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Texas sniper: first mass shooting in US history

'30.01.2021'

Source: Crime novel

The 25-year-old architecture student, who later became known as the Texas Sniper, barricaded himself at the very top of the 1-story tower of the University of Texas on August 1966, 27 and fired a rifle with a telescopic sight at people on the street for an hour and a half. Whitman's shelling killed 14 and injured 32. This happened shortly after Whitman killed his wife and mother in their homes. Details of the crime, which is forever inscribed in blood in the history of the United States, tells the author of Yobabubba on the website Crime novel.

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Lost innocence

It's hard to shock Americans now. When we hear about another shooting at the workplace, a shooting at a school, about some regular loner who shot people, taking them on their last journey, we certainly sympathize with them, but we are not shocked. This happens so often that we have already lost count of the shooters and victims, have forgotten in which cities outbreaks of unmotivated violence occurred. Therefore, it is difficult for us to understand the horror that Charles Whitman presented to America on August 1, 1966. Until Whitman carried out his execution in Austin, Texas, people felt calm in public places and most citizens were absolutely convinced that they were completely protected from violence and terror. From August 1, 1966, the world will never be the same again.

Whitman's story stands out for many reasons, not the least of which is that it has to do with the famous tower of the University of Texas, from which he fired almost unhindered for 96 minutes. The tower provided Whitman with a virtually impregnable firing point from which he could easily select and strike his victims. She seemed to be specially adapted for this purpose. In fact, in the years leading up to the incident, Charlie casually told various people that a sniper could do a lot of damage if he were in position on this tower.

Screenshot: Whitney Milam / YouTube

The tower was almost 94 meters (307 feet) high. The building itself is slightly lower than the nearby Texas State Capitol, but in reality it is located higher because it stands on a hill. It was opened in 1937 and by 1966 was visited by approximately 20 people a year, most of whom wanted to admire the beautiful views of the surrounding Austin from the observation deck on the 000th floor. The first death associated with the tower was recorded during its construction. One of the workers slipped and fell from the height of the 28th floor in 12. Another similar incident occurred in 1935. Also, suicides used the tower for their own purposes in 1950, 1945 and 49 years. Despite all these tragedies, the tower was a favorite symbol of the people of Texas and was also, figuratively speaking, the heart of the city and campus surrounding it.

Charlie's early life

Screenshot: Whitney Milam / YouTube

On the surface, Charles Whitman seemed as calm and strong as the Texas Tower itself. He was born into a wealthy, prominent family in Lake Worth, Florida. He was a gifted student, pianist and exemplary Boy Scout. But under the guise of the external well-being of the family, some problems were hidden. Whitman's father was a man who achieved success entirely on his own. He was a plumber who, through hard work, reached the heights of his profession and made his way into decent society. He never let his three sons get off the ground and ruled his house like a dictator.

“I often beat my wife,” he said later, “but I loved her… I always had, and still have, a terrifying character, but my wife was terribly stubborn…. Therefore, by virtue of my character, I had to beat her. "

At the same time, the family was quite wealthy - Whitman Sr. and his wife, Margaret, always drove the latest models, every child in the family had a bunch of toys, including weapons and motorcycles. Their home was one of the most prominent and beautiful in the area, with all the amenities and even a swimming pool. But all this seemingly luxurious life was completely out of harmony with what was happening inside the Whitman house.

Shortly before Charles' 18th birthday, in June 1959, the tension generated by his father reached its climax. Charlie came home from the party late at night and drunk, and his enraged father beat him up and threw him into the pool, in which he nearly drowned. A few days later, he applied to join the United States Marine Corps. On July 6, 1959, Charles Whitman left for the training unit.

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He spent the first part of his service at the Guantanamo Naval Base, Cuba. He tried very hard and was in good standing with his superiors. He meticulously followed orders and diligently passed exams in various military disciplines. Received the Good Conduct Medal, the Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal, and the sniper badge. Records of his shooting tests show that he knocked out 215 points out of 250, that he is excellent at fast aimed fire at long distances and is much more accurate when shooting at moving targets. Captain Joseph Stanton, an officer in the 2nd Marine Division, recalls: “He was a great Marine. He impressed me. I was confident that he would become an exemplary citizen. "

It was important for Charlie to be a great Marine. After many years of humiliation and suffering that his father brought him, he at all costs tried to prove to himself that he was a man. Every opportunity for his own development increased the distance from his cruel childhood. The naval science education program was made for Charlie rising from his knees. Its goal was to educate engineers, who later became officers. Charlie passed the entrance exams and appeared before the selection committee. His candidacy was approved. He was to complete an engineering degree at a college of his choice before entering the officer candidate school. His training, as well as textbooks, was paid for by the US Marine Corps, in addition, he received a monthly stipend of $ 250.

Charlie entered the University of Texas at Austin on September 15, 1961. After years of harsh discipline at home and the regimented life of a Marine, he was almost completely free to spend time as he pleased. Almost immediately, he gets into trouble. He and several of his friends were arrested for poaching deer. He started gambling and accumulated gambling debts, after which he refused to pay them, thereby angering some dangerous people. At the same time, his academic performance fell to a very low level. But he rectified the situation a little after marrying his girlfriend, Katie Leissner in August 1962, but the US Marine Corps was very unhappy with him. His training program was curtailed, and he was recalled to active service in February 1963.

The duty station was the Lijon base in North Carolina. After a year and a half of freedom, the discipline of military life was already a burden to him. His wife returned to Texas to finish university and he was left alone. He attempted to return to the training program, but his application was rejected, and was also told that the time he spent in Austin would not count towards his term of service. He became disillusioned with the Marine Corps, and this was evident in his behavior. In November 1963, he was charged with gambling, usury and illegal possession of a weapon (pistol). He threatened one of the soldiers who did not pay him back a debt of $ 30 with a 50% loan rate. Was found guilty and sentenced to 30 days in prison and 90 days of hard physical labor. In addition, he was demoted from corporal to private. Charles was already fed up with the Marine Corps and wanted to quit, for which he turned to his father for help. Whitman Sr. by that time already had enough connections to pull the right strings, which he did. His service life was reduced by a year and in December 1964 he was dismissed from the Marine Corps.

Back to Austin

Charlie returned to Austin completely disappointed. The failures in his career as a Marine and his studies upset him greatly and he was determined to rehabilitate himself. He changed his specialty at the university from mechanical engineering to architecture and began to study with much more zeal than on his first arrival at the university. He started working as a payment collector at the Standard Finance Company, then took a job as a cashier at Austin National Bank. In his spare time he worked as a counselor in a scout unit. He worked hard to gain respect again, but constantly berated himself for not living up to his expectations. His numerous diaries contained a huge number of self-improvement schemes and lists of goals that he could achieve, but failed.

At the very beginning of his marriage, he followed his father's example and was very cruel to his wife. But then he decided not to repeat his mistakes and wrote in his diary how an attentive and loving husband should behave. The impression was that he did not have any internal moral foundations, so he tried to constantly instruct himself in his diaries how to behave correctly, in the opinion of others.

“Like a computer. He put his own aspirations in the machine, then programmed the steps that he had to take for this and the result was the result, ”one of his friends described him.

However, from time to time, his mask of well-being fell from him. And he succumbed to anger and frustration, which continued to diminish his self-esteem. Katie Whitman was the main earner in the family. Her job as a teacher at Austin's Lanier High School, gave money and health insurance, Charlie also earned, but constantly complexed that he earns less than his wife.

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However, he continued to take money and expensive gifts from his father. Charlie hated freeloaders, but he himself had to be. He hated losers, but at the same time he himself had not been able to succeed in any of the cases since he left his father's house at 18. He considered being overweight to be a weakness, but he could not maintain himself in the form that he had when he was in the Marine Corps. Outwardly, Charlie was a diligent and conscientious husband and worked hard, but inwardly he hated himself.

Katie Whitman noticed that her husband looked gloomier than ever before and began to cautiously advise him to seek medical advice. At the same time, Whitman Sr. and Margaret separate after a series of regular outbreaks of violence. Charlie's mother and his younger brother Patrick move to Austin in the spring of 1966. Whitman Sr. humbly asked her to return to him, but she firmly refused. She filed for divorce in May. Charlie was haunted by the family with her problems. In the place where he wanted to start a new life, the past again began to constantly remind of itself. His depression and anxiety intensified, and Katie was finally able to convince him to see a doctor.

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Dr. Jan D. Cochran prescribed Valium and sent him to the university clinic to see a psychiatrist, Dr. Maurice Dean Heatley. Heatley later said, "There was something about him, like all ordinary young Americans," but "he seemed to ooze with hostility." Charlie talked mainly about his lack of success and hatred of his father. At some point, he confessed to Heatley that he fantasized about “climbing a tower with a rifle and shooting people,” but he was not embarrassed. Many of his patients fantasized about the tower, and Charlie did not come up with any behavioral patterns that could indicate that he was serious. He gave such maxims for years and no one ever listened to them, taking them as nonsense. Heatley advised Charlie to come back a week later and suggested that he call him anytime. Charlie never came or called again.

In the summer of 1966, Charlie studied and worked, constantly using the amphetamine-containing drug Dexedrine. Sometimes he did not sleep for several days, doing assignments and participating in various projects. He took on a very heavy teaching load, trying harder than ever. But the drug made his efforts ineffective. Even with a huge number of hours of work, he could not achieve what he wanted. As a result, his pride suffered even more. Plus, his father kept calling, trying to convince Charlie to pressure his mother to come back to him. And although friends and wife agreed that Charlie was under great pressure and worked too much, no one even imagined that the lid from this boiler could be ripped off at any moment. At the same time, the summer heat in Texas intensified, and Charlie was more and more immersed in his fantasies ....

Preparation

The first concrete actions to implement his plan, he carried out on July 31st. In the morning he bought a long hunting knife and binoculars from the store, as well as a set of canned food. After that, he took Katie away from her summer job as a telephone operator at Southwestern Bell. They then drove to the cinema, after which they joined Margaret Whitman for lunch at the cafeteria where she worked. After dinner, they went to visit their friends, John and Fran Morgan. The Morgan found Charlie unusually quiet, but saw nothing unusual about him. Katie returned to work at 18 pm, it was her next shift. Charlie drove home alone. At 00-18, he sat down at a typewriter to write a letter, which, in his opinion, should explain subsequent events.

“I really don't understand what prompts me to write this letter. Perhaps in order to somehow explain the unclear reasons for the actions that will follow. " He goes on to say that he was constantly the victim of increasing "unusual and irrational thoughts", he tried to find help in solving his problems (visit to Dr. Heatley), but nothing came of it. He expressed the wish that his body be examined after his death for the physical causes of his mental distress. He then laid out his plans for the next 24 hours.

“After much deliberation, I made the decision to kill my wife, Katie, tonight after I pick her up from her job at the telephone company. The main reason for this is that I do not consider this world to be livable and am going to die, and I do not want to leave her to suffer here alone. " He continued, "The same reasons lead me to kill my mother as well."

The writing of the letter was interrupted by the appearance of Larry and Eileen Fuss, a married couple with whom Charlie and Katie were friends. The Fuisss noted that Charlie is unusually calm, but looks happy. They talked for a while. Charlie told stories, said he was going to buy land near Canyon Lake, and spoke very sentimentally about Katie. Twice he said: “It's a shame that she has to work all day to then return home to….”, But both times did not finish the sentence. Three friends bought ice cream from a street ice cream maker and the Fuyssas left at about 20-30.

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Charlie then left home to pick Katie from work. Her shift ended at 21-30 and they probably got home at about 21-45. Katie talked a little on the phone, then Charlie called her mother and asked if he and Katie could come over to take a break from the heat in her air-conditioned apartment. But Katie didn't want to keep him company. She went to bed and Charlie left home around midnight.

Margaret Whitman met her son in the lobby of her apartment building and they went up to her apartment 505, where Charlie attacked her. It is not known exactly how this happened, but he presumably attacked her from behind and strangled her with a piece of rubber hose until she passed out. And then he stabbed him several times in the chest with a large hunting knife. There was also significant damage to the back of Margaret's head, but since no autopsy was carried out, it is impossible to say for sure with what heavy object they were performed. Margaret Whitman died at 0-30, and at the same time Charlie sat down to write another explanatory letter.

“I just killed my mother. I am very upset to do this ... I am really very sorry that this was the only way that I have seen in order to ease her suffering, and I think this is the best way, ”he wrote.

He put his mother's body on the bed, pulled down the curtains, and wrote another note to delay the investigation of his actions a little. He stuck it, addressed to the service staff, on the door of Suite 505. “Roy, I have no plans to go to work today and went to bed late. I really want to have a good rest. Please don't bother me. Thanks. Mrs. Whitman. "

Charlie left his mother's house at 1-30, but quickly returned, said that he was Mrs. Whitman's son and had to get to her apartment to grab the medicine he had forgotten from his mother. Most likely, he forgot a bottle of Dexedrine, which he desperately needed in the next few hours. The receptionist let him into the apartment and he returned to the lobby after about five minutes. Finally, he left the house at 2-00.

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Katie Whitman was asleep when Charlie got home. Quickly and quietly, he threw back the covers and stabbed her five times in the chest. Most likely, she never woke up. Then he went back to the letter he was typing that evening when the Fuesses interrupted him. "3:00" he wrote in blue ink pen, "Both dead." With the same pen, he continued to explain his crimes, placing all responsibility on his father and trying to figure out what prompted him to murder.

“I understand it looks like I brutally killed two of my most beloved people. I was just trying to get the job done quickly, ”the note said.

He wrote several more notes, one for each of the brothers and one for his father. He left instructions for developing the film in his cells and for his father to take him and Katy's dog. For a while, he looked through his diaries, highlighting the moments in which he extolled his wife. Then he set about preparing for a string of murders that would follow in the next few hours.

Ready to fight

Into your old Marine chest. Charlie packed a huge amount of different gear. He took with him a radio, 3 gallons of water, gasoline, a pen with a notepad, a compass, an ax, a hammer, a supply of food, two knives, a flashlight with spare batteries, and various other little things that indicated that he was preparing for a long siege. In addition, he took with him a rich arsenal of weapons - a 35 caliber Remington rifle, a 6 mm Remington rifle with a sniper scope, a Smith and Wesson 0,357 Magnum revolver, a 9 mm Luger pistol and another pistol.

Screenshot: Whitney Milam / YouTube

Later that morning, he bought 2 more firearms - a 1-gauge M-30 semi-automatic carbine and a 12-gauge shotgun. After that, at 5:45 am, he called Katy's boss at Southwestern Bell and said that his wife was ill and would not come to work today.

He spent the morning preparing. At about 7:15 am, he pulled into the Austin Rental Company and rented a two-wheeled cart to transport a heavy, bulky chest. He then cashed $ 250 checks and purchased additional weapons and ammunition from three stores - Davis Hardware, Gun Shop and Sears. Then he returned home around 10:30 and called his mother's employer, saying that she was ill and would not come to work today. Then he went to the garage with a shotgun and made a sawn-off shotgun out of it with a hacksaw. At 11:00, he put on a blue overalls, loaded his trunk into the car and headed to the university campus.

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At 11:30 am, he pulled up to a checkpoint at the entrance to the campus. His job as an assistant gave him the right to a special pass, which gave permission to import bulky goods into the campus. He told the security guard, Jack Rodman, that he needed to deliver the equipment to the research lab building and needed permission to unload. Rodman gave him a 40-minute clearance. At 11:35 am Charlie parked, unloaded the chest onto a cart and entered the tower. Since he was wearing overalls and carrying something heavy on a trolley, no one paid attention to him - he looked like a utility worker. He took the elevator to the 27th floor and lifted the equipment cart three more short flights of stairs.

Edna Townsley was on duty in front of the observation deck that morning. Her shift ended at noon. Charlie hit her on the back of the head with something heavy, most likely the butt of one of his rifles. After she fell, he hit her again, after which he dragged the unconscious body across the room and hid it behind the sofa. She was still alive at that moment, but died a few hours later. At approximately 11:50 am, Cheryl Botts and Don Walden came down from the observation deck to see Charlie sitting on the couch with two pistols. Both greeted him, but despite the fact that it all looked strange and they saw some kind of "substance" on the floor (Edna Townsley's blood), they did not panic. Charlie followed them to the elevator and they drove down.

Almost simultaneously, M.D. and Mary Gabor with two sons, as well as William and Marguerite Lamport, began to climb the stairs from the 27th floor. But the entrance to the observation room was already blocked by a massive table. Mark and Mike Gabor pushed the table aside and looked through the door, trying to figure out what was going on. Charlie immediately attacked them, firing large-caliber shot from the sawn-off shotgun. Mark died on the spot. Charlie shot three more times in the direction of the stairs and killed Marguerite Lamport. Mary Gabor and her son Mike were seriously injured. They will remain on the stairs for at least an hour. William Lamport and M.D. Gabor rushed downstairs for help.

On the tower

Meanwhile, panic began on the lower floors of the tower. People began barricading doors and closing in offices and classrooms. Charlie walked to the observation deck and began to unpack his weapons and equipment. He blocked the door to the observation room with a cart and quickly began preparations to fire. To begin with, he took his most accurate weapon, a 6mm telescopic rifle, and turned his attention to the southern end of the campus. His first target was Clairie Wilson, pregnant at a later date, 18 years old. The bullet hit her in the stomach, shattering the head of the unborn baby. She screamed shrilly, and her fiancé, who was walking beside her, Thomas Ekman, turned and asked what had happened. At that moment, a bullet pierced his chest. He fell dead next to his wounded friend. Nearby, Dr. Robert Hamilton Boyer, a visiting physics professor, was wounded in the lower back. He also died soon after.

East of the tower, in the data center, intern Thomas Ashton was severely wounded in the chest. He died later in the hospital. When people around the tower began to fall to the ground, those who saw it from the windows of the surrounding buildings suspected something was wrong and were afraid to leave. The wounded lay without any help in the 40-degree heat and were afraid to move so as not to receive another bullet. At noon, the university police went up to the 27th floor, where they found the Gabors and Lamports. They were ordered to guard the exits and turn off the elevator. At that time, it was not clear how many shooters were firing from the tower, but judging by the number of calls to the Austin and university police, it looked like a whole army was stationed on the tower.

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Charlie continued to move freely through the observation deck and took aim at the western part of the city, Guadalupe Street. This busy street was filled with various shops and restaurants and was located on the western edge of the campus. At first, the people on it, who heard the distant shots, thought that it was some kind of trick of university students. But then Alex Hernandez, who was delivering newspapers on a bicycle, fell, wounded by a gunshot. Karen Griffin, 17, fell next and died a week later. Thomas Carr, who rushed to help Griffin was shot in the back and died an hour later. The street was instantly empty and people tried not to approach the windows.

Austin police arrived on campus and began to make their way to the tower. Officers Jerry Culp and Billy Speed, along with the others, hid behind a statue south of the tower, trying to figure out the safest route to it. Charlie shot Billy Speed ​​through a six-inch gap between the columns that were part of the statue. Despite the fact that his injury seemed light to those around, it turned out to be fatal. He died.

Meanwhile, the carnage on Guadalupe Street continued. Harry Volchak, a 38-year-old medical student and father of six, walking away from a newsstand, was wounded in the chest and died. Nearby, schoolchildren Paul Sonntag, Claudia Rutt and Carla Sue Wheeler hid behind a hastily erected barricade. Paul decided to look out from behind the barricade to see what was happening on the street and Charlie immediately shot him, hitting him right in the mouth, open with surprise. The next shot hit Claudia Rutt, who also died later in the hospital.

By this time, it became more or less clear what was happening. The police began firing at the observation deck, trying to hit Charlie as he appeared over the parapet to aim and fire. Citizens of the city also fled home for weapons. Hundreds of shots were fired in the direction of the tower over the next hour. Charlie started shooting through the drain holes, making it almost impossible to hit him. From time to time he changed his rifles. He killed most of his victims in the first twenty minutes, but he didn't want to stop. 500 yards (450 meters) south of the tower, electricians Solon McKeown and Roy Dell Schmidt parked their truck and joined a group of onlookers and journalists. In doing so, they hid behind their car for safety. Schmidt, probably thinking that they were too far from the tower, stood up. A bullet hit him in the stomach and he died ten minutes later.

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The victims continued to fall, and the police continued to advance towards the tower. Austin police officers Jerry Day, Houston McCoy and Ramiro Martinez, V.A.Cowan, civilian Alain Crum, and others gathered on the 27th floor. They cleared the floor and brought down seriously wounded Mary and Mike Gabor, who had been lying in a pool of their own blood for over an hour. Martinez and Krum cautiously climbed to the entrance to the tower. McCoy and Day soon followed. They had no plan of action, no orders were received, and they were forced to improvise. From the room, they could control the windows leading to the south, southwest and west - from which they could see the observation deck. Martinez tried to open the door leading to the examination room, but immediately realized that it was blocked. He started kicking the door, and after a few blows the cart holding the door fell. The way to the lookout was clear. They continued to watch the windows.

Martinez went to the observation deck and began to move carefully towards the northwest corner, as the sound seemed to be coming from there. McCoy followed him, while Croom and Day remained at the door. When Charlie tried to change position, Croom fired several shots in his direction, forcing him to return to his starting position near the northwest corner. He sat down with his back to the northern part of the parapet, pointing his carbine to the south, from where Krum shot him. Martinez and McCoy continued to sneak up slowly, with bullets from below constantly whizzing over their heads. Finally Martinez reached the northwest corner, peered out from behind it, and began firing at Whitman with a .38-caliber service revolver. Charlie tried to shoot back, but was not quick enough - McCoy, who jumped out from around the corner, fired his shotgun twice in his head. Martinez grabbed McCoy's shotgun and walked towards Charlie's agonized body, continuing to fire point-blank. At 13:24 pm, Charles Whitman was finally dead.

After the tragedy

Charlie killed fourteen people (a total of 16 people - including his wife and mother) and wounded 32 people within an hour and a half. Soon his name became known throughout the country, radio and television stations broadcast news around the clock. In Needville, Texas, Katie Whitman's father heard his son-in-law's name on the radio. Worried about his daughter, he contacted the Austin police. Katie's friends also called, worrying about her and offering help. A patrol car was sent to the Whitman house. Officers Donald Kidd and Bolton Gregory, looking through the windows, saw Katie's body lying on the bed. They entered the house through the window and realized that she had been dead for a long time. They also found Charlie's letters. One of them said that he also killed his mother. Arriving at her apartment around 15-00, the police found her body.

It quickly became clear that Charlie had sought Dr. Heatley's help a few months before, and Heatley had made all of his notes on this occasion public. As Charlie spoke to Heatley about his fantasies of killing people from the tower, Heatley came under close scrutiny. However, it was decided that he was not responsible for the killings. The public consensus was that he did his best based on the information he received from Whitman. There was no indication that he would do what he told the doctor, so Heatley did not consider him a threat to himself or those around him.

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After an autopsy of his body, a small tumor was found in his brain. Some of his friends and family began to point to this as the reason that prompted him to act, but experts considered it questionable. Charlie was buried in Florida next to his mother. Katie Whitman was buried in her homeland, Needville, Texas.

The University of Texas Tower Observation Deck was open for several more years. The university spent $ 5000 on bullet-proof walls in 1967. 4 more suicides were committed from this site between 1968 and 1974, when it was decided to be closed to the public. In 1976, the University of Texas declared the site officially closed, and for more than twenty years it was inaccessible to the public.

In October 1998, University of Texas President Larry Faulkner announced plans to open the site. He asked for support from university councilors, suggesting that they try again to make the tower a positive symbol for Texas. The council approved the plan and on September 15, 1999 (to the 116th anniversary of the university) the site was reopened. It is under constant guard - there are guards at the entrance and perimeter of the site itself. The platform itself is surrounded by a steel mesh to prevent suicide and accidental falls. Visitors can again enjoy a beautiful view from above, however, now they first need to go through the metal detector frame. The ghost of Charlie Whitman was thus finally banished.

The Texas Sniper case was one of the impetus for the creation of special forces in the United States - SWAT, whose function is to professionally resolve precisely such emergencies that the police cannot handle.

The original column was published by the author Yobabubba on the site Crime novel

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