Keith Maitland’s stylized film Tower (subtitled, When the worst in one man brought out the best in others) won the SXSW Film Festival prize for best documentary. The film combines archival footage, eyewitness accounts and simple animation to tell the story of the 1966 University of Texas mass shooting by Charles Whitman, in which 16 died and 32 were injured. While the film takes no political stance, various media outlets have connected the film to the fact that licensed UT students will be able to carry concealed handguns on campus this fall. The law goes into effect on August 1, the 50th anniversary of the Whitman shooting.

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23 Responses to UT Mass Shooting Documentary ‘Tower’ Wins Top Prize at SXSW

  1. Nice to have a pistol, but wasn’t it a few folks armed with rifles that pinned him down and kept him from killing even more folks until the two men that climbed the tower took him out?

  2. Funny how no one’s “connected the film” to the fact that armed civilians assisted police in the response to that incident: serving as spotters for police marksmen, returning fire to keep Whitman pinned down, and, in one case, accompanying the officers who ultimately charged Whitman’s position.

  3. read the wiki on Whitman. The title implying “the worst in one man” suggests he was evil through and through, but it seems more like something broke in his brain.

    • It was a tumor pressing on his hypothalamus and amygdala – a tumor which Whitman himself suspected.

      Post-mortem autopsy of his brain revealed a glioblastoma multiforme tumor the size of a walnut, erupting from beneath the thalamus, impacting the hypothalamus, extending into the temporal lobe and compressing the amygdaloid nucleus (Charles J. Whitman Catastrophe, Medical Aspects. Report to Governor, 9/8/66)

      http://brainmind.com/Case5.html

  4. My wife was in class that day at the University of Texas. Her neighbors were among the first killed, as they were on their way up to visit the observation deck in the tower. This delayed his commencement of shooting, and probably save many lives, as students would’ve been changing classes otherwise. One of her professors dragged the pregnant woman out of the line of fire. Unfortunately, he was too late to save her.

    Several students went to their cars and retrieved their hunting rifles. Although they did not hit him, they were able to keep him pinned down, and he was unable to aim his shots. He was also distracted, so that the police could make their approach on the tower.

    • Yeah, he was an honorably discharged Marine, IIRC, had no behavioral problems, no way for anyone to guess he could do that. If he had no guns or training, he would have still done SOMETHING. Sad story, only bad guy I recall hearing of who was actually not a bad guy. Interesting aside, that was the worst mass shooting ever until the shooting at VaTech, and in 1966 I was a student at VaTech, for the shooting at VaTech I was a resident in Austin.

    • Whitman was in complete control of his mental faculties. He was cold hearted, deliberate, and evil. Read the book A Sniper in the Tower by Gary Laverne. He goes into detail about Whitman’s life and what made him the evil bastard that he was. Although a tumor was found on his brain, doctors determined that it had no impact upon his actions. He was the face of evil.

      There are a lot of misconceptions about Whitman and the action taken by the officers and one civilian who stormed the tower. If you’re interested in the facts, read the book.

    • Whitman was in complete control of his mental faculties. He was cold hearted, deliberate, and evil. Read the book A Sniper in the Tower by Gary Laverne. He goes into detail about Whitman’s life and what made him the evil bastard that he was. Although a tumor was found on his brain, doctors determined that it had no impact upon his actions. He was the face of evil.

      There are a lot of misconceptions about Whitman and the officers and one civilian who stormed the tower. If you’re interested in the facts, read the book. It’s well researched and an easy read.

  5. Consider the following:
    • Whitman acquired a shotgun and sawed off the barrel which is illegal and Whitman didn’t care.
    • Whitman stabbed his wife in the heart with a knife.
    •Whitman bludgeoned and stabbed his own mother to death.
    • Whitman shotguned old ladies in the tower on his way up.
    • Whitman used the Remington ADL 700 in 6mm to perform most sniper shots – a common bolt action hunting rifle – I’m looking at you FUDDs.
    • Numerous civilian marksman took positions around the tower to provide suppressive fire reducing/eliminating further fire at civilians by Whitman.
    • Whitman was stopped by a police officer who shot him with a gun (good guy with a gun).

    If you really think a “no guns allowed” sign is going to stop a person like this – you are utterly insane.

    • Ya mean it wasn’t a $2,700 precision tactical rifle with laser range finding scope,adjustable cheek rest, bipod, non-glare finish, detachable hi-cap mag,over sized bolt handle, 24x digital zoom scope, ghost skulls in the polycarbinte triple bedded stock and all the other BS that they sell now???? Gasp! There must have been a 2nd,3rd,4th,5th shooter. 🙂

  6. If this were to happen today: 911-send.

    -“911 what is your emergency”
    -I’m on xxx campus. There is a got shooting people from the clock tower. I’ve got a rifle and a shot I’m in fear of my life. I’m in fear of my
    life.
    -“911. We’ve got officers on the way”
    -“Bang”
    -“sir what is your location, we have a new destination”

  7. Has anyone read the msnbc artical? Keith Maitland (the film’s director) actually condemned the police an civilians for shooting back. So much for it not taking a political stance.

    • Not trying to sound callous towards a woman who suffered a horrible tragedy in her life, but that condemnation is based on the testimony of a woman who was an early victim of the shooting, saw her fiance shot and killed in front of her, and lost her unborn child. That does not sound, to me, like a person in a good mental or physical location to judge the actions taken during the rest of the incident.

  8. I distinctly remember the day this happened. Looking back, I’m now surprised at how completely unsurprised I was at the time that private citizens armed themselves and took on the sniper, nor am I at all surprised at the profusion and easy access to weapons that people had back then. When you put the whole thing into a cultural and historical context it will tell you a lot what Texas culture was like then and, perhaps more importantly, what Texas culture is like now.

    The first thing that comes to mind is how alienated law enforcement culture and practice has become from the public. If something like the tower sniper shooting happened today, the official “first responders ” would spend an inordinate amount of their time playing gatekeeper in an effort to disarm the citizens who were doing a damn good job of keeping Whitman pinned down. At the time, however, something very different, something profoundly iconically Texan took place. What happened at the tower was a ritual response to an existential threat. Evil was loose and someone needed to do something about it. Every person that day who took up arms to fight drew upon a set of rules that reach deep into our frontier history and culture. There was no question that they didn’t know what to do or were confused about their role, because our culture informed them about what was necessary.

    It’s interesting to note that in contemporary America, the progressive state is hard at work trying to separate us from that culture. And, sad to say, it is contemporary police practices, based on an intentional state sponsored alienation, that lead the way.

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