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The Neal Spelce Collection, No. 1 - UT Tower Shooting
Neal Spelce
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  • Highlights
    Eyewitness and newsman Charles Ward describes the shooting
    Students and passersby crouch to avoid the sniper
    Brehan Ellison, a Vietnam War veteran, discusses his attempts to save wounded individuals
    Austin Police Chief Robert Miles illustrates how officers approached the shooter, Charles Whitman
    Allen Crum, a University Co-op employee whom police  deputized during the advance, recounts his experience
    Another KTBC reporter lists the victims
    University of Texas Chancellor Harry Ransom delivers an official and a personal statement at a news conference
    Professor Leonardt Kreisle talks about knowing Whitman as his student
    A separate report looks more closely at the murders of Whitman's wife and mother
    KTBC newsman Phil Miller gives his eyewitness account of the tragedy, including the fatal shooting of police officer Billy Speed
  • Transcript
    Announcer: KTBC Television News now presents a special program on today's mass murder in the capitol city. Here is KTBC Television News editor Neal Spelce.
    NS: Good Evening, one of history's worst mass murders occurred here in Austin today. By official count tonight, 49 persons were hit by gunfire, there are 16 dead, and 33 injured. It started last night; a man reportedly killed his wife and his mother. That same man apparently rounded up an arsenal and supplies this morning and then went to the observation deck of the University of Texas tower. It was then that terror rained down from the tower. Charles Ward was there and described the shooting.
    CW: There must have been a hit that last time, we hear people outside our building, in an area where we can't now look safely saying "Let's help that boy!" "Does he need help?!" "Someone must be down!"
     CW: Maybe empty carbon shells. Ricocheting bullets bouncing off the top of the tower. Pieces of the tower falling down. And the battle goes on.
    NS: Silent screams for the nine minutes that the gun battle was in progress. It was hot, past 90 degrees on the ground. Probably much hotter, high atop the tower with the sun ricocheting off the limestone with the same intensity of the police bullets. Students, co-eds, crouched at the place where they could find safety. Austin Police were reinforced in their gun battle by Sheriff's Deputies, by Texas Highway Patrolmen,  [indistinct] citizens offering their services. But from the time the first call came in to the UT Police at 11:48 AM until Austin Police gunned down the man they said was the sniper at  1 PM, the University campus resembled a battlefield. Dead people were lying on the hot sidewalks and dozens of courageous persons risked their deaths time and time again to try and save them. One funeral director driving an ambulance was shot and critically injured trying to help, an Austin policeman lost his life, and a University of Texas professor was killed. Countless students and innocent bystanders fell…[indistinct]…boy riding a bicycle was picked off with deadly accuracy…time and time again men risked their lives trying to save others.  And this man, shown here, hauling a dead man to safety was one such man: Charles Ward talked with us when he got back.CW: One of those who was out of breath now after running out onto the mall, rescuing those who had been shot is Brehan Ellison of Austin who's been in Vietnam and been back for two years. Brehan, how many have you gone out to rescue?
    CW: One of those who was out of breath now after running out onto the mall, rescuing those who had been shot is Brehan Ellison of Austin who's been in Vietnam and been back for two years. Brehan, how many have you gone out to rescue? [Gunshots heard in the background]
    BE: Today, two.
    CW: What did you have to do?
    CW: Did you have any trouble getting them up or did any shots come close to you while you were out there?
    BE: No shots came close to me just the last one, he was dead, dead weight. He was a little hard to pick up…too limp…not like the ones knocked out
    CW: How many have you seen that are dead today?
    BE: Just one, I helped nine more.
    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.  Charles J. Whitman, a 25 year old Marine veteran, who earned a sharpshooter rating while on active duty, he was identified by police as the sniper. He was shot down on the observation deck by two city policemen. The policemen were aided by an Austin man, Allen Crum. The story of how they ended the 90 minutes of terror was told this afternoon at a news conference held by Austin Police Chief Bob Miles. Jack Bowerson was there.
    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. Chief Miles had a diagram prepared to illustrate what happened then.
    BM: This drawing or diagram here that will show you roughly how you…[indistinct]…which is north there?
    Other Officer: This is north
    BM: Ok
    Other Officer: South, East, and West. Martinez came out here and crawled right to this point. Up here is the bell, this here is the walkway, around the inner part of the building here. Martinez came out and went around the East side, crawling, Crum came out and went west this way. And the subject was sitting here, leaning back here this way with the gun pointing in this direction as Martinez round the corner here, he saw him with his gun in this direction and he knew Crum was coming here this way and he had come around the corner at the same time. Martinez fired from here, from this corner here. As he saw him readying the rifle, pointing the rifle in this direction, pointing at Mr. Crum , knowing that Mr. Crum was here. He was pointing the rifle at Crum as Martinez fired.
     JB: So Martinez fired and the reign of terror came to an end. The rifle that Whitman was aiming was a military surplus carbine, one of an arsenal of seven firearms that were found in a footlocker than Whitman had hauled up with him. Besides the carbine, there was a 6mm Remington magnum, equipped with a four power scope sight, a 35 caliber pump rifle, plus a twelve gauge sawed-off shotgun, two handguns, a 357 magnum, and a 9mm luger, and another gun that was later discovered on Whitman's body. There were other supplies and weapons in the footlocker: a hammer, a hatchet, two hunting knives, a large Bowie knife with a bone handle, gasoline, rags, a large supply of nylon cord, cans of pork and beans, a loaf of bread, a large can of water, and lots more ammunition. There was also a transistor radio, when we saw at the station, the dial was not tuned to any station, but police speculated that Whitman may have been tuned in to a play-by-play report of the consternation he was causing as he perched there for an hour and a half. The man here beside me, is Allen Crum, he was deputized to go up on the tower with the two policemen to go into battle with the gunman. Mr. Crum, could you tell us how you happened to be in the tower building in the first place.
    AC: Well, I, um became involved in this when I looked out the Co-Op windows and saw a boy shot across the street, I went outside to witness it because I thought it was a small fight, as I stepped out the door I heard the sound of shots and Officer Martinez and myself and Officer Day started up the staircase where we worked our way up to the next floor and began to search the offices up there, where we found three more people, one of these gentlemen, his family was in the corridor and they had all been  shot.
    JB: Now the people on the twenty-sixth floor, were not hurt but the people on the next…
    AC: Uh, no, sir, the next half a flight of stairs up was where this man shot them all in the corridor.
    JB: When did you finally locate Whitman?
    AC: It was quite a few minutes because uh, we worked our way up and perhaps we thought he might be in this corridor and we didn't know the building and had to work rather cautiously. We worked our way up to the end of the corridor, where a set of stairs went to the left and uh I covered with a rifle for Martinez and Officer Day while they got the boy who was still alive out of the line of fire because he told us the man was outside and couldn't see us. While Officer Day was taking care of the wounded boy, as far as  I know Officer Martinez and me, we took the stairs. W got to the top of the stairs and the man had barricaded the staircase with a desk and a chair and a waste-can and we figured he's either in there or out on the walkway ledge. So we very cautiously pushed the desk out of the way and we saw blood on the floor and we realized that someone had been killed up there or badly wounded. We found a lady up behind on the couch and when Officer Day joined us again we began to work our way out on the ledge, this walk around ledge thing.
     JB: Did you see where he was when you went out on the ledge?
    AC: At this time we still didn't know if there was one or two, one up there. There were a very good possibility of two because of the fast rate of fire. We figured that we'd cover up all the windows for a man going out the door using our old infantry style tactics, Officer Martinez went out first, I covered the East and South windows, he covered the door and the west windows, Day covered as much as he could also. Captain Martinez at the door he covered the North walk and the West walk and I got out the door and Day covered the East and South and they went to Northeast corner and I stayed in the Southeast corner and then we had contact with him first and I thought I heard him running southwards on the west walk so I fired one shot down the walkway into the wall t try to stop him there and then it sounded as if he reversed his direction and ran back to the Northwest corner where he ran into the other officers from the Northeast corner and the firefight resumed and they terminated it right there.
    NC: As soon as the word of the sniper's attack came in, reporter Joe Roddy rushed immediately to Brackenridge Hospital . All afternoon long, he maintained a vigil there, sorting out the names of those who were dead and those who were wounded. Here's his report.
    JR: Those reported dead by the police department verified by the hospital reports from the several hospitals that the victims were taken. We have prepared media board for you to read them as we read them here for you on Channel 7 news. At dead on arrival the persons shot by the gunman apparently in the early morning hours of this morning the wife of the gunman Mrs. Charles Joseph Whitman, 23 years old at 906 Jewel, the body is at Wilke-Clay Funeral Home.  The gunman's mother, Mrs. C.A. Whitman, her age at the moment, not available, services pending at the Cooke Funeral home, her body found at the downtown apartment house 1212 Guadalupe St. Now we will look at the list as prepared by Brackenridge Hospital officials. Dead at the hospital: 23 year old Thomas Ashton, a resident of Redlands, California and a Peace Corps trainee. The body is at Wilke-Clay. 33 year old Robert H. Boyer, a resident of 3305 Hampton Rd, a professor last year at the University of Texas, his immediate family now living in Scotland, his father and mother living in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Dead on arrival at the hospital was 18 year old Thomas Eckman, a resident of Barc…[indistinct]…a student by the name of Dello Martinez , a resident of 2515 Rio Grande in Austin but from Monterrey, Mexico and her mother 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. Now in regards to the hospital situation, needless to say, it was a very trying moment. But we will tell you this because we saw it first-hand: the disaster plan, the result of many hours, weeks, months, years, of experience and training worked beautifully. Preparations had been made, training orders had been given, training exercises carried out. It was fantastic to see the number of people respond to the stacked conditions given by the administrator of hospital. 15 registered nurses were in the emergency room at the time, a dozen or so private physicians left their offices, left their home on off-duty hours left to render any kind of assistance they could.
    NS: Events such as today's history making tragedy is sure to have an impact on the University campus. Charles Ward attended a news conference hosted by UT officials. Here's  his report.
    CW: University of Texas officials expressed their shock at a news conference on campus this afternoon. The Chancellor, Dr. Harry Ransom, witnessed the mass murder from the upper floors of the tower. Dr. Ransom at first read a prepared statement and then gave his personal views on the heroism shown by students.
    HR: The University community is appalled and stunned by the appalling tragedy which occurred today. University offices are cooperating fully with law enforcement agencies. No explanation of motive in any normal context is available. Mr. Whitman's academic record at the University was above average. There was no disciplinary record on his official transcripts. The chairman and the chancellor express deep concern and sympathy for the families of those persons who lost their lives and for those who are injured and their relatives. Both noted the heroism and selflessness of students, law enforcement offices and staff who attempted, often successfully, to rescue those hurt and endangered. With that official statement, I must add informally that from the tower, I have never seen, nor have I ever imagined anything like it. Youngsters in white shirts who saw these things happen came out from buildings at great length and either rescued or took care of persons who were hit. It's incredible and it is very heart-lifting, but in a moment of very deep sadness.
    CW: 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. One of the professors who knew him well was Dr. Leonard Kreisle in the mechanical engineering department
    LK: He seemed to be very well liked by the students in his class. I had him in one my class myself, he did very prompt work, very neat work, as far as I could tell he seemed to be very happy of his family. He brought wife up and introduced her to me. As far as I could tell as of Fall of 1962, through about May of this year, he seemed to be mature and very very serious.
    CW: Kreisle mentioned Whitman's scouting activities. Verne Rehnquist explored this aspect of Whitman's life with A.G. Winser
    VR: He was an Eagle Scout at 12 and 12 years of age for an Eagle Scout is very very unusual.
    AW: How would you describe his association with the other scout members, with the boys that he worked with?
    VR: 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 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
    NS: Whitman's life was also tragic in the effect it had on his wife and mother. As you know, both were found dead when police moved into their follow up investigation into the shooting. Darrel Davis went to the homes of the two women and came back with this report.
    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. At the Whitman home, Lieutenant Merrill Wells talked about Whitman and about a note the man had written.
    MW: In that letter he said that he was going to kill his wife and mother and to save them the embarrassment of what he was about to do. That the reason for him killing them is that he had been severe headaches and that he had been to a psychiatrist.
    Reporter: He said that about himself?
    MW: Yes.
    Reporter: What is the condition of the house right now?
    MW: It is very neat and clean and not anything out of order. She's lying in bed on her back, she had three stab wounds as opposed to two that we thought at first and we think that they were caused by the large hunting knife that was with the stuff up at the tower.
    DD: 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 himself 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.
    NS: KTBC Newsmen Phil Miller and John Thaley were shot at several times today by the sniper as the moved around the campus to try to ferret out what was going on. Thaley actually rescued some of the wounded victims in between shooting film to record what was going on. Miller helped load the dead city policeman into an ambulance. Here's Miller's report on what he went through as he covered today's story.
    PM: I pulled over to the curb, just south of the West Mall entrance and got out of the car. Joe Lee, one of our photographers who came with me, ran to the side of the architecture building, while I ran across Guadalupe and got down behind some cars. Joe and I heard firing as I hid behind the car, but it seemed sort of far off in the distance. As I ran behind the car, the shot from the rifle sounded as almost if it was in my ear and I could hear the bullet ricochet. In all honesty, I still didn't realize just exactly what was going on, but some of the students, crouched behind the car with me, said the rifleman really was on the tower and had to whole campus pinned down. When I asked if anyone had been hit, someone said that five people that he knew had been, including a little boy on a bicycle. I ran inside one of the stores on the Drag and made my first report for radio 59, noting that occasionally someone would run from one shelter to another, but that the running was always sporadic, in short bursts, like on an open battlefield. 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, but the sniper could see him. I yelled at the policeman, but he didn't hear me, and I was just about ten yards away when I heard the rifleman from the tower and the patrolman fell to the ground. I don't know how that guy saw the policeman, or even how he could have shot them, but he did. I learned later it was Billy Speed. A girl was fairly close to me, she just kept saying, "He shot the policeman! He shot the policeman!" I went back to the steps, more students ran up, the other officers moved Speed to some shade and then we all carried him back into the entrance to the post office, where we put Speed into an ambulance. I can't remember how I got to the Catholic Students Center, but I do remember going over a fence through someone's backyard and hear the rifle fire again, and a whine through the trees, there were some people in the backyard, huddled against the garage I think, but when that rifle fired, I really cleared that fence. I called the station again from the Student Center and went out the back way, doubled-back across University Street and I could hear a radio saying the sniper was firing south and that's where I was so I, uh, waited awhile. And then I heard he was firing north, and I ran towards the median in the center of the street, and I stayed behind a tree, but that tower was in plain view. I ran from the tree across the other side of the street, and I heard the rifle fire and heard something smack that tree behind me. I dove to the ground, and got behind a car, I waited a pretty long time and then I wondered if, "He really shot at me, or whether it was just my imagination, and why me? He didn't know me. Death is always an impersonal thing; it's him or her, but not me. So why me?" I ran some more. I probably remember that most of all, I always seemed to be running, somewhere
    NS: Governor John Connally, a man who has also been felled by a sniper's bullet, said tonight in Rio de Janeiro that he is cancelling the remainder of his South American trip due to today's tragedy. Patrolman Ramiro Martinez was at home cooking steak when he heard reports of the shooting on the radio, rushed over in his car, as he arrived; six persons were lying on the mall. He found four bodies in the tower. Martinez and others rushed in on the tower deck and shot Whitman down. Dr. Harry Ransom at the University of Texas announces that all summer classes at the University will be suspended tomorrow. Classes will resume Wednesday. Campus flags will fly at half-mast during this week. The story of the sniper is not ended. It's not ended for the families who have loved ones to bury, loved ones to care for. It's not ended for the police and other officials, including the governor, who intend to carry out the investigation into this unbelievable tragedy. And it's not ended in the quest for facts. For most of Austin, the events of this day have been more for any to comprehend.  This is Neal Spelce, thank you, and good evening.
    Announcer: This has been a news special produced by the KTBC-TV News Department.