50 years ago today the US learned of a mass shooting by a lone individual.
Charles Whitman, a 25 year-old architecture and engineering student and former Marine, selected the tall tower over the entrance to the University of Texas.
A massive, muscular man, Whitman (pictured, after his death) sniped at passersby from the tower’s observation deck, 70 metres above the ground.
He shot 49 random strangers and killed 15 of them, before finally being shot dead by police officers.
Earlier that day he had killed his wife and mother in their homes. Notes he left behind claimed that he stabbed them through the heart to free them from the suffering of this world.
Whitman went to his task in the tower well-prepared.
He had: a Universal M1 carbine, six additional ammunition magazines and 14 boxes of ammunition; a can of gun cleaning solvent; a 12 gauge semi-automatic shotgun; a Remington 700 6-mm bolt-action hunting rifle; a .35-caliber pump rifle; a 9-mm Luger pistol; a Galesi-Brescia .25-caliber pistol; and a Smith & Wesson M19 .357 Magnum revolver.
In addition he lugged up the tower snacks, coffee, vitamins, Dexedrine, Excedrin, earplugs, jugs of water, matches, lighter fluid, rope, binoculars, a machete, three knives, a transistor radio, toilet paper, a razor, and a bottle of deodorant.
Whitman, a gifted child who was an accomplished pianist with an IQ of 139, had been raised by a tyrannically abusive father and devoted Roman Catholic mother.
His father was an avid hunter and taught his sons to be the same.
Whitman’s father said of Charles: “Charlie could plug the eye out of a squirrel by the time he was sixteen.”
A postmortem revealed that Whitman had a brain tumour the size of a pecan nut, although the evidence as to whether this contributed to his actions or not remains disputed.
Prior to that day Whitman had consulted a psychiatrist who said he seemed to be “oozing with hostility”.
No squirrels were harmed.
Picture source: Victor9876 via Wikimedia