1966 tower shooting officers honored by police union
Aug. 1, 1966 marked the 40th anniversary of the University of Texas Tower shooting.
In 1966, UT student and former Marine Charles Whitman went to the top of the Tower and opened fire on people inside the building and down below. Fourteen people died as a result of the shooting spree.
On Monday, the Austin Police Association honored three of the officers who went to the top of the Tower that day in the line of duty. Phillip Conner, Jerry Day and Houston McCoy all served together on the same shift 40 years ago.
Also honored at Monday's luncheon was the widow of Officer Billy Speed, who was shot and killed that day below the Tower.
She and the former officers stopped by News 8 Austin and spoke about what the reunion meant to them.
"My daughter was there and it was very emotional for her and her husband. But I'm just glad we all got together and unite with this and hopefully open up some eyes in the Austin area that we're still around, and we're not going anywhere," widow Jennie Shone Speed said.
"There were a lot of brave people out there. There were people that were exposing themselves too absolutely imminent danger trying to pull people who had been shot out of the line of the line of fire. And some of them had made more than one trip doing that," Conner said.
"It affected so many students, it affected so many police officers, and every civilian in town. It seemed to be chaotic, but it worked out well because of everybody's participation," Day said.
"But it's still -- a policeman is a policeman. And you go with the times -- you've got your buddies you can count on. You've got your foxhole buddies, and you know who you can count on. So there's no doubt that they take care of themselves, they take care of each other, and that's just the way it is," McCoy said.
The families gathered Monday hope to get in touch with other former officers involved in the 1966 shooting. They encourage them to contact the Austin Police Association to help make that happen.
News 8 Austin’s in-depth series UT Tower Shooting: 40 years later is available online and the hour long special is available on News 8 On Demand, digital channel 1458.