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The Neal Spelce Collection, No. 3 - UT Tower Shooting

Neal Spelce

Sound | 1966

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  •  Allen Crum, a University Co-op employee whom police  deputized, answers questions about the advance on the sniper 
  •  A KTBC reporter chronicles the casualties 
  •  A list of those injured 
  •  Professor Leonardt Kreisle talks about knowing Charles Whitman as his student 
  •  A. J. Vincik, a local businessman, discusses his association with Whitman through an Austin-area Boy Scouts troupe 
  •  A separate report investigates the murders of Whitman’s wife and mother 
  •  KTBC newsman Phil Miller gives his eyewitness account of the tragedy 
  •  Patrolmen Ramiro Martinez and Houston McCoy attempt to quell the public panic after dealing with the sniper 
  •  News stations from all across the nation call KTBC for beeper reports 
 
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Transcript
  •  Announcer: …the following special program 
  •  CW: As the battle continued students, professors, shoppers, adults, children, and foreign students, peace corpsmen, policeman, ambulance attendants, all fell under the deadly accurate hail of gunfire from the observation deck of the tower. A sniper was firing from beneath the clock, mainly on the south and west sides of the building, co-eds were pinned down by the bullets. 
  •  NS: But there were more. Many more. And the full impact of today’s tragedy still has not been felt because the magnitude of the crime is practically impossible to comprehend. 
  •  JB: When Police Chief Bob Miles held this news conference at 3 O’clock this afternoon; he described the events in which the sniper met his death. Patrolman Ramiro Martinez worked his way into the building where he found Allen Crum, an assistant manager of the University Co-Op, and they were armed with a rifle. Martinez deputized Crum and they took the elevator to the 26 thfloor along with another officer. Martinez and Crum then crept out on the walkway on the opposite corner from where Whitman was stationed. 
  •  JB: Could you tell where they were coming from? 
  •   AC: It seemed like they coming from the building across the street, because it was so loud. But as I got out into the center of the street, I could tell they were coming from the tower. I took cover with the boy that hadn’t been shot, and then there was down the street, students were trying to get people to stop their cars to get them out of the line of fire. We tried to stop the bleeding on this boy, and uh, people were still coming south on Guadalupe, so I left the boy with some of the other students there, ran down street and tried to direct the people off the road and while he didn’t shoot at me, I don’t know. I was in plain sight. 
  •   JB: But you weren’t in the tower when the shooting started? 
  •  AC: No sir, I was in the Co-op. 
  •  JB: So uh you actually went into the tower? 
  •  AC: Yes sir, I couldn’t back across the street ‘cause I figured I might get shot myself, so I went to the next building, and the next building, and I thought that perhaps I could help them when I got over there so I waited until he shot to the other side of the tower and then ran to it myself. 
  •  JB: And that’s where you encountered the officers? 
  •  33 AC: I did, yes sir. I tried to call the store to let them know where I was at and then I ran into Officer Day and there we teamed up. I offered my services, he accepted, Officer Martinez showed up, we went to the first building, up to the back windows and Officer Day tried to get a shot at the man up there, but they missed. We decided we’d go up through the elevator, see if we could take him from there. In the mean time, another man showed up with a rifle and a revolver, Mr. McCoy. I borrowed his rifle, they deputized me, we went into the tower and to the 26 thfloor. 
  •  JB: To the 26 thfloor? 
  •  AC: Yes sir. The first floor below where the original shootings had started. [Clears throat] Excuse me. We went from there searching the offices because we didn’t know whether there were one or two shooters. 
  •  AC: Yes sir, we did. We found three people and they came out of the office. We established contact with the people downstairs with Mr. McCoy on the phone, we left him there. 
  •  JB: And you know when you heard the firing? 
  •  AC: Yes sir. 
  •  JB …That that was the… 
  •  AC: That that was the…We got a good police force in Austin, they shoot straight and they do their job and they are good men. 
  •  JB: Mr. Crum I know when I speak from all the citizens of Austin in expressing our gratitude to you, to the Austin Police officers who put an end to the reign of terror on the University of Texas campus, and I’d like to thank you to for coming down to relate the experience this afternoon. 
  •  AC: Thank you, sir. 
  •  JB: And now back again to Neal Spelce. 
  •  NS: Allen Crum, an assistant manager of the University Co-Op, talking with Jack Bowerson. Mr. Crum, as you heard, was the man who went, with the police force, to the top of the University tower, the trip that ended with the death of the man who was identified as the sniper. During that hour and a half perch, the sniper touched many lives and many families with his well-aimed shots. The list of dead and wounded is an ominous roll call, but it’s a roll call that must be made. 
  •  JR…Gabour, a resident of Texarkana, who was dead on arrival as we say, the victim of a shotgun blast both to the head and arm, the body at Weed-Corely. The fifth victim, 24 year old Thomas Karr, a student from Fort Worth, living here in Austin at 802 W. 28 thSt, young Karr died in the intensive care unit at Brackenridge Hospital. Arrangements are being made through Wilky-Clay. 56 year old Mrs. Marguerite Lamport, an aunt to the Gabour boy, a resident here in Austin of 203 Cascade, she was pronounced dead on arrival, a victim of a shotgun wound, she is, as we say, was the aunt of the Gabour family involved in the list of this afternoon’s casualties. Services for Mrs. Lamport pending at Weed-Corely. 18 year old Claudia Rutt was pronounced dead on arrival at Brackenridge Hospital, she is a resident 3415 Cascadera, her parents are Melvin and Mrs. Rutt. She was a student at the University, services pending at Cook funeral home. The eighth victim, dead on arrival at Brackenridge Hospital, 29 year old, Roy Dell Schmidt, employed by the city of Austin as an electrician, funeral arrangements at Wilky-Clay. Also dead on arrival, Austin Police officer, Billy Speed, he was 23 years old. A resident of 1403 Payne Street, services pending at [indistinct]-Manor. The tenth victim, Paul Sonntag, 18 years old, dead on arrival at Brackenridge Hospital, he was a city employee. He lived at 2705 Pecos St here in Austin, son of Mr. and Mrs. Jim F. Sonntag, employed for the past two years as a lifeguard at Reed Pool, young Sonntag graduated from Austin High School in May and was enrolled in pre-registration at the University of Colorado, the family has requested that memorial gifts be made to the Educational Building at Tarrytown Methodist Church. He was also the grandson of KTBC News Director, Paul Bolton and Mrs. Bolton. Services pending at Cook Funeral Home. The 11 thVictim, Harry Walchuk, no age available, a resident of 385 Deep Eddy in Austin, he died a few minutes after being admitted into the intensive care unit following surgery, services pending at Weed-Corely. The twelfth victim was a baby boy, by the name of Wilson, no first name of course given, delivered prematurely, to his mother, Mrs. Claire Wilson. Doctors in the emergency room stated that the baby died from a concussion and a skull fracture suffered as a result of the bullet crashing into his mother’s body. Also, dead at Seton hospital shortly after arrival was Mrs. Edna Townsley, 53 years old a resident 3203 Alice Avenue. She too had been shot by the full blast of a shotgun, and also according to police officers and autopsy surgeons, had been beaten about the head and the shoulders by the gunman. And of course, as you know, 26 year old Charles Joseph Whitman, shot down by police officer and his body is at Cook Funeral Home. Now a list of the injured as we have them, we have attempted to get the names absolutely correct and the age correct. In fair condition at Brackenridge Hospital, John Allen Scott, a resident of 1510 Coronado Drive. In satisfactory condition, Rowland Ehlke, a resident of 1103 West 24 th, received an injury to his right arm and after treatment at Brackenridge Hospital, was moved to the University Health Center. He walked from an emergency room at Brackenridge to an awaiting ambulance. In serious condition, a carpenter by name of Avelino Esparza, a resident of 2047 West Malone. In critical condition at Brackenridge Hospital is 41 year old Mary Frances Gabour, a resident of Texarkana, Texas. Her condition is extremely critical at this hour; she has gone back to surgery for the second time, suffering from severe head injuries. Also in serious condition from head injuries, Mike Gabour believed to be a cadet at the Air Force Academy in Colorado, he’s 19 years old, he too is also in surgery. A student by the name of Irma Garcia, 23 years old, is in fair condition at Brackenridge Hospital, she is a resident of 2211 Leon Street here in Austin. In critical condition now in the intensive care unit at Brackenridge is Karen Griffith, of 8210 Briarwood she is 17 years old, suffering from suffering from severe chest and internal injuries. In critical condition. David Gumby, a resident of 1112 D Brackenridge Apartments, no age immediately available.  In fair condition, 21 year old Nancy Harvey, a resident of 2101 Shoal Creek, she suffered a hip injury; she is a student at the University and also a Library Assistant. 36 year old Robert Heard, a reporter for the associated press, a resident of 3908 timberline Drive, now in fair condition suffering from left arm and shoulder injuries. In serious condition, in the intensive care unit, 17 year old Alec Hernandez, a resident of 1008 South 1 ststreet, suffering from a hip injury. Also in serious condition, Morris Holman, a resident of 411 Lightsey Road, he is the manager Hill-Tee Manor Funeral Home and was wounded as he was attempting to lift another victim into an awaiting ambulance. His condition: serious, he is 30 years old and is in the intensive care unit. Also, these injured victims, 21 year old Sandra Wilson is now in serious condition, she has been transferred from Brackenridge Hospital to Seton Hospital, she is suffering from chest injuries. Undergoing treatment also at Seton is 18 year old Clara Wheeler, a resident of 500 Vale, he condition is listed as good and also in unknown condition at Seton Hospital, Brenda Gail Littlefield, a resident of 5513 Overbrook Drive. Now these persons were injured, received treatment either at the University Health Center or Brackenridge Hospital and after treatment were released. Robert Frede, spelled F-R-E-D-E, a student, Delores Ortega, and F.L. Foster, a resident a 5702 Mojave Dr. C.A. Stewart, a resident of Baytown. At the Health Center on the campus of the University, a student by the name of Dello Martinez, a resident of 2515 Rio Grande in Austin but from Monterrey, Mexico and her mother Mrs. Marina Martinez of Monterrey, both treated for minor injuries from fragments of shells perhaps from a ricochet and released from the medical center at the University of Texas. These doctors included a dentist, they included orthopedists, they included pediatricians, they included doctors of any time of specialization you might know. The hospital had more than an adequate supply of personnel, of equipment and of the necessary drugs and various other items associated with emergency rooms under extremely congested conditions. There were at least two nurses at all times and a doctor with each patient in critical or serious condition, the other hospitals here in the city, telephoned and came over, offered their facilities, offered their services, and many of the nurses called in and offered to be of service. At this hour, many of the public health nurses in this city are working extra hours to relieve the overload at the administration level and at the nursing level at Brackenridge Hospital. The emergency room personnel, without an exception, those off-duty, came back without being called directly under their services to the community. The other cities in the surrounding areas called and offered their assistance, their supplies, their doctors, and their nurses. The hospital administrator Ben Tobias late this afternoon opened one half of a 21 bed unit that had been closed earlier in May and transferred patients from other areas of the hospital, ones that could be moved so as to make space for those more critically injured. 80 units of blood were sent in from outside areas and more are still coming in at this hour. Neal, that’s the latest as it is at this moment. 
  •  NS: The range and accuracy of the sniper’s shots were amazing. Firing  from atop the 27 storey town, the gunman hit a young boy, in front of the holiday house, on Guadalupe. The gunman also turned and whizzed a bullet near a policeman who was atop the press box at Memorial Stadium. He shot and wounded and killed idle shoppers and workers on the drag as far north as the Varsity Theater. 
  •  CW: Texas Officials expressed shock at a news conference on campus this afternoon. Charles Whitman had an uneven academic record at the University. He maintained a low C average before he entered the Marine Corps in 1963. When he returned he brought his grade point average up to a solid B. 
  •  10 LK: Beginning with the Fall of 1962, I knew Charlie Whitman as my advisee in mechanical engineering. At that time, he had transferred in to the University of Texas and had had approximately 1 year as a Freshmen. He had been in the Marine Corps, he seemed to be more mature that most people of his age, he seemed to vacillating between the artistic endeavors and engineering endeavors. He apparently thought that his experience in the Marine Corps would make it possible that he could do well in mechanical engineering. And as his grades showed, he certainly did better than average because he has maintained better than a C average throughout his whole university career. In fact, through his last semester in school he had a B average. I understand that he was and is still very active with the, the uh, Boy Scouts. 
  •  VR: With me is Mr. A.J. Vincik, a local businessman here who has had some associations with Charles Whitman over the past couple of years. Mr. Vincik, I wonder if, first-of-all, you could just relate what your association with this young man was. 
  •  AV: Two associations, really. One as a friend, and the other through the scout activities in the Austin area. 
  •  VR: You mentioned scouting. What were your associations with scouting and his associations with scouting? 
  •  AV: His associations with scouting was that, uh, through his abilities and past experiences as a scout himself. Uh, we decided and asked him to become our scoutmaster of scout troop 5 at the First Methodist Church on West Gate and Capitol. 
  •  VR: What was his past experience in scouting? 
  •  AV: He, with him, brought literature from clippings, newspapers in Florida, and uh, written quiet extensively in his work, he was an Eagle Scout at 12, and 12 years of age for an Eagle Scout is very, very unusual. 
  •  VR. How would you describe his association with the other scout members, with the boys that he worked with? 
  •  AV: He was there only for a short time in that capacity because of his other work and studies and so forth taking up most of his time, but he was a scoutmaster for three of four months and during that time we just all loved him, he was good, he was good to the boys, he worked the boys, took ‘em out on campouts and worked them and took five mile hikes, he was just a typical scout. 
  •  VR: Mr. Vincik, you mentioned your two relationships with him, one as a scout, and one as a friend. Could you describe Charles Whitman for us, what kind of a man did you see in him? 
  •  AV: I, uh, I’m in the public eye and business and see a lot of people and Charles was an exception. He was good, he was just, uh, clean, young man. In fact, I took him to the bank, my bank, and introduced him, to the folks up there and got him started banking there.  His reputation, uh, was impeccable. 
  •  VR: Was your relationship with him, would you define it as being close? 
  •  AV: Uh, not on a personal basis, or, uh, domestically, more as counseling because I was quite a bit older than he and uh, he’d run up, I guess, to a few problems now and then, and he’d uh come up to me and ask me what to do. 
  •  VR: You say now that you used to counsel with him, do you mean that you and he would sit down and chat over a period of hours or an extended period of time? 
  •  AV: Right. 
  •  VR: How often would, how many times did you think this took place? 
  •  AV: While he was our scout master, of course, we met every Tuesday night with the boys and had a scout meeting from 7 to 9, 9:15 and then after the meeting, he’d sit out in the car with me, maybe every other week, and we would discuss the boys and how he was handling them, and he was quiet concerned, he was meticulous, he wanted to know whether he was doing a good job, a bad job, and how he could improve it and uh, all in all, he was just good. 
  •  VR: Was there anything that took place in these conversations that would you have led you to believe he was capable in taking part in the act that took place today? 
  •  AV: Never. Never. 
  •  VR: What about your relationship with him as a scout, once again, a part of scouting and learning how to be an explorer scout, I suppose, is the handling of weapons. Did you have any experience with him in this relationship? 
  •  : AV: Yes. Uh, in our scouting, we take the boys to the sea coast, maybe once a month or to the Bastrop State Park or Camptown Mooton, and in this case at Camptown Mooton, the facilities there are just wonderful, and the  shooting range is one of them. Charles would take a gun, or we would take a gun, and a 22 preferably, and give the boys a chance to shoot the gun. And he would teach him how to handle it, how to hold it, where to point, how to load it, aim it, shoot it, and just all and all how to handle a gun. And he was good marksman. 
  •  VR: Did you know that he was under psychiatric care? Did he ever mention this to you? 
  •  AV: No. I didn’t know that. 
  •  VR: Ok. Mr. A. J. Vincik a close friend of Charles Whitman, the boy who stands accused of the sniper’s killings today. 
  •  DD: The bizarre and disturbing incident of the sniper was followed very quickly by the discovery of the body of Whitman’s wife in their home at 906 Jewell Street in South Austin. And almost simultaneously in another part of town, Whitman’s mother was found murdered. Mrs. C.A. Whitman’s body was discovered in her residence at her penthouse apartments, 1212 Guadalupe. The 23 year old wife, Kathleen, was a biology teacher at Lanier High School; she was working for the telephone company this summer. Police were tipped off to the killings when they learned that Whitman had called the telephone company this morning to report that his wife would not be at work.  At a news conference this evening, police chief Bob Miles said that both the mother and the wife had been shot.  Investigators at the scene as was included in the film interview, told newsmen that the wife had been stabbed three times. The discrepancy of these reports apparently can be put as the result as the simple and complex, confused situation. Chief Miles said that the typewritten note left by Whitman requested an autopsy on him to see why he did it. In the note, he said that he would kill. Whitman grimly typed out the reasons for killing his wife, to save her embarrassment. About his mother, Whitman wrote, “If there is a Heaven, Mother is there. If there is no Heaven,” he said, “She is resting now, after living 25 years with my Father, who I hated with a mortal passion.” And then on the apparently carefully typed out letter, a handwritten scribble: “3 AM, Wife and Mother, dead.” 9 Hours later, the massacre from the tower would begin. Here again, is Neal Spelce. 
  •  48 PM: I first arrived at the scene, it was a few minutes after 12 and there was no traffic at all moving on Guadalupe after 21 ststreet. A man was standing in the middle of the Drag routing traffic down the street, west of Guadalupe, anyone moving, had to be constantly aware that when they could see that observation tower, then he could see you. I worked up behind the post office in the steps leading behind the Mall, from behind the Barker History Center. There were some other students crouched atop the stairs but they let me look out on the mall. I saw three people down, none of them were very near to me, and I couldn’t tell whether they were dead or injured, or just down. I heard some police talking and up that point I had no seen any police though I was aware of them because of the ambulances that were constantly moving and somewhere I could hear a police radio. I went back down the steps and saw a policeman making his way along the wall towards the steps leading along the mall, there might have been more than one patrolman, but all I saw was one. I wanted to get up to him to try and find out what the police were going to do. I kept close to the wall, but the policeman, I guess he thought he was sheltered by the trees above the wall, was walking sort of crouched over…getting to…[indistinct] telling me that I would drive if he wanted to keep on talking, we drove to the steps of the Mall. I saw John Thaley, as Neal said, he was one who helped some of the injured off the Mall, Charlie Ward was there and our photographers and there again was the tower and so many people had been shot. Neal? 
  •  NS: Today’s tragedy has been felt nationwide. In fact, one Austin woman cabled her husband in Vietnam to say that their two girls who were enrolled at the University of Texas were alright. The Governor expressed his sympathy for the families of the dead and the wounded and indicated that he has ordered an investigation into the situation. The governor still had about two weeks to go on his trip to promote the Hemisphere all around South America, but he indicated that he would be back in Austin by tomorrow night. Police Chief Bob Miles tonight said he would consider policeman Martinez and McCoy and citizen Crum, heroes, because of their valor in rushing onto the observation deck to bring the massacre to an end. Miles said he did not remember anything of this magnitude anywhere in recent times. But what about Patrolman Martinez, the man who’s generally been credited as firing the host that put the stop to all this madness? Martinez met a man in the tower he said who cried out that the sniper had killed his wife and children, the citizen tried to take Martinez’ gun, but he was repelled. It was then that patrolman Houston McCoy raised a flag to let those on the ground that it was all over so that they would stop shooting at them up on the observation deck. It was this act that started the rumors that the killer had given up or had surrendered. Austin citizens reacted quickly for pleas for help as Joe Roddy indicated earlier, especially during the critical hours as hospital attendants were trying to save the wounded. 
  •   JR: Mr. Kemp called to express his gratitude for the immediate and overwhelming response to their call. The entire news crew at KTBC-TV has been hard at it today since this entire incident began around noon, at approximately 12:15, the phones at KTBC began to ring with requests for phone reports to radio stations all over the North American continent. Any handy newsman hearing the phone ringing prepared to give a brief report to all callers. Reports were recorded for radio stations in Anchorage, Alaska, and just a moment or two ago, a request from Miami, Florida. The next from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and then one from San Diego, California, and even from Honolulu, Hawaii. There have been more than 200 requests for brief information and they are still coming in. Each is given as requested before picking up another line. Almost every metropolitan marketplace radio station has called KTBC at least once, for an up to the minute report. The stories were continually updated, checked and rechecked for accuracy and immediately in use. On several occasions, copy was being edited ahead of the announcer reading it. Here again, is Neal Spelce. 
  •  NS: Police Chief Bob Miles praised his police department’s handling of the situation, which was difficult and completely unprecedented, something for which no police department can be fully prepared. Miles said “It’s a thousand wonders we didn’t have more people killed.”  The story of the sniper is not ended, it’s not ended for the families who have loved ones to bury and loved ones to care for. It’s not ended for the police and other officials, including the governor, who intend to carry the investigation into this unbelievable tragedy. It’s not ended in the quest for facts, newsmen from all over the nation converged on Austin to cover this story that dwarfs the Chicago murder of eight nurses a couple of weeks ago. The television networks have run specials on the tragedy, and more are planned. 
 
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On the morning of August 1, 1966, Charles Whitman, a 25 year old former student, began shooting from the 28th floor observation deck of the University of Texas tower. By the time Austin police shot and killed him 90 minutes later, Whitman had killed sixteen people and wounded thirty-one. Also dead were his wife and mother who he had stabbed to death earlier in the day. Neal Spelce, a young reporter for Austin's KTBC-TV, filmed these clips which would air in local and national news coverage. Footage from the scene of the shooting is included as well as a "play-by-play" description of how Whitman was brought down, as told by Austin Chief of Police Bob Miles and civilian Allen Crum. University of Texas Chancellor Dr. Harry Ransom reads a prepared statement and shares his personal views about the tragedy and Phil Miller, KTBC newsman, reads a riveting report of his experience covering the story. Until the 2007 violence at Virginia Tech University, Whitman's deadly rampage was the worst campus shooting in U. S. history.
On the morning on August 1, 1966, 25-year-old former student Charles Whitman ascended to the observation deck of the University of Texas at Austin Main Building with multiple weapons and 700 rounds of ammunition and began shooting indiscriminately on persons below. The rampage ended 96 minutes later, when Austin police officers Ramiro Martinez and Houston McCoy, alongside University Co-op employee Allen Crum, reached the observation deck and shot Whitman dead. Whitman, a former Marine sharpshooter, killed 14 people and injured 31 on campus. He had earlier murdered his mother, Margaret Elizabeth Whitman, and wife, Kathleen.