1960's Sniper Rampage Leads To Formation Of The First SWAT Team

On August 1, 1966, in Austin, Texas, honor student Charles Joseph Whitman took a high-powered rifle and shot and killed more than a dozen victims at random. The shooting spree also injured more than 30 people in the University of Texas Clock Tower Building in Austin.

He was dubbed the Teas Tower Sniper. This incident is known in many law enforcement circles as the incident that led to the creation of our modern-day SWAT teams.

The Shooting Spree

At 11:00 a.m., Charles Whitman impersonated a maintenance worker and went up via the elevator to the 27th floor. On his way up, he killed a maintenance worker. Once he got up to the floor, he set up with his weapons.

Whitman had packed three rifles, a sawed-off shotgun, two handguns, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, a 5-gallon container of water, some sandwiches, and a can of gasoline. He was prepared for war.

His campus killing spree began with him shooting a black male on a bicycle and a girl in the head. He even shot a pregnant woman in the stomach. Her unborn eight-month-old child died.

His indiscriminate shooting continued as he shot people as they peeked their heads out doors and windows to see what was causing the commotion. If first responders tried to help the wounded victims, he could shoot them as soon as they got within range of the victims.

Officers Onsite

Police officers were called as Whitman was in the tower shooting at people. When they arrived they found themselves unable to do anything. They could not get close to him or his victims.

Unfortunately, since such incidents never happened, there were no real protocols or plans in place to handle this type of situation. Even flyovers failed as Whitman shot at the airplanes.

The officers onsite finally decided to use the underground tunnels that ran throughout the campus to get to the tower and take out Whitman. Officers used walkie-talkies to communicate Whitman's location.

As they walked toward him, he turned to fire at them. One officer shot him with his gun six times, while another shot him with a shotgun. After this incident, police departments began forming teams to handle this type of situation. LAPD was the first to use the term SWAT.

The first unit had 15 four-man teams, all with military training and specialized experience.

Source: Paulding County Sheriff's Office

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18 comments on “1960's Sniper Rampage Leads To Formation Of The First SWAT Team”

  1. If I remember the news of that incident correctly, the death toll would have been higher had not Joe Citizen grabbed an M1 Carbine from the trunk of his car, took cover behind something and returned fire on the tower before the police arrived. He could not take the guy out but he forced the guy to take cover ending the fish in a barrel shooting gallery. The police were heros for ending it but Joe Citizen was also a hero.

    1. I should not have to delete multiples of the same add, just so I can read the story. Not to mention, but I will, I have to delete adds to be able to read the story.

  2. I started in Law Enforcement in 1972 in San Diego and they had what they called a SWAT team. They were good brave Officers but they of course did not have all the toys and training that they do today. I was with another South Eastern Police Dept. that did not have a SWAT team at the time, just some of the supervisors would decide they needed someone to shoot one of the 30.06's we had 'just in case'. In 1979 or 1980 four of us were sent to the FBI Academy in Va., for the specific purpose of going through SWAT Training. One Lt. and three of us veteran Officers of which I was one. Great training and we were the SWAT team when we returned. Never called out and some moved on. My old Department now has a first rate SWAT team.

  3. Unfortunately I have to say Whitman was a Marine. Does add to the fact that every Marine is a rifleman and is taught to shoot correctly and lethally.

    1. So was Lee Harvey Oswald, and the word is that Oswald was just average as a marksman. So was the clown who murdered Navy Seal Chris Kyle (who was the US military’s top rated sniper)!

  4. You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this
    topic to be really something that I think I would never understand.
    It seems too complicated and extremely broad for me.
    I'm looking forward for your next post, I'll try to get the hang of it!

  5. I enjoy reading through a post that can make men and women think. Also, many thanks for allowing me to comment!

  6. They train killers in the military and wonder why this happens. What do they expect when they come home —hypocrites

  7. The article fails to mention that there were many young male college students, that ran home or to their trucks and grabbed their deer rifles coming back to the area to return fire and keep Whitman’s head down. They did this until the police were able to get their own sharp shooter there.
    This is back before the days of evil guns and self righteous snowflakes trying to disarm the rest of us law abiding Americans. Had it not been for those other students, the death toll would’ve been much higher!

    1. The shooting in Las Vegas proves your point. How many people were not shot because the country boys know how to shoot.

  8. And such teams will be the salvation of the U.S., Military trained, Constitutionally obedient and Loyal to country.

  9. I remember when this shooting occurred. Whitman left a note stating he did know why he was shooting people, something just compelled him to do it. He knew he was going to die on that tower and begged authorities to check his body: He knew something was wrong.
    The autopsy on Whitman's body discovered a brain tumor. The tumor is what him made him go berserk.

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