UT takes rooftop access seriously 48 years after tower shootings

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Friday marked 48 years since a gunman climbed to the top of the University of Texas tower and started shooting.

On Aug. 1, 1966, Charles Whitman killed 16 people and injured 32 others before he was shot and killed by an Austin police officer. The 96 minute shooting spree was one of the first mass shootings in U.S. history.

After being closed to the public for years, the observation deck is open for guided tours but visitors must go through metal detectors.

The tower is not the only tall building where extra security measures are in place. The University of Texas Police Department told KXAN rooftop access to most buildings on campus is banned for safety reasons.

The vast majority of campus buildings have extensive security or lock systems restricting rooftop access. There are a few rooftops that contain greenhouses and bee colonies which certain students and faculty have access to.

“I can see how if you are in a bad state of mind and it’s accessible, I can understand that would be a place where people would go,” said graduate student Victoria Cotham.

In fact, Austin police on Friday morning talked a suicidal young man off the edge of the Castilian dormitory one block west of the UT campus. Austin police could not tell KXAN how the man got access to the roof.

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