Austin, TX – There are generations of people living because of Ramiro Martinez.
Martinez is the man who took down the sniper who shot and killed 14 people from the University of Texas-Austin clock tower 56 years ago.
“Ray Martinez was one of the bravest individuals I think I have ever met,” said Adrian Littlefield, who survived the shooting.
On August 1, 1966, Martinez went to UT to help direct traffic away from what had become a tower of terror.
“I was glad that the good Lord protected me and I got rid of the S.O.B.,” said Martinez.
Charles Whitman, a 25-year-old marine sniper dealing with mental health issues, who only hours earlier killed his wife and mother, had taken over the tower. For well over an hour, Whitman picked off students on campus and bystanders on neighboring streets.
Martinez arrived at the scene to focus on traffic, but he quickly took off running to the tower.
“I didn’t stop to think, just needed to get to the tower,” said Martinez. “I needed to get into the tower because I’m sure that there’s an assault squad coming from the police department or somewhere, you know, and they are going in there and I need to get in there and help them.”
There was no assault squad.
With courage in his bones and faith in his heart, the then 29-year-old officer went up the tower.
“There was a man that came out and he had a white pair of woman shoes in his hands, and there was blood on them,” said Martinez. “He said, ‘let me have your gun, I’ll go kill that SOB up there, he killed my family.’”
By that point, another man raced up the tower and joined Martinez on his mission.
“He said, ‘Are we playing for keeps?’ And I looked at him and that’s when I realized that he was a civilian. And I said, ‘You damn right we are,’” said Martinez.
Martinez says when they got to the top of the tower, he told the man to take aim in case Whitman turned the corner. Martinez then took off to look for the sniper.
Backup arrived just as Martinez was about to take action
As Martinez searched the tower, other people on the ground attempted to take out the sniper.
“Bullets were coming over my head. They’d crack like that, you know,” said Martinez. “As long as I stayed below that ledge, around the walkway, I was going to be okay.”
Seconds later, another officer named Houston McCoy showed up to help. Together, they came up on Whitman.
“I emptied my gun into him. I could tell that I was scoring. I was hitting him and then I was hollering at McCoy to shoot and McCoy finally shot and hit him with a shotgun,” said Martinez.
Yet, Whitman was still moving.
“So, I fired one more round,” said Martinez. “Kind of a blur, it was so fast. But at the end of that blur, is the realization that you just killed. Yeah, there is a dead man. I didn’t feel sorry for him.”
Related: The KPRC2 team was in Austin for the 50th anniversary of the attack - for the dedication of a memorial near the tower.
Fourteen dead, 31 injured, and Martinez ended the 96 minutes of terror.
“He wanted the carnage to stop,” said Littlefield.
Adrian Littlefield was a 19-year-old newlywed that day. Both he and his wife were shot.
“My thanks are never-ending for him stopping the situation that could have led to much more destruction and death than what we experienced,” said Littlefield.
Perspective on recent mass shootings
Martinez took quick action to stop the shooting that day 56 years ago. KPRC 2 Investigates Mario Diaz also asked Martinez for his perspective on the Robb Elementary school shooting in Uvalde on May 24, 2022. The two incidents are separated by decades and involve different circumstances, like weapons. However, Martinez shares his thoughts on the differences in responses. You can watch that here: