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Texas Tower of Terror: Former Marine Sharpshooter Killed 15 and Wounded 33 (FPD CASE VAULT)

texas tower bloodbath ex marine turned sniper charles whitman
Source: Associated Press; Bettmann/CORBIS

The sniper holding an M-1 rife during his stint in the Marines in 1961; Whitman shortly before his rampage

May 30 2024, Published 1:01 p.m. ET

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Former marine sharp-shooter Charles Whitman once told a doctor he dreamed of climbing the famous 307-foot-tall Texas Tower in Austin and shooting as many people as he could.

On Aug. 1, 1966, whacked-out Whitman turned his fantasy into a bloody reality by slaughtering 15 people and wounding 33 more while high atop the landmark on the University of Texas campus.

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Ex-Marine Turned Sniper Kills 15, Wounded 33 From Texas Tower
Source: Bettmann/CORBIS

Texas Tower in Austin

Before his terrible assault, he brutally killed his mom Margaret and stabbed his wife Kathy to death. Then the 25-year-old Eagle Scout loaded three rifles, three pistols, a sawed-off shotgun, a radio, water, gasoline, 700 rounds of ammunition, a hammer and a knife into a footlocker. He dragged it all to the tower entrance.

There, the engineering student unloaded his gear and took an elevator to the reception area on the 30th floor. He hit receptionist Edna Townsley with the butt of a rifle and dragged her behind a couch, where she lay unconscious with a fatal wound. He then barricaded the door.


Ex-Marine Turned Sniper Kills 15, Wounded 33 From Texas Tower

A puff of smoke from Whitman's rifle in the school clock tower was caught on camera.


When six visitors tried to push through, Whitman greeted them with blasts from his shotgun. Two died and two were wounded. Whitman then went to the observation deck. Using a remington sniper-style rifle, he began to cut down victims walking on the campus and neighboring streets - some as far as 500 feet away.

Pregnant Claire Wilson, 18, was his first target. He shot the teen in the stomach, killing her child. Then he wounded her boyfriend. For almost two hours, the marksman rained death from the sky.

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Ex-Marine Turned Sniper Kills 15, Wounded 33 From Texas Tower
Source: Bettmann/CORBIS

While one of Whitman's victims lies motionless on the ground, a woman cowers behind a statue on the University of Texas campus.

Finally, four policemen and Allen Crum, a civilian, made it into the tower, surprised Whitman and killed him.

An autopsy discovered Whitman had a brain tumor, but medical experts could not determine if that touched off the terrible rampage that stunned the nation.


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