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I do not quite understand what it is that compels me to type this letter. Perhaps it is to leave some vague reason for the actions I have recently performed. I do not really understand myself these days. I am supposed to be an average reasonable and intelligent young man. However, lately (I cannot recall when it started) I have been a victim of many unusual and irrational thoughts.

Charles Joseph Whitman, a.k.a. The Texas Tower Sniper, was an American spree killer, mass murderer, sniper, school shooter, and one-time cop killer responsible for the University of Texas Massacre on August 1, 1966, killing seventeen people (including one who died of his injuries in 2001) and wounding 31 others before he was killed by responding officers.


Whitman was born on June 24, 1941, in Lake Worth, Florida where his father, Charles Adolph "C.A." Whitman, ran a plumbing business and had, besides Whitman, two younger sons named Patrick and John with his wife, Margaret. He was sometimes abusive to her and would discipline his sons physically. Growing up, Charles was a pitcher in a local baseball team, took up piano lessons, was an Eagle Scout and was taught by his father how to handle firearms along with his brothers. All three brothers were also altar boys at the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church. On July 6, 1959, less than a month after he turned 18, Charles joined the U.S. Marine Corps. His father, who was strongly opposed to the decision, personally made a call to "some branch of Federal government" and tried to have his son's acceptance reversed. Charles spent most of his service at the USMC's base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. He was a part of the Naval Enlisted Science Education Program (NESEP). This scholarship program trained engineers who were to become officers. He earned a number of decorations, including a Sharpshooter's Badge, and proved to be an excellent marksman, especially at rapid-fire from long distances and at moving targets. On September 15, 1961, he entered the mechanical engineering program at the University of Texas on a Marine Corps scholarship.

Whitman before massacre

Whitman in an undated photo

While studying, Whitman practiced karate, scuba diving and was also an avid hunter; the latter got him in trouble on one occasion when he shot a deer, took its carcass to his dorm room and skinned it in the shower. Also, though he was quite intelligent, his grades were sub-par and he began racking up some gambling debts. After marrying his girlfriend, Kathy Leissner, he did pick up the slack a bit, but the USMC withdrew his scholarship in 1963 and he was sent to active duty at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune near Jacksonville, North Carolina. Though he was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal upon returning, it was difficult for him to re-adjust to the military after his time in civilian life; he was court-martialed for gambling, usury, and possession of a non-regulation firearm. He was sentenced to 30 days of confinement and 90 days of hard labor and was demoted to the rank of Private. In 1964, he was honorably discharged, having had his father use his connections to get his service time shortened, and moved back to Austin, Texas, where he continued studying. While his wife worked as a biology teacher, he changed his major from mechanical engineering to architectural engineering and held down some jobs for short periods of time, including as a bill collector for Standard Finance Company, a bank teller and a traffic surveyor. He was also a Scoutmaster. In May of 1966, Whitman was contacted by his mother, Margaret, who announced that she was filing for divorce from her husband. Whitman went to Fort Worth and helped her and one of his brothers, John, move to Austin. The third brother, Patrick, stayed in Fort Worth with their father, who kept calling Whitman and asked him to talk Margaret into returning. Over time, Whitman became more and more troubled with the way his life had gone; his wife even suggested that he should seek counseling.

The Shooting[]

UT Tower during the rampage

UT Tower during the rampage

"8-1-66. I never could quite make it. These thoughts are too much for me."

Whitman's parafernalia

Police image of Whitman's arsenal.

On July 31, Whitman apparently finally snapped completely. During the day, he bought a knife and a pair of binoculars at a surplus store and Spam at a 7-11, all of which he brought with him to the shooting. In the evening, he wrote a suicide note in which he requests that an autopsy of him be done after his death and that his remaining estate be donated to mental health research. At night, he killed first his mother, leaving a written apology by her side, and then his wife. In the morning the next day, he called their respective workplaces and told them they wouldn't be able to make their shifts. In the morning of the next day, August 1, he purchased a Universal M1 carbine rifle, claiming he was going to use it for hunting wild hogs, and a 12-gauge semiautomatic shotgun, the barrel, and stock of which he shortened. He also bought numerous other items, including several other firearms (see below), a hatchet and a machete (neither of which were used during the shooting), ammunition, water, gasoline, canned food, a portable radio, a compass, a flashlight and batteries, a can of charcoal starter, and a box of matches. He packed the supplies in his old Marine footlocker and loaded it onto a two-wheel dolly he had rented, paying with useless checks, and drove to the university dressed in khaki coveralls.

UT Main Building

UT main building and tower (Austin, TX).

Arriving at the university, Whitman entered the Main Building's tower, using his old Career Identification Card which allowed him to carry heavy equipment on campus. He took the elevator to the 27th floor and carried his cargo up three floors. On the 28th floor, he knocked out a receptionist, Edna Townsley, with the butt of a rifle (it is unknown which rifle). She later died of her injuries in a hospital. A family of six (M.J. and Mary Gabour, their two sons Mark and Michael, and William and Marguerite Lamport) soon got past a barricade set up by Whitman and entered the floor he was on. He immediately fired at them with his sawed-off shotgun, killing Marguerite Lamport and Mark Gabour, as well as severely injuring Mary and Michael Gabour. M.J. Gabour and William Lamport escaped uninjured, both running for help. At 11:48 a.m., Whitman started firing with his rifles at random bypassers from the tower's outer observation deck after barricading the door behind him. By the time police arrived, students and other pedestrians were hiding behind whatever cover they could find. When they arrived, two police officers, Billy Speed, and Jerry Culp took cover behind a statue along with some other people. Whitman managed to hit Speed in the abdomen through a six-inch gap, killing him. More police officers of both the Austin Police and the University Police were called in and started unsuccessfully returning fire at him from a long distance. Civilians also began bringing out their guns and fired at Whitman.

Whitman's police report

Officer McCoy's police report.

Finally, police officers Jerry Day, Houston McCoy, and Ramiro Martinez; Department of Public Safety officer W.A. Cowan; armed civilian Allan Crum; and some others managed to make their way to the tower's 27th floor. They carried Mary and Mike Gabour to safety and approached the door to the observation deck, where Whitman was perched. After they broke through his barricade, Martinez snuck around a corner and emptied his .38 revolver at Whitman, but missed. While Whitman reached for his weapon to return fire, McCoy shot him twice with a shotgun and then ran towards his body, which was still alive and twitching, and fired another shot into him at point-blank range, killing him. At 1:24 p.m., Whitman was declared dead. During his autopsy, it was discovered that he had an aggressive pecan-sized brain tumor that could have affected his ability to control his emotions. In spite of what he had done, Whitman, being an ex-Marine, was buried with an American flag draped over his coffin at the Hillcrest Memorial Park in West Palm Beach, Florida, next to his mother and brother John. In 1976, the observation deck was closed for the public and remained closed until the university's 115-year anniversary in 1999.

Modus Operandi[]

Whitman killed his mother and wife by stabbing them; his mother was also shot. During the University of Texas campus massacre, he usually fired from the tower's observation deck at bypassers with the following firearms he brought:

  • A Universal M1 carbine rifle
  • A sawed-off 12-gauge semiautomatic shotgun
  • A scoped Remington Model 700 ADL bolt-action hunting rifle
  • A Remington M 141 .35-caliber pump-action rifle
  • A .357 Magnum S&W Model 19 revolver
  • A 9mm Luger P08 semiautomatic pistol
  • A Galesi-Brescia semiautomatic pistol

Whitman placed one weapon each at a different position on the observation deck, allowing him to fire from all directions and to give the illusion that there were multiple shooters. He was a better marksman at hitting moving targets than stationary targets. Whitman also murdered Edna Townsley by striking her head with the butt of a rifle, then shooting her, and attacked the Gabours and Lamports at the stairway with the aforementioned sawed-off 12-gauge semiautomatic shotgun.




Whitman was said to be a narcissistic and paranoid individual. He had an overvalued sense of his role and importance for what concerned his family life which, at some point prior to the shooting, had begun to fall apart along with his career and proposals for the future.

Having grown up with a violent father who battered both him and his mother, this probably generated a need for "payback" in Charles, whom always tried being a good husband and good soldier in order to distinguish himself from Charles Sr.

His personal view of himself, after his scholarship was interrupted and he went back to service in the Marines, began to crumble, along with his own self-esteem. This caused a progressive downfall in almost every aspect of his life: he was reprimanded while on duty for several misdemeanors (including assaulting a fellow soldier) and, after being discharged, he began taking methamphetamines in order to optimize his studies. It only ended up worsening his already unstable mood swings and fits of rage, as he admitted beating his wife at least twice (a thing that made him even more enraged, as it reminded him of his father). He indeed began to see himself as a failure even as a husband, as his wife was the "breadwinner" of the house.

By the time his parents divorced, another important breaking point in his everyday life, Charles suffered even more stressors as he had to cope with requests from his father to help them reconcile. When Charles Sr. threatened to stop funding him and his wife, Charles definitively fell down, as he could no more keep his long hatched rage under control. It should also be noted that by killing his loved ones (by telling himself he was merely sparing them from the horror he was going to perpetrate) and by addressing all his wrath to strangers, he expressed all his narcissism and need for final recognition. His last act was that of a depressed suicidal man who wanted to go away "in a blaze of glory". Whitman never considered being himself the cause of his downfall.

Known Victims[]

Whitman's campus-area victims

Map of the campus area where casualties were found.


  • 1966:
    • July 31:
      • Margaret Whitman, 43 (his mother; shot and stabbed)
      • Kathy Whitman (née Leissner), 23 (his wife; stabbed three times in the heart)
    • August 1: The University of Texas shooting:
      • Edna Elizabeth Townsley, 47 (fatally struck on the head twice with the butt of a rifle, then shot in the head post-mortem)
      • The stairway shootings:
        • Marguerite Lamport, 45 (shot in the chest with a sawed-off shotgun)
        • Marin "Mark" Gabour, 18 (shot in the head, neck and shoulder with a sawed-off shotgun)
      • The sniper attacks:
        • Thomas Frederick Eckman, 19 (shot in the chest)
        • Robert Hamilton Boyer, 33 (shot in the lower back)
        • David Hubert Gunby, 23 (shot in the lower back and kidney; died in 2001 from complications inflicted by the injury)
        • Karen Griffith, 17 (shot in the shoulder and chest, piercing her lung; died of her injuries a week later)
        • Thomas Aquinas Ashton, 22 (shot in the chest)
        • Thomas Ray Karr, 24 (shot through the spine)
        • Paul Bolton Sonntag, 18 (shot through the mouth)
        • Claudia Rutt, 18 (hit by the same bullet that injured Carla Sue Wheeler; shot in the torso; later died in a hospital)
        • Harry Walchuck, 39 (shot in the chest)
        • Officer Billy Paul Speed, 22 (shot once in the shoulder and chest)
        • Roy Dell Schmidt, 29 (shot in the abdomen)

Injuries/failed attempts

  • August 1, 1966: The University of Texas shooting:
    • The stairway shootings:
      • Mary Frances Gabour (shot in the head with a sawed-off shotgun; survived, but was rendered a paraplegic)
      • Michael Gabour, 16 (shot in the head, shoulder and left leg with a sawed-off shotgun; survived, but was paralyzed from the waist down)
    • The sniper attacks:
      • Claire Wilson, 18 (shot in the hip; was eight months pregnant at the time; her unborn child was killed by the gunshot)
      • Devereau "Matlin" Huffman, 31 (shot in the right arm)
      • Adrian Littlefield, 19 (shot in the hip)
      • Brenda Littlefield, 17 (Adrian's wife; shot in the hip)
      • Nancy Harvey (shot in the hip; was five months pregnant)
      • Ellen Evgenides (shot in the leg and thigh)
      • Alex Hernandez, Jr., 17 (shot in the leg)
      • Billy Snowden, 35 (shot in the shoulder)
      • Sandra Wilson, 21 (shot in the chest)
      • Abdul Khashab, 26 (shot in the elbow)
      • Janet Paulos (Abdul Khashab's fiancée; shot in the chest)
      • Lana Phillips, 21 (shot in the shoulder)
      • David Mattson (shot in the wrist)
      • Roland "Cap" Ehlke (struck in the left arm by shrapnel, then shot twice in the left bicep and leg)
      • Homer J. Kelly, 64 (shot in the leg)
      • Irma Garcia, 21 (shot in her left shoulder)
      • Oscar Royvela, 21 (shot once through the shoulder blade and left arm)
      • Avelino Esparza, 26 (shot in the left shoulder)
      • Carla Sue Wheeler (hit by the same bullet that killed Claudia Rutt; shot in the left hand, destroying three fingers)
      • Robert Heard, 36 (shot in the shoulder)
      • John Scott Allen, 18 (shot in the forearm)
      • Morris Hohmann, 30 (shot in the leg; a major artery was severed from the wound)
      • F.L. Foster (full name unknown: injured during the crossfire between Whitman and law enforcement)
      • Robert Frede (injured during the crossfire between Whitman and law enforcement)
      • Della Martinez (injured by shell fragments)
      • Marina Martinez (injured by shell fragments)
      • Delores Ortega, 30 (suffered a cut to her head from either broken glass or one of Whitman's bullets)
      • Billy Bedford
      • C.A. Stewart (injured during the panic ensued by Whitman's rampage, but not shot)
      • Numerous unnamed civilians and responding officers (attempted to shoot)


  • Whitman's shooting spree had led to the creation of the SWAT teams in all police departments across the US.

On Criminal Minds[]

  • Season Nine
    • "Final Shot" - While Whitman was never directly mentioned or referenced on the show, he appears to be an inspiration for the episode's unsub, Colin Bramwell - Both were snipers and one-time mass murderers with military backgrounds and expert marksmanship skills, were discharged from the military due to criminal records, targeted a wife who was physically abused (Whitman's own wife in his case, which was successful, while Bramwell targeted Eric Carcani's wife and failed), committed their massacres from high altitudes, and were shot dead by police. It's also interesting that Hotch used a Remington Model 700 rifle to kill Bramwell, the same kind of rifle Whitman used.
  • Novels
    • Killer Profile - Whitman is mentioned to have been one of the rampage killers covered in Max Ryan's book Serial Killers and Mass Murderers: Profiling Why They Kill, which the unsub used as a basis for a series of copycat murders. It is unknown if he was really planning to copy Whitman as well, much less how he would have planned to do so and flee the scene without getting caught.

On Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior[]

  • Season One
    • "One Shot Kill" - While Whitman was never directly mentioned or referenced on Suspect Behavior, he appears to have been an inspiration for the episode's unsub, Jason Wheeler - Both were narcissistic snipers and spree killers who were taught marksmanship by their fathers (making them impressive snipers), their fathers disapproved of their military service and wrote letters requesting their admittance be rejected and ultimately succeeded (though Whitman still served as a Marine while Wheeler never got the chance to actually join the U.S. Army), both killed one of their parents (Wheeler's father and Whitman's mother, respectively), who they killed with a slightly different method than their later killings (Wheeler bludgeoned his father, while Whitman stabbed his mother but also shot her), both shot numerous random victims in public places (one single location in Whitman's case) with a Remington 700 rifle (though Whitman used numerous weapons) from several hundred meters away, both wrote messages, their crimes spanned two months, and got into gun fights with law enforcement that led to their apprehensions (though Wheeler was apprehended alive while Whitman was killed). Their surnames also seem to mirror each other.