carrying is lost
Thomas Eckman, 18 ... struck trying to help his fiance, Wilson
Dr. Robert Boyer, 33
Thomas Ashton, 22
Karen Griffith, 17
Thomas Karr, 24 ... returning home after completing an exam
Billy Speed, 22 ... one of the first police officers to arrive on the scene
Harry Walchuk, 38 ... a doctoral candidate and father of six
Paul Sonntag, 18 ... a student hit while hiding with his friend, Claudia Rutt, behind a construction barricade
Claudia Rutt, 18
Roy Schmidt, 29 ... an electrical repairman that unsuccessfully tries to hide behind a car
David Gunby, 58 ... hit in the back, he will die from the lingering effects of his wound in 2001
And there would have been more if not for the efforts of three police officers (Austin police officers Ramiro Martinez, Houston McCoy, and Jerry Day) and a civilian (40-year-old Allen Crum) that decide enough is enough and make their way up to the observation deck and to bring fatal retribution to the merciless sniper.
Pinned down - note body beside the hedge
Crum, Martinez, McCoy, Day - L to R
Crum, armed with a borrowed rifle, and Day with his service pistol, circle north, while the pistol armed Martinez and shotgun toting McCoy, circle south in the opposite direction. Intending to surprise Whitman from two directions at the same time, the plan falls about when Crum accidentally discharges his rifle, alerting the sniper, but also drawing his attention aware from the other team on the observation deck. Jumping around a corner, from a distance of 50 feet away, Martinez empties his .38 at Whitman ... and not the sharpshooter the sniper is, misses with all six rounds. Luckily though for the officer, his partner McCoy does not miss with the two 00-buckshot rounds he fires from his shotgun. Down, twitching the last seconds of his life away as he bleeds out on the deck, Whitman is hit in the head, neck, and left side. Just to be sure though, irate at the events of the day and his poor marksmanship, Martinez grabs the shotgun from McCoy, walks up to Whitman, and puts another round of buckshot into the killer's upper left arm, then ending the day of madness, he leaves the tower repeating over and over, "I got him."
Seemingly an All-American Boy ... Eagle Scout, Marine, an intellect with an IQ of 138 ... people are shocked, stunned , and horrified by the carnage that takes place in Austin, and as is their want, the country demands answers. And terrifyingly so, one is that maybe anyone could become a Whitman ... body turned over to the coroner, Whitman receives the autopsy his farewell note requested, during which it is discovered that he has a brain tumor in his head the size of a pecan. The source of the madness? No one can say for sure, but to this day it remains a topic of discussion and debate.
Considered the Crime-of-the-Century at the time, there will sadly be many more mass murders for America to endure in the decades that follow.