Roger S. Friedman, PhD, is a psychologist and social worker in clinical practice for 35 years in the Washington, D.C. area. He has published professional articles about the lasting effects of trauma on victims and helpers and has served nationally as a clinical consultant to Social Service and Child Welfare Programs. Dr. Friedman is on the Adjunct Faculty of the University Of Maryland School Of Social Work.
On the morning of August 1, 1966, twenty-five-year old engineering student Charles Whitman entered the the observation deck of the main building clock tower at the University of Texas at Austin. He shot at random people on the streets and campus, killing fifteen and injuring thirty-one. However, many of the fatalities listed in articles varies between sixteen and seventeen to include the murders of Whitman’s mother and wife. The count also includes the unborn Wilson baby and David Gunby, a twenty-three-year-old student at the time who was shot in the lower-left back, critically damaging his only kidney. Gunby later required a kidney transplant and dialysis. In 2001, Gunby announced he was stopping dialysis and died a week later in a hospital in Texas.
The shooting rampage lasted for more than ninety minutes, and ended after Austin police officer, Houston McCoy, entered the Tower and shot Whitman dead. The night before the shooting, Whitman stabbed his mother and wife, killing them both.
After Whitman’s death, an autopsy showed that Whitman had a brain tumor, which might have contributed to the shooting. Whitman’s suicide letter even indicated his fear that something more medically induced might be affecting him, and wrote: “After my death I wish that an autopsy would be performed on me to see if there is any visible physical disorder. I have had some tremendous headaches in the past and have consumed two large bottles of Excedrin in the past three months.”
The letter also revealed he had tried to seek professional help: “I consulted a Dr. Cochrum at the University Health Center and asked him to recommend someone that I could consult with about some psychiatric disorders I felt I had. I talked with a Doctor once for about two hours and tried to convey to him my fears that I felt come overwhelming violent impulses. After one season I never saw the Doctor again, and since then I have been fighting my mental turmoil alone, and seemingly to no avail.”