Charles Whitman (1941-1966) woke up on the first day of August in 1966 and put together few supplies that would lead anyone to believe that he was going on a hunting trip, or another all-day outdoorsy adventure. Toilet paper, a radio, some food, water, binoculars, deodorant, a flashlight and some batteries, and a few other essentials. Essentials like a 6 mm Remington bolt-action, a 35mm Remington rifle, a Galesi-Brescia pistol, a .357 Magmum Smith & Wesson, a .30 caliber M-1 carbine, a sawed off 12 guage and almost 1000 rounds of ammunition.
On the night before August 1, 1966, Whitman stabbed his mother, Elizabeth, to death in her home, and then upon returning to his own home he stabbed his wife of four years, Kathy. This was only the beginning of a suicidal killing spree which, after the smoke cleared, found 15 people dead including Whitman, and 31 others wounded.
He spent the morning preparing for the afternoon festivities. He bought two of the weapons mentioned above, he sawed off the 12 guage, cashed a few checks, and ran other sundry errands. He called his wife's office at Southwestern Bell and informed them that she had taken ill, and would not be coming to work that day. He also called his mother's employer and told them the same thing. By 11:00 AM, he was ready, and after packing up his supplies, Whitman made his way to the University of Texas and climbed to the top of the Texas Tower.
For years, Whitman would joke that the Texas Tower would make an ideal sniper's nest. He made these remarks offhandedly, and no one thought any more of it. Later his psychologist mentioned that Whitman intimated that he had a fantasy where he would pick people off from the observation deck of the tower. In a big-picture sense, however, the doctor determined that he was no danger to himself or others. As Whitman made his way to the top of the tower proper, he killed a receptionist and two tourists. Two of the deceased tourists' companions ran to get help, and two others lay wounded in the tower. Therefore before Whitman even fired the first shot from the top of the tower, panic slowly began. He made a sniper's nest in the observation deck, wedged the door closed with the dolly and promptly began shooting people at random around the campus. Whitman's joke about the tower being an ideal place to snipe was not inaccurate. At 307 feet, the tower was easily the highest structure in sight, and since it is built upon a hill, it gave him an even greater vantage point.
The first weapon he selected was his 6mm Remington, most likely because it had a scope and was the most accurate. His first victim (from the tower) was the unborn child of 18 year old Claire Wilson. His first bullet entered her abdomen and through the skull of the baby instantly killing it. A friend accompanying her took the next bullet through his chest. Suddenly, across the campus, people began to realize what was going on as bodies began to fall. The campus police responded around noon, and discovered the wounded and dead tourists on the 27th floor of the tower. Not knowing there was only one man, they called the Austin police to come help them. Upon showing up, Officer Billy Speed was inflicted with a fatal wound, and Whitman's killing spree continued. Police began to return fire on Whitman, and people began taking shots at him from nearby houses. When people started forming crowds where they thought. was out of range, and began to get shot, the police decided that it was time for more direct action. They stormed the tower and finally Officer Houston McCoy fired two rounds into Whitman's head. Officer Ramiro Martinez put one more into him for good measure at point blank range.
The massacre had lasted for 99 minutes when Whitman was finally cut down in that hail of gunfire.
In his suicide letter, Whitman wrote: "l am prepared to die. After my death, I wish an autopsy on me to be preformed (sic) to see if there is any mental disorder." As per Whitman's wishes, an autopsy was performed, and there was indeed a problem. The doctors found a tumor in his brain the size of a golfball. It was found near the hypothalamus portion of his brain - in the part of the brain which affects judgment and violent behavior. During the year before his final act, Whitman had been complaining of frequent headaches.
In another letter - Whitman kept quite a journal between July 31 and August 1 - Whitman also blamed his abusive father for his forthcoming atrocities. His father was domineering, strict and quick to make his point with a strap, fist or paddle. Whitman's relationship with his father came to a head one night when he came home drunk and his father beat him up and threw him into the pool. At that point Whitman left home, and enlisted in the Marine Corps. Whitman was a model marine. He earned a Good Conduct Medal, the Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal, and (most relevant to this writeup) a Sharpshooter’s Badge. During his sharpshooter exam he scored 215 out of a possible 250. He was an exceptional rapid fire shooter at long ranges, and was adept at destroying moving targets.
But in 1963 after the Marines reneged in their agreement to send him to college after he had been arrested several times and returned him to active duty, he began to develop a surly attitude, and began to get into trouble. With some help from his affluent and connected father, Whitman was honorably discharged in 1964. From that point Whitman's outlook and demeanor spiraled, until everything exploded two years later.