South by Southwest

In 'Tower,' a mass shooting before anyone knew what that was

Neal Spelce was scrounging for news to fill his Austin station's noon radio broadcast when he heard this announcement on the police scanner: "We have a report of a shot being fired at the University of Texas."

That message, on Aug. 1, 1966, didn't even begin to capture the magnitude of the tragedy about to rock the sleepy college town.

Charles Whitman, an architectural engineering major and U.S. Marine sniper, had climbed the campus clock tower and launched a killing rampage considered one of the first "mass shootings" in modern American history.

A new documentary film, "Tower," captures the sense of confusion and carnage that permeates...