Text from The Austin American Statesman (free).
By Tony Plohetski, American-Statesman Staff Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Former University of Texas professor Gary Lamar Wise has spent the past six years terrorizing his former bosses and co-workers in the college of engineering, police say.
He began with obscene voice mails, according to court documents. Then, in 2000, he spray-painted Dean Ben Streetman's home mailbox and car with "SOB," the documents say.
The next year, he shot up the outside of the dean's house with red paintball pellets, causing about $5,600 in damage, the documents say. And he took a shot at UT President Larry Faulkner's home, the documents say.
The attacks, police said, sometimes happened around the anniversary of his firing: Aug. 20, 1999.
On Tuesday, Wise was in the Travis County Jail on charges of stalking and deadly conduct, a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years behind bars. Jail records did not indicate whether he has a lawyer.
Court documents say Wise went on his most recent spree in the wee hours of Friday morning, crisscrossing Northwest and Central Austin to shoot at his former office building and his former bosses' houses.
"This thing, in the span of probably six years, has escalated all the way from harassing telephone calls to gunshots," UT Police Chief Terry McMahan said.
Police said Wise fired the two rounds at Streetman's house at 3:32 a.m. Friday, striking his 1994 Acura.
Ten minutes later, the home of Francis Bostick, chairman of UT's department of electrical and computer engineering, also took a shot. A round was fired at his house on Cat Mountain Drive, blasting through his front door and lodging in a TV.
And at 6:30 a.m., UT police got a call about two shots that had been fired on the northwest side of the chemical and petroleum engineering building. Investigators later determined that the shots were fired between 1 and 5:55 a.m.
Documents show that police have long suspected Wise in previous attacks but lacked enough evidence to charge him.
Streetman asked a UT officer to patrol his house in 2000 because of three attacks. On April 28, 2000, the officer saw a silver Toyota Camry drive past Streetman's house and park down the street.
The officer then saw Wise walk nervously toward the house, watching as if he wanted to make sure "the coast was clear," an arrest affidavit said. The officer stopped Wise, who agreed to a search of his car.
The officer found a can of blue spray paint, the same color that had been used to spray Streetman's house and mailbox. Wise was not charged at the time.
More recently, Streetman decided to get video surveillance cameras for his house. Police said their lenses caught Wise's 2000 green Ford Mustang passing Streetman's house early Friday. Two minutes later, at 3:34 a.m., they show a person in the car firing "two potentially deadly rounds" in the direction of the house.
Wise owns a Ford Mustang with the license plate "WANDRR," records show.
Investigators also pulled records from the parking garage of the downtown condominium complex where Wise lives. They show that he returned to the building at 4:30 a.m. Friday.
Later that day, police searched Wise's unit and found 29 firearms and a paintball gun.
In a February 2001 column in the American-Statesman, Wise said he enjoys hunting and eats only animals he kills. He also claimed he could personally solve the excessive deer problem in the town of Lakeway, saying, "I'd get rid of 'em in a week."
Wise was a tenured professor. Documents do not show why he was fired but said Faulkner, Streetman and Bostick each approved his termination.
Firings for tenured professors are unusual, said Charles Zucker, executive director of the Texas Faculty Association. The causes can include crimes, incompetence or immoral behavior, according to UT policy.
Before the weekend attack, police think Wise struck most recently in April. A person shot at the entrance and exit doors of the chemical and petroleum engineering building, one round from a shotgun and the other from a pistol.
Evidence from those shootings matched that of the Friday morning shootings, police said.
From the Daily Texan, June 9, 2005.
Editor's note: Information in these articles comes from interviews with Wise's friends, students and former colleagues, and from documents provided to the Texan.
Gary Wise, once a well-liked engineering professor, is in jail. Police say he threatened former bosses and fired gunshots at their houses. While he waits for a day in court, The Daily Texan examines his story in two parts.
A black-and-white photo shows former UT professor Gary Wise poking a pair of bunny ears behind his wife, Stella's, head. She raises her right hand, pretending to slap him. Both are smiling widely; Wise's eyes are squeezed completely shut, he's smiling so hard.
A middle-aged man with thinning hair and a nondescript wardrobe, Wise didn't stand out from the crowd much until you got him talking about statistics or probability theory - on those subjects, he was an "intellectual cowboy," said John Morrison, one of Wise's Ph.D. students in the mid-1980s. "Gary had a very keen sense of mathematics as an art."
Like many academics, Wise was a bit of a maverick. He co-wrote a book called "Counterexamples in Probability and Real Analysis," which compiles 300 displays of how leading theories in probability are simply wrong. (Students called him "Dr. Counterexample.") But though he got into his share of squabbles with colleagues about their ideas and approaches to engineering, disagreements between faculty members are relatively common.
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"He was tough on graduate students and committees," said electrical and computer engineering professor Baxter Womak, "but that's completely within his purview of academic freedom."
Wise drove to work each day in his yellow 240-D Mercedes. He liked Broadway shows, gourmet fare and fine wines. His favorite restaurant was the Green Pastures in South Austin; he'd go there for dinner with his graduate students, or with Stella and his daughter, Tanna.
Each year, Wise and his students attended a mathematics convention in Baltimore. Wise took the occasion as an opportunity to sneak off to New York City, where he'd squeeze in as many Broadway plays and meals at French restaurants as possible. He always returned humming show tunes, earning him the nickname "Broadway Gary."
"Everyone thinks a mathematician is sort of a colorless person who lives in a colorless world," Morrison said. "But Gary wasn't the stereotypical engineer. He was a hell of a lot of fun to be around."
At the end of the day, Wise ushered students into his small office, where, according to Morrison, they'd "absolutely rip apart math problems" or gossip about the engineering faculty. He usually lost track of time, so that Stella had to call and remind him about dinner.
The two were a "fabulous couple," Morrison said. At the time he knew them, they'd been married for nearly 10 years.
Wise had a few quirky physical ailments, said his friend and colleague, Terry Wagner. He put drops in his eyes at night and spread a "special cream" over his forehead - Wagner didn't know why. But eyedrops and forehead cream didn't prepare anyone for the summer day in 1992 when a blood vessel burst in Wise's brain.
'Jekyll and Hyde'
It might not have hurt at all, or he may have experienced a sudden, severe headache. Different parts of his body may have become paralyzed or gone numb; he could have quickly lost sight in one of his eyes. When someone spoke to him that day, he might not have understood the words. Wise was, to say the least, confused.
When close friend and co-author Eric Hall visited Wise in the hospital the next day, he didn't think Wise would live.
"He looked to be in horrible shape," Hall said.
Wise had suffered an aneurysm, or hemorrhagic stroke, at 47. Those who knew him say he hasn't been the same since.
Depending on where a stroke occurs in the brain, it can cause any number of effects ranging from paralysis to difficulty speaking to dramatic changes in behavior. Though physical disabilities often improve with the help of rehabilitative therapy, sometimes strokes cause lasting changes in an individual's life and personality. According to the medical textbook "Anatomy and Clinical Evaluation," strokes suffered in the frontal lobes of the brain can lead to "uninhibited, aggressive, and pugilistic" behavior.
"You can see someone that's successful professionally become a completely different person," said Jose Diaz, a neurologist for the Memorial Health Care system in Houston. "It's like Jekyll and Hyde because of the stroke."
The textbook describes attempts to restore patients with frontal lobe damage to their previous jobs as "frequently unsuccessful."
"The University worked very hard to accommodate Wise's rehabilitation," said Ben Streetman, dean of the College of Engineering. "That was eight years before he left."
After taking the fall 1992 semester off for rehabilitative therapy, Wise's doctor told him he would be able to resume his teaching duties. The University allowed Wise several sick-leave days each week and a very light class load. But Wise signed up on every Ph.D. qualifying exam committee and began to disrupt students' oral exams. Faculty members complained to the then-dean of the College of Engineering, Steve Szygenda, that Wise had made offensive comments.
When Streetman became dean of the College of Engineering in August 1996, he was specifically briefed about Wise's behavior.
"Until I became dean I wasn't aware of the things Wise was doing in the classroom," Streetman said. He added that he didn't know whether Wise had been disruptive before his stroke.
A new photo was taken of Wise on May 20. This time, he was in jail, alone. He and Stella separated in 1996. At the suggestion of his doctor, Wise learned tae kwon do to regain control of his weakened body, but then used his new skill to threaten colleagues and the heads of his department. As a professor, Wise stopped training graduate students and eventually went on to teach introductory engineering courses. The heaps of praise offered by his Ph.D. students in the 1980s turned into undergraduates' complaints about poor teaching, classroom violence and sexual harassment. In the new photo, Wise isn't smiling.
Coming to blows
Wise lost some of his physical ability on the left side of his body. Travis Young, head coach of UT Tae Kwon Do Club, said Wise could not lift his left arm higher than his shoulder. He would lift his foot a couple of inches, then lose balance.
Interested in self-defense as well as in improving his condition, Wise joined the club while still teaching at the University. A year-and-a-half and a few broken boards later, Wise carried the rank of blue belt and gained muscle weight and control over his body. He would walk up and down stairs several times a day; being fit made him proud.
"He was a positive contribution to the club with his upbeat attitude and eagerness to learn about tae kwon do," said Young. "He was fully focused on training, and he improved because of that effort."
Konstantinos Kostarelos, a former club member who received his Ph.D. in civil engineering from the University, said Wise was always trying to find ways to promote the club.
"He was so proud of everything he learned in class, and when he broke his first board, he told me he took it to his class and said, 'You see this? You can do it, too,'" Kostarelos said.
In group dinners after class, Young sometimes heard Wise mention his work.
"He told me he felt he was fired by the dean of engineering because of professional jealousy," Young said. "He said they used the stroke as an excuse."
Wise may have held that impression, but several incidents led Streetman, the dean, to believe that stroke or no stroke, Wise was scaring people. In 1998, just a year before he agreed to leave the University, Wise and Streetman argued at the college's May graduation ceremony. Streetman told others later that when he asked Wise to return to where the faculty waited for the processional, Wise threw a forearm strike to his head. The arm stopped just inches from his face.
Student and faculty complaints about Wise filed into Streetman's office with a common theme: what Streetman called "getting into things a faculty member shouldn't." Students said Wise would leave class during the period and spend time talking about topics that were not part of the course subject matter.
After an unofficial reprimand from Neal Armstrong, then the assistant engineering dean, Wise said his inappropriate behavior came from the side effects of his stroke. Armstrong replied that his behavior, not his health, was the problem.
Streetman denied that Wise was let go because of his stroke. Under Board of Regents' Rules, termination of a tenured faculty member is evaluated under the issue of "good cause." That usually means violence or sexual harassment.
"Asking a tenured faculty member to leave does not happen often," said Streetman. "The case has to be an extreme circumstance."
Wise openly threatened faculty members more than once - even Streetman. In 2000, he made a haunting statement on a faculty list serv: "Who knows? Maybe some night Streetman will find himself off campus in front of me. Guess what's going to happen if he does?"
From the Daily Texan, June 10, 2005.
Editor's note: This is the second of a two-part story on Gary Wise, a former UT professor who is in jail facing deadly conduct charges. The information in these articles comes from interviews with Wise's friends, students and former colleagues, and from documents provided to the Texan.
Gary Wise, once a well-liked engineering professor, is in jail. Police say he threatened former bosses and fired gunshots at their houses. While he waits for a day in court, The Daily Texan examines his story in two parts.
In the 1:30 a.m. darkness, he parked a Toyota Camry on Glengarry Drive. He stepped out of the car, then turned around and began to backtrack toward a house he'd already passed.
He darted his head back and forth, checking the shadows to make sure the coast was clear. He had an excuse ready: walking alone at night was "peaceful," he told the police who stopped him later. He was just "getting exercise"; he carried a Buck folding knife in his right pants pocket in case he was jumped.
By coincidence, on his peaceful walk, Gary Wise had approached the house of his old boss: Engineering Dean Ben Streetman.
Maybe Streetman would be outside. Maybe they would meet in the night, and Wise could do or say what he intended in an e-mail one month before: "... maybe some night Streetman will find himself off campus in front of me. Guess what's going to happen if he does."
But it didn't happen. The police were parked out front, and Wise stopped and began to walk away. They were waiting for him. Streetman had asked the UT Police Department to watch his house, because he thought it was Wise who spray painted "SOB" on his car and mailbox earlier that week.
Wise told the officers they could search his car. They'd find nothing but papers in it, he said, and "Oh yes, one can of spray paint." He said he'd been painting some bookshelves in his apartment. By coincidence, the spray paint was navy blue, the same color found on Streetman's car and mailbox.
Wise, who was "Broadway Gary" to some friends and "Dr. Counterexample" to others, was walking deeper into his own paranoia. A stroke in 1992 had wrecked his motor skills and broken his lucidity. Though he had been well-liked, the professor had alienated colleagues and students, and had drawn the dean's ire. Now, here he was in April 2000, by the house of the man who fired him, getting released by officers with a warning.
Later that night, Streetman filed a peace bond, or yearlong restraining order, against Wise. The threats continued.
It took a full semester for Fitz D. Jackson III, an engineering student, to realize there was something "unkosher" about the way Wise taught. Jackson transferred in 1998 to finish his degree at the University of Houston. He said Wise, formerly his favorite teacher, was one of the main reasons he left.
At first, Jackson thought Wise's "roundabout" way of teaching was simply a professor-specific style. In his experience, each professor had a different way of integrating the material to make it interesting.
"Dr. Wise wouldn't talk about the material directly," Jackson said. "I thought he was giving a string of indirect references when he would talk about himself and then link it to technical things so it would be easier to understand. That's one of the things I was waiting for, and it never happened."
Dean Streetman said, of Wise's lectures, "There was a lot of sex and violence involved in class."
Some students took Wise's sexual remarks in class as lighthearted humor. But to the females toward whom he directed jokes, it was hardly laughable.
Jackson, sitting in the very front row, hoped that surely, in the end, everything would make sense. But the end of the semester left a "bad taste" in his mouth, when he received a D.
Wise told him his final grade was a reflection of his final exam performance. Jackson, his father and Streetman asked to see the final exam. It was missing.
"I was expecting an A in the class, because the final was almost exactly like the midterm," Jackson said.
High grades were not uncommon in Wise's class. Students would take his class "just because they knew they would get an A," Streetman said.
E-mails, office visits, voice mail and even parental phone calls to the dean's office solidified Streetman's claim that Wise's performance was deteriorating, his teaching methods were "unorthodox" and his interaction with students was "completely unacceptable."
On Wise's office door, a sign read, "Fear me, for I have the power to destroy you." While students called for an evaluation of Wise's performance, some faculty seemed to take the sign seriously.
Small, peculiar events began to escalate into threats. Wise's good friend Professor Terry Wagner remembers accompanying Luc Devroye, one of Wise's former graduate students, to Wise's apartment.
"He wouldn't let us in," Wagner said. "He talked to us through the speaker."
Despite the surprise, Wagner and Devroye eventually coaxed Wise out.
The blows to Wagner's and Wise's friendship didn't stop there. On a hot day in July 1997, a fire alarm rang, and he, Wise and another engineering professor filed out with the students. Wise began displaying tae kwon-do, nearing Wagner's face with each strike.
"I said, 'You're really annoying me with this'," Wagner said, but Wise did not stop and eventually called Wagner a "wimp."
The same year, Wise referred to the department chairman as a "son-of-a-bitch" and "bastard" in faculty list serv e-mails. He publicly criticized Streetman, whom he called a "liar" on more than one occasion.
Those are only a few of the reported incidents. In 1999, Wise filed a grievance against Streetman, claiming the dean overstepped his authority in a way that harmfully affected Wise and the University.
Instead, Wise received further reprimands. By August 1999, Streetman and the department's new chairman, Francis Bostick, had started the process to revoke his tenure. Wise agreed to retire from the University. The arrangement became effective in January 2000, the same year he filed for divorce after a four-year separation from his wife.
Wise started leaving obscene voice messages for Streetman. Under the agreement, he couldn't enter buildings where engineering faculty had their offices. But he could make escorted visits to clean out his own office. During one such visit, Wise wrote a final e-mail to the faculty list serv.
"These clowns are turning this place into the degree mill it once was," he wrote on March 2, 2000, in the same message that included a threat to Streetman. "I am so adamant in this conviction that I am leaving."
He added, toward the end, "Streetman has convinced me that I hate it here."
Streetman said the University would never let anyone go because of health problems. He was indignant at the suggestion that Wise's stroke could explain some of his conduct, and he denied any links between Wise's stroke and his actions.
"Wise is going to use whatever excuse he can get," he said.
He called the idea that Wise's stroke led to his criminal activities "an insult to stroke victims that overcome their paralysis and speaking difficulties and such."
"I've known people with strokes, and often there's some paralysis and physical therapy involved," Streetman said. "I don't think you can use his stroke as an excuse for behavior that happened eight years later."
But Jose Diaz, neurologist for the Memorial Hermann Health Care System in Houston, said Streetman had only mentioned the most clearly visible, and easily treated, effects of a stroke.
While many strokes do cause paralysis and a loss of motor control - the effects Streetman described - those that occur in the temporal or frontal lobes of the brain primarily affect behavior, Diaz said.
"I can see where the dean is coming from, in that everyone would focus on treating Wise's weakness and forget about his behavior," Diaz said. "The weakness would improve, and then the behavior would become a bigger part of the problem."
Changes in behavior don't always become problems if patients experience a supportive, nurturing environment, Diaz said. But a competitive academic setting could have induced paranoia.
A year and a half after the restraining order was filed, on Christmas Eve 2001, Wise allegedly shot eight red paintball pellets at Streetman's house. One of them broke the front glass window, leading to nearly $5,600 in property damage. Police say he also fired at UT President Larry Faulkner's house.
Six years after he left the University, police say, Wise fired what his friends hope was his last shot.
Police say Wise went on his most recent and widespread shooting spree May 20, this time targeting chairman Bostick's house in addition to Streetman's. At 3:30 a.m. Streetman's wife thought she heard gun shots at their home. The Streetmans had bought video surveillance cameras for the house, and police said some clips show the driver of a green Ford Mustang firing "two potentially deadly rounds" at Streetman's 1994 Acura.
He had upgraded from a can of blue spray paint and a paintball gun to a shotgun and a .22 caliber weapon, according to police records. The license plate on his new car said "WANDRR."
Less than 10 minutes later, Wise pulled up to Bostick's house and took another shot. This time the bullet ripped through the front door and lodged in the TV set.
He also visited his former office location, the Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Building. Early the next morning, police found two bullets near a shattered glass door. They were similar to those found in one of the CPE's exit doors earlier in the spring semester.
Wise was arrested three days later. Broadcast reports said police found 29 guns at his home. He is charged with a third-degree felony for stalking and deadly conduct, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
He was released for 18 hours on a $25,000 bond, before police took him back into custody for further investigation. His bond now set at $75,000, he awaits a trial date.
After Wise was released, few professors agreed to talk to The Daily Texan about his case. Some were concerned about their safety. Others worried about their standing with the dean.
"I think the typical person feels very sorry for him, but on the other hand, you don't want to look like you're going against the dean," Wagner said.
By contrast, Streetman has been candid about his former stalker.
"If you write a sympathetic story on Gary Wise, you'd be making a big mistake," Streetman said.
Wise has been receiving media attention for his arrest, and initial reactions have added to the perceptions of Wise's character and mental health.
John Morrison, who studied under Wise in the 1980s, said that current coverage has made Wise out to be a "horrible person."
"I don't think you can assign fault to him. I think it's just beyond his control," Morrison said.
Eric Hall, a friend who co-wrote a book with Wise in 1993, spoke to him recently. The last time was before the arrest. The two had been working on writing a new probability textbook for graduate students. In an e-mail interview, Hall says Wise is "by far the most brilliant person I encountered during my seven years of graduate work at UT."
Neither Devroye nor Wagner has seen Wise for more than five years. Both say he never got the help he needed.
"Even now," Devroye said, "I believe that he should not go to jail, but rather to the hospital."