The University of Texas campus at Austin was racked by gunfire on Tuesday, some 44 years after Charles Whitman shot and killed 13 people from a clock tower on the same campus.
University of Texas Shooting Timeline
According to KXAN Austin, around 8:10 a.m., gunshots rang out as 19-year-old math student Colton Tooley opened fire at the Austin campus. Clad in a ski mask and dark suit, Tooley initially opened fire with an AK-47 in front of the same tower where, decades earlier, Charles Whitman had barricaded himself. Tooley then entered the Perry-Castañeda Library, where more shots were fired.
By 8:30 a.m., the entire Austin campus was on lockdown as law enforcement searched for the gunman. Tooley shot and killed himself around 8:50 a.m. on the sixth floor of the library. Students were given the all-clear to leave campus at 11:40 a.m.. No one else was injured in the shooting. The campus remained closed for the rest of the day as investigators examined the crime scene. According to the Associated Press, police initially thought there may have been a second shooter, though that ultimately proved false.
School Shootings in the Facebook Age
In an interesting twist, within hours of the shooting, a new Facebook page appeared in Tooley’s name. The most recent status update to the page read: “Today was not a good day. Colton Tooley had to use his AK.” Though many would consider this in poor taste, it is undoubtedly a sign of the times.
But, as reported by KXAN Austin, social media also played a key role in helping students, parents and staff stay safe and in touch during the incident. Social networking also helped students on lockdown inside the campus to get up-to-date information from family and friends on the outside. The University of Texas itself sent out text alerts to 43,000 students informing them of what was happening.
University of Texas Shooting Shades of Virginia Tech Massacre
The University of Texas shooting brings back memories of college shootings past. The most notable of these is the massacre at Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg, Virginia. The Virginia Tech shootings remain the worst college shootings in U.S. history. During the massacre, 32 people were killed and another 20 wounded by a lone gunman.
Another Troubled Young Man…Another Tragedy
According to CBS News, on April 16, 2007, mentally ill Virginia Tech student Seung-Hui Cho, 23, entered West Ambler Johnston Hall dormitory ,where he killed two people. It wasn’t until 2½ hours later that Cho turned his sights to Norris Hall, where he killed an additional 30 people before committing suicide.
Impact of Virginia Tech Shooting
Of course, the events of that April morning will personally impact the lives of the Virginia Tech students and faculty who lived though the tragedy. But the impact of the Virginia Tech shootings are not limited to those directly involved. They are still reverberating through our society and legal system today, with the possibility of affecting all citizens. Many universities re-examined and made changes to their campus safety, security and mental health procedures following the shooting.
The Christian Science Monitor reports that the University of Texas shooting comes as the Texas legislature debates a proposed law allowing students to carry concealed weapons on campus as protection against an attack. The law was spurred on by the events of the shooting at Virginia Tech. The University of Texas’ Austin campus is at the center of the firestorm surrounding the concealed weapons issue because of the 1966 Whitman shootings.
Survivor of Both Shootings Speaks Out
John Woods was an undergraduate at Virginia Tech in 2007 and survived that shooting, though his then-girlfriend did not. Now a graduate student at the University of Texas and a survivor of two college shootings, Woods feels that students should not be allowed to carry concealed weapons.
Woods explains, “The idea that somebody could stop a school shooting with a gun is impossible. It’s reactive, not preventative.” The 2010 University of Texas shooting may just change the debate.