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The Neal Spelce Collection, No. 2 - UT Tower Shooting
Neal Spelce
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  • Highlights
    Eyewitness and newsman Charles Ward describes the shooting
    Brehan Ellison, a Vietnam War veteran, discusses his attempts to rescue wounded individuals
    Allen Crum, a University Co-op employee whom police  deputized during the advance, recounts his experience
    Another KTBC reporter talks about the scene at the hospital
    University of Texas Chancellor Harry Ransom delivers a personal statement at a news conference
    Professor Leonardt Kreisle talks about knowing Charles Whitman as his student
    A separate report looks at the murders of Whitman's wife and mother
    KTBC newsman Phil Miller gives his eyewitness account of the tragedy
    Volunteers answer the call for blood donations
  • 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: Maybe empty carbon shells. Ricocheting bullets bouncing off the top of the tower. Pieces of the tower falling down. And the battle goes on.
    CW: 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 without knowing what hit htem. A 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 him 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? [Gunshots heard in the background]
    BE: Today, two.
    CW: What did you have to do?
    BE: Run hard and keep low.
    CW: Did you have any trouble getting them up or did any shots come close to you while you were out there?
    CW: How many have you seen that are dead today?
    CW: How many have you seen that are dead today?
    NS: 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.
    JB: 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. 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.
    NS: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: Dr. Kreisle mentioned Whitman's scouting activities. Verne Rehnquist explored this aspect of Whitman's life with A.G. Vincik
    VR: What were some of these problems that he would talk to you about?
    AV: Well, making a living, mostly. He, uh, was going to school, his finances were uh, not great and he needed extra money, he worked at extra jobs, and I tried to help him where I could with this.
    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: At the Whitman home, Lt. Merrill Wells talked with newsmen about the discovery and about a note that 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.
    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'll admit it was with a great deal of difficulty that I finally brought myself to realize that this was Austin, the University of Texas, and the Tower, the same tower that glows orange for football victories, on it, a mad man with a rifle, who'd picked off a little boy on a bicycle. I could see the boy, someone had pulled in underneath some bushes, out of the line of fire. I could see the bike, lying in the middle of the sidewalk. But all along the drag, nobody moved, nobody walked. They were either in stores or crouched behind vehicles. I went out of a store, made by way behind cars, south on Guadalupe, until some buildings blocked the view of the tower. I crossed the street, made my way up the inner campus drive, behind the architecture building and it was a revelation to me how that tower completely dominated the surrounding area.
    NS: Governor John Connally, a man who has himself 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. And when he went inside he said he found four more bodies in the tower. Moments later, Martinez and another patrolman rushed in on the tower deck and shot Whitman down. Newsman Les Ready manned out newsroom for the past 10 hours now and reports now on the calls for aid and the ramifications this story's had around the Nation.
    LR: When the magnitude of the tragedy began to unfold today, the local blood bank asked KTBC and others to put out a call for needed blood types and within minutes, there was a traffic jam on the blood bank office on Interregional. At 7:30 PM this evening, Paul Kemp, manager at the local blood bank, reported that the response had been beyond all expectations. There were people still calling to volunteer and the blood bank had already drawn more than 120 pints of the much needed blood. The total will probably reach about 130 by the time all volunteers had been taken care of but at the moment, no more is needed.
    NS: But for most of Austin, the events of this day, have been more than any one person can comprehend. This is Neal Spelce, good evening.