AUSTIN, Tex. (AP) — Charles Joseph Whitman, known as a quiet, thoughtful young man, killed his wife and mother to spare them embarrassment, he wrote, at what he was about to do — shoot everybody he could from the University of Texas Tower. He killed 13 more persons, counting an unborn baby, before police shot him to death.
In addition to the 16 dead, 31 persons were wounded in Whitman’s day of carnage Monday.
Whitman, 25, an architectural engineering student at the university, held officers at baby for more than an hour and a half as he poured rapid, accurate fire from the observation section of the University Tower, the tallest building in Texas’ capital.
After it was all over, officers found notes beside the bodies of his wife and mother explaining something of what he intended — and that he wanted to save them from embarrassment.
The terror ended when two policemen and a university employee crept to a platform above the sniper’s position and gunned him down at close range.
Whitman, who qualified as a sharpshooter in the Marine Corps, dropped some of his victims at distances as much as two blocks away.
Others fell on the broad campus mall surrounding the tower and lay untended in the 98-degree heat as Whitman kept rescuers at bay with his riddling fire. Police crouching behind trees and buildings answered with blistering rifle and shotgun volleys which left the tower pitted and marked.
In his hometown, Lake Worth, Fla., Whitman’s friends recalled him as a normal, friendly boy.
“He must have just lost his mind — bang,” said Mrs. L. J. Hollern, a neighbor who had known Whitman since he was a little boy. “His mother was a perfectly good mother — very strict with the boy, a regular churchgoer who made the boys attend with her.”
This continues the Appeal’s review of news stories and headlines during its Sesquicentennial year.