Chapter 1
Historical Perspective of
Active Shooter Events
There are numerous instances, throughout history, where
deranged suspects have sought out and killed as many inno-
cent victims as possible. These mass murderers, also referred
to as “active shooters” since the Columbine High School trag-
edy in April 1999, have presented a unique tactical challenge
to law enforcement officers. In many ways, law enforcement
tactics in addressing these active shooters have come full circle
in the past 46 years.
During the early morning hours of August 1, 1966, a former
United States Marine and current student at the University of
Texas murdered his mother as she slept in her Austin, Texas
home. The suspect then returned to his home where he killed
his wife of 4 years as she slept. After typing and handwriting
suicide notes, the suspect took a cache of weapons in a foot-
locker to the University of Texas Tower and made his way up
to the 27th floor. When asked for his university identication
by the observation deck receptionist, the suspect beat her with
a rifle and hid her body behind furniture. The receptionist,
2 ◾  Active Shooter Events and Response
Edna Townsley, later died from her injuries and became the
third victim to be killed that day.
As the suspect made his way up the final flight of stairs to
the observation deck, he barricaded the stairway to create a
stronghold. Before the suspect made it outside to the observa-
tion deck, two families came up on the barricaded stairway
and encountered him in the stairwell. He fired on the families,
killing two people and seriously wounding two more. Once
the shooter was established on the observation deck with his
footlocker full of weapons, a new tactical dilemma faced the
Austin Police Department: how to stop a barricaded, military
trained sniper, who held a 28-story elevated position over the
University of Texas campus, from killing victims at will?
Unfortunately for the Austin Police Department, special
weapons and tactics (SWAT) teams did not exist in 1966.
It was not that the city of Austin, Texas was a small, rural
police agency and simply did not have the resources to field
a SWAT team; rather, these types of units and the acronym
SWAT simply did not exist at that time. Tactical situations, like
the University of Texas sniper, had to be resolved by patrol
officers who had little, if any, tactical training and even less
equipment available to them. Hostage situations, barricaded
gunmen, and high-risk warrants were all handled by the
patrol officer on the street. Critical, violent events like the UT
Tower shooting and the Watts riots in 1965 led to the creation
of specialized tactical units across the nation.
With no specialized tactical units they could call to help
resolve the barricaded sniper on the UT Tower, Austin police
officers Houston McCoy, Ramiro Martinez, and Jerry Day,
along with citizen Allen Crum, made their way up the tower to
stop the suspect’s rampage. Stopping along the way to quickly
help the wounded and develop an ad hoc plan to assault
the observation deck, the officers ultimately pushed past the
barricades and stepped onto the observation deck where the
suspect continued to fire on innocent civilians below. Once on
the deck, the ofcers then had to stay low and carefully avoid

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