JAHS Chapter 1:


11-22 ending at Kennedy's laying in state at WH

Add in motorcade pics 

And crime lab stuff palm print on box d 

mistaken descriptions of rifle


Shots 

death

bad coverage

clean up crew

response 

first witnesses

etc.




Shots on the Motorcade


Forget everything you think you know about the Kennedy assassination. Your mind is clear and open to new impressions. It is 11-22-63. You are sitting at home, listening to the radio, when suddenly a newsman interrupts your favorite show. 


He reads from a 12:34 P.M. UPI news bulletin: “Three shots were fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade in downtown Dallas.”

These are the words of Merriman Smith, a reporter for United Press International. Smith was sitting in the middle of the front seat of the presidential press pool car—a car riding but five cars back of the Presidential limousine in the motorcade--that was equipped with a phone. Upon hearing these shots, Smith grabbed ahold of this phone, called in this report, and refused to yield the phone to his fellow reporters. 

Now, to most humans, Smith’s behavior would be inappropriate, if not downright disgusting. Someone has shot at the President of the United States, and a veteran newsman has responded to this not by sharing the lone phone available to the press traveling with the President but by fighting off his fellow newsmen in order to hold onto a scoop. 

Of course, in journalism circles, this is the stuff of legend. 

According to this legend, Smith smothered the phone like a fumbled football in order to keep it from his chief competitor, Jack Bell of the Associated Press, as a now-diminished motorcade (a half a dozen motorcycle escorts, a lead car containing the Dallas Chief of Police and Dallas Sheriff, the President’s limousine, a Secret Service back-up car, the Vice-President’s car, a second Secret Service car, the Mayor’s car, and, finally, the press pool car) raced to Parkland Hospital.  

Here, moreover, is footage of the pool car a few seconds after the first shot was fired. It is turning onto Elm Street from Houston Street, heading straight towards the Texas School Book Depository, the building from which the shots were fired. (At least according to the legend... Remember, we're like Sgt. Schultz on the 1960's TV show Hogan's Heroes. We know nothing.)


This footage was created by NBC News cameraman Dave Wiegman, who was traveling in the convertible just behind the pool car. He turned his camera on at the sound of the first shot, and began filming, hoping to catch something, anything, of importance. He then leapt from his car and ran around for 40 seconds or so before climbing back into the vehicle. While the footage of this mad race is priceless, it may have cost Wiegman something even more valuable. As a result of his mad dash around Dealey Plaza—a grassy park in Dallas, Texas, the scene of the crime--the car in which he was riding fell behind the section of the motorcade racing to the hospital. And that part of history—the arrival of the motorcade at Parkland Hospital, and the transport of the President and Governor Connally into the hospital—went unrecorded. 

In any event, upon arrival at the hospital, Smith grabbed another phone and updated his story. This 12:39 flash reads: “Kennedy seriously wounded—perhaps seriously—perhaps fatally—by assassin’s bullet.”

A few minutes later, a more substantive bulletin followed. It reads: “President Kennedy and Gov. John B. Connally of Texas were cut down by an assassin’s bullets as they toured downtown Dallas in an open automobile today. The President, his limp body cradled in the arms of his wife, was rushed to Parkland Hospital. The Governor also was taken to Parkland. Clint Hill, a Secret Service agent assigned to Mrs. Kennedy, said, “He’s dead,” as the President was lifted from the rear of a white house touring car…”

A 12:45 follow-up adds: "Reporters about five car lengths behind the Chief Executive heard what sounded like three bursts of gunfire…There were three loud bursts. Dallas motorcycle officers escorting the President quickly leaped from their bikes and raced up a grassy knoll."

And then, at 12:54: “Some of the Secret Service agents thought the gunfire was from an automatic weapon fired to the right rear of the president's car, probably from a grassy knoll to which police rushed." 

Note that I have highlighted certain words in Smith’s last report. These words are at odds with what, first, the FBI, and later, The President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy (aka the Warren Commission), would come to conclude. These investigations held that the shots were fired seconds apart by a bolt-action rifle, and not by an automatic weapon. They also held that all three shots were fired from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository, a red brick building sitting at the right rear of the President when the shots were fired—and that none of them were fired from the grassy knoll in front of Kennedy, and to his right. 

Still, one might assume Smith’s reporting an anomaly, and that other reporters within the motorcade heard three well-spaced shots, and immediately suspected these shots came from a building in back of Kennedy.

But one would be wrong. 

Take a gander at the bulletins sent out by the Associated Press within the first half-hour or so of the President’s arrival at Parkland. The first bulletin was provided by James Altgens--an Associated Press photographer who witnessed the assassination from the curb on Elm Street, and then ran to find a phone. Here is this first bulletin:

“President Kennedy was shot as his motorcade left downtown Dallas. Mrs. Kennedy jumped up and grabbed him. She cried “Oh, no!” The motorcade sped on. Photographer James Altgens said he saw blood on the President's head. Altgens said he heard two shots but thought someone was shooting fireworks until he saw blood on the President. Altgens said he saw no one with a gun…”

Now, the rest of these bulletins come from Jack Bell, the Associated Press reporter riding in the pool car with Smith, who tried in vain to get access to its phone, but had to settle on calling in his reports from Parkland Hospital, along with everyone else. (Note: I have corrected some spelling errors and slightly edited both these AP bulletins and the previously cited UPI bulletins.)

“AP reporter Jack Bell… said Kennedy was transferred to an ambulance… Bell reported three shots were fired as the motorcade entered the triple underpass which leads to the Stemmons Freeway to Parkland Hospital. Pandemonium broke loose around the scene. The Secret Service waved the motorcade on at top speed to the hospital. Even at high speed it took nearly five minutes to get the car to the ambulance entrance of the hospital. Bell said a man and a woman were scrambling on the upper level of a walkway overlooking the underpass…Mrs. Kennedy was weeping and trying to hold up her husband’s head when reporters reached the car…Kennedy apparently was shot in the head. He fell face down in the back seat of his car. Blood was on his head. Mrs. Kennedy cried ‘Oh, no!’ and tried to hold up his head… Gov. John B Connally of Texas also was cut down by bullets. The President was slumped over in the backseat of the car face down. Connally lay on the floor of the rear seat. It was impossible to tell at once where Kennedy was hit but bullet wounds in Connally’s chest were plainly visible indicating the gunfire might possibly have come from an automatic weapon… It was difficult to determine immediately whether the First Lady and Mrs. Connally were injured. Vice President Johnson was in a car behind the President’s. There was no immediate sign that he was hurt--in fact there was no evidence at all at what might have happened to Johnson since only the President’s car and its Secret Service follow-up car went to the hospital.” 

Now, some of the surprising comments contained within these bulletins—Kennedy’s being transferred to an ambulance, Connally’s lying on the floor of the rear seat—were almost certainly the consequence of Bell’s making his report over the phone to a third party who typed it into a teletype—in other words, communication errors. But the bit about Johnson not going to the hospital? That’s either a cover story designed to protect Johnson, or sloppy, sloppy reporting. And the bit about automatic weapons? This was within minutes of Smith’s reporting that the Secret Service thought automatic weapons were fired on the President, probably from a grassy knoll. This would be quite the coincidence…if it was a coincidence.

Now note that Bell’s initial reporting made repeated references to the underpass--which had been in front of the president at the time of the shooting--and did not mention the buildings behind the president at the time of the shooting.  

Now consider that an AP article published in the Christchurch Star, shortly after the shooting, declared: “Three bursts of gunfire, apparently from automatic weapons, were heard.” 

Well, it’s clear then. Prior to the reporting of the roughly 1:00 P.M. discovery of a bolt-action rifle in the school book depository behind Kennedy at the time of the shooting, the suspicion among the nation’s top newswire reporters--Smith and Bell, who’d been traveling just five cars behind Kennedy in the motorcade—was that an automatic weapon had been fired at the President…from a location in front and to the right of Kennedy.  

In retrospect, moreover, this should not be surprising. When one looks at Dealey Plaza, and the location of the limousine when the shots were fired, it only makes sense that the shots would come from in front of Kennedy and to his right, from a white arcade or pergola (resting atop the “grassy knoll” so named by Smith), or from the railroad yards just west of this area. 

Here, see for yourself. 


The red arrow on the street reflects the location of the limousine while it was under fire. As we’ve seen, Smith and Bell were still on Houston Street, beginning a turn onto Elm, when the first shot rang out. It’s only natural, then, that they would assume the shots came from a concealed location the President was passing or approaching, such as the wooden fence just west of the arcade, or the underpass, and not a location he’d passed seconds before.  

But it wasn’t just Smith and Bell who initially suspected shots came from in front of the President. Here’s Altgens, in an eyewitness account sent over the AP newswire that evening, after the discovery of a rifle in a building behind the President. (This more detailed account was also published in the 11-25-63 issue of Stars and Stripes.):

"There was a burst of noise - the second one I heard - and pieces of flesh appeared to fly from President Kennedy's car. Blood covered the whole left side of his head. Mrs. Kennedy saw what had happened to her husband. She grabbed him exclaiming, "Oh, No!" The car's driver realized what had happened and almost as if by reflex speeded up towards the Stemmons Expressway. There seemed to be utter confusion. One motorcycle officer ran his cycle into the curb, almost falling off. Police came from everywhere as the President's car disappeared from sight. At first I thought the shots came from the opposite side of the street. I ran over there to see if I could get some pictures. But it turned out to be just more confusion. Police ran in all directions in search of the assassin. I did not know until later where the shots came from. I was on the opposite side of the President's car from the gunman. He might have hit me. The motorcade was moving along in routine fashion until there was a noise like fireworks popping. I snapped a picture of the motorcade at just about that time, still unaware of what was happening. I cranked my camera for another shot. The procession still moved along slowly. Then came the second burst of noise." 

And here’s the photo taken by Altgens just about the time the fireworks popped.


Note that the southeast corner of the school book depository—the supposed location from which all the shots were fired---is far down the street, behind Kennedy.

Now, if all the shots were fired from this building, as per the Warren Commission's subsequent conclusion, does it make a lick of sense that Smith and Bell, in a car right below the supposed sniper’s nest, and Altgens, on the street a hundred yards or so to the west of them, would all initially suspect shots had been fired from the grassy knoll area across the street from Altgens?

Perhaps. But here’s the key to picking up what I am putting down: I’m not here to say this is impossible or that is impossible, or that since this is possible it must be true. I’m here to assess what is likely. 

Or unlikely...

And it seems unlikely that Smith, Bell, and Altgens would all come away with the impression shots were fired from in front of Kennedy, should they all have been fired from behind.


Above: the scene outside Parkland Hospital in Dallas as the public awaited word of the President's condition. 

See B.S.

Although much about the assassination of John F. Kennedy is in dispute, or tinged with mystery, most everyone agrees he was shot in the head on a Dallas street about 12:30 PM CST11-22-63, and that he was pronounced dead at Parkland Hospital shortly before 1:00 PM CST. 

While this marked the end of history for Kennedy, his death marked the beginning of a bizarre new chapter in American history...that continues to this day.

CBS News, whose reporting on the shooting was to become the stuff of legend, reported so many falsehoods and half-truths in the first hour after the shooting that one might wonder why the entire news team wasn't fired. As we've seen, within a few minutes of the shooting, the Associated Press reported that Kennedy had been transferred to an ambulance before being raced to Parkland Hospital. This non-fact was then repeated by such news legends as Walter Cronkite on CBS television, Dan Rather on CBS radio, and Chet Huntley on NBC television. 

The details of the shooting were especially muddled. Within a half-hour of the shooting, Walter Cronkite, once again repeating an inaccurate report from the news wire, solemnly told the nation: "Some of the Secret Service agents thought the gunfire, however, came from an automatic weapon fired to the right rear of the Chief Executive's car, possibly from a grassy knoll, and that's that knoll to which motorcycle policeman were seen racing and where the huddled figures of a man and a woman were seen on the ground with a crowd surrounding, which suggests of course that perhaps this is where the shots came from. This we do not know as yet, positively." Moments later, Eddie Barker, reporting from Dallas, compounded this mistake, declaring: "The report is that the attempted assassins--we now hear it was a man and a woman--were on the ledge of a building near the Houston Street underpass." Soon afterward, Cronkite told the nation: "Governor Connally was shot, apparently, twice in the chest." 

After this rush to speculation, however, Cronkite grew more cautious, and stressed that they had unconfirmed reports that Kennedy was dead and unconfirmed reports Connally was in surgery. He then reported that a Secret Service agent had been killed in the line of duty while trying to protect Kennedy, noting that "apparently, this is correct." (Apparently, it wasn't). 

But Cronkite's cavalcade of confusion was far from over. Moments later, after reading a report that Governor Connally had said he was hit from the back, Cronkite tried to correlate this information with the information previously received. He told his audience: "Governor Connally could very possibly have been shot in the back with the assassin's bullet still coming from the front of the car. He rode in a small jump seat in the center of the back of the specially-built presidential limousine." (Apparently, Cronkite thought the jump seats faced the back of the limousine.) 

Above: Assistant White House Press Secretary Malcolm Kilduff announces the death of the President. Incredibly, this was not broadcast live. As a result, many of the reporters in the room raced out of the room upon Kilduff's announcement...in an attempt to be be the first to a telephone. 

The cavalcade continued. After receiving word that a witness claimed to see a man fire at Kennedy from the Texas School Book Depository, which was behind Kennedy at the time of the shooting, Cronkite held up a photo of Kennedy in the motorcade and asserted"The assassin took dead aim. He got the President, apparently, with the first shot in the head, and then Governor Connally with the next two shots." Cronkite failed to explain that CBS News now believed its earlier reports regarding multiple assassins and automatic weapons were inaccurate. He just changed the story as new information came along--whether or not this new information had been confirmed. As much as an hour after the shooting, in fact, Cronkite was still reporting that "a Secret Service man was also killed in the fusillade of shots that came apparently from a second floor window." (Ironically, he reported this canard just before reporting, affirmatively, that Kennedy had passed.) 

Above: CBS newsman Walter Cronkite removes his glasses to announce the death of the President.

Should one wonder where CBS got this story that a Secret Service Agent had been killed, moreover, one should consider that 1) around this same time an AP dispatch (found in the Racine Journal-Times) reported that "A Secret Service agent and a Dallas policeman were shot and killed today some distance from the area where President Kennedy was assassinated" and 2) that ABC News claimed they'd received confirmation from the Dallas Sheriff's office both that a Secret Service agent had been killed and that four shots had been fired at the limousine. 

Even worse, when one considers the subsequent refusal of the American people to believe the findings of the Warren Commission, was the analysis of Don Goddard, V.P. of ABC News. After explaining that American assassins normally use pistols and make no attempt to escape, he pronounced that "This must have been a very carefully planned terrible tragedy and conspiracy." 

It was but a short time later, however, that such talk came to a trickle. The Dallas Police had a suspect--Lee Harvey Oswald--who worked in the building from which the police now claimed shots had been fired, and who was arrested in a theatre after purportedly killing a cop. 

This gave the newsmen something to talk about besides how little they knew about the shooting...


Above and below: two photos of Oswald's arrest at the Texas Theatre. 

Within a few minutes of Oswald's arrest, for that matter, the press got a chance to redeem itself--to report on a major news event without flubbing the facts or coming to incorrect conclusions. 

Let's see how they did...

But first...a little rewind. 


Scrambled History

At approximately 12:45 P.M., within 15 minutes of Kennedy's being shot, assassination witness William Newman, who was less than 30 feet to the right rear of Kennedy when the fatal bullet struck, was interviewed live on television station WFAA. This was 45 minutes before the announcement of Kennedy’s death. Newman told Jay Watson: "We were at the curb when this incident happened. But the President’s car was some fifty feet in front of us still yet in front of us coming toward us when we heard the first shot and the President. I don't know who was hit first but the President jumped up in his seat, and I thought it scared him, I thought it was a firecracker, cause he looked, you know, fear. And then as the car got directly in front of us, well, a gun shot apparently from behind us hit the President in the side, the side of the temple.” 

Now here's where things get sticky. As Newman said this, Watson was leaning over his right shoulder, so Newman pointed to his left temple, with his only free hand. 

Here, see for yourself...

Now, newsman Watson then did his job, and asked if non-newsman Newman thought this second shot came from the same direction as the first. Newman responded: "I think it came from the same location apparently back up on the mall, whatchacallit...not on the viaduct itself but up on top of the hill, on the mound, of ground, in the garden." 

So that was what America, and the world, was told, in the moments after the assassination--that Kennedy had been shot in the left temple from a mound behind where Bill Newman had been standing. This seemed to jive, moreover, with what motorcycle officer (and supposed Kennedy bodyguard) James Chaney had just told a radio interviewer--that the second of two shots had struck Kennedy in the "face." (At the time, of course, no one knew Newman had been standing on the right side of Kennedy, and that he'd pointed to the wrong temple.) 

That didn't last long. 

At 1:17, about a half-hour later, Watson interviewed Gayle Newman, who'd been standing right beside her husband and had had an equally close look at the President's wound. She reported: "We were standing next to the curb so the children could see the President. And the car was just up apiece from us and this shot fired out, and I thought it was a firecracker, and the President kind of raised up in his seat. And I thought, you know, he was kind of going along with a gag or something. And then all of a sudden the next one popped, and Governor Connally grabbed his stomach and kind of laid over to the side. And then another one—it was just awful fast. And President Kennedy reached up and grabbed--it looked like he grabbed--his ear and blood just started gushing out." Now, as she said this she motioned to her right temple with both of her hands. 

Here, see for yourself...

Well, alright. That's one left and one right. Shall we go for a tie-breaker?

At 1:33 p.m., when Assistant Press Secretary Malcolm Kilduff announced President Kennedy’s death from Parkland Hospital, he told the country: “President John F. Kennedy died at approximately one o’clock Central Standard Time today here in Dallas. He died of a gunshot wound in the brain…The President was shot once, in the head...Dr. Burkley [Dr. George Burkley, Kennedy's personal physician] told me it is a simple matter…of a bullet right through the head. 

Now, at this time, Kilduff pointed to his right temple

When then asked where the bullet entered, Kilduff specified "It is my understanding that it entered in the temple, the right temple.”

Well, alright, that's two right, one left. Shall we go get another? 

Sure. Less than forty minutes after the announcement of Kennedy's death, at roughly 2:10 P.M., eyewitness Abraham Zapruder took his turn before the cameras on WFAA, and confirmed the observations of Burkley and Gayle Newman. Describing the shooting, Zapruder told Jay Watson: “Then I heard another shot or two, I couldn't say it was one or two, and I saw his head practically open up, all blood and everything (at this time, and as shown below, Zapruder grabbed his right temple), and I kept on shooting. That's about all, I'm just sick, I can't…”

And so...by 2:15 P.M. CST, 11-22-63, the news media had had four primary sources of information regarding Kennedy's wounds--the fresh recollections of three eyewitnesses to the shooting, and the President's Press Secretary quoting the President's personal physician. And all had indicated there was a large bloody wound on the front of Kennedy's head...

So let's see how this information was presented to the public...


A Tragedy of Errors

At 2:16 PM CST, two of the doctors who'd tried to save Kennedy--Dr.s Malcolm Perry and William Kemp Clark--appeared before the media. 

Now, for a number of years following this press conference, the exact words of Perry and Clark were debated. But by the mid 1970's, a transcript was discovered at the LBJ Presidential Library in Texas. And this is what it said...they said...

Above: the 11-22-63 Parkland Press Conference in which Dr.s Malcolm Perry and William Kemp Clark first described President Kennedy's wounds to the public. 

Dr. Malcolm Perry, who had performed a tracheostomy on the President in an effort to save his life: "Upon reaching his side, I noted that he was in critical condition from a wound of the neck and of the head...Immediate resuscitative measures were undertaken, and Dr. Kemp Clark, Professor of Neurosurgery, was summoned, along with several other members of the surgical and medical staff. They arrived immediately, but at this point the President's condition did not allow complete resuscitation...The neck wound, as visible on the patient, revealed a bullet hole almost in the mid line... In the lower portion of the neck, in front ...Below the Adam's apple." (When asked if a bullet had passed through Kennedy's head) "That would be conjecture on my part. There are two wounds, as Dr. Clark noted, one of the neck and one of the head. Whether they are directly related or related to two bullets, I cannot say...There was an entrance wound in the neck. As regards the one on the head, I cannot say." (When asked the direction of the bullet creating the neck wound) "It appeared to be coming at him." (When asked the direction of the bullet creating the head wound) "The nature of the wound defies the ability to describe whether it went through it from either side. I cannot tell you that."(When asked again if there was one or two wounds) "I don't know. From the injury, it is conceivable that it could have been caused by one wound, but there could have been two just as well if the second bullet struck the head in addition to striking the neck, and I cannot tell you that due to the nature of the wound. There is no way for me to tell...The wound appeared to be an entrance wound in the front of the throat; yes, that is correct. The exit wound, I don't know. It could have been the head or there could have been a second wound of the head. There was not time to determine this at the particular instant." 

Dr. William Kemp Clark, who had examined the President's head wound and pronounced him dead: "I was called by Dr. Perry because the President... had sustained a brain wound. On my arrival, the resuscitative efforts, the tracheostomy, the administration of chest tubes to relieve any...possibility of air being in the pleural space, the electrocardiogram had been hooked up, blood and fluids were being administered by Dr. Perry and Dr. Baxter. It was apparent that the President had sustained a lethal wound. A missile had gone in or out of the back of his head, causing extensive lacerations and loss of brain tissue. Shortly after I arrived, the patient, the President, lost his heart action by the electrocardiogram, his heart action had stopped. We attempted resuscitative measures of his heart, including closed chest cardiac massage, but to no avail." (When asked to describe the course of the bullet through the head) "We were too busy to be absolutely sure of the track, but the back of his head...Principally on his right side, towards the right side...The head wound could have been either the exit wound from the neck or it could have been a tangential wound, as it was simply a large, gaping loss of tissue." 

Above: Dr. William Kemp Clark (the tall man standing back by the chalkboard) and Dr. Malcolm Perry (at right) during their 11-22-63 press conference.

Now, to be fair, the newspapers rushed out in the immediate aftermath of the shooting had contained only the sketchiest of details, much of which was inaccurate. The Boston Globe's first attempt at telling the story, in its 11-22-63 Evening Edition, for example, contained two dueling inaccuracies on its front page. The UPI article on the right side of this page began "A single shot through the right temple took the life of the 46-year old chief executive." And the Dallas-datelined AP article on the left side of its page began "A Secret Service agent and a Dallas policeman were shot and killed today some distance from the area where President Kennedy was assassinated." (The story that emerged would be that Kennedy was shot at least twice from behind, and that no Secret Service agent was shot and killed, or even shot, or even involved in a shooting, beyond helplessly watching Kennedy get shot.)

And TV was no better. But a few minutes before the press conference, Dan Rather had told his CBS audience that "we've been told" that the fatal bullet "entered at the base of the throat and came out at the base of the neck on the back side." 

And so this press conference served a purpose--an all-important purpose--to get the facts out there so the media would stop badly mis-informing the public.

It was not without success.

Shortly after the press conference began, less than ten minutes after Rather had made out that a bullet had entered Kennedy's throat and had exited from the back of his neck, Walter Cronkite corrected this canard for CBS' audience. He reported: "We have word from Dr. Malcolm Perry, the surgeon at Parkland Hospital who attended President Kennedy. He says that when he arrived at the Emergency Room, he noticed the President was in critical condition with a wound of the neck and head. When asked if the wounds could have possibly been made by two bullets, he said he did not know." Cronkite then described some of the care Kennedy received while at Parkland, including that he'd received a tracheotomy. 

But the other networks and news agencies weren't so precise, or accurate. 

It seems clear, moreover, that many of these mistakes were spurred not by these reporters understanding too little, but by their knowing too much. FOUR sources (five if you count Chaney) had told the nation prior to the Parkland press conference that the President had received a bloody wound on the front of his head. 

And yet no such wound was mentioned by the doctors who'd inspected Kennedy's wounds...in a press conference designed to clear up confusion!

There's also this to consider... Prior to the press conference, three sources--United Press International, the Associated Press, and eyewitness Bill Newman--had suggested or reported that shots had been fired from in front of Kennedy... 

And now Dr. Perry had joined their ranks--by describing Kennedy's neck wound as an entrance...

So, yeah, in retrospect, it's not at all surprising that much of the reporting on this press conference was wrong, or at the very least, confusing...

In his own rushed report on the press conference, NBC's Robert MacNeil summarized: "A bullet struck him in front as he faced the assailant." As NBC had previously reported that Kennedy had been struck in the head, its viewers would undoubtedly have taken from this that Kennedy had been struck in the head from the front. 

And other news reports supported this belief. An AP dispatch on the press conference quoted on WOR radio at 2:43 CST claimed that Dr. Perry said "the entrance wound was on the front of the head." This dispatch, moreover, was quoted far and wide. The Albuquerque Tribune, on the stands within hours of the press conference, related: "Dr. Malcolm Perry, attendant surgeon at Parkland Hospital who attended President Kennedy, said when he arrived at the emergency room 'I noticed the President was in critical condition with a wound of the neck and head.' When asked if possibly the wounds could have been made by two bullets, he said he did not know." The article concluded, however, that "When asked to specify, Perry said the entrance wound was in the front of the head."

They were not to be outdone, for that matter. The 11-23 San Francisco Chronicle, building upon the inaccurate reports of the AP and UPI, put its own spin on the press conference, reporting "At Parkland Hospital, Dr. Malcolm Perry said Mr. Kennedy suffered a neck wound--a bullet hole in the lower part of the neck--and a second wound in the forehead." 

Even the great ones got it wrong. An 11-23 New York Times article on the press conference reported: "Mr. Kennedy was hit by a bullet in the throat, just below the Adam's Apple... This wound had the appearance of a bullet's entry. Mr. Kennedy also had a massive gaping wound in the back and one on the right side of the head. However, the doctors said it was impossible to determine immediately whether the wounds had been caused by one bullet or two." 

The doctors, of course, had never mentioned a gaping wound on Kennedy's back.  

At 3:30 PM CST, Dr.s Perry and Kemp once again spoke to the press, this time on the phone to local reporters unable to attend the official press conference. Connie Kritzberg of The Dallas Times-Herald was one of these reporters. Her article on the President's wounds was published on 11-23.


Neck Wounds Bring Death 

   Wounds in the lower front portion of the neck and the right rear side of the head ended the life of President John F. Kennedy, say doctors at Parkland Hospital. 
   Whether there were one or two wounds was not decided. 
   The front neck hole was described as an entrance wound. The wound at the back of the head, while the principal one, was either an exit or tangential entrance wound. A doctor admitted that it was possible there was only one wound. 
   Kemp Clark, 38, chief of neurosurgery, and Dr. Malcolm Perry, 34, described the President's wounds. Dr. Clark, asked how long the President lived in the hospital, replied, "I would guess 40 minutes but I was too busy to look at my watch."
   Dr. Clark said the President's principal wound was on the right rear side of his head. 
   "As to the exact time of death we elected to make it - we pronounced it at 1300. I was busy with the head wound."
   Dr. Perry was busy with the wound in the President's neck. 
   "It was a midline in the lower portion of his neck in front."
   Asked if it was just below the Adam's apple, he said, "Yes. Below the Adam's apple.'
   "There were two wounds. Whether they were directly related I do not know. It was an entrance wound in the neck."
   The doctors were asked whether one bullet could have made both wounds or whether there were two bullets.
   Dr. Clark replied. "The head wound could have been either an exit or a tangential entrance wound."
   The neurosurgeon described the back of the head wound as:
   "A large gaping wound with considerable loss of tissue."
   Dr. Perry added, "It is conceivable it was one wound, but there was no way for me to tell. It did however appear to be the entrance wound at the front of the throat." 
   "There was considerable bleeding. The services of the blood bank were sent for and obtained. Blood was used."
   The last rites were performed in "Emergency Operating Room No. 1."
   There were at least eight or 10 physicians in attendance at the time the President succumbed. Dr. Clark said there was no possibility of saving the President's life. 
   The press pool man said that when he saw Mrs. Kennedy she still had on her pink suit and that the hose of her left leg was saturated with blood. In the emergency room, Mrs. Kennedy, Vice President Johnson and Mrs. Johnson grasped hands in deep emotion. 


In attempting to clear up confusion, Clark and Perry had only stirred the pot.

Still, the nature of Kennedy's wounds was not the only part of the story muddled up by the press. 
An 11-22-63 UPI article by Merriman Smith, who would win the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting, claimed Governor "Connally was hit in the head and back," at the same time CBS was telling its viewers Connally had multiple chest wounds. Neither report was accurate, of course. An 11-22 article rushed out for the Dallas Times-Herald, moreover, reported both that "Bullets apparently came from a high-powered rifle in a building at Houston and Elm" and that a witness said: "the motorcade had just turned onto Houston Street from Main Street when a shot rang out. Pigeons flew up from the street. Then, two more shots rang out and Mr. Kennedy fell to the floor of the car. The shots seemed to come from the extension of Elm Street from just beyond the Texas School Book Depository Building..." 

Hmmm... Someone reading this article would quite possibly have concluded the President was shot by more than one assassin while riding on Houston Street. 

Let's check back in with CBS. Around 3:40 PM EST (2:40 CST), more than two hours after the shooting, Dan Rather reported "There have been a number of suspects arrested by Dallas police, Dallas County Sheriff's Officers. One of the suspects was a 25-year old white youth. He was the first one arrested. He was in the vicinity of a multi-storied building, near the scene where President Kennedy and Texas Governor Connally were shot. On the fourth or fifth floor--it has never been completely determined on which floor of that building--four empty cartridges were found." 

Ahem... This was, according to what the public would soon be told, the wrong number of cartridges...on the wrong floor. The arrested man, moreover, (Larry Florer) was quickly released.  

And NBC was no better... NBC anchorman Frank McGee, after showing his viewers a photo of a sniper rifle being removed from the book depository, reported "The best we can make out now the President's motorcade had really traveled perhaps a few yards beyond this point and that the fatal shots that were fired were fired from behind and struck him in the back of the head." He then added "and then incongruously some way another bullet struck him in the front of the neck." 

Incongruously, the possibility there was more than one shooter was not to be discussed.   

Now, let's take a break. Study this photo. (FWIW, I believe it originated with the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram.) It's Dealey Plaza, the assassination site of President John F. Kennedy. Within an hour or so of the assassination the American news media knew Kennedy's limousine was in the location marked by an X when he first got shot, and that a rifle was found in one of the circled windows in the building back behind him. 

And within an hour after that, they knew an employee of that building had been arrested.

And yet they kept saying things to suggest a shot came in from the front...for days and days afterwards. 

With all due respect, they were grasping at straws, and feeding the public crap... They should have openly discussed the possibility Dr. Perry was wrong when he'd said the throat wound looked like an entrance wound, and openly discussed the possibility that, if he was not wrong, there might be a second shooter still on the loose.

But, strangely, no one was willing to go there...

Apparently, it was perfectly okay to say "shots came from the front," and then follow that up with "but a rifle was found behind," but it was not okay to connect the dots and say maybe just maybe there'd been more than one shooter.

The early reporting was awful...an embarrassment of riches--well, not exactly riches but blithering nonsense. The Contents section of U.S. News and World Report in 1963 claimed that each issue reached the streets the Monday before its street date, after having gone to press the Friday before that. Its first articles on the assassination were in its 12-2-63 issue. This, then, suggests that these articles were written on the 22nd, just after the shooting and just as the magazine was going to press. 

And they show it... U.S. News' initial article on the shooting was seriously short on facts, or at least the facts as most have come to know them. It declared "The assassin killed President Kennedy with a single shot from a powerful .30 caliber rifle. The bullet struck in the neck and emerged from the back of the head." 

Yep, in light of what would rapidly become the accepted version of events, that's the wrong number of shots...coming in from the wrong direction...and fired from the wrong kind of rifle. Yes, this is what one of the top magazines in the country was telling its readers as long as 10 days after the shooting. 

And yet, confused as these early accounts were, they were consistent on one thing--there was only one shooter. Yes, not only did U.S. News declare there was but one "assassin" before the writers of the article could possibly know anything about Lee Harvey Oswald (soon to be the sole suspect, who was never even mentioned in the magazine), but a companion piece on the motorcade announced in its title "A Thousand Well-Wishers--And One Assassin." 

Oh yeah...

The Suspected Assassin

Oswald's arrest gave the media someone new to pester in the hallways of the Dallas Police Department. 

Here is Oswald as first put on display for reporters... (Note that Oswald's showing the press his handcuffs was widely reported as his performing a "Communist salute," whatever that is...)

And here's Oswald a bit later, where he actually took some questions...

And here's Oswald with a camera in his face...

Oswald denied everything, of course. He did not shoot a cop. He did not shoot the President. He did not have an attorney. He had simply gotten into a scuffle with some cops who'd harassed him in a theatre. In the halls of the Dallas Police Dept., if not in the halls of justice, Oswald thereby planted a seed in the American subconscious--that he was just what he said he was: nothing but a patsy.

His case for patsy status would be fortified, moreover, by the negligence of those investigating Kennedy's murder. The numerous interrogations of Oswald over the next two days were not recorded, transcribed verbatim, or even recorded in detailed notes. They were reconstructed by the surviving participants--members of the DPD, FBI, Secret Service, and Post Office--from their memories, with the possible assistance of some skeletal notes...that they failed to provide the Warren Commission.

But that's a bit down the road...

So what was President Johnson doing all this time?

Funny I should ask...



"Sinister" and "Obscene"

While the rest of the world was worried about Mrs. Kennedy, or her children, or themselves, seeing as they no longer knew what kind of country they were living in, President Johnson (he became President upon Kennedy's death), was chiefly worried about himself.

Now I know that sounds unfair, but that's what the record shows. Johnson was afraid how it would look if he flew back to Washington without Kennedy's remains and widow. So he waited in their plane--his plane, identical in tactical ability, but lacking a private bedroom, was packed up and ready to go--on the Love Field tarmac, and refused to leave until 1) his luggage could be brought over from his plane, and 2) the Secret Service brought his predecessor's body and Mrs. aboard. He also worried about Robert Kennedy--and if he (RFK) would somehow try to block his (Johnson's) constitutionally-mandated ascent to the throne. So he arranged to be sworn into office on the plane before take-off, and then dictated a memo falsely claiming it had been RFK's idea that he do so. (He would also falsely claim he'd set aside the private bedroom for Mrs. Kennedy's use, when, in fact, she arrived to find him sprawled out on the bed, with the door shut, and only his personal secretary for company--and then let his wife use the room for the bulk of the flight.) He then asked the still-in-shock Mrs. Kennedy to stand beside him during the swearing-in--and said nothing when the media reported that she (Mrs. Kennedy) had delayed both his swearing-in and the take-off of his plane (when the truth was that it was he who had delayed Mrs. Kennedy's departure--by 20 minutes or more--by making her wait around till Judge Sarah Hughes--who'd Johnson tasked with performing the completely unnecessary swearing-in ceremony--could make her way to the plane.) And so on...

The rock bottom was reached at the moment captured above. There, in a photo taken by White House photographer Cecil Stoughton--that was subsequently disappeared from the archives, only to be found on a contact sheet at the Johnson Library--Johnson's long-time crony Albert Thomas was caught in the act of winking at Johnson, just after Johnson became President, around 2:38 P.M. 

Now, this may have been innocent--an "I know you can do it" wink--but it may also have been more--an "I'm so glad you're finally on top" wink. Thomas had worked alongside Johnson for decades. He was terminally ill. A dinner in his honor was at the center of Kennedy's trip to Texas. Those prone to suspicion, then, may have seen Thomas' wink as something even more--an "I told you we could pull this off" wink. 

But no matter the intention, Johnson's actions on the plane--and in the immediate aftermath of the shooting--rubbed some the wrong way. White House photographer Stoughton said he thought Thomas' wink was "sinister." Kennedy military aide Godfrey McHugh said he thought Johnson's behavior on the plane was "obscene." 

In any event, as Air Force One soared back to Washington, Mrs. Kennedy was offered the choice of having her husband's autopsy performed at Walter Reed Army Hospital or Bethesda Naval Hospital. She chose Bethesda as the place where the questions would be answered. This proved to be a mistake. The hospital at Bethesda proved as inadequate at performing forensic autopsies as America's newspapers proved at reporting accurate information regarding the President's wounds. 


The Great Man Speaks

Amidst all this chaos, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover tried to do his job. He really did. Cognizant of the fact Robert Kennedy remained his boss, though his brother was dead, Hoover called Kennedy to keep him informed of the latest developments in the case... 

And completely botched it up... Hoover's notes from this day reflect not only that he told Kennedy the suspected assassin Lee Harvey Oswald had run into two police officers a block or two away from the assassination site and had killed one of them in a shoot-out, but that Oswald had visited Cuba multiple times. As a solo Dallas policeman had been killed a few miles away from the assassination site without ever firing his gun, and as Oswald had never been to Cuba, these statements were quite incorrect, and suggest that either Hoover's information or his ability to grasp such information was seriously flawed. 

And Hoover wasn't the only senior having a senior moment...

As dusk descended in Washington, grandfatherly ex-President Dwight Eisenhower took to the airwaves and assured the masses huddled before their boob tubes that "Americans are loyal, and it's just this occasional psychopathic accident that occurs, and I don't know what we can do about it." It's unclear if Eisenhower had been following the developments in Dallas, and had already decided that Lee Harvey Oswald, an employee of the building from which shots were fired, and a suspect in the murder of a Dallas police officer, was a "psychopathic sort of accident." But he certainly prepared the American people to think as much.  

In any event, by 4:58 PM (CST), the time of the Air Force One's arrival at Andrews Air Force base in Maryland, the air of uncertainty when Air Force One took off from Dallas had been transformed into an air of certainty in Washington: there was a new Sheriff in town. And his name was Lyndon Johnson. 

It should be noted, moreover, that RFK was one of those, shall we say, less-than-enamored with this development. It's been reported that when Air Force One arrived in Washington, Robert Kennedy raced onto the plane and dragged his sister-in-law off the back of the plane, lest she be forced into exiting the plane arm-in-arm with Johnson. 

Wait. We have pictures. 

Here's RFK sneaking his sister-in-law (the First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy) out the back door of Air Force One with her husband's body. The plane is reported to have landed at 4:58 (CST). So this would be shortly after 5:00 (CST).  





And here's the tarmac at Andrews but 10 minutes later as Lyndon Johnson made his first speech as President. Always eager to share responsibility, he asked for the help of the American people "and God's." 

Into Night

Alas, the train of misinfo rolled on. More than four hours after the Italian Mannlicher-Carcano rifle presumed to have been used in the assassination had been found in the school book depository, and nearly as long after Oswald had been arrested in a movie theater without firing a shot, the great Walter Cronkite told his viewers that the rifle found in the depository had been a German Mauser (a story that would not be corrected until the next day), and that Oswald was accused of killing a policeman in a shootout at a theater (This was not true--Officer J.D. Tippit had been killed on a suburban street). 

Now, hmmm, it might not have been a coincidence, then, that, shortly after Cronkite's mis-identification of the rifle, Lt. J.C. Day of the Dallas Police crime lab just so happened to parade the presumed assassination rifle across a room full of reporters, and photographers. This is shown below. A clock in some of the alternate shots of this photo reads 6:15.

(While Day would later claim he didn't know the room was gonna be full of reporters, this seems doubtful, seeing as Day had previously chosen to 1) dust the rifle for prints at the school book depository in front of WFAA cameraman Tom Alyea, and 2) parade the rifle before the cameramen outside the depository upon exit. More on Day and his attention-seeking later...)

Yes, darkness had descended and the Johnson Administration had more on its mind than the mainstream news media's totally confusing the public (and the Dallas Police's parading evidence before the press). Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade had let it be known he suspected Oswald was but one actor in a larger conspiracy. (The next morning's Dallas Morning News, in fact, claimed that Wade had intimated that "preliminary reports indicated more than one person was involved in the shooting" and that he'd said "Everyone who participated in this crime--anyone who helped plan it or furnished a weapon, knowing the purposes for which it was intended--is guilty of murder under Texas law" and that they "should all go to the electric chair.")

Wade's comments, moreover, were bland as milk compared to those of his assistant, Bill Alexander, who was hinting to the press that Oswald would be charged with acting as part of a communist conspiracy. 

Well, this just wouldn't do. Wade was interviewed for a November 1988 article in American History Illustrated by Edward Oxford. There, he revealed: “Cliff Carter, President Johnson’s aide, called me three times from the White House Friday night. He said that President Johnson felt any word of a conspiracy—some plot by foreign nations—to kill President Kennedy would shake our nation to its foundation. President Johnson was worried about some conspiracy on the part of the Russians. Oswald had all sorts of connections and affections toward Castro’s Cuba. It might be possible to prove a conspiracy with Cuba. But it would be very hard to prove a conspiracy with Russia. Washington’s word to me was that it would hurt foreign relations if I alleged a conspiracy—whether I could prove it or not. I would just charge Oswald with plain murder and go for the death penalty. So I went down to the Police Department at City Hall to see Captain Fritz—to make sure the Dallas Police didn’t involve any foreign country in the assassination.

Yowza. Notice how Wade stopped himself and clarified that the conspiracy Johnson was so worried about was one involving “foreign nations.” Well, who was he kidding? As District Attorney of Dallas County, Wade would be powerless to bring a case against a foreign nation. He would be perfectly situated, however, to bring charges against Kennedy’s enemies in Texas, many of whom supported Johnson. And, besides, which kind of conspiracy would be more likely to shake the nation to its foundation? A foreign conspiracy? Nope, not hardly. A domestic conspiracy. It seems clear, then, that Johnson asked Wade to focus Fritz’s gaze on Lee Harvey Oswald, and that Wade complied, and felt dirty enough about it that he was still lying about it 25 years later.

Even so, Wade's promise of cooperation was apparently not enough. An 11-14-93 article in the Washington Post revealed that, at roughly the same time Johnson was having Carter contact Wade, he was having another close associate, Homer Busby, contact Texas Attorney General Waggoner Carr, and ask Carr to convene a state "court of inquiry" that would supersede the authority of the Dallas Police and the Dallas County District Attorney's office. 


Above: Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry (wearing glasses, at right), has a talk with some unseen person, while Dallas Police Capt. Will Fritz (white hat) listens in, and Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade (stroking chin) starts to worry. 

But these were not the last of Johnson's power grabs. Shortly after landing in Washington, President Johnson had his own talk with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. According to a Hoover memo, Johnson told him to ignore the inconvenient problem that he had no jurisdiction, and to simply take charge of the investigation. According to Cartha DeLoach, the FBI's liaison with the media, LBJ told Hoover to have a report on his desk in two days, and to use whatever powers the executive branch had to offer to accomplish this task. The substance of these recollections is supported, moreover, by Dallas Special-Agent-in-Charge (SAC) J. Gordon Shanklin's statement to the House Committee on the Judiciary in the 1970's. Shanklin told the Committee: "Late in the day, on November 22nd, I was ordered, confirmed by teletype, to conduct an investigation to determine who was responsible for killing the President."

Now, coincidentally, or perhaps not coincidentally, this was around the same time the case against Oswald began falling apart. While a number of witnesses had come forward and said they saw a sniper fire from the sixth floor of the depository, only one--Howard Brennan--had claimed he could identify this assassin if he saw him again. Well, Brennan was shown Oswald in a four-man line-up at 7:55 P.M.--and he refused to ID Oswald as the assassin. Now, to be clear, Brennan said Oswald looked most like the assassin of the four men in the line-up. But this wasn't saying much, seeing as Oswald was clearly the suspect and the man Brennan knew he was supposed to identify (Hmmm...maybe it was the black eye, or maybe it was the torn shirt, or maybe it was the scowl on his face). But he refused to ID him anyhow. 

Now here's where things get sticky. The Dallas Police failed to write a report acknowledging they'd had a witness who'd claimed he could ID the shooter, who'd been shown Oswald, and had failed to do so. This smells to high heaven. Oswald was yet to have an attorney. With no report in his file, whoever lucked into being Oswald's attorney would have no way of knowing that a prominent witness had said he could identify the shooter but had refused to ID Oswald. 

There's an even stranger aspect to this, moreover. Here's the note on this "show-up" that turned up decades after the fact. To be clear, this comes from a small address book used by Capt. Fritz to list the evidence in this case--that was eventually scanned and put online by the University of North Texas.

So...why was Brennan, a key witness in the murder of the President, brought in by Agent Sorrels of the Secret Service? The excuse that Oswald had not yet been charged in Kennedy's murder and that the other witnesses at this line-up were all witnesses to the murder of Police Officer J.D. Tippit doesn't hold water. Not one drop. Brennan had made his initial statement to the Dallas County Sheriff's Dept. The investigation into Kennedy's murder was headed by the Dallas Police Dept. So how does the Secret Service take control of the man who might very well be the star witness for a case to be prosecuted by the Dallas County District Attorney's Office? It simply makes no sense...unless...the Secret Service, much as the FBI, had been ordered to actively investigate Kennedy's murder, and to pay no mind to the local authorities who actually had jurisdiction. 

In any event, the witnesses at this show-up/line-up claiming to have received a good look at the shooter of Officer J.D. Tippit all ID'ed Oswald as that shooter, and this allowed the DPD to charge him with the murder of Officer J.D. Tippit.

Oswald's hands and cheek were then coated with paraffin, so that a nitrate test ( a primitive type of gunshot residue test) could be performed. He was then fingerprinted, and palm-printed. 

Here is a photo taken by Jim Murray shortly thereafter. On the far right side Crime Lab employee Pete Barnes holds up a palm print. Fellow Crime Lab employee Johnny Hicks is in the background. . 

And here is a second photo by Murray, this one a quick bit later. Barnes continues to discuss the palm print with the detectives. But Hicks is now on the phone. In Hicks' hand, moreover, is the kit he used to coat the paraffin on Oswald's hands and cheek. It appears, then, that he is on the phone with the Crime Lab specialists at Parkland Hospital, and is telling them some paraffin casts are on their way.  

Meanwhile, back in Washington, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover sprang into action. At 8:40 PM CST, the FBI distributed the following teletype to all its field offices: "All offices immediately contact all informants, security, racial and criminal, as well as other sources, for information bearing on assassination of President Kennedy. All offices immediately establish whereabouts of bombing suspects, all known Klan and hate group members, known racial extremists, and any other individuals who on the basis of information available in your files may possibly have been involved."  

Around 10:00 PM CST, the FBI sent another teletype to its field offices, this one even more instructive: "The Bureau is conducting an investigation to determine who is responsible for the assassination. You are therefore instructed to follow and resolve all allegations pertaining to the assassination. This matter is of utmost urgency and should be handled accordingly keeping the Bureau and Dallas, the office of origin, apprised fully of all developments." 

Around 11:00 PM, however, the already stumbling investigation in Dallas suffered another setback. Just three hours after Howard Brennan, the only witness to say he could identify the shooter seen firing from the sniper's nest, had said he couldn't identify Oswald as this shooter, Buell Frazier, realistically the only witness who could say if the paper bag supposedly found near the sniper's nest resembled the bag Oswald carried into work that morning, said nope, not remotely. The paper used to make the bag shown to Frazier was, according to Frazier, the wrong kind of paper, and the bag itself was too large, roughly twice the size of the bag Frazier saw in Oswald's possession.  

Making matters worse, moreover, is this. The Dallas Police gave Frazier a polygraph examination in part to see if he was lying about the bag, and he passed with flying colors. This polygraph then disappeared. Its results were not reported in the media. Its results were not even provided the FBI. It was only when following up on Frazier's claim the bag he saw in Oswald's possession was not the bag later placed into evidence, on 11-29, for that matter, that the FBI found out about this polygraph. 

By 11:18 PM Dallas Mayor Earl Cabell had had enough. While he'd mostly sat by as a parade of pundits criticized his city for its climate of intolerance and violence, he decided it was time to go on the defensive, and deflect the blame onto Lee Harvey Oswald. He told a national audience "I don't believe this event will hurt Dallas as a city. This was the act of a maniac who could have lived anywhere--a man who belonged to no city." The investigation into Oswald's possible guilt was only hours old, and already public figures were denouncing him as a homeless maniac.

At 11:49 PM CST it was announced that Lee Harvey Oswald had been officially charged with the murder of the President. That's right. Mayor Cabell had pronounced Oswald a "maniac" and guilty of killing Kennedy before Oswald had even been charged with the crime.

Above: Dallas Assistant District Attorney Bill Alexander with the document charging Oswald with the murder of the President. Alexander would later say he was only joking when he'd told reporters he'd planned on charging Oswald with acting as part of a communist conspiracy. But something about his face says he wasn't the joking type...

Yes, welcome to the wild, wild west...


Here Come Cowboys

Here's the accused getting yanked out of the homicide bureau so he could be paraded before the press. (That's Dallas Chief of Police Jesse Curry on the left and Det. Marlin Hall on the right.)

And here's Oswald as the so-called midnight press conference...

Around midnight, in order to show the world that Oswald, the Dallas Police's chief suspect in the case, had not been man-handled by the police, the Dallas Police allowed him a few minutes to talk to the media, in which he told them 1) he was innocent, and 2) he'd been hit by a policeman. (One of the many photos of this conference is shown above.)

But that wasn't the worst of it. The worst of it was that this quick Q and A was broadcast live around the world on TV, and that Oswald was surrounded by three grim-faced detectives (Marlin Hall, Richard Sims, and Elmer Boyd, from L to R, above) during this brief chat, and that the long-standing tradition within the Dallas Police was that these homicide detectives wore--you guessed it--cowboy hats. Well this was just bad optics. No, check that, really bad optics. Just awful. While novels and serials and movies had sold the world that cowboys were honorable and decent, they had also sold the world that cowboys live outside the law, and would go outside the law to achieve what was popularly known as "frontier justice."

Well, this was the LAST thing people around the world wanted to see. They wanted to see that law and order had been restored and that real justice would be achieved--not frontier justice in which local rednecks got to beat up the suspect and then parade around in Lone Ranger costumes. 

In any event, all through the night the FBI and Dallas Police worked together in lockstep. The Dallas Police sent much of the physical evidence gathered to the FBI's crime lab. The FBI pursued a few leads of its own. By morning, the FBI had linked Oswald to the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle found on the sixth floor of his work. They had also examined his background as a former resident of the Soviet Union. 

And they weren't the only ones who worked all through the night. By midnight, the autopsy of the President had been completed, and the subsequent reconstruction of his body and preparation for burial had begun. 

Around 2:00 AM, moreover, the FBI's Baltimore Office sent a teletype to FBI headquarters. This contained the first written description of the President's wounds...made by a Federal Agency. It revealed: ""Total body x-ray and autopsy revealed one bullet entered back of head and thereafter emerged through top of skull...One bullet hole located just below shoulders to right of spinal column and hand probing indicated trajectory angle of forty-five to sixty degrees downward and hole of short depth with no point of exit. No bullet located in body." (MD 149)  

Well, that's just...strange. There was no mention of the throat wound discussed at the Parkland press conference. 

In any event, after having been (mostly) reconstructed (by the staff of Gawler's Funeral Home), the President's body was placed in a casket and transported to the White House, where it would lay in state until Sunday afternoon. 

Here's a photo of the arrival of the President's flag-draped coffin at the White House. This was sometime after 3:30 in the morning on November 23rd, fifteen hours after President Kennedy was assassinated in Texas. And, yes, Mrs. Kennedy was still wearing the same blood-stained dress she'd been wearing in the motorcade! (When asked throughout that dreadful day if she would like to change clothes, she'd repetitively refused, and had added "Let them see what they have done.")




A look at what apparently wasn't seen


For reasons beyond my grasp, the first image in each chapter sometimes fails to appear. If there's nothing up above, don't despair; you can still see the image here

The Investigation That Never Was

Since the Warren Commission investigation was so closely framed around the FBI’s initial investigation, it’s important that we look at the FBI’s investigation in more detail, to see if the conclusions of Oswald’s sole guilt contained in the FBI’s report of December 9, 1963 had any basis in reality. Since the foundation of most murder investigations is the statements of eyewitnesses, we shall put ourselves in the shoes of an imaginary team of FBI agents given access to the earliest statements of the eyewitnesses and ordered to solve the case. For the sake of sanity, we will look at the witnesses in chronological order, with married couples grouped together, and with their pre-12-9 statements all in one batch. While we will eventually discuss the origin of the shots as interpreted by the witnesses, at this point we shall focus primarily on their placement of the head shot in the shooting sequence. (The citations printed before the statements refer to the volume and page where you can find the complete statements of these witnesses in the 26 volumes of the Warren Report. References to CD are references to Commission Documents, documents not released with the Warren Report, but now available on The Mary Ferrell Foundation website.) (Note: while quite extensive, this chronology is by no means complete.) 

Let’s start our examination by watching a little television. James Altgens. (11-22-63 WFAA announcement that the President had been shot) “An Associated Press photographer, James Altgens… reports he saw blood on the President’s head. The AP man said he heard two shots but that he thought someone was shooting fireworks until he saw blood on the President.” (11-22-63 AP dispatch, as reprinted in Cover-Up) “At first I thought the shots came from the opposite side of the street. I ran over there to see if I could get some pictures...I did not know until later where the shots came from." Heard two shots. (Despite his being one of the closest witnesses to the assassination, Altgens was not interviewed by the FBI prior to the distribution of its December 9 Summary Report.)

A short while later, a young man and his wife, the closest bystanders by the President at the moment of the fatal head shot, come on TV and describe what they’d witnessed. William Newman (11-22-63 interview on WFAA) “We were...we just come from Love Field after seeing the ...President and First Lady, and we were just in front of the triple underpass on Elm Street and we were at the edge of the curb, getting ready to wave at the President when we heard the first shot and the President...I don't know who was hit first but the President jumped up in his seat, and I thought it scared him, I thought it was a firecracker, cause he looked....you know, fear." (11-22-63 second interview on WFAA) “The president’s car was some fifty feet in front of us coming toward us when we heard the first shot and the President—I don’t know who was hit first—but the President jumped up in his seat…And then as the car got directly in front of us well a gunshot apparently from behind us hit the President in the side of the temple.” (11-22-63 third interview on WFAA) “We heard...uh..a blast...and the President looked like that he right jumped up in his seat.....and then he......we seen him....uh.....get shot in the side of the head and he fell back in the seat and Governor Connally was holding his stomach." (11-22-63statement to Dallas Sheriff’s Department, 24H219) “We were standing at the edge of the curb looking at the car as it was coming toward us and all of a sudden there was a noise, apparently gunshot.  The President jumped up in his seat, and it looked like what I thought was firecracker had went off and I thought he had realized it. It was just like an explosion and he was standing up.  By this time he was directly in front of us and I was looking directly at him when he was hit in the side of the head.” (11-24-63 FBI report, 22H842) “when the President’s car was approximately 50 feet from him proceeding in a westerly direction on Elm Street, he heard the first shots fired...the shots were fired in rapid succession which he thought at the time was a firecracker. The car was proceeding toward him and it seemed that the President’s arms went up and that he raised up in his seat and started to look around.The car proceeded to a point about even with him and he could see Governor John Connally was holding his stomach. About that time another shot was fired which he estimated was ten seconds after the first shot was fired. At that time he heard the bullet strike the president and saw flesh fly from the President’s head… Newman first thought the President and Governor were playing some kind of a game.” Only heard two bursts of gunfire.  

Frances Gayle Newman: (11-22-63 interview on WFAA) "I thought it was a firecracker and I saw the blood and I.....I had the baby and I .....I just ran and we....I got on top of him and laid on the grass. I....I was....it scared me. It was terrible."  (11-22-63 statement to Dallas Sheriff’s Department, 24H218)  “When President Kennedy’s car was about ten feet from us, I heard a noise that sounded like a firecracker going off.  President Kennedy kind of jumped like he was startled and then covered his head with his hands and then raised up.  After I heard the first shot, another shot sounded and Governor Connally kind of grabbed his chest and lay back on the seat of the car.  When I first saw and heard all this, I thought it was all of a joke…Just about the time President Kennedy was in front of us, I heard another shot ring out and the President put his hands up to his head, I saw blood all over the side of his head.” (11-24-63 FBI report, 22H842) “She estimated that when the limousine bearing the President was about 50 feet from them she heard 2 reports and the President seemed to rise up in his seat. A few seconds later she heard another shot and saw that the President had been hit in the head because she saw blood flowing from his body…She believed there were first two shots in succession, a pause, then another shot was fired which  struck the President… After the shots were fired, she and her husband each grabbed a child and lay down on the grass fearing they might be hit by gunfire.” Final shot head shot.

There's two more witnesses on the radio. They will later appear on our all-seeing television. These women were standing on Elm Street directly across from the Newmans. Jean Hill (11-22-63 WBAP interview) “the shots came directly across the street from us, and just as the President’s car became directly even with us…he and Jackie were looking at a dog that was in the middle of the seat, and about that time two shots rang out just as he looked up—just as the President looked up and these two shots rang out and he grabbed his chest, looked like he was in pain, and fell over in his seat.  And Jackie fell over on him and said “My God, he’s been shot!” After that more shots rang out and the car sped away…the shots came from the hill…it was just east of the underpass.” (11-22-63 WBAP interview, quoted in Pictures of the Pain) “Mary started to take the picture and the President came right even with us, two shot, we looked at him and he was looking at a dog in the middle of the seat—two shots rang out…And there was an interval and then three or four more shots…” (11-22-63  and he grabbed his chest and this real odd look came over his face and he pitched forward onto her lap…the motorcade momentarily halted and three or four more shots rang out and they sped away real quickly.” (11-22-63 statement to Dallas Sheriff’s Department, 19H479, 24H212) “The President’s car came around the corner and it was over on our side of the street. Just as Mary Moorman started to take a picture we were looking at the President and Jackie in the back seat… looking at a little dog between them…Just as the President looked up toward us two shots rang out and I saw the President grab his chest and fall forward across Jackie’s lap and she fell across his back and said “My God, he has been shot.” There was an instant pause between the first two shots and the motorcade seemingly halted for a second and three or four more shots rang out and the motorcade sped away.” Mary Moorman (11-22-63 WFAA interview, quoted in Pictures of the Pain)  “My picture when I took it was at the same instant that the President was hit, and that does show in my picture…it shows the President, uh, he slumped…It all happened so suddenly, I don’t think anyone realized, you know, what had happened.” (About the shots) “There was three or four real close together, and it must have been the first one that shot him, ‘cause that was the time I took the picture, and during that time after I took the picture, and the shots were still being fired, I decided I better get on the ground.” (11-22-63 statement to Dallas Sheriff’s Department, 19H487, 24H217) “As President Kennedy was opposite me, I took a picture of him.  As I snapped the picture of President Kennedy, I heard a shot ring out.  President Kennedy kind of slumped over.  Then I heard another shot ring out and Mrs. Kennedy jumped up and said “My God, he has been shot!” When I heard these shots ring out, I fell to the ground to keep from being hit myself.  I heard three or four shots in all.” (11-23-63 FBI, report, 22H838) “She took a second photograph of the President as his automobile passed her, and just as she snapped the picture, she heard what she first thought was a firecracker and very shortly thereafter heard another similar sound which she later determined to have been gunfire.  She knows that she heard two shots and possibly a third shot.” (When we look at Moorman’s second photograph in the paper on Sunday, and compare it to her position in the various films at our disposal, we realize that the shot in sync with her photo, and the first shot heard by both herself and Ms. Hill, was in fact the head shot.)  Shot or shots after the head shot x 2.  WFAA interview, quoted in Pictures of the Pain) “just as the car came right in line with us, the President looked up and just as he looked up two shots rang out

Only now does WFAA begin to talk of the Texas School Book Depository: “Secret Service man and policeman killed at different parts of the city from the Presidential assassination. The Texas School Book Depository has been evacuated. Man reported arrested in Oak Cliff.” (CD 962, p. 41) Minutes later WFAA begins broadcasting from in front of the building “Witnesses say they saw man with rifle in window. Shells found.”

We switch channels to CBS, and see Walter Cronkite inform the nation "The assassin took dead aim.  He  got the President, apparently, with the first shot in the head, and then Governor Connally with the next two shots." We wonder where he got this information. How does he know there was but one shooter?  How does he know which shot struck first?  We switch back to WFAA.

In between the various recaps and updates, there is another news bulletin: “Secret Service believes that an automatic weapon was fired from the top of the knoll.” (CD 962, p.37)  After a second round of interviews with the Newmans, the President’s death is announced. There is a third round of interviews with the Newmans (CD 962, p.60) before Kennedy’s death is confirmed by Washington.

Other witnesses appear upon our screen. One man claims he filmed the whole thing. Abraham Zapruder (11-22-63 interview on WFAA) “as I was shooting, as the President was coming down from Houston Street making his turn, it was about a half-way down there, I heard a shot, and he slumped to the side, like this. Then I heard another shot or two, I couldn't say it was one or two, and I saw his head practically open up, all blood and everything, and I kept on shooting.” (12-4-63 FBI report, CD7 p.12) “He stated he had started taking pictures prior to the first shot being fired…Zapruder advised he could not recall but having heard only two shots.” Unsure. Possible shot after the head shot. (Marilyn Sitzman, Zapruder’s secretary, was standing beside him. She was never questioned by the FBI or Warren Commission.) Within a few hours of this interview Abraham Zapruder gives 2 copies of his film to the Secret Service. Within an hour after that the Secret Service gives one of them to the FBI to study. This film is flown back to Washington and copied the next day.

Charles Brehm  (11-22-63 WFAA television interview as shown in Rush to Judgment) “Unfortunately I was probably 15-20 feet away from the President when it happened…He was coming down the Street.  I asked Joe to wave to him and Joe waved and I waved to him…as he was waving back, the shot rang out and he slumped in his seat and his wife reached up toward him as he was slumping down and the second shot went off and it just knocked him down in the seat.  I’m positive that it hit him.” (11-22-63radio interview (KLIF?) “the first shot rang out and I was positive when I saw the look on his face and saw him grab his chest and saw the reaction of his wife that he had been shot and just at that time, which was probably a few seconds later the second shot rang out and he just absolutely went down into the seat of the car. There was a third shot that went and by that time I had grabbed my little five year old boy who was with me and ran away from the scene of the thing…the first one hit the president—there was no doubt whatsoever, because his face winced and he grabbed himself and he slumped down.  I do believe without any doubt that the second one hit him because he had an immediate reaction with that second shot.  I do know there was third shot but as I said by that time I’d grabbed my boy and started to go.  I did not witness Governor Connally’s being hit.” (11-25-63 FBI report, 22H837-838) ‘‘He and his son stood right at the curb on the grass and saw the President’s car take a wide swing as it turned left into Elm Street. When the President’s automobile was very close to him and he could see the President’s face very well, the President was seated, but was leaning forward when he stiffened perceptibly, at the same instant what appeared to be a rifle shot sounded. According to Brehm, the President seemed to stiffen and come to a pause when another shot sounded and the President appeared to be badly hit in the head.  Brehm said when the President was hit by the second shot, he could notice the President’s hair fly up…Brehm said that a third shot followed and that all three shots were relatively close together…Immediately after the third shot rang out, Brehm pushed his son down.” Shot after the head shot.

Some witnesses remembered hearing two loud noises fired close together but failed to discern which one struck Kennedy in the head. Charles Hester (11-22-63 statement to the Dallas Sheriff’s Department, 19H478) “My wife Beatrice and I were sitting on the grass on the slope on Elm Street where the park is located.  When the President Kennedy’s car got almost to the underpass, I heard two shots ring out…I grabbed my wife because I didn’t know where the next shot was coming from and dragged her up next to the concrete embankment and got on the ground with her.” (11-25-63  “Hester and his wife, Beatrice, were standing along the street at the point immediately preceding the underpass on Elm Street where President John F Kennedy was shot.  Hester stated he saw the President slump in the seat of the car and that he heard two shots fired from what appeared to be a building located on the corner of Elm and Houston Street.  He stated he and his wife were almost in a direct line of fire and that he immediately grabbed his wife and shoved her to the ground. Double head shot. (From hereon we will use the term ‘Double head shot” to indicate that the witness has described two closely-grouped shots at the end of the shooting sequence.) Mrs. Charles Hester (11-25-63 FBI report, 24H523) “Mrs. Hester advised she heard two loud noises which sounded like gunshots, and she saw President Kennedy slump in the car he was riding in. Her husband then grabbed her and shoved her to the ground.  Shortly thereafter they then went across to the north side of the street on an embankment in an attempt to gain shelter.” Double head shot. FBI report, 22H841)

There were also several witnesses on the railroad bridge. S.M. Holland (11-22-63 statement to Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, 19H480, 24H212) “the President’s car was coming down Elm Street and when they got just about to the Arcade I heard what I thought for the moment was a fire cracker and he slumped over and I looked over toward the arcade and trees and saw a puff of smoke come over from the trees and I heard three more shots after the first one but that was the only puff of smoke I saw…After the first shot the President slumped over and Mrs. Kennedy jumped up and tried to get over in the back seat to him and then the second shot rang out.  After the first shot the secret service man raised up in the seat with a machine gun and then dropped back down in the seat.  And they immediately sped off.”  (The Zapruder film demonstrates that Mrs. Kennedy never jumped up until after her husband had received the fateful bullet to his head. And yet Holland claims he heard shots after he saw her "jump up.") Shot or shots after the head shot.

Austin Miller (11-22-63 statement to the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, 19H485, 24H217) “I saw a Convertable automobile turn west on Elm off Houston Street.  It had proceeded about halfway from Houston Street to the underpass when I heard what sounded like a shot a short second two more sharp reports.  A man in the back seat slumped over and a woman in a bright colored dress (Orange or Yellow) grabbed the man and yelled. One shot apparently hit the street past the car. I saw something which I thought was smoke or steam coming from a group of trees north of Elm off the railroad tracks.” Double head shot.

Royce Skelton (11-22-63 statement to the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, 16H496) “We saw the motorcade come around the corner and I heard something which I thought was fireworks. I saw something hit the pavement at the left rear of the car, then the car got in the right hand lane and I heard two more shots.  I heard a woman say “Oh, no” or something and grab a man inside the car. I then heard another shot and saw the bullet hit the pavement.  The concrete was knocked to the south away from the car. It hit the pavement in the left or middle lane.” (Our examination of the Zapruder film shows us that Mrs. Kennedy didn’t yell out until after the head shot.)  Shot or shots after the head shot.


By now, we're beginning to feel confident that the last two shots rang out in rapid succession and that a shot followed the head shot. Since the rifle found on the sixth floor is a bolt action rifle and incapable of firing shots so rapidly we should be looking for a second shooter. Of course, if we can find concrete evidence that the 3 shots heard by most witnesses were all fired from the sniper’s nest, we might save ourselves some trouble. No such luck.

Howard Brennan  (11-22-63 statement to the Dallas Sheriff’s Department, 19H470) “I saw a man in this window…He was a white man in his early 30’s, slender, nice looking, and would weigh about 165 to 170 pounds.  He had on light colored clothing but definitely not a suit.  I proceeded to watch the President’s car as it turned left at the corner where I was and about 50 yards from the intersection of Elm and Houston and to a point where I would say the President’s back was in line with the last window I have previously described  I heard what I thought was a back fire.  It ran in my mind that it might be someone throwing firecrackers out the window of the building and I looked up at the building.  I then  saw this man I have described in the window and he was taking aim with a high powered rifle.  I could see all of the barrel of the gun.  I do not know if it had a scope on it or not.  I was looking at this man in the window at the time of the last explosion.” (11-23-63 FBI report, CD5 p. 12-14) “He said the automobile had passed down Elm Street (going in a westerly direction) 30 yards from where he (Brennan) was seated, when he heard a loud report which he first thought to be the “backfire’ of an automobile.  He said he does not distinctly remember a second shot but he remembers “more than one noise” as if someone was shooting fire crackers, and consequently he believes there must have been a second shot before he looked in the direction of the Texas School Book Depository Building.”  As Brennan only remembers hearing two shots, and as the vast majority of witnesses so far have stated there were two shots fired closely together at the end of the shooting sequence, his statements suggest that he failed to hear one of the final shots. We need more proof.

Fortunately, sitting close to Brennan was another witness to the firing of the rifle. If he heard and saw three shots fired from the sniper’s nest, maybe we can save ourselves a lot of legwork. Amos Euins (11-22-63 statement to Dallas Sheriff’s Department, 16H963, 19H474) “I saw the President turn the corner in front of me and I waived at him and he waived back.  I watched the car on down the street and about the time the car got near the black and white sign I heard a shot.  I started looking around and then I looked up in the red brick building.  I saw a man in the window with a gun and I saw him shoot twice…I could tell the gun was a rifle and it sounded like an automatic rifle the way he was shooting. This was a white man, he did not have on a hat.  I just saw this man for a few seconds.” One line from Euins’ statement sticks out—“it sounded like an automatic rifle the way he was shooting.” This confirms the statements of the bulk of the eyewitnesses and Sheriff’s Deputies--that the third shot was fired immediately following the second shot.   It also suggests that Euins saw the sniper in the window fire the last two shots without operating the bolt of the rifle in between, which is impossible.  Could it be that one of the last two shots heard by Euins came from somewhere else? 

We then read the statements of two witnesses from the school book depository. One of these men was sitting in the window right below the sniper’s nest, where three shells had reportedly been found.  If he heard three shots fired from the window above him, then perhaps we can assume the man firing from this window acted alone, and simply fired the last shot as rapidly as possible, missing wildly. Bonnie Ray Williams (11-22-63 affidavit to Dallas County, 24H229) “Just after we got on the fifth floor we saw the President coming around the corner on Houston from Main Street.  I heard 2 shots it sounded like they come from just above us.  We ran to the west side of the building.” (11-23-63 FBI report, CD5 p. 330-333) “Then he joined two other men known to him as Hank and Junior.  They were looking out windows on the south side of the building approximately at the middle of the building and saw the car of President John Kennedy come north on Houston Street and then make a turn going west on Elm Street down into the triple underpass directly in front of the Texas School Book Depository. While they were watching this car pass, Williams heard two shots which sounded like they came from right over his head…He stated he and the other two men ran to the west end of the building where they looked out and they did not realize the President had been shot.” Jack Dougherty (11-22-63 Affidavit to Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, CD81, p. 330) “I had already gone back to work and I gone down on the fifth to get some stock when I heard a shot.  It sounded like it was coming from inside the building but I couldn’t tell from where.  I went down on the first floor and asked a man named Eddie Piper if he had heard anything and he said yes, that he had heard three shots.” (11-23-63 statement to the FBI, CD5 p.366-367) “I was working on the fifth floor of the building at 411 Elm Street…when I heard a loud explosion which sounded like a rifle shot coming from the next floor above me.”  

Yikes!  Williams heard but two shots, and Dougherty, who had just gotten off an elevator coming down from the sixth floor, but one.  We now have strong reason to suspect one of the last two shots was fired from someplace other than the school book depository.





The Clean-up Crew

Should one doubt the “magic” bullet could have come from anywhere but Connally’s leg, moreover, one should consider that the bullet, had it fallen from Kennedy’s back as originally believed, would most likely have fallen out in the limousine, and that the limousine was cleaned up while sitting outside Parkland Hospital in Dallas by two Secret Service Agents, Sam Kinney and George Hickey. 

Although William Manchester, in his book The Death of a President, disputed that such a clean-up occurred, citing a nurse who says she was asked to bring the agents a bucket of water but failed to deliver it, Manchester overlooked the statement of an orderly, Joe Lewis Richards, admitting that he did indeed bring them the bucket.

And we know this bucket was used because...

  • An 11-22-63 UPI article, most likely reflecting the words of UPI’s man-on-the-scene Merriman Smith, reported on this clean-up, stating: “Outside the hospital, blood was cleaned from the limousine.” 
  • An 11-23-63 New York Times story by Tom Wicker similarly reported, “A bucket of water stood by the car, suggesting that the back seat had been scrubbed out.” (In the 1965 anthology John Fitzgerald Kennedy...As We Remember Him, and then again in his 1978 book On Press, Wicker explained just why this bucket suggested as much and specified that it wasn't just a bucket of water, but “a bucket of bloody water.”)
  • An article on the assassination by Hugh Sidey in the 12-20-63 issue of Time Magazine confirmed these accounts, and claimed he'd witnessed: “A young man, I assume he was a Secret Service man, with a sponge and a bucket of red water, and he was trying to wipe up the blood and what looked like flakes of flesh and brains in the back seat.” (Sidey repeated this allegation in an 11-28-88 Time article. He wrote: "The presidential limousine rested at Parkland Hospital. A grim young man was washing away the blood and flesh that had splattered the leather upholstery...The young man in his neat dark suit, sleeves pushed up, swabbed the seats. They glistened in their miserable wetness. Beside the car was a bucket with brownish red water. If any doubt remained about this calamity, it was swept away in one glance at that bucket. So simple. so hideous." )
  • And as if that weren't enough, Newsweek’s Charles Roberts also confirmed these accounts. In his 1967 defense of the Warren Report, modestly entitled The Truth About The Assassination, Roberts said simply that on 11-22-63 he saw two Secret Service men "starting to put the fabric top" on the President's limo, and thought "Why now?" Now that was vague, but Roberts would later expand on this. In an interview conducted for Robert MacNeil's 1988 book The Way we Were, Roberts admitted that he'd actually seen these agents “mop up the back seat” before putting on the fabric top, and that he'd thought it “ironic” that one of the Secret Service agents waved him aside and told him “you can’t look,” when "this wall of protection...of course could do no good."
  • And then, for good measure, there's Sid Davis, a reporter for Westinghouse Radio. On 11-9-13, in a taped interview with The Newseum, Davis shared that when he arrived at Parkland Hospital ”'I could see the Secret Service agents cleaning up the back of the limousine. I went to take a look and a friend of mine, Hugh Sidey of Time Magazine, said 'Don’t look, it’s too horrible.'"
Thus, five respected newsmen, all verified to have been at Parkland Hospital on 11-22-63, claimed they saw either someone cleaning blood from the limo, or the bloody bucket used in this clean-up. 

And they weren't alone. In the decades following the assassination, White House photographer Cecil Stoughton, Associated Press photographer Henry Burroughs, and ambulance driver Aubrey Rike added their names to the list of those witnessing this clean-up. In 1983, Life Magazine--not exactly a propagator of conspiracy theories--published a photo taken by Stoughton of a bucket beside the limo with the caption "Outside Parkland, agents clean the bloody limousine." In Richard Trask’s 1994 book Pictures of the Pain, moreover, a number of similar photographs were published, all taken by Stoughton, and all showing a bucket by the limousine.

Here, then, is a blow-up from one of these photos, showing an agent--almost certainly Sam Kinney--bent into the back seat of the limo, with a bucket at his feet. Agent George Hickey is at the right of the photo.


The evidence for a Secret Service clean-up of the limo became so overwhelming, in fact, that in 2003 the Fox News Channel asserted that a clean-up had occurred and broadcast footage of a Secret Service Agent, almost certainly Sam Kinney, walking away from the limousine with the bucket. 

Here's a screen grab from that footage. 

And here's this same agent a few minutes earlier, removing the hard top from the trunk.

And here he is in some news footage subsequently shown on the AXS TV program The 1960's Revisited, broadcast on 6-14-20. Note the bald spot...


and then the face...

That's Kinney alright. Here he is driving the Secret Service back-up car in the famous Altgens photo, taken just seconds after the first shot. 

Anyhow, within days of the 2003 Fox broadcast showing Kinney with the bucket, a former member of the President’s Secret Service detail in Dallas, Gerald O’Rourke, came forward, telling the Rocky Mountain News “that on the day of the assassination, one agent was ordered to clean out the cars used in the motorcade, getting rid of blood and other evidence.” (Note how, even here, 40 years after the fact, he refused to reveal the identity of this agent.) 

As a result of these images and this article, then, by 2008, the once-disputed clean-up of the limo had become so widely accepted that even the Discovery Channel, in a program pushing that Oswald acted alone, by gosh, discussed the clean-up as an established fact. 

Yes, it's conclusive, accepted even by defenders of the Warren Commission: the Secret Service, if only briefly, cleaned-up the limo while it was sitting outside Parkland. 

Should one doubt that this clean-up destroyed or removed evidence, moreover, one should reflect that Warren Commission Exhibit CE 840 consists of all the bullet fragments found in the car beyond the two large fragments found in the front seat, and comprises but three small fragments found in the carpetbeneath Nellie Connally’s seat, several feet to the left of the presumed trajectory of the bullet. That there were no bullet fragments found on the floor by Kennedy’s or John Connally’s seats or on the seats themselves is undoubtedly suspicious. Also suspicious is that one of the three fragments found beneath Nellie’s seat disappeared from the archives at some point in the sixties. Adding to the likelihood that a Secret Service agent planted the bullet on the stretcher, perhaps simply to avoid admitting that he’d screwed up and cleaned-up important evidence (neither Kinney nor Hickey ever admitted that a clean-up occurred), is that one of the two men to find the stretcher bullet, Nathan Pool, told an HSCA investigator he saw a Secret Service agent standing near the stretcher just before the bullet was discovered.  

There is strong support, in fact, that this agent was Kinney. On November 21, 2013, Gary Loucks, a former neighbor of Kinney's, came forward on the Intellihub website and claimed that, back in 1986, he'd had a few drinks with Kinney, and that in the course of their socializing Kinney had shared a secret with him--that it was he who'd placed the bullet on the stretcher. Now, on first glance, Loucks' story seemed a bit sketchy--as Loucks also claimed Kinney had said he'd placed a skull fragment on the stretcher. But on second glance, it made more sense. Kinney had long claimed he'd found a skull fragment in the limousine on its flight back from Dallas. It's accepted history. That Loucks would mistakenly combine this part of Kinney's story with his recollection of Kinney admitting he'd planted the bullet on the stretcher suggests that Loucks was someone who'd actually known Kinney--or at least that he was working off his own memories, and not a fledgling researcher trying to make a name for himself. We should recall here that former Secret Service agent Gerald O'Rourke had previously suggested Kinney's involvement in "getting rid" of evidence. It seems possible, then, that Loucks was the real deal, and was telling the truth as he remembered it. 

While my suspicion Kinney planted the bullet remains just that, a suspicion, I believe it is a reasonable suspicion, given the alternative. One of the truly laughable arguments made by the single-assassin theorist community is that since only two bullets were recovered, it is illogical to assume that more than two bullets inflicted the wounds. “Where’s the third bullet?” they will ask. They forget that their theory holds that a bullet lodged in Connally’s leg, became dislodged as his clothes were removed, went unnoticed when he was moved to the operating table, stayed unnoticed when the sheets were folded up, stayed unnoticed when the stretcher was moved downstairs, and re-appeared an hour later when two stretchers collided, on a stretcher not fitting the description of Connally's stretcher, and a stretcher that the man “discovering” the bullet, Darrell Tomlinson, suspected was, in fact, not Connally’s stretcher.   

Even worse for those disputing the bullet was planted, researcher Josiah Thompson, building upon Darrell Tomlinson's suspicions, read through Parkland Hospital's records for 11-22-63, and found that the stretcher on which the bullet was found was almost certainly the stretcher of a young boy named Ronnie Fuller, who was admitted to the emergency room after suffering a cut. Thompson's research on this issue has never been countered.  

In fact, he's continued to build upon it. At the 2003 Wecht Conference held at Duquesne University, Thompson showed how the only Parkland employees to see the bullet found by Tomlinson on 11-22 believed the bullet had a pointed tip. CE 399 has a rounded tip. Thompson also discussed the strange fact that both Governor Connally and Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade were of the impression a bullet was found in Connally's operating room. While these differing recollections could have come from the passage of time, and the resulting confusion, he related another tale that's much harder to explain. This tale sprang from an interview of Parkland's Director of Nursing, Elizabeth Wright. In this interview, conducted by researcher Wallace Milam in 1993, the former Mrs. Wright related that there was more than one bullet found on stretchers in the days after the assassination, and that this led one of the nursing supervisors, Doris Nelson, to complain: "I wish they would stop putting bullets on these stretchers." If the bullet found by Tomlinson did not look like CE 399, and other bullets were found afterwards, of course, it is entirely possible CE 399 was found at Parkland sometime later in the evening, after Oswald's rifle had been retrieved by the Dallas Police. 

If this, in fact, occurred, then it only follows that the bullet found by Tomlinson was made to disappear. And if the bullet found by Tomlinson was made to disappear, then it only follows that any other bullets or fragments found at Parkland were made to disappear. 

Fortunately, we need not drive down this particular conspiracy road, as a less-conspiracy-oriented answer to the "Where's the third bullet?" question is also available. It goes like this...IT...GOT...LOST. The FBI and Secret Service certainly believed as much. Their official reports on the shooting concluded that all three shots hit Kennedy and Connally, even though only one and a half bullets had been retrieved; the FBI's report even specified that CE 399 fell from Kennedy's back. Apparently, neither agency had any problem believing that the bullet striking Connally, the third bullet, had gotten lost in the Parkland shuffle. 

For this conclusion, they had plenty of support. In his 1970 book, Legal Medicine, the Clark Panel's Dr. Alan Moritz offered that "Often a bullet that has had sufficient velocity to pass through the body will be so nearly spent that it will fail to penetrate the head covering or clothing at the site of exit. Unless the doctor, nurse, or accident ward attendant is alert to this possibility, such a bullet may be lost."Elsewhere, Dr. Moritz explained that "Years of medicolegal experience in the investigation of firearm injuries confirm the truth of the generalization that the only things likely to be seen and remembered are those that are looked for with knowledge of their potential significance." Those arguing that CE 399 created Connally's wounds and was found on his stretcher, and thus that the bullet had been overlooked by at least five nurses and hospital employees prior to its discovery, thereby inadvertently confirm that other bullets, potentially including the bullet that ACTUALLY created Connally's wounds, could have been lost in the madhouse that was Parkland Hospital on November 22, 1963. 

Another top pathologist believed that it was just that simple--that the bullet had been lost. Dr. Milton Helpern, who'd supervised over 10,000 autopsies of gunshot victims in his long career, explained that, clean-up or no clean-up, one can not always find the bullets involved in a homicide. Specific to the Kennedy assassination, in an interview for the book, Where Death Delights, he told former FBI man Marshall Houts: “It is not unusual at all for spent bullets that have passed through a human body to become lost…If I had to venture a guess as to what happened to the bullet that wounded Governor Connally, I would suggest that it fell out of his pants leg while he was being removed from the car and placed on the stretcher; or it could have fallen out at any stage of his hospital experience.”  He said it.

And the FBI's Robert Frazier, the man tasked with inspecting the limousine on the night of the assassination, apparently shared his belief this was possible. In 1995, undoubtedly as a response to the then-widespread criticism of the FBI crime lab, a book entitled Hard Evidence was published to help promote the FBI crime lab. This book, written by David Fisher, featured an interview with Frazier. When musing on the whereabouts of the still missing remnants of the bullet found in pieces on the front seat of the limousine, the carpet beneath Nellie Connally's seat, and in the President's skull, Frazier declared "What happened, I think probably in the confusion when they got to the hospital, everybody jumped out of the car, and if there were lead fragments on their clothes or in their pockets or anywhere else, they fell on the ground and were just trampled on and that was the end of it." While some might say that the likelihood of losing fragments in the chaos was significantly greater than that of losing a nearly-intact bullet, the bullet may have been in pieces and a nearly-intact bullet could easily have been picked up in the treads of a car tire. Sometimes things get lost.

But even if one should refuse to believe it got lost, there is the possibility that it simply was overlooked. On May 13, 1964, in testimony before the Warren Commission, Robert Frazier described his search of the limousine for bullet fragments late on the night of the shooting. Two bullet fragments had already been retrieved from the front seat by the Secret Service. First, Frazier described the car: "There were blood and particles of flesh scattered all over the hood, the windshield, in the front seat and all over the rear floor rugs, the jump seats, and over the rear seat, and down both sides of the side rails or tops of the doors of the car." Then Frazier described his search: "I examined the car to determine whether or not there were any bullet fragments present in it, embedded in the upholstery of the back of the front seat, or whether there were any impact areas which indicated that bullets or bullet fragments struck the inside of the car." At this point he found three small bullet fragments on the carpet under Nellie Connally's jump seat. By his finding these three fragments, and by his using the word "examine" to describe his search, Frazier gave the clear implication that he was extremely thorough in his search for bullet fragments. 

When asked if he felt his search was indeed a "thorough examination of all aspects of the interior of the automobile," however, Frazier's response was not without its qualifications. He replied: "Yes, sir; for our purpose. However, we did not tear out all of the rugs on the floor, for instance. We examined the rugs carefully for holes, for bullet furroughs, for fragments. We examined the nap of the rug, in the actual nap of the rug, for fragments and bullet holes. We pulled the rug back as far as we could turn it back and even tore the glue or adhesive material loose around the cracks at the edges of the rug so we could observe the cracks to see whether they had been enlarged, and we examined all of the upholstery covering, on the back of the front seat, on the doors, and in the rear seat compartment, the jump seats, the actual rear seat, the back of the rear seat, and we examined the front seat in a similar manner, and we found no bullet holes or other bullet impact areas, other than the one on the inside of the windshield and the dent inside the windshield chrome." (5H58-74).

An 11-27-63 Secret Service report on this inspection, included in the Secret Service's report on the limo to the Warren Commission, CD80, confirms "a meticulous examination was made of the back seat of the car and the floor rug." But this wasn't exactly true. 

In Hard Evidence, Frazier was more forthcoming about this examination. He revealed "The President's limousine arrived back in Washington about six o'clock. Around one o'clock the next morning, Cort (Cortland Cunningham) and I started sifting through the blood looking for lead fragments. It was tough; it was very tough...We'd just reach down into the clots of blood and scoop it up in our hands and let it dribble through. Whenever we felt something gritty, we'd clean it up and if it was lead, we'd save it in a pillbox. We didn't really recover a lot of lead." Evidently, they never thought of sponging off the blood and inspecting the carpet with a metal detector and a magnifying glass. 

In any event, according to the Secret Service's own report on the limo, CD80, by the afternoon of the 23rd a Secret Service agent was requesting permission to clean the rest of the blood from the back seat and floor of the limo. At this time, he was told to wait for FBI approval. The very next day he made a second request, this time noting "that the odor from the car was becoming offensive." This request, almost certainly made after the announcement of Oswald's death, was granted "after clearance from the FBI." Late that evening, the limousine was cleaned up. No FBI agent was present. According to the Secret Service's own records, "there were still fragments of bone and hair in the debris of the car which had not been removed by the FBI search team." There's no record of what became of this "bone and hair." There's no indication that this clean-up crew looked for small fragments of lead hidden amongst this bone and hair. A Ford Motor Company memo first obtained and reported by researcher Pamela McElwain-Brown, moreover, demonstrates that within 10 days of the shooting, the carpet of the limousine had been removed by "the White House upholstery man" and had been replaced by the writer of the memo, Ford Motor company employee Vaughn Ferguson. There's no record of what this "upholsterer" did with this carpet. There's no reason to believe that a thorough inspection of this carpet was ever undertaken.

And should one still have any doubts, and still cling to the notion that the bullet hitting Connally must have remained on his person or in the limousine, and could not possibly have been cleaned-up, stolen, lost or overlooked, there is this: there is at least one fragment that disappeared after the shooting. Yes, in 2010, with the release of The Kennedy Detail, Secret Service Agent Paul Landis related that after Kennedy and his wife were pulled from the limousine, he noticed a bullet fragment sitting on the back of the car by the headrest. He claimed he then put it on the seat. Well, you guessed it, no fragment was found on this seat. This, then, suggests this fragment was "cleaned up" in some manner, for one reason or another. 

And should one STILL find the urge to claim "yeah but that was just a fragment," well, there's this: a piece of metal the size of a bullet also disappeared. Yes, Nellie Connally, in her 2003 memoir From Love Field, reported that a Mexican peso worn by her husband as a cuff link was shot off his wrist during the shooting and was never recovered. She reported that she had a bracelet made from the remaining cuff link, and wore it thereafter as a memento of her husband's close brush with death. It follows then that any explanation for what happened to this cuff link could apply to a bullet as well.


Let's read the notes again, with the problematic section highlighted. "1:40 P.M. Arrive Air Force One. Go into bedroom of plane to use phone. The President had talked to McGeorge Bundy via WH line before I got there. When I walked in, the President looked up and said 'Write this down as what has happened. I talked to the Attorney General...Asked him what we should do...where I should take the oath...here or there...said he would like to look into it...and would notify me whether we should take it here or not... McGeorge Bundy and Walter called me...thought we should come to Washington as soon as could. Told them I was waiting for the body and Mrs. Kennedy. The Attorney General interrupted the conversation to say that I ought to have a judicial officer administer the oath here.' Then I tried to get Waddy Bullion for the President...he was out of his office. Called Judge Sarah Hughes' office...they said she was not there. The President said that he'd talk to anyone in her office. He got on the phone and told the person at the other end that he needed someone to administer the oath...and to find her...and to get her to Love Field. Judge Hughes called in at 2:02--said she could get to the plane in ten minutes. The President left the bedroom in the plane--where above had taken place--and came into the stateroom to wait Mrs. Kennedy's arrival and to join Mrs. Johnson, J. Valenti, Cong. Thornberry, Cong, Brooks, Cong. Thomas, Rufus Yongblood and MF. Mrs. Kennedy arrived at 2:02 with the body. She was met by the President and Mrs. Johnson and comforted." 

Now let's re-read her typed-up notes, without the part put in by Johnson: "1:40 P.M. Arrive Air Force One. Go into bedroom of plane to use phone. The President had talked to McGeorge Bundy via WH line before I got there. Then I tried to get Waddy Bullion for the President...he was out of his office. Called Judge Sarah Hughes' office...they said she was not there. The President said that he'd talk to anyone in her office. He got on the phone and told the person at the other end that he needed someone to administer the oath...and to find her...and to get her to Love Field." (Note: the section in Fehmer's notes on the phone calls with Kennedy most probably resided here prior to Johnson's replacing them with his own version.) The notes continued: "Judge Hughes called in at 2:02--said she could get to the plane in ten minutes. The President left the bedroom in the plane--where above had taken place--and came into the stateroom to wait Mrs. Kennedy's arrival and to join Mrs. Johnson, J. Valenti, Cong. Thornberry, Cong, Brooks, Cong. Thomas, Rufus Youngblood and MF. Mrs. Kennedy arrived at 2:02 with the body. She was met by the President and Mrs. Johnson and comforted." 

Now, the notes read much better, and make a lot more sense, without the part put in by Johnson. This supports the possibility the notes Fehmer typed up on 11-22-63 were inaccurate, and deliberately so... Let's reread the offending passage: "When I walked in, the President looked up and said 'Write this down as what has happened..." Well, there it is. Fehmer had pointed her finger at Johnson in her notes. 




Who Moved Box A for the Press?

Now this might seem a bit trivial. But I think it's an important question. At least 4 photographers and a TV cameraman were allowed to photograph or film the view from the sniper's nest window on the afternoon of 11-22-63. (A sample from each is on the slide above.) In the images captured by 4 of these 5, Box A is positioned as it was when captured by the DPD in its second round of photos (that is, the photos of the sniper's nest after the boxes had been re-stacked).

But then someone moved the box for Flip Schulke's photos. Who did this? If it was Lt. Day or Det. Studebaker, well, that's an embarrassment for the Dallas Police. Since when do crime scene analysts not only pose for press photos in the middle of their investigation, but re-arrange the evidence for the press? Well, then, perhaps it was Schulke himself? Well, that would also be a huge embarrassment for the DPD. As we've seen, DPD muckety-mucks wrote a report in which they claimed the sniper's nest was roped off and not made available to the press. That this was not true is bad enough, but should it be that at least one member of the press was allowed to touch an important piece of evidence--and allowed to do so before this item was properly tested for fingerprints, mind you--well, that's just amateur hour. Really embarrassing stuff.

in any event, when all was said and done, there was an unidentified print on Box B. When this case gets re-opened--and it will get re-opened--the FBI should compare this print to Schulke's prints. 

This brings us to our next question...


Above: Buell Frazier, Oswald's friend and co-worker, 19 years-old, is paraded before the press by the Dallas Police, 11-22-63.

Now this is kind of alarming. Even though the man described by Worrell wasn't Oswald, who'd calmly walked out the front of the building, there is reason to believe Worrell's story, and reason to suspect that someone other than Oswald had actually fired the shots. While a hand-taped brown paper bag large enough to have concealed Oswald's rifle was reportedly recovered from the sniper's nest, and was found to have Oswald's prints on it, there is nothing in the bag or on the bag to indicate it had ever contained a rifle. Even worse, Buell Wesley Frazier, a co-worker of Oswald's who'd given him a ride to work on the 22nd, has said Oswald had a much different kind of bag with him that morning. The 11-22-63 Statement signed by Frazier reads: "Before I got in the car, I glanced in the back seat, and saw a big sack. It must have been about 2' long, and the top of the sack was sort of folded up, and the rest of the sack had been kind of folded under. I asked Lee what was in the sack, and he said 'curtain rods', and I remembered that he had told me the day before that he was going to bring some curtain rods."Frazier's statement later returns to this package: "I got out of the car and started walking toward the building where I work. I noticed that Lee had the package in his right hand under his arm, and the package was straight up and down, and he had his arm down, and you could not see much of the package." (11-22-63 Statement to Dallas County, 24H209). 

The FBI writes its own report on Frazier. It reads: "As he got into the vehicle, he glanced at the rear seat behind Oswald, at which time he saw what appeared to him to be bulky brown paper sack sitting on the back seat which he described as the kind of sacks that one obtains in a 5 and 10 cent store. After glancing at the sack, he inquired of Oswald as to what was in the sack, to which Oswald replied 'curtain rods.'" Frazier got a second look at the bag when they got out of the car. This description was even less helpful. The report continues "Oswald got out of the front seat...and opened the rear door behind the passenger seat and obtained the brown package which was sitting on the seat...Oswald walked around the rear of the car...Oswald was carrying this package in a straight up position under his right arm and appeared to be holding the end of whatever was in the package and proceeded then to the Texas School Book Depository. Frazier stated he would estimate the length of the package under Oswald's arm at approximately two feet in length, however, he paid very little attention to the package." (11-23-63 FBI report on an 11-22-63 interview, CD5, p316-319). 

And this wasn't the only FBI document to describe Frazier's feeling about the bag. An 11-23-63 teletype from Dallas Special Agent-in-Charge J. Gordon Shanklin to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover reciting the eyewitness evidence against Oswald relates: "Oswald asked for ride to Irving on Thursday night, Nov. twenty one, last. Oswald told Frazier wanted to pick up some curtain rods for his apartment on Beckley which he said was going to obtain for Mrs. Payne. On Morning of Nov. twenty-two, last, Oswald rode to work with Frazier. Oswald had with him a package in large department store paper sack which he placed on back seat and said were the curtain rods. Frazier states this package large enough to have accomodated a "broken down" rifle." (11-23--63 Shanklin to Hoover teletype found in the Weisberg Archives)

The bag purported to have been found in the sniper's nest is an irregular and obviously hand-made bag comprised of brown shipping paper and brown shipping tape--materials Frazier would associate with his workplace and not a 5 and 10 cent store or department store. It was over 3 feet long, not 2 feet long. Frazier has, seemingly, described a different bag.

Frazier's sister, Linnie Mae Randle, is the only other person to see Oswald with this bag, and her description isn't any more helpful. The FBI report on her reads: "Randle...observed Lee Harvey Oswald walking up her driveway and saw him put a long brown package, approximately 3 feet by 6 inches, in the back seat area of Wesley Frazier's 1954 black Chevrolet...while at the Dallas Police Department on the evening of November 22, 1963, officers of the Dallas Police Department had exhibited to her some brown package paper, however she had not been able to positively identify it as being identical with the above-mentioned brown package, due to the fact she had only observed the brown package from her residence window at a distance." (11-23-63 FBI report on an 11-22-63 interview, CD5, p320-321).








The Smudge on the Trigger Guard

Now this brings us to the other mystery: the rifle. While much has been made of the fact several Deputy Sheriffs thought the rifle found on the sixth floor was a Mauser, the fact remains that they were wrong. Period. Tom Alyea filmed the discovery of the rifle on the sixth floor, and the subsequent dusting of this rifle by Lt. Day. And the rifle in this footage is a Mannlicher-Carcano. No other rifle was discovered. No other rifle was filmed. And the news footage of Lt. Day carrying a rifle from the building shows this same rifle.

So let's move on, shall we? On to something more solid...  

But first, let's establish that recovering prints from a firearm is no mean trick, and not the expected outcome of finding a weapon at a crime scene most assume it would be. While some of those researching the Kennedy case assume prints should have been found on the rifle found in the building, and take the supposedly smudged nature of the supposedly recovered prints as an indication Oswald, or whomever, tried to wipe his prints off the rifle, this just isn't true, as prints are rarely found on weapons. 

And no, I'm not kidding. Really. 

Let's begin by summarizing Factors Affecting the Recovery of Latent Prints on Firearms, an article by ATF crime lab scientists Clive Barnum and Darell Klasey published in the Mar/April 1997 Journal of Forensic Identification. Barnum and Klasey begin by claiming they had examined 1,000 recovered firearms from Feb 92 to August 95, and had found but 114 identifiable prints on just 93 firearms. Of these 114 prints, moreover, only 25 were subsequently identified, with 24 being linked to an offender and one to a law enforcement employee. The article then reveals that the L.A. County Sheriff’s Dept. had examined 1,400 recovered firearms from Jan 92 to July 96 and had found identifiable prints on but 109 of these firearms. When one combines the two studies, then, one finds that but 8.5% of recovered firearms have an identifiable fingerprint upon them. Barnum and Klasey then proceed to explain why this is so, and offer that “Firearms can be difficult to process due to various reasons such as the condition of the metal and the limited smooth area available for processing (most firearms have few smooth surfaces, although an auto loading pistol generally has more processing area for latent prints than a revolver)." They then reveal “The type of finish applied to the metal surface of firearms by the manufacturer, gunsmith, or home repair person can have a detrimental affect upon the development of latent prints. For example, latent prints are particularly difficult to develop on the Parkerized finish found on many military firearms. This type of finish is used on firearms to prevent rust. The metal surface is usually sandblasted prior to the Parkerizing process to produce a nonreflective surface." And that, accordingly, "Weapons with chrome, smooth nickel, or stainless steel finishes are better for the recovery of latent prints" than military weapons.

So that's another myth toppled. First, we explain that Fritz's picking up the rifle shells was no big deal, seeing as prints are almost never found on rifle shells. And now we explain that prints are rarely found on rifles as well. 

Speaking of which...the studies cited to demonstrate the unlikelihood of a print being found on an expended cartridge also had some numbers for firearms. To wit, the 2006 study by the Minneapolis Police Dept. found prints on but 35 of 289 firearms (12.11%) and the 2008-10 study by the Denver Police Dept. found prints on but 7 of 189 recovered firearms (3.7%), for a whopping combined total of 42 of 478 (8.8%). 

Well, heck, the studies in the 90's found identifiable prints on 8.5% of the recovered firearms, and the studies in the 00's found identifiable prints on 8.8% of the recovered firearms. That's quite an improvement in 15 years, wouldn't you say? 

Just kidding. Really. But the point is that the Dallas Police should not have been too optimistic on 11-22-63 that, with the recovery of the rifle, they would find the prints of the shooter. It was not likely they would find any prints on the rifle. It was not reasonable to expect they'd do so. And yet their behavior suggests a quiet confidence that fingerprints will solve this case. 

Read on and see if you agree. 

Starting with Lt. Day's testimony regarding the dusting of the rifle...

Mr. McCLOY. When was the rifle as such dusted with fingerprint powder?
Mr. DAY. After ejecting the live round, then I gave my attention to the rifle. I put fingerprint powder on the side of the rifle over the magazine housing. I noticed it was rather rough. I also noticed there were traces of two prints visible. I told Captain Fritz it was too rough to do there, it should go to the office where I would have better facilities for trying to work with the fingerprints.
Mr. McCLOY. But you could note with your naked eye or with a magnifying glass the remnants of fingerprints on the stock?
Mr. DAY. Yes, sir; I could see traces of ridges, fingerprint ridges, on the side of the housing.

We are fortunate, moreover, that on this point--Day's claiming he found some prints on the rifle at the crime scene--we don't have to take him at his word. As shown in the Alyea film, and on the slide above, some prints became apparent on the side of the rifle after it was dusted.

Well, okay. This was a big break. Lt. Day has found prints on the rifle. He has decided, moreover, that these prints are of too much importance to fiddle with on the floor of a book depository. So he takes the rifle back over to the crime lab. (This is shown below. The man walking with Day is FBI Agent Bardwell Odum.)


Now this is well and good. There's a killer on the loose. Day should get to work on these prints as fast as possible, and then see if these prints match up to their suspect, as soon as one is identified. 

But Day does no such thing. He drops the rifle off at the crime lab, and returns to the sixth floor. 

Now, this could be excused should he have returned to complete an orderly search of the building. 

But no, he had something else on his mind...




All in a Day's Work? 


Lt. Day returned to the sixth floor to give the press a tour of the crime scene. As discussed, he showed them the sniper's nest boxes, and allowed them to take pictures from the sniper's nest window. But that wasn't all. As shown above, he also showed them where the rifle had been found. He even posed for pictures. And not just pictures. As shown below, he posed for TV cameraman Dan Owens as well.


Well, this says a lot about the man. He could have been over-seeing the work of the inexperienced Studebaker. Or he could have stayed at the crime lab, working on the rifle, or the bag, once it arrived. (In the official story, let's remember, the rifle had not been fully processed at this time, and the bag had not been exposed to chemicals.) But no, he decided his priority should be giving tours to the press, and posing for pictures. 

Well, when this was over and done with, what did he do? Now this, in some ways, is even harder to fathom. As discussed, he may have re-dusted parts of the sniper's nest. But, sadly, it appears that he spent much of the next few hours taking largely unnecessary pictures of the crime scene, including pictures of the building from out on the street. 

I mean, just think of it. In Day's account, he had three prime pieces of evidence by 3:00 or so--a rifle with prints on the side, a paper bag in the shape of a rifle case that had not yet been tested for prints, and a piece of cardboard bearing the palm print of the suspected assassin. And yet he opted to spend the next three hours taking largely unnecessary pictures of the building. 

In any event, it appears that when Day did return to the crime lab, around 6:00, he did the right thing. He got the rifle out and worked on the prints on the trigger guard. It appears, moreover, that he had applied a piece of cellophane tape over these prints and was preparing to make a lift when he got interrupted. Marina Oswald was in Capt. Fritz's office. Lt. Day was instructed to show her the rifle, to see if she could identify it as her husband's rifle. As shown below, Lt. Day carried the rifle over the heads of the press en route to Fritz's office. As shown below, the taped-off prints on the right trigger-guard are readily visible on photos taken of the rifle parade.  




The Prints That Got Away

Well, there it was--the smudge first observed in the Alyea film made more apparent through the application of powder and tape.

And no, it wasn't just a smudge. A close-up view of a rifle parade photo taken for the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram reveals three dark shapes inside the taped-off dark area. These would appear to be isolated prints, as opposed to smudges. (This is shown below).


 
And no, this dark shape with the apparent prints on the right trigger guard wasn't something one could only find in the Alyea film, and press photos of the rifle parade.

As shown below, this shape was also apparent in Lt. Day's photos of the rifle.

Well, on the one hand this makes sense. Lt. day claimed he'd found prints on the trigger guard, and here are photos showing prints on the trigger guard.

Only...something's wrong? Right? Right?

The prints are supposed to have been left. On the left trigger guard, that is...

So what happened?

Good question. 




Role Reversal

As the photos of Lt. Day in the rifle parade reveal a taped-off black smear on the right trigger guard, but no such smear on the left trigger guard, it seems probable the prints Day discovered on the sixth floor, and resumed working on when he returned to the crime lab around 6:00, were the prints on the right trigger guard, not left.

If so, this is a huge bombshell. Not only does this raise questions about these prints--why were they never mentioned by Lt. Day or Sebastian Latona, etc--but about the prints on the left trigger guard. Were those prints allowed to continue in the record because Lt. Day et al thought the prints on the left trigger guard were Oswald's, but knew the prints on the right trigger guard were not Oswald's? 

Let's look, then, at the record and try to figure out... 

Which Print Was Which?

Let's start with an FBI memo written on the afternoon of the assassination.

The FBI's 11-22-63 Memo on Its 11-22-63 Discussion With Lt. J.C. Day


Now, this is clearly a reference to one of the trigger guard prints, which Day first noticed at the school book depository. It was the discovery of this print, moreover, that led Day to bring the rifle to the crime lab. As Day did not return to the depository after his purported discovery of a palm print on the barrel of the rifle, moreover, it's crystal clear this memo was not written in reference to the palm print. (Note: this version of the memo was never provided the Warren Commission, but was discovered in the archives and made available by Malcolm Blunt.)

The FBI's 11-23-63 Memo on Its 11-22-63 Discussion With Lt. J.C. Day.


Now, this is essentially a re-wording of the Pinkston memo from the day before. Since it fails to specify where Day was when he spoke to Pinkston, however, this re-wording made the memo less clear, and left open (for those desperate to believe Day found a palm print on the rifle on 11-22-63) that the print discussed within this memo was the palm print. 

The FBI's 11-24-63 Report on its 11-22-63 Discussion with Lt. J.C. Day



Well, we're off and running. While these three FBI memos, written by Nat Pinkston, don't tell us much about the location of the partial print discovered by Lt. Day, they do tell us that Lt. Day was at the depository when he told Pinkston about the print, and that he planned on returning to his lab and photographing this print. Well, this reveals the print to be one of the trigger guard prints. There is certainly nothing about this memo and report to suggest this was a reference to a palm print Day later claimed to lift from the rifle hours--hours--after beginning his work on the trigger guard.

Now, here is an 11-22-63 memo from FBI agent James Bookhout, found in the Weisberg Archives. Apparently, this report was never forwarded to FBI headquarters. In any event, this report details the evidence against Oswald as of late in the evening on the day of the shooting.  

The FBI's 11-22-63 Memo Detailing the Evidence Uncovered up to this Point by the Dallas Police.



For completeness' sake, here is the other page of Bookhout's memo.


Now this is pretty interesting. First, let's note that Day has already identified the print on the cardboard ripped from Box D as Oswald's print. Now note as well that Bookhout thinks the Dallas Police have photographed the box from which this cardboard has been torn (which, of course, they have not), and that this print came from the top box in the stack by the window, Box A. 

And now note that beyond working on the print on the cardboard, Day has been studying a print from the middle of the rifle, and that he has found 4 points on this print which he will try to match up to Oswald's prints. 

Was this print on the right trigger guard? Or left? If this print was on the right trigger guard, one should wonder, what happened to it? Did Day prove to himself this wasn't a print made by Oswald, and then make it disappear?

In any event, the only trigger guard prints mentioned in the Warren Report are the prints Day claimed he found on the left trigger guard. 

Photos of these prints can be found in the Dallas Police Archives. Photos of these prints were purportedly sent the FBI. And photos of these prints were published by the Warren Commission. 

The Dallas photos appear to match the commission photos, moreover.

So all is well and good, right? 

Nope, there's a whole heap of questions about these prints as well.





The Secret Photos

Here is what FBI fingerprint examiner Sebastian Latona had to say about the prints found on the trigger guard: 

Mr. LATONA. There had, in addition to this rifle and that paper bag, which I received on the 23rd--there had also been submitted to me some photographs which had been taken by the Dallas Police Department, at least alleged to have been taken by them, of these prints on this trigger guard which they developed. I examined the photographs very closely and I still could not determine any latent value in the photograph. So then I took the rifle personally over to our photo laboratory. In the meantime, I had made arrangements to bring a photographer in especially for the purpose of photographing these latent prints for me, an experienced photographer--I called him in. I received this material in the Justice Building. My office of operations is in the Identification Division Building, which is at 2nd and D Streets SW. So I made arrangements to immediately have a photographer come in and see if he could improve on the photographs that were taken by the Dallas Police Department. Well, we spent, between the two of us, setting up the camera, looking at prints, highlighting, sidelighting, every type of lighting that we could conceivably think of, checking back and forth in the darkroom--we could not improve the condition of these latent prints. So, accordingly, the final conclusion was simply that the latent print on this gun was of no value, the fragments that were there. After that had been determined, I then proceeded to completely process the entire rifle, to see if there were any other prints of any significance or value any prints of value--I would not know what the significance would be, but to see if there were any other prints. I completely covered the rifle.

Mr. LATONA. I was not successful in developing any prints at all on the weapon. 

Well, this is quite clear, isn't it? The DPD sent the FBI some photographs of the trigger guard prints. The quality of the prints on these photos was lacking. The FBI then spent a considerable amount of time trying to improve upon these photos, by taking their own photos of the prints apparent on the rifle. But they were, reportedly, unable to improve upon them. So Latona gave up and re-processed the rifle. And found no prints anywhere.

Well, this is quite a problem, wouldn't you say? Lt. Day taped-off some prints on the right trigger guard. These disappeared from the record. He also found some prints on the left trigger guard. Copies of these photos were published by the Warren Commission. But the FBI said these were a no-go...

Now, I must admit I have a problem with this. The photos published by the Warren Commission were horrible. This led many to claim, over time, that the prints on these photos were smudged. But better versions of these photos were later put on line by the City of Dallas. These showed at least one of the prints to have been faint, but un-smudged. 

Well, it only follows, then, that the FBI should have been able to create an image of similar quality, and to have created some photos in which this print, at the very least, could have been identified as Oswald's print, or not Oswald's print. This very thought, moreover, haunted researcher James Olmstead. For years, he begged the FBI to release the photos created by Latona, that Latona said were of no use. But the FBI refused to co-operate.

Now, should we take from this that the FBI knows full well that these prints weren't Oswald's? I don't know. 

But it's important, nonetheless, that we realize there were no prints linking Oswald to the rifle before his death. None. And that, much as Howard Brennan popped up after Oswald's death so the assassination story could be changed to reflect there'd been an eyewitness who'd ID'ed Oswald as the shooter, the DPD popped up a print after Oswald's death so the story could be changed to reflect Oswald's prints had been found on the rifle.  

But that's getting ahead of ourselves.... We're still discussing the prints on the left trigger guard... 

And the strange fluctuations in their supposed value... 

Let's reveal then that these prints were written off as smudged and/or of no value by everyone to take a look at them or even write about them prior to the release of First Day Evidence in 1993. There, author Gary Savage, working with a fingerprint examiner named Jerry Powdrill, claimed that the most prominent print apparent on the DPD's photos of the trigger guard matched Oswald's right middle finger on three points, and shared "very similar characteristics" on three more. Powdrill said, moreover, that this gave him a "gut feeling" the prints were a match.

So how seriously should we take this? 

Not too seriously. As we've seen, First Day Evidence was a book written by the nephew of Rusty Livingston, one of Lt. Day's employees. It had an obvious bias. This bias was revealed, moreover, in the following passage: "Latona could not make a positive identification since the fingerprints were extremely faint following the removal of the protective tape." (First Day Evidence, 1993, p.109)

Now, should the bias in this passage not be clear, let me explain. Lt. Day said he covered the trigger guard prints with cellophane to protect them. He did not say he covered them with cellophane tape. The removal of cellophone tape from a print, for that matter, would create a "lift" of the print which could then be applied to a card. No cards were created in this manner. Latona, furthermore, claimed he received the rifle with "cellophane material" over the area on which latent prints had been detected. He never called this material tape or mentioned any problems created by the cellophane. 

In fact, he said just the opposite... 

Mr. DULLES. Is is likely or possible that those fingerprints could have been damaged or eroded in the passage from Texas to your hands? 
Mr. LATONA. No, sir; I don't think so. In fact, I think we got the prints just like they were. 

So, yeah, Savage was blowing smoke to hide that the wafer-thin ID of the print as Oswald's he'd received from Powdrill contradicted the sworn testimony of Latona, a top FBI fingerprint examiner. 

But wait, it gets worse. Spurred on by Savage's book, the producers of the 1993 PBS program "Who was Lee Harvey Oswald?" hired HSCA fingerprint examiner Vincent Scalice to take a look at the photos published by Savage. Scalice said the prints in the photos were "barely distinguishable" and "partially distorted," but nevertheless concluded they were Oswald's. 

Here is an excerpt from the transcript to this program. 

"When Livingston began working with his nephew, Gary Savage, on a book about the assassination called JFK: First Day Evidence, they decided to have the fingerprints reexamined. They turned to Captain Jerry Powdrill of the West Monroe, Louisiana, Police Department, a qualified fingerprint examiner. Powdrill found three points of identity between the trigger guard prints and Oswald’s known prints and three possible points of identity. Six to ten points of identity are normally required in the U.S. to make a positive identification. Powdrill told FRONTLINE, “I cannot say that sufficient evidence exists to conclude that the latent print [in the photograph] is in fact that of Lee Harvey Oswald; however, there are enough similarities to suggest that it is possible they are one in the same.”FRONTLINE asked George Bonebrake, a former supervisor of the FBI latent fingerprint division to examine copies of the fingerprint photographs. Bonebrake told FRONTLINE the prints were not clear enough to make an identification of anyone. “They lack enough characteristic ridge detail to be of value for identification purposes,” said Bonebrake. FRONTLINE also asked Vincent Scalice, former head of the New York City Police latent fingerprint unit to examine the trigger guard prints. In 1978, Scalice had examined all the prints in the Kennedy case for the House Select Committee on Assassinations. At that time, he concluded that the trigger guard prints were “of no value for identification purposes.” But after examining Rusty Livingston’s original fingerprint photographs in Louisiana, Scalice reversed his 1978 assessment. Scalice told FRONTLINE: “I took the photographs. There were a total of four photographs in all. I began to examine them. I saw two faint prints, and as I examined them, I realized that the prints had been taken at different exposures, and it was necessary for me to utilize all of the photographs to compare against the inked prints. As I examined them, I found that by maneuvering the photographs in different positions, I was able to pick up some details on one photograph and some details on another photograph. Using all the photographs at different contrasts...! was able to find in the neighborhood of about eighteen points of identity in the two prints. I feel that this is a major breakthrough in this investigation, because we are able for the first time to actually say that these are definitely the fingerprints of Lee Harvey Oswald and that they are on the rifle. There is no doubt about it.” 

The transcript continues:

"How could Scalice have missed an identification in 1978 that he was able to make in 1993? The answer appears to lie in the number of photographs of the prints that were available for experts like Scalice to examine. Sebastian Latona, the head of the FBI fingerprint division in 1963, told FRONTLINE that the FBI examined only the rifle itself in making its determination that the trigger guard prints were of no value. Latona said the FBI never looked at the Dallas Police photographs of the trigger guard fingerprints. Although the record is not precise on this point, it appears that only one or two of the Dallas Police photographs of the trigger guard prints were forwarded to the Warren Commission, where they were examined by Arthur Mandella, a consultant to the commission. Mandella came to the same conclusion as the FBI, that the trigger guard prints were of no value. When Vincent Scalice examined photographs of the trigger guard prints in 1978 for the House Select Committee on Assassinations, he apparently only had the one or two Dallas police photographs that were part of the Warren Commission files. “I have to assume,” says Scalice, “that my original examination and comparison was carried out in all probability on one photograph. And that photograph was apparently a poor quality photograph, and the latent prints did not contain a sufficient amount of detail in order to effect an identification. I know for a fact that I did not see all these four photographs in 1978, because if I had, I would have been able to make an identification at that point in time. So where these photographs were, I don’t know. But after this reexamination, I definitely conclude these are Oswald’s prints.” After consultations with Scalice, Captain Jerry Powdrill told FRONTLINE that he also now agrees with Scalice’s judgement-that the trigger guard prints are those of Lee Harvey Oswald. 'Vincent Scalice’s identification of the trigger guard fingerprints is a significant development in our understanding of the Kennedy assassination,' says FRONTLINE senior producer Sullivan. 'But clearly the experts do disagree on this matter. We hope that this story will spark a proper professional debate among the nation’s leading fingerprint experts that will lead to a more definitive conclusion to the question.” 


Well, this sounds pretty definitive, right? Scalice says he sees 18 points and everyone, sans Bonebrake, falls in line. 

But whatever happened to research? Here are the "4 photographs" published in First Day Evidence. 




The Five Photos of Mr. Savage

Well, by golly, there weren't four photographs, were there? There were five. And by five I mean Savage thought the five photos on the slide above represented five different photos from five different negatives.

Here is an excerpt from his book that proves this:

"Rusty has copies of five photographs taken by Lieutenant Day made directly from the original Dallas police negatives which show latent fingerprints found on the trigger housing of the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle from the sixth floor of the Depository. The fingerprints are visible to the naked eye even before enhancement. Each of the fingerprint photographs was taken with a light shining on the trigger housing from different directions in order to produce various contrasts of the fingerprints. This was an attempt by Lieutenant Day to bring out as much of the ridge detail as possible in order to do a comparison for identification of whoever had previously handled the rifle (the shooter)."

Now, even at first glance, some of these photos look similar, as if they are not different photos from different negatives, but prints from the same negative. 

So let's crop 'em down and line 'em up. 

Here they are, in order from photo 33 to 37.




Well, hell, it's clear from this that photos 33 and 35 came from the same negative, as did 34 and 36. This means there were actually but 3 photos taken of the left trigger guard--at least that were developed, and of quality enough that Livingston would make himself a copy. 

Now look again at 37, the bottom photo. It appears that this photo was not only taken from further back than photos 33 and 34, but over-exposed in the area of the trigger guard on which prints can be seen. If so, well then this tells us Scalice was full of beans when he implied he used four different photos to come to his conclusions, and that he, at most, used two different photos.   

And that's not even the biggest eyebrow-raiser among the statements made by Scalice. He claimed as well that he'd never viewed the trigger guard photos before, beyond perhaps one "poor quality photograph." And this excuse almost makes sense. When one combs through the Mary Ferrell Archives, however, one can find a "2 pg listing of material made available to HSCA" with the following paragraph at the bottom of the second page. (HSCA Admin Folder M-3, p5-6)

Well, if this doesn't suggest Scalice saw more than one photo of the trigger guard prints, I don't know what does. It says "Photos of Latents on rifle" not "photo." And it says there were "8 small negs w/10 small prints." While some might assume these "negs" were actually of the rifle, and not "latents on rifle," moreover, the rest of the items on the 2 pg list are items bearing prints, fingerprint cards, and photos and negatives of photos depicting prints. The 8 "negs" are thereby almost certainly "negs" of the Dallas Police photos of the trigger guard prints, or the FBI's photos of the trigger guard prints, or both. Well, wait. If the date for this folder is to be believed, it would suggest these photos are the FBI's own photos of the trigger guard prints, with the possible exception of the photos sent the FBI from Dallas. Such a circumstance, moreover, would explain why there were 10 prints, but only 8 negatives.

Now, Frontline was, and is, a respected news source. It's bad enough that they failed to take a close look at the photos Scalice claimed he'd studied, and to check with the research community or archives to see if he was correct in stating he'd never seen these photos before. But this wasn't the only questionable part of the segment. 

Here is Sebastian Latona in his 4-2-64 testimony before the Warren Commission...

"...in addition to this rifle and that paper bag, which I received on the 23d--there had also been submitted to me some photographs which had been taken by the Dallas Police Department, at least alleged to have been taken by them, of these prints on this trigger guard which they developed. I examined the photographs very closely and I still could not determine any latent value in the photograph(s)." 

and here is Frontline, almost 30 years later... 

"Sebastian Latona, the head of the FBI fingerprint division in 1963, told FRONTLINE that the FBI examined only the rifle itself in making its determination that the trigger guard prints were of no value. Latona said the FBI never looked at the Dallas Police photographs of the trigger guard fingerprints." 

Are we really to believe no one at Frontline studied Latona's testimony before interviewing him, and that no one at Frontline knew he was incorrect or lying when he claimed the FBI never studied the photographs? 

And it's not as if Latona's testimony was the only time the FBI admitted they'd studied the photographs. Here's an excerpt from the FBI's 11-23-63 report on the evidence sent them on the night of the shooting (24H263)...

Now, aha!, one might say. That report reveals that the FBI was sent but one of the DPD's photographs!

Only not so fast... Let's take a look at this 11-26-63 FBI report provided the Warren Commission (CD5 p167).


And then this 11-29-63 FBI report (FBI HQ, sec 17, p176).



It's clear, then, that the FBI not only studied the Dallas Police Department's photographs of the trigger guard, they sought out and studied the original negatives...all 3 of them. 

So, Latona's excuse was Bullshit with a capital B.

Of course, he was an old man in 1993. So, of course, he could have been mistaken. And, of course, there's always the possibility the trigger guard photos mentioned in the 11-26 memo were photos taken of the right trigger guard, and that Latona is guilty of covering that up but not guilty of lying to Frontline about studying photos of the left trigger guard. But that's beside the point. 

The excuse Latona fed Frontline is not credible. Period. 

Well, this is disturbing. The Warren Commission's fingerprint expert, and the HSCA's fingerprint expert, appeared on the same TV program, and they both blew smoke. They both made out that they'd never studied photographs of the trigger guard, when the record suggests they had. 

Still, this does little to disprove Scalice's latter day identification of the trigger guard prints as Oswald's.

Was he mistaken, or worse?





The Missing Charts

I suspect worse... There are reasons to believe Scalice was biased. He worked for the New York City Police Dept. from 1956-1977. He spent much of that time as the Coordinator of the NYPD's Latent Fingerprint Unit. He was almost certainly trained by Arthur Mandella. Mandella, as we've seen, testified in a suspicious manner before the Warren Commission, with his conclusions and testimony being pretty much a rubber-stamp of the FBI's conclusions and testimony.  

Was Scalice determined to support his mentor, and/or his colleagues in the FBI, by adding another piece to the evidence pile supporting Oswald's guilt? Scalice's latter-day C.V. boasted that he'd "worked closely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation concerning deaths of President John F. Kennedy and the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King." Well, this is a bit of a shock seeing as he was supposed to be coming to an independent conclusion regarding the fingerprint evidence for these cases.

Or was Scalice merely out for attention? It seems a bit of a coincidence that, but 18 months after his appearance on Frontline, in which he presented himself as a fingerprint expert, Scalise appeared at a press conference funded by right-wingers opposed to Bill and Hillary Clinton, and presented himself as a handwriting expert, and not just any handwriting expert, mind you, but as a handwriting expert claiming Vince Foster's suicide note had been forged. 

And that wasn't the last we heard of Scaiice. On March 22, 1996, Scalice appeared once again on national TV, this time on the program Unsolved Mysteries. Well, did he add any details regarding his matching the trigger guard prints to Oswald's prints? Nope, no such luck. His appearance was devoted to his latest project--he doubled-down on his claim the Foster note was forged. 

Scalice died on Nov. 25, 1997. 

Now, think about this. Scalice died four years after announcing a major breakthrough in the Kennedy assassination. He claimed he'd ID'ed 18 points of similarity between Oswald's prints and the trigger guard prints. And this even though Lt. Day, working with the actual trigger guard prints and not just photos of the trigger guard prints, told FBI agent Bookhout there were but 4 points on these prints that he was going to try to match to Oswald's prints. 

Well, what is one to take from this? It sure seems as though Scalice was trying to make a name for himself, and that he grossly oversold the similarity between the trigger guard prints and Oswald's prints. But that doesn't mean he was wrong.

No, what we have here is not a case of a dog that shouldn't have barked, but a case where the dog didn't bark...when he should have.

Scalice was a veteran fingerprint examiner. He knew, better than most anyone else, that juries expect fingerprint examiners to show them charts in which the points of similarity between a known print and a latent print are matched up and numbered. He knew, better than most anyone else, that juries, or even better, the American people, would withhold judgement on any fingerprint identification for which no charts of this nature had been supplied. And yet he supplied no charts. 

He said he found 18 points of similarity. Oh wait, did I write "18 points?" In 1998, Gus Russo, the chief researcher for Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?, published his first book on the assassination, Live By the Sword. There, he related: "In 1992, I met with Rusty Livingston, a former Dallas policeman assigned to the crime lab at the time of the assassination. Livingston had saved high contrast photo prints of the rifle, taken before it was shipped to FBI headquarters in Washington. The photos contained evidence that had gone unnoticed, and when Frontline had them analyzed, Oswald's guilt seemed even more certain. Vincent Scalice, a renowned fingerprint expert and HSCA consultant, was engaged by Frontline and expressed astonishment at what he saw -- three fingers from Oswald's right hand had left their mark just inches from the trigger. Scalice, in fact, had located a whopping 18 points of identification. After the production aired, he continued his work and increased the total to 24 points. 'If I had seen these four photographs in 1978,' says Scalice, 'I would have been able to make an identification at that point in time. After this reexamination, I definitely conclude these are Oswald's prints. There is no doubt about it.' 

In any event, 18 points or 24 points--take your pick--it would have been relatively easy for Scalice to match up a copy of a Dallas PD photo with a copy of Oswald's prints, and draw arrows between the two showing these numerous points of similarity. If he had to do this with more than one of the police photos, well, then so be it. This would have taken Scalice perhaps a day or two, and it would have earned him a cover story in the Journal of Forensic Identification, or whatever publication on fingerprinting he admired. And he could have used this as a calling card to drum up more business, a la the Foster business.

But his charts never appeared. And have still never appeared, more than 20 years after his death.

The "proper professional debate" about these prints which Frontline hoped to "spark" never came to pass.

And I think we know why. 




Right on Left?

Let us turn our focus to the second print.. The central print purported to be Oswald's right middle finger print is accompanied by a print to its right, at the upper edge of the trigger guard on the image above. This is clearly the second print described by Scalice, which accounts for an unspecified number of the 18 points of similarity he identified. 

So what print was this? While Latona never told, Lt. Day was a bit more forthcoming... 

Mr. BELIN. Do you have those photographs, sir? I will mark the two photographs which you have just produced Commission Exhibits 720 and 721. I will ask you to state what these are.
Mr. DAY. These are prints or pictures, I should say, of the latent--of the traces of prints on the side of the magazine housing of the gun No. C-2766.
Mr. BELIN. Were those prints in such condition as to be identifiable, if you know?
Mr. DAY. No, sir; I could not make positive identification of these prints.
Mr. BELIN. Did you have enough opportunity to work and get these pictures or not?
Mr. DAY. I worked with them, yes. I could not exclude all possibility as to identification. I thought I knew which they were, but I could not positively identify them.
Mr. BELIN. What was your opinion so far as it went as to whose they were?
Mr. DAY. They appeared to be the right middle and right ring finger of Harvey Lee Oswald, Lee Harvey Oswald.

Mr. BELIN. At the time you had this did you have any comparison fingerprints to make with the actual prints of Lee Harvey Oswald?
Mr. DAY. Yes, sir; we had sets in Captain Fritz' office. Oswald was in his custody, we had made palmprints and fingerprints of him.

The second print was, purportedly, the print of Oswald's right ring finger. Well, think about it. How likely is it that a right ring fingerprint would be found just to the right of a right middle fingerprint if the prints hadn't been created at the same time? Not very likely, right? And then add in that these right fingerprints were found on the left trigger guard in a manner suggesting someone had held the rifle with the trigger guard in the palm of his right hand, with his fingers stretching up across the left trigger guard. And then add in that the print for this right ring finger is higher on the trigger guard than the right middle finger. Well, this suggests the ring finger was stretched forward of the middle finger. 

Now how does one do that while holding a rifle? I've tried to contort my hands into this position but it's incredibly awkward. It makes no sense. Non-smudged fingerprints are left on objects when fingertips are pressed straight down onto the object, and not when they briefly slide across the object. As a result, it's hard to see how the right middle finger and right ring finger of Oswald's hand could have left the prints in question.

Let us now remember that a faked print can sometimes be detected by its reflecting "an orientation inconsistent with normal handling."

When the fingerprint evidence presented against Oswald is re-examined by a forensic body--and it will be re-examined by a forensic body--an analysis of the orientation of these prints should be made. 

That is, of course, if these examiners can get beyond arguing about the other print supposedly found on the rifle--the barrel print. 


The Rifle Barrel Polka

Let us begin our discussion of the barrel print by reminding ourselves what should have happened.

"If a fingerprint is visible, an effort should be made to photograph it before any attempt is made to develop it. In every case a print developed with powder should be photographed before lifting. It sometimes happens that the print does not lift properly although it may be quite clear after development." 

The Science of Fingerprints (the FBI's manual on fingerprinting), Chapter 15, p.187  


Mr. LATONA. The purpose of the lift is simply to insure the probability of getting a good record of the print, because a lot of times when you photograph a print, you have to go through the process of having it developed and then printed and at the same time by lifting it you may, that would be an additional security that you are getting the best results. Then you take your choice as to which result turns out the best. 
Mr. EISENBERG. So these are alternative routes? 
Mr. LATONA. That is right. 
Mr. EISENBERG. Lifting and photographing? 
Mr. LATONA. That is right. Well, primarily our recommendation in the FBI is simply in every procedure to photograph and then lift. Then you choose the one which you feel gives you the best results in your final photograph.  

(The 4-2-64 testimony of FBI fingerprint expert Sebastian Latona)

Mr. DAY. In the matter of fingerprints, I have been assigned to the identification bureau 15 years. During that time I have attended schools, the Texas Department of Public Safety, on fingerprinting; also an advanced latent-print school conducted in Dallas by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I have also had other schooling with the Texas Department of Public Safety and in the local department on crime-scene search and general investigative work. 

(The 4-22-64 testimony of Dallas Crime Scene Search Section Chief Lt. J. C. Day)

So now let's go through the various accounts of what did happen, and see if we can spot changes in the story. .

Newsman Robert MacNeil on NBC around 11:00 PM CST on 11-22-63

“Dallas Police Chief Jess Curry has recently reported that his men have found a partial fingerprint on the rifle believed used in the assassination. The weapon will be sent to Washington to assure proper handling of the print.” 

Well, okay. This appears to be a reference to the main print on the trigger guard, which Lt. Day first developed in the school book depository. 

Newsman David Brinkley on NBC around 12:30 AM CST on 11-23-63

"The Dallas Police reported a moment ago that the foreign-made rifle believed to have been used in the shooting of the President had no fingerprints on it but has been sent here to the FBI laboratory in Washington for an analysis".

So why the change? As Lt. Day would later admit, he just couldn't bring himself to conclude the trigger guard print was Oswald's. Well, this is interesting, no? Rather than admit there is a print that they can't match to Oswald's prints, someone in the DPD has decided to claim there are NO prints. Period...

But as for the honchos leading the investigation, they've decided that mum's the word...


NBC Transcript of Post-Midnight 11-23-63 Interviews of Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry  and Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade (CE 2142, 24H750)

Q. Any particular thing that he said that caused you to file the charges regarding the President's death against him?
Curry. No, sir. Physical evidence is the main thing that we are relying upon. 
Q. Can you name the physical evidence?
(No response)

(Later, 24H751)

Q. Mr. Wade, could you elaborate on the physical evidence?
Wade. Well, we've gone on into some other things that were gathered; the gun is one of them.

(seconds later)

Q. Are there any fingerprints on the gun?
(No response)

That there really were no prints found on the gun, moreover, was repeated in the mainstream press the next day. 

11-23-63 UPI Report on the Evidence Against Oswald (found in, among many newspapers, the New Castle News)

"Police also found the imported rifle with the telescopic sight which fired the fatal bullet into Kennedy's brain, but they said there were no fingerprints on it." 






JAHS Chapter 2


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