This page is dedicated to Officer Billy Speed who lost his life in the line of duty in the UT tower shooting.
Approximately 96 minutes passed from the time the UT Tower sniper took his first shot to the moment Austin police officers Ramiro Martinez and Houston McCoy put a stop to the attack.
By the time Martinez and McCoy shot and killed the sniper, he had inflicted 15 fatal wounds and injured more than 30 people.
Without the actions of numerous brave people, those numbers might have been much higher.
We would like to take a moment to acknowledge every person who helped the fallen and injured that day. Some were police officers and emergency responders; people who put their lives on the line as a matter of duty. But many, many others were ordinary people — students; university faculty and staff; and citizens of Austin who ran toward danger, rather than away from it.
These people are all heroes.
The Unnamed Heroes
A special recognition and thank you to all of the unnamed people who put themselves at risk on August 1, 1966, to help others by pulling a victim to safety, comforting the wounded, calling police or medical personnel, or simply directing others away from the danger.
Although your names remain unknown, your actions will never be forgotten.
UT Students and Staff
When the attack started, UT students, staff, and faculty members were quick to respond and offer assistance. Some left the safety of their hiding places to drag the injured to safety. Others called law enforcement or alerted others on campus. The following are just a few names of students, faculty, and staff whose heroic actions helped save lives:
Students Who Helped Victims
A few minutes after the shooting started, UT student David Bayless Jr. arrived at the doors of Batts Hall and attempted to warn his fellow students about the sniper in the tower. Across campus in the student union, another student, Jim Bryce, urged students to stay inside and out of harm’s way.
Funeral director Morris Hohmann was shot in the leg as he loaded shooting victims into his ambulance, UT student Turner Bratton helped move Hohmann to safety. Hohmann survived.
Clif Drummond and Bob Higley, Jr. made several trips up and down The Drag, helping move injured victims to safety. Drummond, a senior pharmacy major, fashioned temporary bandages out of white lab coats from the university’s pharmacy department.
Vietnam veteran Brehan Ellison reported to newsman Neal Spelce that he helped nine people get to safety and carried one body out of the line of fire.
Alfred McAlister, a freshman at UT, ran to help a man who had been shot on Guadalupe Street. When McAlister reached the man, he was already dead. The sniper began firing again, and McAlister took cover behind a car, trapped by gunfire.
Several UT students who were on campus when the shooting started risked their lives to pull the wounded to safety. Jack Pennington and Jack Stephens were near the Hogg Auditorium when Irma Garcia and her boyfriend Oscar Royvela were shot as they walked to a biology lecture. Pennington and Stephens pulled Garcia and Royvela to safety. The couple survived.
20-year-old art student Rita Jones Starpattern was nearby when the sniper shot at Claire Wilson and her boyfriend Tom Eckman. Eckman was killed. Wilson, who was eight months pregnant at the time, was injured and unable to move; she was losing a lot of blood. Starpattern laid down on the hot concrete next to Wilson and kept her talking and alert until help arrived. Freshman students John Love and John Fox (also known locally as Artly Snuff) moved Wilson to safety and likely saved her life.
UT Staff and Faculty Who Called for Help/Assisted Victims:
A group of faculty and staff members — including Fred Mench, a classics professor; Elaine Zinn, a receptionist; Elaine’s husband, David Zinn; and David Latz, the assistant director of administration — were near the 27th floor of the main building when they heard shots and screams coming from the observation deck one floor above. Mench, Latz, and David Zinn went to the observation deck to investigate the noise and found the Lamport and Gabour families, who had been attacked by the sniper as he made his way outside. They returned to nearby offices and called campus security.
Two other UT employees working in the main building at the time, George Bacon and Ken Taylor, also heard the gunshots coming from the 28th floor and attempted to investigate. Taylor was watching out of an office window when he saw two victims get shot. He was one of many heroes who called for an ambulance that afternoon.
UT Staff Who Assisted APD Officers
William Wilcox, an elevator mechanic, and Frank Holder, an engineer for the UT Physical Plant, helped guide APD officers Phillip Connor, Houston McCoy, Harold Moe, George Shepard, and Milton Shoquist through the tunnels below the UT campus. The ability to move through the tunnels allowed the officers to get close to the sniper without running above ground without cover — and facing the risk of being shot.
The majority of the Tower shooting victims were taken to Austin’s Brackenridge Hospital. Although the influx of patients — many of whom were seriously wounded — quickly led to overcrowding, the hospital staff continued to treat victims, bringing in doctors from other departments and specializations to help out in the emergency room. Leeda Lee Brice, head nurse for the ER, kept the process moving.
UT general practitioner Robert Stokes, M.D., and nurse Evelyn Anderson, were working at the University Health Center when they received a call that there had been a shooting at the Tower. Stokes, accompanied by Anderson, rode an ambulance to the north side of Hogg Auditorium, where Jack Stephens and Jack Pennington had brought the injured Oscar Royvela and Irma Garcia. Stokes treated them, saw to two more of the wounded, and then took the tunnels to the Tower to treat more of the injured. Stokes later was the physician to declare the sniper dead.
The city’s ambulance drivers were an indispensable resource that afternoon, and they transported dozens of injured victims to the hospital for treatment. In 1966, there was no EMS service; ambulance service was provided by funeral homes. Although he was not typically an emergency responder, local funeral director Morris Hohmann drove his ambulance to the UT campus to help transport victims. Hohmann was shot but survived. Also transporting victims that day were Charles Villaseñor, Arvin Harrell, Grover McMains, and David Orton.
Other Civilian Heroes
Many of the day’s heroes were simply Austin residents: civilians who happened to be in the area when the sniper began his attack. These individuals risked their lives to offer assistance to shooting victims. These heroes ranged from construction workers to reporters to shopkeepers.
Austin resident Melvin Childress contacted APD and offered the use of his small airplane. Childress, civilian Jim Boutwell, and APD Lieutenant Marion Lee circled the Tower in the plane. This was instrumental in helping APD determine two critical facts: How many snipers were in the tower (although the sniper acted alone, there had been early reports that there were multiple shooters) and the sniper’s position in the tower.
Homer J. Kelley, 64 years old and the manager of Sheftall’s Jewelry Store on The Drag, helped David Mattson, Roland Ehlke, and Tom Herman into the store after Mattson and Ehlke were wounded. Kelley was wounded while helping.
Bill Davis, a carpenter working on a jobsite near the UT campus, heard the shots and rushed to help —despite his boss’ warning that he’d be fired for leaving work.
Melvin Hees worked for an Austin-area company that provided armored vehicles for banks. He used one of his armored trucks to help pick up victims and transport them to Brackenridge Hospital.
Two women who happened to be on campus during the attack, Judith Parsons and a woman only identified as Mrs. M.F. Ahl, were standing near Officer Billy Speed when he was shot. They later gave statements to the police.
A group of reporters and camera people from Austin news station KTBC-TV rushed to the UT campus to report as the tragedy unfolded. News reporter John Thawley pulled two wounded students to safety; fellow KTBC reporter Phil Miller was following Officer Billy Speed when the sniper fired on Officer Speed. Miller tried to warn Officer Speed to get down and take cover, but Speed was hit with a sniper’s bullet. Miller helped move Speed’s body to an ambulance.
Additional members of the press who risked their lives warning the public to stay away from the UT campus include: Gary Pickle, Neal Spelce, Dave Swope, Charles Ward, and Gordon Wilkison.
Officer Bob Day had been on patrol near the campus when he heard a call on the police dispatch radio. There were reports of shots fired at the UT campus, and all available officers were asked to respond. When Officer Day arrived on campus, he made his way to the tower as the sniper fired at him from above. Once inside, Officer Day fired at the sniper from a window below the observation deck. When he contacted police headquarters asking if he should go up to the top of the tower, he was told to wait for someone to bring him a rifle to use from his position.
Cowan was able to inform the law enforcement officers who were shooting at the tower that the sniper was dead, but there was no way to get word to all of the civilians who were firing.
W.A. "Dub" Cowan
W.A. “Dub” Cowan, an intelligence officer with the Texas Department of Public Safety, was one of the first people to reach the UT tower on Aug. 1, 1966, after a sniper began shooting people from the 28th-story observation deck.
Shortly after he arrived at the tower, Cowan was joined by civilian volunteer Allen Crum, who insisted on helping Cowan and Austin Police Officer Jerry Day
Cowan handed Crum his rifle, and the three of them took the elevator to the 26th floor of the tower. Once there, Cowan was able to establish communications with UT Security Chief Allen Hamilton and get a shotgun and tear gas.
After Conner, Sheppard, Moe, and Shoquist moved the dead and wounded, Cowan and Conner went up to the 28th floor. As Cowan went out of the observation deck door to back up Austin police officers Ramiro Martinez and Houston McCoy, Cowan heard the gunfire that ended the sniper’s life and reign of terror.
Cowan was able to inform the law enforcement officers who were shooting at the tower that the sniper was dead, but there was no way to get word to all of the civilians who were firing.
The story of Allen Crum stands out from other reports surrounding the UT tower shooting. Most stories of heroism and bravery are focused on courageous acts by police officers and other emergency officials, but Crum, as a civilian, was under no obligation to act. Nevertheless, while other civilians were taking cover from the attack, Crum ran toward the UT tower — and the shooter within.
Crum, who worked as a floor manager of the University Co-op, risked his life to clear the street outside the co-op, known as The Drag, and redirect traffic in the area. He even pulled a shooting victim — a teenage boy — away from more potential harm and administered first aid, possibly saving his life.
Crum, 40 at the time, then made his way to the tower as the sniper continued to shoot. Crum soon found Austin Police Officer Jerry Day and insisted on helping him. Day warned Crum that he could be shot, but Crum would not back down, and accompanied Day and Texas Department of Public Safety agent W.A. Cowan to the tower’s 26th floor. Crum was armed with a rifle provided by Cowan.
When the other officers were focused on establishing communication, Austin Police Officer Ramiro Martinez, who had joined them, started walking up the stairs to the 28th floor observation deck to confront the sniper.
Crum refused to let Martinez go up alone. At Crum’s request, Martinez, who initially assumed Crum was with law enforcement, deputized Crum. Martinez and Crum covered each other as they made their way around blind corners and up several fights of stairs.
Once on the observation deck, Crum heard the sniper running in his direction and fired a round into the wall in an attempt to stop him. The shot alerted the sniper, who turned his attention in Crum’s direction. Martinez, hearing the shot from the opposite corner of the observation deck, and fearing that the sniper was shooting at Crum, began firing at the sniper. That chain of events led Martinez and Austin Police Officer Houston McCoy to shoot the sniper to death.
In summer of 1966, Officer Jerry Day had only served on the Austin police force for two years, but his rescue efforts and heroism during the day of the infamous UT Tower Shooting may have well made a veteran out of him.
Day, who was 27 when sniper Charles Whitman began his murderous rampage from the tower observation deck, was one of the first police officers to make his way into the tower. Civilian Allen Crum and DPS Officer Dub Cowan accompanied Day to the 27th floor where Officer Martinez soon joined them.
There, Day and Officer Ramiro Martinez encountered M.J. Gabour, whose two sons, sister and wife had been shot point blank and left in a heap in the stairwell by the sniper. When Gabour tried to wrestle Martinez’s weapon from him in a vain effort to seek revenge on the shooter, Day and Martinez intervened, and Day led Gabour to safety on the main floor of the tower.
Day then provided cover for officers Phillip Conner, George Shepard, Harold Moe, and Milton Shoquist while they moved Gabour’s dead and wounded family members from the stairwell.
Day then backed up civilian Allen Crum, on the observation deck as Austin police officers Ramiro Martinez and Houston McCoy shot and killed the tower sniper.
When people ask Austin Police Officer Ramiro Martinez if he was frightened the day he stepped before UT Tower sniper Charles Whitman and aimed his weapon, Martinez never shies away from a resounding yes.
“I just had to push that to the back of my mind,” says Martinez, who was the first person to reach the tower observation deck where the sniper was shooting. Within minutes of arriving on the observation deck, he and Officer Houston McCoy shot the sniper and put his killing spree to an end.
Martinez, 29 at the time, was off-duty when he heard about the sniper on the TV news and called his department. Martinez was told to go to the UT campus to divert traffic. But after seeing that job was covered, he decided the best way he could help would be to get inside the tower and stop the sniper.
To reach the tower, he had to zig-zag across the UT campus’ South Mall with no cover. Once inside the tower, he attempted to contact the police department to get further instructions and request an armored car for the wounded. Unable to make contact, he took the elevator to the 26th floor where he found DPS Officer W.A. Cowan, civilian Allen Crum, and Austin Police Officer Jerry Day.
Martinez and Crum covered each other as they made their way up several flights of stairs to the 28th floor. Martinez pushed open the observation deck door and stuck his head out to look for the sniper. Martinez had Crum cover the south walkway and then, with bullets whizzing overhead, stuck his head around several more corners in search of the sniper. Before rounding the last corner, Martinez was joined by Officer McCoy.
Martinez, hearing Crum’s shot at the west wall and fearing the sniper had turned his wrath on Crum, stepped out from behind his cover and shot the sniper with his service revolver, severely disabling him. After McCoy had fired, Martinez grabbed the shotgun and fired a final round at the still moving sniper.
The Aug. 1, 1966, shootings at the University of Texas changed Houston McCoy’s life. He was one of two Austin police officers who shot and killed sniper Charles Whitman as he killed and injured people on the ground from atop the UT tower.
McCoy, 26 at the time, was the first Austin police officer to be dispatched to the UT campus. Once there he encountered students with high powered rifles. He purchased ammunition for the rifles from a nearby hardware store and attempted to shoot at the sniper from several locations.
McCoy then responded to a call for volunteers from the Austin Police Department to report to the UT security office. There he was met by Officers Connor, Shepherd, Moe, and Shoquist. McCoy and the other officers were led through tunnels into the tower. Once on the 27th floor, the others in his group moved wounded from a tower staircase landing to a safer location, while McCoy accompanied fellow officer Jerry Day to the 28th floor. McCoy went out onto the observation deck and backed up Officer Ramiro Martinez at the northeast corner of the tower observation deck.
As the sniper prepared to return a warning shot from civilian volunteer Allen Crum, Martinez unloaded his revolver into the sniper. McCoy followed with two hits. Martinez seized McCoy’s shotgun from his hands and put one more shotgun blast into Whitman.
Scores of people responded to the University of Texas tower shooting with courage and selflessness. One of those heroes, Austin Police Officer Billy Speed, sacrificed his life.
Speed was 23 years old on the day of the sniper attack. Earlier that morning, he had told friend and colleague Officer Houston McCoy that he was thinking of leaving police work to go to college.
Before the morning was out, Speed found himself rushing toward the UT campus in the midst of the sniper attack.
When Speed arrived he immediately ran toward the tower, where the sniper was continuing his attack. Speed reached the entrance to the South Mall, where he could see the tower on the opposite end of the open expanse.
He and fellow officer Jerry Culp took cover beneath a statue, behind a span of concrete balusters and railing. Speed stood, possibly intending to continue advancing toward the tower. He may have believed his position was safe. He was not. The sniper fired and hit a section of concrete, spraying debris. The sniper’s second shot went between two balusters, into Speed’s right shoulder, and then into his chest.
Speed collapsed. Several people then put their own lives at risk to try to help him. Culp and Officer Robert Still made themselves vulnerable to fire as they moved Speed out of the line of fire. A young man went through the same dangerous area to bring Speed water, and a nurse soaked her slip in water and placed it on Speed’s head.
Speed was taken to a hospital by ambulance, but he did not survive his wounds.
Several members of law enforcement risked their lives to put an end to the Tower shooting. This list includes APD officers Jerry Culp, R. Still, Charles Baylor, Delbert McCullough, Lt. Marion Lee, and Sgt. Ernie Hinkle; as well as UT security officers Leslie Gebert, Samuel Love, Jack Rodman, Charles Wood, Sgt. Barr, Sgt. Robert Turner, and Fire Marshall Whitworth.
Guided by UT employees Frank Holder and William Wilcox, APD officers Phillip Connor, Houston McCoy, Harold Moe, George Shepard, and Milton Shoquist made their way through the tunnels below the UT campus. The ability to move through the tunnels allowed law enforcement to get close to the sniper without running the risk of being shot. Wilcox, an elevator man for UT, assisted the officers in navigating the elevators to the 27th floor. Once there, Officers Connor, Shepard, Moe, and Shoquist assisted the wounded – Mike Gabour, his mother and Mrs. Townsley. Their actions possibly saved the lives of the Gabours.