Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Charles Whitman: The Texas Bell Tower Sniper

Ready for Battle

Whitman's arsenal (Austin Police Department)
Whitman's arsenal
(Austin Police Department)

In his old Marine footlocker Charlie packed an array of supplies. He brought a radio, 3 gallons of water, gasoline, a notebook and pen, a compass, a hatchet and hammer, food, two knives, a flashlight and batteries, and various other implements which made it clear he was prepared for a lengthy standoff. Additionally, he packed guns—a 35 caliber Remington rifle, a 6mm Remington rifle with a scope, a 357 Magnum Smith & Wesson revolver, a 9mm Luger pistol, and a Galesi-Brescia pistol. Later that morning he would buy two more weapons, a 30 caliber M-1 carbine and a 12-gauge shotgun. As he packed he refined his plan. At 5:45 a.m. he called Kathy's supervisor at Southwestern Bell and told her his wife was sick and wouldn't be reporting to work that day.

Charlie spent the morning accumulating more supplies. At around 7:15, he went to Austin Rental Company and rented a two-wheeled dolly to help him transport the heavy, unwieldy footlocker. He cashed checks amounting to $250 at the Austin National Bank, and bought guns and ammunition at Davis Hardware, Chuck's Gun Shop, and Sears. Arriving home again at around 10:30 he called his mother's employer and said she was ill and wouldn't be coming to work that day. Then he took his new shotgun out to the garage and sawed off part of the barrel and the stock. At around 11:00 a.m. he put on blue coveralls over his clothes, trundled his footlocker to the car, and headed for campus.

At 11:30 a.m. Charlie arrived at a security checkpoint on the edge of campus. His job as a research assistant had provided him with a Carrier Identification Card, which was issued to those with a need to deliver large items onto the campus. He told Jack Rodman, the guard at the checkpoint, that he would be unloading equipment at the Experimental Science Building and that he needed a loading zone permit. Rodman issued him a forty-minute permit. By 11:35 Charlie had parked, unloaded his gear and entered the Tower. With his coveralls and dolly he attracted no undue attention—he looked like a janitor or maintenance man. He took an elevator up to the 27th floor, and then dragged the dolly and footlocker up three short flights of steps.

Edna Townsley was the receptionist on duty to supervise the 28th floor observation deck that morning. Her shift was to end at noon. Charlie hit her on the back of the head, probably with the butt of one of his rifles. He hit her again after she fell, then dragged her across the room and behind a couch. She was still alive, but would die in a few hours. At around 11:50, Cheryl Botts and Don Walden entered the reception area from the observation deck and found Charlie leaning over the couch, holding two guns. They greeted him, and though they found him strange and noticed some "stuff" on the floor (Edna Townsley's blood), they were not immediately alarmed. Charlie watched them board the elevator, which took them to safety.

Meanwhile, M.J and Mary Gabour, their two sons, and William and Marguerite Lamport were headed up the steps from the 27th floor. They found the door barricaded by a desk. Mark and Mike Gabour pushed the desk away and leaned in the door to see what was going on. Suddenly Charlie rushed at them, spraying them with pellets from his sawed-off shotgun. Mark died instantly. Charlie fired down the stairway at least three more times. Marguerite Lamport was killed; Mary Gabour was critically wounded, as was her son Mike. They would lay where they fell for more than an hour. William Lamport and M.J. Gabour ran for help.

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