Las Vegas shooting parallels 1966 Texas tower killings, triggers new fears

Sunday night’s shooting from the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay creates new concerns for law enforcement and has bone-chilling parallels to the 1966 University of Texas tower slaughter, experts say.

It was 51 years ago that a sniper used the advantage of height to rain bullets down on people below in the first modern mass shooting in the United States. Authorities in Las Vegas and across the country now have to worry about how to deal with potential copycat shooters in elevated positions in buildings outside public events, Las Vegas security expert David Shepherd said Friday.

“This is a game-changer in the modern era,” said Shepherd, a retired FBI agent and expert on active shooting situations. “We have to be concerned about it. We have to create an entire new strategy.”

Mesquite resident Stephen Paddock killed 58 people and wounded nearly 500 others attending the outdoor Route 91 Harvest country music festival Sunday at Las Vegas Village. The 64-year-old fired high-powered rifles at the crowd and killed himself before police entered his hotel suite.

“When you start shooting from an elevated position like that, you’re trying to do as much damage as you can, wherever you can, and that’s what he tried to do,” Shepherd said.

Antiseptic as the phrase “firing from an elevated position” sounds amid the sounds and images of graphic violence, it’s a fact that links Paddock to Charles Whitman, who killed 15 people and injured 31 from the 28th floor of the campus observation deck at the University of Texas at Austin, on Aug. 1, 1966.

Distance from victims

“Neither one of them knew who their victims were and didn’t really care,” said Gary Lavergne, who wrote the 1997 book “A Sniper in the Tower: The Charles Whitman Murders,” which detailed the ex-Marine sharpshooter’s mass killing.

“Both were interested in the advantages that height gives you, and killing as many people as they could, though Paddock’s weapons were far more sophisticated and advanced,” said Lavergne, whose chronicle of that tragedy was praised as “the authoritative account of the Whitman case” by The New York Times. “But the major difference between the two was that Whitman, because of the scope he was using, was able to look at and see the people he was shooting at and dropping down. I think Whitman was determined to show off his marksmanship so when all was said and done, people would talk about how good he was.

“I always wondered how long it would take to see something in a very large gathering of people,” said Lavergne, 61. “Not necessarily from a high vantage point, but a concert or football game. All of us suspected it would happen sooner or later.”

What happened outside the Mandalay Bay on Sunday night could have occurred in any American city, Shepherd said.

Though more than a half-century separates the two tragedies, the stories of horror and heroism mirror each other.

“The first shot (Whitman) fired was at a pregnant woman,” recalls Neal Spelce, 81, who reported live during the shooting for Austin’s KTBC radio and television stations. Spelce was referring to survivor Claire Wilson, who lost her unborn baby to Whitman’s gunfire. “That was a significant target, and then he shot a policeman, knowing it was a policeman. So he was specifically selecting targets,” Spelce said, noting that victims crumpled to the ground behind him during his reports.

Another Austin survivor, Forrest Preece, now 71, was with two buddies getting lunch nearby when the cashier warned them not to leave because bullets were flying outside. “We went anyway, we were 20 and invincible,” Preece says. “Then we heard pops off at a distance. I turned to go south and some instinct made me stop and stand still, and so did my buddies. About 10 seconds later, a bullet whizzed by my right ear and killed the man next to me.”

That day’s horror also had a horrific prelude, as Whitman murdered his wife and mother in the early morning hours, then advanced to the campus tower, only to find the elevator out of order. When an employee activated it for him, he reportedly said, “You don’t know how happy that makes me.” Armed with multiple weapons and more than 700 rounds of ammunition, he then spent 96 minutes attacking targets below before he was shot and killed by police. As victims fell, some witnesses mistook them for anti-war protesters or members of a theater group.

Whitman’s motive was never determined, another disturbing parallel to the Las Vegas shooting. Investigators thus far have not been able to pinpoint what drove Paddock, who had no criminal history, to commit such extreme violence.

SWAT teams are born

Though Paddock spent approximately nine to 11 minutes murdering and wounding concertgoers below Mandalay Bay, Whitman’s university murder spree exceeded an hour and a half. “One of the major differences was that back in 1966, there were no tactical teams, and police officers weren’t trained for anything remotely like this,” Lavergne said. “Today, almost every midsize city has a SWAT team, and even those not on SWAT teams have some training on how to deal with an active assailant.”

Though the tower shooting is widely credited with inspiring the creation of SWAT units, it was an advantage not afforded to ex-Austin police officer Ramiro Martinez, who was off-duty, saw reports of the carnage unfolding on television and raced to the scene, eventually firing at the gunman with another lawman, taking him down. Whitman died at the scene.

“It was chaotic,” said Martinez, now 80 years old, about the less-coordinated deployment back then. “When I got there I thought a squad might be there and I would assist. But it was (a state police officer), in plain clothes, trying to establish communications.” Backup did arrive, but Martinez recalls what he says was ongoing confusion and danger from both police and citizens firing back at Whitman from below. “Bullets were coming near my head,” he says.

While praising the police action in Las Vegas, Martinez says seeing the body-cam footage triggered his anxiety. “It gave me a very uneasy feeling,” he says. “I felt weak.”

Acts of heroism

Beyond the tragic elements, acts of heroism also link the shootings. “We had a Vietnam veteran rush into the line of fire and pick up a dead body,” said Spelce, who, with a sense of awe, recalled a woman who ran to the side of pregnant Claire Wilson. “She lays down between Claire and her dead boyfriend, while the shooting is going on, and comforts her until they came to rescue her. A red-haired, hippie type of girl, and she took her hand, and said ‘Don’t close your eyes, Claire.’ Then she came to the hospital a day or two later and brought her a gift of a painting she made to comfort her. And they never saw each other again.”

Looking back at how fate spared him, Preece, who still lives in Austin, says the events of Aug. 1, 1966, cross his mind daily, especially when he sees that tower.

“A quarter-inch to the right and he could have picked off any one of us,” he said of himself and his pals, who were standing shoulder to shoulder when one of Whitman’s bullets found the man next to him. “One thing I told myself is that I looked at it like a second chance at life. Lots of times in my life things don’t go my way, and I say, ‘Quit complaining, you survived the day.’ ”

Contact Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@reviewjournal.com. Follow @sborn1 on Twitter. Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4564. Follow @JGermanRJ on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
News
LVMPD Discusses Ross Dress for Less Shooting
LVMPD Assistant Sheriff Charles Hank discussed the 15th officer-involved shooting of the year at a press conference at Metro headquarters on Tuesday, Aug. 14. The active-shooter incident took place at the Ross Dress for Less store at the 4000 block Blue Diamond Road in the south Las Vegas Valley. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Metro Asst. Sheriff Brett Zimmerman on Aug. 8 officer-involved shooting
Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman met with media Monday to discuss the details of the 14th officer-involved shooting of the year. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County School Board president Deanna Wright on travel expenses
Clark County School Board President Deanna Wright says she followed proper expense protocol in trip to Florida last year.
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program where community and business leaders joined to welcome students back with an inspirational welcome. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Shooting leaves 1 dead in southeast valley
A man was found fatally shot in the doorway of a squatter apartment after an argument ended in gunfire on Sunday night. Officers responded about 10:30 p.m. to the Silver Pines apartments and discovered the man in a breezeway in one of the buildings. The wounded man died at the scene, despite the efforts of another person, who tried to administer medical aid. Witnesses saw a man and a woman flee the scene, but were unable to give police a clear description.
North Las Vegas unveils new school crosswalk
North Las Vegas councilman Isaac Barron talks about the new school crosswalk in front of CP Squires Elementary School Monday, August 6, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
LVMPD Briefing on OIS #13
Assistant Sheriff Tim Kelly held a press conference to discuss details of the 13th officer-involved-shoot for the department in 2018. Video shows the moments before the suspect was shot. The shooting, which has been edited out, occurred as the suspect lunged at an officer outside the apartment. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sedan and semitrailer collide in south Las Vegas
An early Wednesday morning crash has left one person in critical condition. A sedan and semitrailer collided around 4 a.m. at the corner of Spencer Street and Serene Avenue. Police do not believe impairment is a factor in the crash. Spencer has been blocked off north of Serene while police continue their investigation.
Cybersecurity Professionals Flock to Las Vegas for Black Hat
Black Hat USA, the largest annual cybersecurity conference, is expecting a record 17,000 attendees during its six-day run at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center this week. One thing attendees have in mind is making sure they don't get hacked while they're there. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police chase ends with suspects captured in east Las Vegas
An early Tuesday morning chase ended with a car crash in an east Las Vegas neighborhood. Police were pursuing the vehicle, which they say was involved in robberies in Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, when the driver crashed at Owens and Statz Street. A man was taken into custody. A woman was ejected from a vehicle and taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The intersection at Mojave Road and Owens Avenue was shut down while police officers searched for the suspect and investigated. The intersection will remain closed for most of the morning.
Record number participate in Touro University Nevada White Coat Ceremony
Three hundred sixty-five medical students received their white coats during the Touro University Nevada White Coat Ceremony at the M Resort in Henderson Monday. The ceremony was developed to honor students in osteopathic medicine, physician assistant studies, nursing, occupational therapy and physical therapy as they accept the professional responsibilities inherent in their relationship with patients. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Stop for school buses, urges CCSD
Clark County School District Police Department hold a mock traffic stop at Centennial High School in Las Vegas, Monday, Aug. 6, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Work Begins at Las Vegas Community Healing Garden
Crews moved the wooden Remembrance Wall at the Las Vegas Community Healing Garden on South Casino Center Boulevard Monday. Construction on a permanent wall is set to begin within the week. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Man wounded outside Cottages apartment
Las Vegas police don't have a motive after a man was shot early Monday morning outside a northwest valley apartment. The man's mother called police to say her son had been shot. She called police around 1:15 a.m. Other people were inside the apartment but no one else was injured. Police are still looking for the shooter.
Ride new Interstate 11 segment in one minute
Interstate 11 opens to the public Thursday, providing sweeping views of Lake Mead, art deco-style bridges and a mural illustrating the construction of Hoover Dam. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Miss El Tiempo 2019
Miss Teen El Tiempo and Miss El Tiempo 2019 were crowned at Sam's Town Saturday, August 4, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Las Vegas Woman Raises Awareness for Anxiety and Depression
Cassi Davis was diagnosed with anxiety and depression after the birth of her second child. After seeking help and support, she felt that there wasn't enough for support for those living day in and day out for those with mood disorders. She created the Crush Run, set for Sept. 22, to raise money for the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and bring together a community of people who live with the same conditions she does. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
North Las Vegas marks the opening of Tropical Parkway connector
The City of North Las Vegas, Nevada Department of Transportation and other partners celebrated the opening of the Tropical Parkway connector to Interstate 15 and the Las Vegas Beltway. The stretch of road will make access easier for distribution centers for Amazon, Sephora and other companies moving into an 1,100-acre industrial area rising near the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bighorn sheep with West Temple in background at Zion National Park
A bighorn sheep walks through Zion National Park (National Park Service)
Adult Superstore location closes after 45 years
The Adult Superstore on Main Street has closed its doors for good after 45 years. The shop, which offered a multitude of adult toys, novelty items and movies, opened in 1973. Four other locations remain open. A note on the front door tells customers, “We can’t fully express our sorrow.” Adult Superstore was awarded Best of Las Vegas adult store by the Review-Journal in 2016 and 2017 .
Funeral held for Las Vegas corrections officer
Department of Public Safety Correctional Officer Kyle Eng died July 19 after a fight with an inmate at the Las Vegas Jail. A funeral was held for Eng at Canyon Ridge Christian Church Monday, July 30, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
What Back-To-School Shopping Is Like For a CCSD Parent and Teacher
Laura LeBowsky, a CCSD special education teacher and mother of two, set out to shop for her children's supply lists at her local Walmart and Target. She was looking for deals to try to keep the total under $150, while also allowing Chloe, 8, and Brady, 6, some choice in what they wanted. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Businesses struggle to fill food manufacturing jobs
Chelten House is a family-owned food manufacturing company from New Jersey. They created a facility in Vegas five years ago and have struggled to find experienced workers in the area. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
LeBron heckler crosses line, altercation erupts
NBA superstar LeBron James, his wife, Savannah, and daughter Zhuri were at Liberty High School to watch Bronny James in action Wednesday night. But an unruly fan wearing a Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls jersey heckled the newest Los Angeles Laker. The man screamed at event security with LeBron and his family about 150 feet away. The man had to be restrained, triggering a brief altercation with security. James and his family were escorted out a side door along with Bronny's team, the North Coast Blue Chips. Event officials canceled the game between the Blue Chips and Nike Meanstreets.
Las Vegas Oddities Shop in Downtown Las Vegas
Las Vegas Oddities shop owner Vanessa VanAlstyne describes what's for sale in one of the weirder and wackier stores in Downtown Las Vegas. The store opened less than a year ago and carries everything from human bones to "rogue" taxidermy to Victorian death photography. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trying to Staying Cool in the Las Vegas Heat
Cooling stations like Cambridge Recreation Center's opened across the Las Vegas Valley this week after the National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for the area. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MountainView's nurses protest outside hospital
MountainView Hospital's nurses affiliated with the Nevada chapter of the national Nurses Organizing Committee picketed outside MountainView Hospital Tuesday to urge the hospital to address high turnover rates and understaffing. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Excessive Heat Slams Las Vegas This Week
The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for Tuesday, July 24 through Thursday, July 26 in Las Vegas. People are reminded to limit outdoor activity, drink plenty of water and wear sunscreen. Visit weather.gov/heat for more heat safety tips. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Burning car in Las Vegas Spaghetti Bowl
Firefighters extinguish a burning car on the Martin Luther King offramp from northbound Interstate 15 in the Spaghetti Bowl in Las Vegas on July 23, 2018.
Fire Department Issues Warning About Water Safety
Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Buchanan made a public safety announcement about water safety after Clark County Fire responded to 27 calls that were classified as drowning incidents between May 1 and July 20. Clark County Fire, Las Vegas Fire & Rescue and North Las Vegas Fire responded to 55 total calls during the same time. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Local
Metro Asst. Sheriff Brett Zimmerman on Aug. 8 officer-involved shooting
Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman met with media Monday to discuss the details of the 14th officer-involved shooting of the year. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program where community and business leaders joined to welcome students back with an inspirational welcome. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Star Trek fans on show’s enduring popularity
Star Trek fans at the Star Trek Convention 2018 talk about why they think the show has stayed popular across the years Thursday, August 2, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Nonprofit provides clothing for homeless
Sydney Grover of Can You Spare A Story?, talks about how she founded the non-profit organization. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Family remembers deceased mother
Family members of Adriann Gallegos remember her. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Camp Broadway teaches kids how to sing and dance
The Smith Center's seventh annual Camp Broadway musical theater program gives 150 kids ages 6-17 an opportunity to learn musical theater skills from industry professionals over a five-day period. Marcus Villagran/ Las Vegas Review-Journal @brokejournalist
Restoring classic Corvettes to perfection
Members of the National Corvette Restorers Society Convention talk about what it takes to earn the NCRS Top Flight Award for a restored Corvette at South Point in Las Vegas on Tuesday July 17, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Watch Ruthless! at Las Vegas Little Theatre
The musical Ruthless! will be playing at Las Vegas Little Theatre from July 13-29. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Cadaver art and sword swallowing at The Dark Arts Market
Curator Erin Emrie talks about her inspiration for The Dark Arts Market at Cornish Pasty Co. in Las Vegas Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
'NO H8' Campaign comes to Las Vegas
Hundreds of locals participate in the NO H8 campaign founded by Adam Bouska and Jeff Parshley as a response to Proposition 8, a California ban on same-sex marriage. The campaign has since evolved to represent equal treatment for all. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
What to expect at Station Casinos' Fourth of July celebration
Station Casinos' is hosting its annual 4th of July celebration with Fireworks by Grucci. Fireworks scheduled to go off on Wednesday, July 4 around 9 p.m. at Green Valley Ranch Resort, Red Rock Resort, Fiesta Rancho and Texas Station. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Star Wars and Golden Knights mashup at downtown art shop
Star Wars and Vegas Golden Knights fans attend the Boba Fett Golden Knight Paint Class at The Bubblegum Gallery in Las Vegas, Friday, June 29, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Tourists and locals enjoy Independence Day fireworks at Caesars Palace
Hundreds of tourists and locals gaze at the Independence Day fireworks show at Caesars Palace on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Clark County recount votes in commission’s District E primary
Clark County staff begin the recount requested by candidate Marco Hernandez in the democratic primary for the County Commission's District E seat on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Long-running local hip hop producer wants Vegas rappers to shine
Las Vegas Hip Hop producer and co-owner of Digital Insight Recording Studios Tiger Stylz reflects on 30 years of music production in the city. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
"Pawn Stars" fans visit Richard Harrison's memorial at Gold & Silver Pawn
"Pawn Stars" fans from around the world visit the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas following the passing of Richard "Old Man" Harrison on Monday, June 25, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Construction for new 51s ballpark underway
New home of the Las Vegas 51s is planned to be finished by March 2019 in Summerlin according to team president Don Logan. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Crime
Metro Asst. Sheriff Brett Zimmerman on Aug. 8 officer-involved shooting
Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman met with media Monday to discuss the details of the 14th officer-involved shooting of the year. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nye County detectives pursue suspects
A swarm of Nye County deputies, at the request of Las Vegas police, surrounded a hotel room in Pahrump last week to take two fugitives into custody. (Nye County Sheriff's Office)
Las Vegas judge’s ruling will halt tonight’s execution
On Wednesday Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez issued a ruling that will halt the execution of convicted murderer Scott Dozier. Alvogen Inc., which makes the sedative midazolam, filed a lawsuit Tuesday accusing the Nevada Department of Corrections of surreptitiously obtaining the drug for use in an execution.
3 people shot in southeast Las Vegas
Three men were shot Thursday night in southeast Las Vegas, and two of them have life threatening injuries. Las Vegas police responded to the incident just after 10 p.m. on the 5000 block of Mountain Vista Street. The investigation is in its early stages and police were unable to describe the suspect or say how man people they think were involved. Police encourage anyone with information regarding this shooting to call Crime Stoppers at 702-385-5555, or 3-1-1
Robbery suspects apprehended
Four robbery suspects were taken into custody Thursday morning after a vehicle and foot chase that ended in an east Las Vegas neighborhood. The incident began when a person was robbed at gunpoint around 4:45 a.m. near Maryland Parkway and Desert Inn. Officers arriving at the scene tried to stop two vehicles. One vehicle escaped but police chased the second into a neighborhood on Flamingo Road near Mountain Vista Street. Police surrounded the neighborhood and the suspects were apprehended. It looked like one police vehicle was involved in a collision with the suspects' car. One woman suffered an unknown injury and was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. 01:04
Las Vegas police looking for robbery suspects
Two robbers who recently targeted three Las Vegas businesses remained at large Tuesday and police are asking the public to help identify them. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Metro Capt. Jaime Prosser gives update of officer-involved shooting
Metro Capt. Jaime Prosser provides an update about an officer-involved shooting at Radwick Drive and Owens Avenue in the northeast Las Vegas on Thursday. A robbery suspect was shot and killed. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
LVMPD Looking For Robbery Suspect
The LVMPD Commercial Robbery Section is attempting to identify the pictured suspect who is responsible for committing robberies to businesses in the southern part of the Las Vegas Valley during the month of May 2018. The suspect enters the business, threatens the employee with a firearm and demands money from the register. The employee complies and the suspect flees the business.
North Las Vegas police are investigating a triple shooting that left one man dead
North Las Vegas police are investigating a triple shooting that left one man dead at 2500 block of Ellis St., on Friday, June 8, 2018. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like