Charles Whitman

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Charles Whitman, 1963

Charles Joseph Whitman (born June 24, 1941 in Lake Worth , Florida , † August 1, 1966 in Austin , Texas ) was a marine and architecture student at the University of Texas . He became famous for his rampage in Austin on August 1, 1966. First, he stabbed his mother and wife. He later shot dead 17 people and injured 32 others at his university before being shot by police.

The tower of the main University of Texas building at Austin. The circular tour of the viewing platform is located under the clock faces.

Background and farewell letter

Whitman, who was highly decorated with the Boy Scouts of America (as Eagle Scout he had the highest possible rank), who had also served in the United States Marine Corps , visited the doctor on March 29, 1966. Heatley to go over his state of mind. He told him about his thoughts on climbing a tower and shooting people with a rifle. Dr. Heatley noted "a certain hostility" in him. Whitman left a suicide note that was found next to his wife, Kathy. In it he stated that he wanted to bring his father to shame with his actions. His words reflected his hatred for him because his father had behaved badly towards his mother. The autopsy of his body revealed a brain tumor (known as a glioblastoma ) that may have influenced his behavior. This also explains its hypergraphy .

The fact

On July 31, 1966, Whitman went to see his mother and stabbed her. He then stabbed his wife in her sleep as well. After loading his military case with various firearms, ammunition, water, stimulants, provisions and other utensils, he put on a workman's overall and loaded the case and a rented hand truck onto his vehicle. At the entrance to the university campus he pretended to deliver equipment for upcoming work. He parked his vehicle near the 27-story tower with a viewing platform.

Arrived on the last floor of the elevator, he heaved the heavy suitcase with the help of the hand truck up the last two floors to the viewing platform. It contained a sniper rifle , various other weapons and a sawed-off shotgun for close combat . There he met an employee who was sitting at her desk in front of the platform. He severely injured her skull with a rifle butt. Whitman shot at some tourists climbing the steps a few moments later. Two of them died and two others were permanently injured. The first shots from the tower came at 11:48 am; the shooting lasted 66 minutes.

Whitman's arsenal

A history professor who had an office in Garrison Hall, across from the main building on the east side, saw the first victims to fall to the ground in the south and called the police. Students and campus workers misinterpreted the gunshots they heard and strolled on to their lectures and meetings. In the first few minutes after Whitman started firing, he had many easy targets. Without resistance, he had the necessary time to aim; as a result, most of the fatal attacks occurred during this phase.

A police officer attempted to distract Whitman by circling the tower in a small plane flown by a local pilot. Whitman fired at it. The policeman decided not to return fire because he did not want to endanger innocent passers-by. But he could provide information about Whitman's movements. An armed helicopter was also not used because of the danger to passers-by. At 1:24 p.m., Austin Police Department officers stepped onto the observation deck and shot Whitman twice to death.

The fatalities

  • Margaret Whitman , 43 years old, his mother
  • Kathy Whitman , 23 years old, his wife
  • Edna Townsley-Tower , 47 years old, receptionist
  • Marguerite Lamport , visitor
  • Mark Gabour , 16 years old, nephew of Marguerite Lamport
  • Thomas Frederick Eckman , 19 years old
  • Robert Hamilton Boyer , 33 years old, physics professor
  • Thomas Ashton , 22 years old, Peace Corps trainee
  • Karen Griffin , 17 years old
  • Thomas Karr , 24 years old
  • Billy Paul Speed , 22 years old, cop
  • Harry Walchuk , 39 years old, philosophy student
  • Paul Bolton Sunday , 18 years old, student
  • Claudia Rutt , 18 years old
  • Roy Dell Schmidt , 29 years old, electrician
  • Unborn child of Claire Wilson
  • David Gunby , then 23 years old, an electrical engineering student , died in 2001 as a result of a gunshot wound

The consequences

Even after the Watts riots in 1965, police circles were considering the establishment of specially trained units for such a situation. The acts committed a year later by Whitman showed the need for this once again and accelerated the establishment of SWAT units in the USA. The platform remained closed for two years and then reopened to the public. Several suicides in the mid-1970s led to a renewed closure until 1998. The plastered bullet holes are still visible here today. A photo of Whitman and an article entitled The Psychotic & Society appeared on the cover of Time on August 12, 1966 . In it, Martinez was identified as the only officer at the tower and as the man who killed Whitman. The same photo appeared in Life magazine with the article The Texas Sniper .

In 1968, the young director Peter Bogdanovich took up the idea of ​​B-movie horror master Roger Corman to make a feature film about the Texas Sniper . Together with his wife Polly Platt , Bogdanovich wrote a script around a plot that was very freely based on the case and hired the almost unknown television actor Tim O'Kelly and Frankenstein actor Boris Karloff to play the leading roles . The film Targets was a success and gave Bogdanovich a ticket from the B-film sector to the Hollywood league .

In 1972 Harry Chapin recorded the album Sniper and Other Love Songs . Sniper , the title track, is first and third person and tells about Whitman's relationship with his mother and his isolation.

In 1975 the event was filmed with Kurt Russell in the lead role in Tower of Secrets . After the film came out, Ramiro Martinez sued the film company for portraying himself and his wife. Houston McCoy, who actually killed Whitman but whose role was misrepresented or not portrayed in some reports, also complained. Martinez was awarded an undisclosed amount; McCoy received nothing.

In 1977 Lars Gustafsson described the day of the rampage in his book The Tennis Players .

In 1987 the film Full Metal Jacket was released , in which the drill instructor of the Marine Corps cynically portrays his recruits in a scene that Whitman and Lee Harvey Oswald's phenomenal hit rates are the result of their shooting training with the US Marine Corps .

In 1993, a reference to Whitman was made in True Romance , when Alabama Worley (birth name Whitman) said in the hotel scene: "You know that guy in Texas ..."

In 1993 the attack was alluded to in episode three of the fourth season of The Prince of Bel-Air . The school principal says, "There is a way: you must make it one of your demands when you climb the bell tower with a rifle."

In 1994, Detective Scagnetti in Natural Born Killers told prison warden Warden McClusky that he was hunting serial killers because he was holding his mother's hand when he was a boy in Texas when Charles Whitman climbed a clock tower and started shooting. A bullet hit his mother and killed her.

In 1996, Don't Be a Menace was released and caricatured a scene from Higher Learning with a comical view of the attacks.

In the same year, the rampage of 1966 was processed in the American independent film The Delicate Art of the Rifle by Dante W. Harper. There Charles Whitman appears in the form of a school friend of the protagonist Jay by the name of Walt, who, like his historical role model, shoots around from a tower.

The Insane Clown Posse also refers to Whitman in the song The Tower , the video begins with an original television report about the rampage.

The thrash metal band Exodus also refers to the case of Charles Whitman in their song Class Dismissed (A Hate Primer) , which describes a rampage from the perspective of the murderer.

Individual evidence

  1. Copy of the farewell letter ( memento of the original dated August 4, 2003 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; 123 kB) ,, Austin American-Statesman , accessed July 1, 2013. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /

Web links

Commons : Charles Whitman  - collection of images, videos and audio files