Where Wikipedia Got It Wrong
Wikipedia is not a reliable source. … Always be careful of what you read; it may not consistently be reliable because work submitted to Wikipedia can be edited, used, and redistributed by anyone.
Many people mistakenly believe Wikipedia to be an authoritative and accurate source of information. Unfortunately, as we can see from Wikipedia’s own admission, that is not always the case.
Aside from the potential accuracy issues described by Wikipedia in its disclaimer (see above), there are a number of other problems that call into question the reliability of the specific Wikipedia entry about Charles Whitman and the UT Tower Shooting. After closer review of the “Entering the Tower” and “End of the Massacre” sections of the Whitman Wiki entry, we have identified the following problems:
- Only 7 sources cited
- Only 13 of 24 statements include citations
- Only 2 statements cite more than 1 source
The findings listed above as well as the detailed examination of the sentences in these sections (see table below) lead us to conclude that 75% of the statements contain errors.
This table examines in detail the “Entering the Tower” and “End of the Massacre” sections of the Wikipedia entry and outlines the discrepancies between the Wikipedia version of events and what really happened.
Section: Entering the Tower
|Three officers who responded to reports of the sniper were Ramiro Martinez (accompanied by civilian Allen Crum), Houston McCoy, and Jerry Day.
|APD officers Ramiro Martinez and Jerry Day accompanied by civilian Allen Crum (McCoy was not with them) made their way into the tower via the ground floor. Bob Day also entered the tower around the same time, but was on the 3rd floor either before or after the others arrived and never saw them nor knew other officers were in the building.1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Houston McCoy—along with Phillip Conner, George Shepard, Harold Moe, and Milton Shoquist—did not arrive at the tower until after Crum, Day, and Martinez.7, 8, 9, 10, 11
|Prior to advancing upon the tower, McCoy had seen his colleague Billy Speed killed.
|There is no evidence that McCoy saw Officer Speed get killed. In fact, McCoy approached the tower after being led through the tunnels, which puts him in a different location than Speed. Furthermore, the timing of McCoy’s arrival doesn’t match that of Speed’s because McCoy stopped at the hardware store and student apartments first to gather firearms and ammunition. Additionally, McCoy never mentions seeing Speed shot in his police report. Finally, it doesn’t make sense that McCoy would continue to advance on the tower after seeing Speed get shot instead of trying to get him help.7, 12
|Both Martinez and Day had driven to the University of Texas after listening to radio reports.
|Day was on duty and heard the dispatcher tell all units to report to the University area. Martinez was off duty and heard the news reports on television.5, 6
|Accompanied by 40-year-old civilian Allen Crum—whom the trio [Martinez, McCoy, and Day] encountered as they ran toward the tower—
|Crum, McCoy, and Day did not actually encounter each other until they entered the first floor of the tower. Martinez met the three of them on the 26th floor. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
|…they were the first to reach the tower’s observation deck.
|The first ones to reach the observation deck were Martinez and Crum. McCoy and Day did not arrive until later.3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
|After reaching the 26th floor by elevator, they [Day, Martinez, Crum] encountered M. J. Gabour. Gabour—clutching his wife’s shoes— screamed that his family had been shot and tried to wrestle the rifle from Day to shoot Whitman himself.
|Jerry Day did not have a rifle with him. Mr. Gabour actually tried to grab Martinez’s service revolver.3, 5, 6
Section: End of the Massacre
|Stepping outside the south door at approximately 1:24 pm…
|The time listed here cannot be correct because 1:24 p.m. is when dispatch received word that the sniper had been killed.12
|…Martinez, closely followed by McCoy…
|Martinez could not have been followed closely by McCoy because reports by both Crum and Martinez state that they did not see McCoy until after they were out on the observation deck.3,5
|…proceeded north on the east deck, while Day, followed by Crum…
|The actual order of the procession was Martinez followed by Crum. A few minutes later, McCoy arrived, then Jerry Day (to back up Crum).3, 5, 6
|…proceeded west on the south deck, with the intention of encircling Whitman.
|There is no evidence of Day and Crum proceeding along the south side. In Day’s APD report and Crum’s affidavit, both men stated that they stayed near the door on the south side in case the sniper came back that way.3, 6
|Several feet before he reached the southwest corner, Crum accidentally discharged the borrowed rifle.
|Crum’s affidavit states that he heard the sniper running towards him and fired a warning shot into the wall.3, 4, 13
|Whitman was apparently initially unaware of Martinez and McCoy on the observation deck.
|This statement cannot be verified, as there is no citation given.
|He [Whitman] was partially shielded by the deck tower lights and in a position to defend against assaults from either corner, but his attention was drawn to where Crum had accidentally discharged his rifle.
|In his police report, Crum states that he intentionally fired a warning shot.3, 4, 13
|As Whitman sat crouched with his back positioned on the north wall, Martinez jumped around the corner into the northeast area…
|Whitman was actually sitting in the northwest corner. Because part of the building protrudes and blocks the view of the northwest corner, after he rounded the northeast corner, Martinez actually had to advance about a third of the distance to Whitman without cover.5, 7, 13
|…and rapidly fired all six rounds from his .38 police revolver from a distance of approximately 50 feet (15 m) at Whitman…
|Martinez’s actual distance from Whitman was more like 30 feet (10 m).13
|…all of which missed.
|Martinez did not miss. Whitman’s autopsy report notes several large-caliber bullet penetrations. Furthermore, the FBI report says one shot hit the carbine, and there were no bullet holes in the wall.5, 13, 14, 15
|As Martinez fired, McCoy jumped to the right of Martinez and fired two fatal shots of 00-buckshot with his 12-gauge shotgun, hitting Whitman in the head, neck, and left side.
|In his APD report, McCoy states that his shot hit the sniper in the head. He did not say anything about hitting the neck or left side of Whitman.7
|Martinez threw down his now-empty revolver and grabbed McCoy’s shotgun, running to Whitman’s supine body…
|This statement leaves out the fact that both McCoy and Martinez say in their report that the body was still moving at this point.5, 7
|…and firing point blank into his upper left arm.
|“Close range” would be a more accurate description here, as “point blank” is generally considered less than 4 feet.5, 7
|Martinez threw the shotgun onto the deck and hurriedly left the scene, repeatedly shouting the words: “I got him.”
|Martinez also shouted for everyone to “stop firing.” The reason he left the scene so quickly was to inform authorities and people on the ground that the sniper had been killed so that they would stop firing on the tower.5
|After tending to the wounded in the stairwell, Austin Police Department (APD) Officers Milton Shoquist, Harold Moe and George Shepard ascended the stairs to join APD Officer Phillip Conner and Texas Department of Public Safety Agent W.A. Cowan, arriving on the 28th floor.
|APD Officers Milton Shoquist, Harold Moe, George Shepard, Houston McCoy, and Phillip Conner all arrived at the tower together, via the tunnels beneath the campus. Officer Conner, who had been an Army medic before joining APD, also assisted in tending to the wounded before ascending the stairs to the 28th floor with Agent Cowan, whom the group met in the tower.8, 9
- Bob Day APD report
- Bob Day radio transcripts
- Allen Crum affidavit
- Dub Cowan DPS report
- Ramiro Martinez APD report
- Jerry Day APD report
- Houston McCoy APD report
- Phillip Conner APD report
- George Shepard APD report
- Harold Moe report
- Milton Shoquist APD report
- APD dispatch records
- DPS photos
- Charles Whitman autopsy report
- FBI report