The Cops Who Stopped Charles Whitman

At the top of the University of Texas Tower 35 years ago, Austin policemen Houston McCoy and Ramiro “Ray” Martinez risked all to end the killing spree of ex-Marine Charles Whitman. The press initially credited Martinez with taking Whitman down, but after the coroner’s report was issued, it seemed likely that McCoy’s shotgun rather than Martinez’s pistol had inflicted the mortal wounds. Although both men continued to share the credit for killing Whitman, a fictionalized film account nine years later, called The Deadly Tower , made Martinez the hero. Today the 64-year-old Martinez is comfortably retired in New Braunfels, serving on the advisory committee for the city’s park board and “playing with the animals,” he jokes, at the Lions, the Elks, and the Eagles clubs. After the Tower massacre, Martinez quit the Austin Police Department and eventually served for eighteen years as a Texas Ranger, then as a justice of the peace in Comal County. He and his wife, Vernell, have lately been “building the last house before the retirement home or the hospital,” and he has just been elected president of the Former Texas Rangers Association. Houston McCoy has not fared as well. Now 61, divorced, and unemployed, he moves between his three children’s households. “I can’t get a job,” he says. Declining to talk further about himself, he refers inquiries to his spokesperson, John Moore, a writer and filmmaker who has been working on a documentary about the Tower killings and McCoy. In 1999 Moore, who lives in Milwaukee, helped his friend obtain monthly disability payments from Social Security, based on a recent diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder dating back to the battle at the UT Tower. Similar efforts to win workers’ compensation from the City of Austin failed earlier this year. According to Moore, McCoy became a binge drinker after The Deadly Tower came out, and his alcoholism is a “side effect” of the stress disorder. Moore calls McCoy “Whitman’s last victim.”

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