In watching the news video of the horrific scene on the campus of Virginia Tech, I could not help but think back to the situation in Austin in 1966.
It appears to me (from a distance, of course) that the actions and attitudes of both law enforcement officers and civilians are in stark contrast. I won't add any further comment on that at this time, and will only share some observations from one who was most intimately involved in the UT shootings.
I've had the opportunity (and honor) to visit with Ray Martinez, the former Austin policeman and Texas Ranger, who, along with fellow officer Houston McCoy and civilian Alan Crum, took action to stop sniper Charles Whitman's rampage atop the University of Texas Tower. Realizing the only way to stop Whitman was to take him out, they made the treacherous approach, knowing that they could become casualties themselves at any point.
Here are a few excerpts from Martinez's book, They Call Me Ranger Ray:
The approach and the decision point:"Austin civilians, hearing the news, raced home and came back with their hunting rifles. I got the hell scared out of me when once in a while a citizen with a long rifle would fire at the Tower from behind trees or from the window of a building that I was passing on my way to the South Mall."
Making the ascent with private citizen Alan Crum:The gunfire was very intense from all around and I had to make a decision. As an army combat medic I had been taught to retrieve the wounded and get them to safety. If I had tried to rescue the wounded I would become an easy target for the sniper and so I decided that my mission as a police officer was to get into the Tower and assist in putting an end to his shooting.
Deputizing the citizen:The sound of gunfire was extensive. I made the decision that I must go upstairs, as there was no time to waste. I had come to help, but now I knew I was the point man and suddenly I felt very lonely. As I began to climb the stairs slowly, the man wearing the white shirt and carrying the rifle asked, "Where are you going?" I looked at him and said, "Up." He replied, "You aren't going alone. I'm coming with you. Let's do it service style. We'll cover one another." I said, "Fine, let's go."
The was no time for introductions and I did not know who he was or what law enforcement agency he belonged to, but I knew he had a rifle and was ready to go with me. I felt super-charged now that I had someone with me since the two of us would stand a better chance of getting the sniper. If the sniper took me down, at least my companion could get the sniper.
At the cusp:Before we got to the top of the stairs, my companion, realizing that we might soon be engaging the sniper, looked at me and asked, "Are we playing for keeps?" I looked at him and said, "You damn right!" He replied, "Well, then you better deputize me!" Thinking that he was a member of a law enforcement agency, I looked at him in amazement and said, "Consider yourself deputized." Since he had already traveled with me through hell and never flinched, plus he had a rifle, I really did not care that he was not in law enforcement. As far as I was concerned, he had more than passed the test. I had complete confidence in him and was very grateful to have him at my side.
The final steps:A short distance away I could see the head of a young dead boy. . . . As I looked at this innocent dead child, I reached the conclusion that the sniper was not giving any quarter and was not expecting any quarter. I did not have to make up my mind. It was made up for me by what I had just witnessed. The sniper expected to die and I was going to make my contribution toward his demise.
Afterward:. . . As I moved out I saw the sniper in the northwest corner in a sitting position aiming his rifle toward the southwest corner.
Thinking that maybe my companion had not stayed in his position by the glass door, I feared that the sniper was aiming at him. I fired a shot at the sniper striking him somewhere on his left side. The sniper sprung to his feet like a cat and began to turn his body toward me. I advanced in a crouched position firing at the sniper as I went. I hollered at McCoy who was right behind me to fire, which he did hitting the sniper and causing the sniper to spin and start going down. I dropped my empty pistol, grabbed the shotgun from McCoy and fired the shotgun before the sniper hit the floor.
. . . I thanked the Lord for that brave civilian who walked with me every step of the way through that hell without a second thought or hesitation. I thanked the Lord for Houston McCoy, my fellow officer, because together we got the job done.Whitman's inventory:I was and am still upset that more recognition has not been given to the citizens who pulled out their hunting rifles and returned the sniper's fire. The City of Austin and the State of Texas should be forever thankful and grateful to them because of the many lives they saved that day. The sniper did a lot of damage when he could fire freely, but when the armed citizens began to return fire the sniper had to take cover. He had to shoot out of the rainspouts and that limited his targets. I am grateful to the citizens because they made my job easier.
For more information on Ranger Ray Martinez, and to purchase his autobiography, visit the Texas Ranger Dispatch.1 -- 6mm Remington rifle with scope
1 -- .35 cal Remington rifle
1 -- .30 cal M-1 carbine
1 -- 12 gauge automatic sawed-off shotgun
1 -- .357 magnum Smith & Wesson revolver
1 -- 9mm Luger semi-automatic pistol
1 -- .25 cal semi-automatic pistol
Large quantity of ammunition
1 -- portable transistor radio
3.5 gallon plastic jug of gasoline
3.5 gallon plastic jug of water
4 knives, including a hunting knife and a pocket knife
1 alarm clock
12 cans of food
1 set of earplugs
Lengths of wire and rope.
The thing that bothered me the most is the 3-1/2 gallon jug of gasoline. What dastardly plan did he have in mind? We will never know. Los muertos no hablan. The dead do not speak.