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Charles Whitman

During the afternoon of August 1, 1966, a gunman named Charles Joseph Whitman embarked on a shooting spree that left thirteen residents of Austin, Texas dead and many more wounded. He entered the observation deck of the University of Texas bell tower with a rifle, and proceeded to shoot down from the tower into the area, aiming at random civilians who happened to be in the area. His murderous rampage lasted 96 minutes, and sparked widespread panic among residents of the Austin area. Law enforcement officials tried to distract Whitman by flying a small airplane past the tower; but the attacks continued until the observation deck was stormed by three volunteers who took it upon themselves to stop the killing. Two armed police officers and a private citizen entered the bell tower and shot Whitman, killing him.

The reason behind Whitman's suicidal rampage is still unknown, though it has been suggested that he had a mental disorder (a brain tumor was discovered during the autopsy), that he was under the influence of amphetamines, and that he was homicidal-suicidal.

After the tragedy, the university bell tower's observation deck was closed to the public two years. It was re-opened in 1968, but a number of suicides during the 1970s caused it be closed again in 1975. The tower remained closed for twenty-three years, finally being re-opened in 1998.



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