Charles Joseph Whitman, also known as the “Texas Tower Sniper,” was an American mass murderer.
On August 1, 1966, Whitman killed his mother and wife with knives in their homes before proceeding to the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) with several firearms, where he began shooting at people without discrimination.
Charles Joseph Whitman Childhood
Charles Whitman, who was born in Lake Worth, Florida, on June 24, 1941, was described as a polite child who rarely lost his temper. When he was only six years old, he had an IQ of 139, indicating a high level of intelligence. Whitman’s parents supported his academic endeavors and disciplined him for any signs of failure or laziness, including physical punishment from his father.
In June of 1959, when Charles Whitman graduated from high school at St. Ann’s in West Palm Beach, he ranked seventh out of 72 students.
Whitman and his friends drank excessively to celebrate his graduation and upcoming eighteenth birthday, resulting in his father’s anger upon his return home. His father severely beat him before tossing him into the family pool.
Whitman enlisted in the US Marine Corps without his father’s knowledge three days after his birthday. On July 6, he was subsequently transferred to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
University of Texas tower shooting
Charles Whitman brought a large quantity of firearms and ammunition to the observatory platform atop the 300-foot tower at the University of Texas on August 1, 1966, where he proceeded to shoot 46 individuals. He murdered 14 individuals and injured 32 others.
The night before the shooting, Whitman murdered both his wife and mother. However, he was ultimately killed by Austin police officers who courageously charged up the tower’s stairs to subdue the assailant.
Whitman, a former Eagle Scout and Marine, began experiencing severe mental health issues in March 1966, after his mother left his father. He confided in a psychiatrist on March 29 that he was experiencing uncontrollable outbursts of rage and that he was considering shooting people from the tower with a rifle. Unfortunately, the physician ignored this warning.
Charles Whitman penned a note describing his violent tendencies on July 31. In the note, he also requested that an autopsy be performed on his body after his death to determine whether his violent behavior and increasingly severe headaches had a biological cause. Additionally, he expressed his intense hatred for his family and his intent to murder them.
“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. These thoughts constantly recur, and it requires a tremendous mental effort to concentrate on useful and progressive tasks.”
That evening, Whitman went to his mother’s residence and stabbed and shot her to death. He then returned to his own residence and fatally stabbed his wife.
On his way to the tower, Whitman stopped at a gun store to purchase ammunition and a carbine. He packed food and supplies, then headed to the observation platform. As soon as he arrived, he murdered the receptionist and two tourists before unpacking his rifle and telescope and aiming at the people below.
Charles Whitman was an expert marksman who could hit targets up to 500 yards away. He continued to fire for 90 minutes while officers searched for a way to bring him down. They were eventually able to shoot and kill him. At the conclusion of his attack, fourteen people were dead and over thirty were injured.
Following the tragedy, the University of Texas tower was closed for a period of time before eventually reopening for tours.
The autopsy request was approved by his father.
On August 2, an autopsy was performed on Charles Whitman’s body, during which a “pecan-sized” brain tumor was discovered. The tumor was identified as an astrocytoma and showed some signs of necrosis.