Hero of UT tower killing speaks in Victoria
March 19, 2016 at 10:42 p.m.
Updated March 20, 2016 at 6:05 a.m.
Video by Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson for The Victoria Advocate
For Ray Martinez, giving in to his fear was not an option.
On Aug. 1, 1966, then-Austin police officer Martinez led the charge into the observation deck on the 28th floor of the University of Texas tower to kill Charles Whitman. By 1:24 p.m., Whitman, a man with U.S. Marine Corps training and an arsenal of weapons, including several rifles, pistols and a shotgun, had killed 16 and wounded 32.
Martinez appeared in the film "Tower," which won best documentary at the 2016 Victoria TX Independent Film Festival.
"To say that you're not scared, you're either a liar or you're stupid," Martinez said Saturday evening. "I was neither, because I was scared. But you repress your fear and push it in to the back of your mind and continue to do your job."
Off-duty and at home almost 50 years ago, Martinez called the station of the Austin Police Department after learning of the shooting on television. He was originally asked to control traffic but decided to take direct action against Whitman after seeing the streets secure.
He ran past the dead, dying and wounded to enter the tower, where he found additional horrors.
"There was one man there with a pair of white women's shoes. They were bloodstained. That was Mr. (M.J.) Gabour, and he said, 'Let me have your gun. I'll go kill the guy up there because he's killed my family,'" Martinez said. "He was the father of two boys and their sister. We had to wrestle with him to put him in the elevator."
On the 28th floor of the tower, Martinez pushed through an exit door Whitman had blocked with a dolly.
He was followed by two other police officers and Allen Crum, who Martinez would later learn was a civilian. All were armed.
"Before we went out on the observation deck, (Crum) asked me, he said, 'Are we playing for keeps?' And I said, 'You're damn right we are," Martinez said. "And he said, 'You better deputize me.' And that's when I learned he was not law enforcement. Hell, he had held a rifle and backed me already. I said, 'Consider yourself deputized.'"
When Martinez finally saw Whitman, the man was aiming his rifle to the southwest corner of the deck.
"I opened fire. I hit him. I could tell because of the impact, and he turned, trying to face me with an M1 carbine, trying to shoot me, and I advanced, shooting and hollering to McCoy to shoot. McCoy finally shot with a shotgun. I emptied my gun in him. I dropped my gun. I reached back. He was going down, but he was still alive and moving. Or at least I thought he was still alive. There was movement, and he had the carbine. I pulled the shotgun from McCoy and fired one more shot. And that was the end of him."
Martinez, 79, of New Braunfels, said although he doesn't like to tell the story of how he helped kill Whitman, he does think it is relevant today.
"With all the turmoil that is going on now in this world in the schools, in the theaters - this was the beginning of it, and it shows that back in 1966 ... it should have alerted us that there were a lot of ticking time bombs walking around. And that has come true because every so often, we have something new," Martinez said.