A look at what apparently wasn't seen
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." (11-22-63 statement 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.” (11-22-63 radio 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
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 next morning, there is an eyewitness account of the assassination in the paper. Mary Woodward (11-23-63 newspaper article in the Dallas Morning News) "suddenly there was a horrible, ear-splitting noise coming from behind us and a little to the right. My first reaction, and also my friends', was that as a joke someone had backfired their car. Apparently, the driver and occupants of the President's car had the same impression, because instead of speeding up, the car came almost to a halt. ... I don't believe anyone was hit with the first bullet. The President and Mrs. Kennedy turned and looked around, as if they, too, didn't believe the noise was really coming from a gun.. Then after a moment's pause, there was another shot and I saw the President start slumping in the car. This was followed rapidly by another shot. Mrs. Kennedy stood up in the car, turned halfway around, then fell on top of her husband’s body….The cars behind stopped and several men--Secret Service men,--I suppose-- got out and started rushing forward, obstructing our view of the car…. About ten feet from where we were standing, a man and a woman had thrown their small child to the ground and covered his body with theirs. Apparently the bullets had whizzed directly over their heads.” (12-7-63 FBI report, 24H520) “She stated she was watching President and Mrs. Kennedy closely, and all of her group cheered loudly as they went by. Just as President and Mrs. Kennedy went by, they turned and waved at them. Just a second or two later, she heard a loud noise. At this point, it appeared to her that President and Mrs. Kennedy probably were about one hundred feet from her. There seemed to be a pause of a few seconds, and then there were two more loud noises which she suddenly realized were shots, and she saw President Kennedy fall over and Mrs. Kennedy jumped up and started crawling over the back of the car. She stated that her first reaction was that the shots had been fired from above her head and from possibly behind her.” (As Woodward heard two shots fired close together at the end of the shooting sequence, and associated the first of these two with a Kennedy "slumping in the car", it follows that this reaction was his getting hit by the head shot, and that a third shot followed.) Shot after the head shot. Aurelia Alonzo, Margaret Brown, and Ann Donaldson. (12-7-63 FBI report, CD7 p.19) “Ann Donaldson…Margaret Brown…and Miss Aurelio Alonzo…were interviewed December 6, 1963…All furnished the same information as that previously furnished by Mary Elizabeth Woodward.” (Our inspection of the Zapruder film shows that Kennedy waved to these women just before he was first hit. This means he was hit by the first shot described by Miss Woodward and that the slump she described in connection with the second shot is in fact the slump after the head shot.) Shot after the head shot x3.
We read an interesting article on the school book depository employee now charged with the crime. This 11-23-63 New York Times article reports that “Lee Harvey Oswald
was not highly regarded as a marksman,” and that he’d scored 212 out of 250
when he’d first joined the Marines but had let his skills deteriorate so badly
after three years that he barely qualified as a Marksman, scoring a
poor-by-Marine-standards 191 out of 250 on his last test four years ago. We then receive the statement of another
eyewitness to the firing of the rifle. If he says he saw three shots fired from
the sniper’s nest, then maybe we can still say Oswald acted alone.
No such luck.
James Worrell (11-23-63 affidavit to Dallas
County, 16H959) “I was standing on the sidewalk
against a building on the corner of Elm and Houston Streets watching the
motorcade of the President. I heard loud
noise like a fire cracker or gun shots.
I looked around to see where the noise came from. I looked up and saw the barrel of a rifle
sticking out of a window…While I was looking at the gun it was fired
again. I looked back at Mr. Kennedy and
he was slumping over. I got scared and
ran from that location. While I was running I heard the gun fire two more
times. I ran from Elm Street
to Pacific Street on Houston. When I was about 100 yards from the building
I stopped to get my breath and looked back at the building. I saw a w/m, 5’8” to 5’10”, dark hair,
average weight for height, dark shirt or jacket open down front, no hat, didn’t
have anything in his hands, come out of the building and run in the opposite
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 it 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 wound 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). The bag found in the sniper's nest was 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. 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).
Another eyewitness statement trickles-in. Malcolm Summers (11-23-63 statement to Dallas Sheriff’s Department, 19H500) “The President’s car had just come up in front of me when I heard a shot and saw the President slump down in the car and heard Mrs. Kennedy say, “Oh, no,” then a second shot and then I hit the ground as I realized these were shots. Then all of the people started running up the terrace away from the President’s car and I got up and started running also, not realizing what had happened.” (Our subsequent inspection of the Zapruder film shows that Mrs. Kennedy yelled out after the head shot.) Shot after the head shot.
We also receive a report on an FBI interview with Bill
Stinson, the Administrative Assistant to Governor John Connally. It tells us that “Mrs. Connally, was, of
course, an eyewitness to the shooting…and that Mrs. Connally would be available
for interview by the FBI on November
23, 1963, if requested.” No such request is made. (Mrs. Connally is not in fact interviewed
until the second week of December, after the FBI Summary Report on the
assassination has been completed.)
On the next day we learn of two witnesses who couldn’t let themselves believe what they’d seen, and who'd convinced themselves that the explosion of the President’s head had been a firecracker going off in the car. Jack Franzen (11-24-63 FBI report, 22H840) “He said he heard the sound of an explosion which appeared to him to come from the President’s car and noticed small fragments flying inside the car and immediately assumed someone had tossed a firecracker inside the automobile. He heard a second and third and possibly a fourth explosion and recognized these sounds as shots fired from some firearm. At the same time he noticed blood appearing on the top and sides of the head of President Kennedy.” Shot or shots after the head shot. Mrs. Jack Franzen (11-25-63 FBI report, 24H525) “She advised shortly after the President’s automobile passed by on Elm Street near where she and her family were standing, she heard a noise which sounded to her to as if someone had thrown a firecracker into the President’s automobile. She advised at approximately the same time she noticed dust or small pieces of debris flying from the President’s automobile. She advised she heard two other sounds which sounded like shots from a firearm and noticed blood appearing on the side of President Kennedy’s head.” Shot or shots after the head shot.
We also receive a statement from another witness from the floor just below the sniper’s nest. James Jarman (11-24-63 FBI report, CD5 p.334-335) “He said that he heard a shot and then saw President Kennedy move his right hand up to his head. After an elapse of three or four seconds, he heard a second shot and then the vehicle bearing President Kennedy speeded up and he was unable to observe any more about the presidential vehicle. He said a third shot was heard by him closely following the second shot possibly within a second or two afterwards. He said these shots sounded to him to be too loud to have been anywhere outside the TSBD building.” (Our subsequent inspection of the Zapruder film shows that the limousine sped up after the head shot.) Shot after the head shot..
We receive a phone call. While in the protective custody of the Dallas Police, Lee Harvey Oswald has been murdered. Our investigation of a possible conspiracy slows to a trickle. Of the 27 witnesses to the shooting we have heard from so far, 16 have told us, in one way or another, that there was a shot fired after the head shot, 3 others have told us they heard the last two shots fired close together without saying which one struck the President, and another 3 have told us they only heard two shots but thought there may have been a third. 3 additional witnesses have told us they only heard two shots, with the last one being the head shot. This means 26 out of our 27 closest witnesses have made statements consistent with a third shot miss, leaving only 1 witness, Mrs. Gayle Newman, as a witness to a third shot hit. And she dived to the ground after the head shot.
A few days later we receive a report about a third witness from the fifth floor. Harold Norman (11-26-63 FBI report, CD5 p.26) “He stated that about the time the car in which the president was riding turned on to Elm Street, he heard a shot. He said he thought the shot had been fired from the floor directly above him. He further stated at that time he stuck his head from the window and looked upward toward the roof but could see nothing because small particles of dirt were falling from above him. He stated two additional shots were fired after he had pulled his head back in from the window.” (12-4-63 affidavit to the Secret Service, 17H208) “Just after the President passed by I heard a shot and several seconds later, two more shots. I knew that the shots had come from directly above me, and I could hear the expended cartridges fall to the floor. I could also hear the bolt action of the rifle…I saw all of the people down on the street run toward the west end of the building, so I went to that side with Williams and Jarman.” While we’re pleased by Norman’s and Jarman’s claims that three shots came from up above them, we’re disheartened by the way they describe the last shot. It seems awfully close to the second shot to have been fired by a bolt action rifle. Norman fails to describe a pause before this shot, or his anticipation of this shot. When he does mention it, it’s by saying he heard two additional shots. This concerns us very much. We really don’t want to tell Mr. Hoover there’s a conspirator on the loose. (
The next day we get some really startling news. The FBI’s ballistics expert, Robert Frazier, has conducted a series of tests on the rifle found on the sixth floor, the presumed murder weapon. He has discovered that the fastest the weapon can accurately be fired at a moving target is once every 2.8 seconds. (In the FBI Report of December 10, CD7, p.333-335, an FBI lab report under date of 12-2 states that “It has been determined by actual firing tests that a skilled person can fire three accurately aimed shots with the rifle, K1, in five seconds.” In his 3-31-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 3H407, however, Frazier explains that he tested the rifle on 11-27-64 and that the fastest he could fire three shots with the rifle was 4.6 seconds. He also testified that the shooting time would have been a second or so longer if he’d been firing at a moving target.) This means that one of the last two shots was probably not fired by Oswald.
That night we watch Texas Governor John Connally interviewed live from his hospital bed. (11-27-63 televised interview with Martin Agronsky, transcript printed in the 11-28-63 New York Times.) ”we had just turned the corner, we heard a shot; I turned to my left—I was sitting in the jump seat. I turned to my left to look in the back seat—the President had slumped. He had said nothing. Almost simultaneously, as I turned, I was hit and I knew I had been hit badly. I knew the President had been hit and I said, “My God, they are going to kill us all.” Then there was a third shot and the President was hit again and we thought then very seriously. I had still retained consciousness but the President had slumped in Mrs. Kennedy;s lap and when he was hit the second time she said, or the first time—it all happened in such a brief span, she said “Oh, my God, they have killed my husband—Jack, Jack.” After the third shot, the next thing that occurred—I was conscious, the Secret Service man, of course, the chauffeur, had pulled out of the line, they said, “Get out of here…” Final shot head shot.
The 11-28 New York Times has another article of interest. At the end of an 11-27 datelined article entitled “Oswald Unable to Keep $50 Job,” it relates: “the Secret Service re-enacted today the assassination of President Kennedy, which is laid to Oswald. The purpose was 'to test whether it could be done the way we believe it was done,' an official said. The convertible drove the presidential route twice." The 11-28 Dallas Times Herald fills in the details: "Dallas police and the U.S. Secret Service partly re-enacted the slaying of President John F. Kennedy to determine the trajectory of the bullets which crashed into the presidential car. Traffic was blocked from Houston and Main to Houston and Elm and down Elm to the triple overpass Wednesday as a convertible similar to the presidential car made the same route as President Kennedy on the day of the assassination. On the first trip, Jim Underwood of KRLD-TV took television pictures from the window where Lee Harvey Oswald is believed to have fired the fatal shots. After the convertible passed, Lt. Carl Day of the Dallas Police Department placed traffic markers at the spots where three bullets are believed to have struck. Lt. Day told The Times Herald that placement of the markers was determined by home movies taken by an amateur photographer on the day of the assassination. On the second trip, the convertible paused to take pictures of the window where Oswald is believed to have stood to fire the fatal shots. A number of people witnessed the re-enactment and one amateur cameraman sold Polaroid snapshots at the scene."
An AP article found in the Washington Evening Star on this day describes the re-enactment in a slightly different manner. It reads: "A gray convertible, similar to the black one in which President Kennedy made his last ride, rolled past the Texas School Book Depository Building. A man and a woman sat in the back seat, just as Mr.and Mrs. Kennedy did last Friday. Two men were in the front. Looking down on this scene yesterday were investigators, and a cameraman. They perched in the same window from which the fatal shots were fired. They were re-enacting the President's assassination. This was another phase of the step-by-step investigation into the tragedy that shocked the world. The determined officers continued to sift through the evidence today. Officers attracted little attention as they slowly and methodically went through what they believed happened. Traffic was stopped about a minute as the car slowly headed down the hill in front of the building. The scene was grimly different. Instead of a jubilant crowd that stood there last Friday, there was a mournful gathering amid hundreds of flowers laid beside the spot where the assassin struck. An officer who said he did not want to be quoted by name said the re-enactment was done "merely to get the sequence of events straight."
Later that day, we see "Preliminary Special Dallas Report #1" by Secret Service Inspector Thomas Kelley (CD87, p267). Kelley announces that "At the foot of Elm Street, at a point approximately 200 feet east of the Houston Street Triple Underpass, on the approach to the Stemmons Freeway, President Kennedy, who was seated on on the right rear seat, was shot. Immediately thereafter Governor Connally, who was seated on the right jump seat, was shot once. The President was then shot the second time." This has us scratching our heads. Kelley's analysis seems to be in line with the scenario proposed by Life Magazine and CBS' Dan Rather. Could the closest witnesses claiming they'd heard a shot after the President was hit in the head really be mistaken?
The next day, we receive the 11-29-63 memo of FBI Agent Robert Barrett (CD5, p.117), which tells us the conclusions reached from the Secret Service's re-enactment. It reads “with
the aid of a surveyor and through the use of 8 millimeter movie film…(Secret
Service Agent John Joe) Howlett was able to ascertain that the distance from
the window ledge of the (suspected sniper’s nest) to where the President was
struck the first time in the neck was approximately 170 feet. He stated this distance would be accurate
within two or three feet. The distance from the same window ledge to where the
President was struck in the head by the assassin’s bullet was approximately 260
feet…Secret Service Agents using the 8 millimeter film had been unable to
ascertain the exact location where Governor John B. Connally was struck. SA
Howlett advised that that it had been ascertained from the movie that President
Kennedy had been struck with the first and third shots fired by the assassin,
while Governor Connally was struck with the second shot.”
Well, now we’re really confused. Witness after witness has grouped the last two shots together. Many of these have indicated that the last shot missed. Now we’re being told that Connally was hit by the second bullet, just before the head shot. When we look at the 8mm film viewed by Howlett, the Zapruder film, however, it seems obvious that Connally was hit much closer to the first shot, when Kennedy lifted his arms, than to the last shot, when Kennedy was struck in the head. The film and the eyewitnesses seem to be in conflict.
The Fingerprints of Incompetence
On 11-29, we see a lab report that helps us relax...for a minute. A report by the FBI's Latent Fingerprint Section informs "One latent palm print on a piece of cardboard...taken from a carton from the room in which the shots were fired was identified as the right palm print of Oswald. One latent fingerprint and one latent palm print developed on the cardboard box marked 'A' from the same room have been identified as the fingerprint and palm print of Oswald." (FBI file 105-82555 sec 12, p 172). We find out the first box was the box supposedly used as a seat by the shooter, and that box "A" was the box supposedly used as a gun rest by the shooter. We become aware of a problem, however. The photos of the prints on box "A" show a whole mess of prints. And only two of these are Oswald's. We talk to Latent Fingerprint Section head Sebastian Latona and he admits that there are in fact 11 unidentified prints on box "A", 13 unidentified prints on boxes "B" and "C" (which were stacked below "A" by the window), and 2 unidentified prints on box "D", the presumed seat of the shooter. We wonder whose prints these are. We recall the 11-23 statements of James Worrell, who claimed he saw someone other than Oswald run out the back of the depository after the shots. Perhaps, we think, Oswald had an accomplice. We recall the bureau's guidebook, The Science of Fingerprints, which reads:
"Following the location of any latent prints at the scene of a crime, the prints of all persons whose presence at the place under inspection has been for legitimate purposes must be excluded from further attention. It is advisable, therefore, during the initial stages of an investigation where latent prints are found, to secure the inked prints of all members of the household, the employees, and any police or other officials who may have touched the objects on which the latent impressions were found. Inked prints taken for this purpose are referred to as elimination prints."
We then ask Latona if he is gonna follow standard procedure and have elimination prints made of the depository employees and Dallas police, and anyone else who may have innocently handled the boxes. Silence.
On 11-29-63 we see a Secret Service report on an 11-28 interview of Linnie Mae Randle. Although the FBI's 11-23 report on an 11-22 interview with Randle reflects that she initially believed the bag Oswald took to work on the 22nd was approximately 3 feet long (long enough to have carried the rifle), this new report quotes her directly, and suggests either that the first report was inaccurate or that she'd had a talk with her brother Buell Frazier about the length of the bag he said was about two feet long, and had decided to agree with him. The report quotes her as saying "At about 7:10 A.M., Friday, November 22, 1963, Oswald came by my house. I glanced through the window of the kitchen-dining area and saw him walking across the street, and coming up the driveway. He was carrying a package. It was wrapped in brown paper. The package seemed to be about 2 feet or over in length. It seemed to have some weight to it from the manner in which he, Oswald, was carrying it." (CD 87, p. 186).We wonder as to why Randle was re-interviewed but not her brother. We then see an FBI memo to file from Dallas SAIC Shanklin regarding a phone call he had with Inspector James Handley this morning. (This memo can be found in the Weisberg Archives.) Shanklin writes "Bureau is going to fly the brown paper sack back to Dallas. Have one of the agents take it out and have him (Note: he must mean Frazier) identify it as the same paper that he (Note: he must mean Oswald) carried out that morning."
We then find out that Frazier has just today been re-interviewed by FBI agent James Anderton, and that his memorandum has just been placed in the files of the FBI's Dallas office. (Strangely, this memorandum was never sent to headquarters, and was never added to the bureau's assassination file. So how do we know about it, then? Well, it was uncovered in a lawsuit by Harold Weisberg, and can be found in his online archives.)
The memo details that Frazier "recalls that on the morning of November 22, when Oswald rode to work in his car, he had something in a brown paper sack, the kind you would obtain in a dime store, specifically that the paper in the sack was of a flimsy, thin consistency. Frazier stated that he could not observe the sack very well since Oswald threw it in the back seat of his car, and upon arriving ...
at work Oswald carried the package in a vertical position under his right arm, appearing to be holding the end of whatever was in the sack, which he recalled was about two feet in length. Mr. Frazier was questioned as to the ends of the sack and if two sacks had been placed together, but he could recall only seeing one sack described above."
The Dallas Police have come up with their own explanation. Fresh to the FBI's assassination file (62-109060 sec.14 p123-125) is an 11-29 memo from Inspector J.L. Handley in Dallas to Assistant Director Alex Rosen in Washington. It states that Dallas Crime Lab chief "Lt. Day stated that he and other officers have surmised that Oswald by dismantling the rifle could have placed it in the thick, brown sack folded over and then placed the entire package in the flimsy paper sack." This memo notes the impossibility of this, however, and continues "however, the entire package would have been longer than two feet since the stock of the rifle alone was over two feet."
Hmmm. This shows us that the Dallas police are, at least at this point, ready to accept that the bag found in the sniper's nest was not the bag seen by Frazier or Randle. This in itself is intriguing. Maybe they know something we don't. Such as that the bag--which they did not photograph on the 22nd--was not found in the building at all, but taped together by detectives after they found out Oswald had carried a bag to work that morning...
On 12-1 we receive a file from the Secret Service containing the statements of the agents in the motorcade. We hope these will help us make sense of the shooting sequence. Once again, no such luck. William Greer was the driver of the limousine. (11-28-63 report, 18H 723) “A short distance ahead the street passed under a railroad or expressway. A building stood on the right side of us that would have been the last building we would have to pass before entering the underpass. The President’s automobile was almost past this building and I was looking at the overpass that we were about to pass under in case someone was on top of it, when I heard what I thought was the backfire of a motorcycle behind the President’s automobile. After the second shot, I glanced over my right shoulder and saw Governor Connally start to fall, I knew then that something was wrong and immediately pushed the accelerator to the floor and Mr. Kellerman said get out of here.” Too vague.
Roy Kellerman sat on the passenger side of the front seat. (11-29-63 report, 18H724-727) “As the motorcade completed the main thoroughfare through Dallas, we made a sharp right turn for about 1 block, then a curved left turn into a slight downhill grade, entering an area with little or no spectators… Immediately I heard what I firmly believe was the President’s voice, “My God, I’m hit!” I turned around to find out what happened when two additional shots rang out, and the President slumped into Mrs. Kennedy’s lap and Governor Connally fell into Mrs. Connally’s lap. I yelled at William Greer (the driver) to “Step on it! We’re hit!” and grabbed the mike from the car radio and called SA Lawson in the lead car.” (Our study of the Zapruder film shows us that Kellerman failed to turn back toward the President until after Governor Connally had obviously been hit. His statement that “two additional shots” rang out after this point is therefore an indication that he heard the last two shots close together, around the time of the head shot.) Double head shot.
The men directly behind Kennedy, who would have had the best view of him during the shooting, were the agents in his follow-up car. If there had been a pause between a second shot and the head shot long enough for Oswald to have operated his bolt-action rifle, these men, above all, would have noticed. Sam Kinney was the driver of the Presidential back-up car. (11-22-63 report, 18H732) “The first shot was fired as we were going into an underpass…it appeared that he (the President) had been shot because he slumped to the left. Immediately, he sat up again. At this time, the second shot was fired and I observed hair flying from the right side of his head…I did hear three shots but do not recall which shots were those that hit the President.” (11-30-63 report, 18H730-731) "As we completed the left turn and on a short distance, there was a shot…I saw the President lean toward the left and appeared to have grabbed his chest with his right hand. There was a second of pause and then two more shots were heard. Agent Clint Hill jumped from the follow-up car and dashed to the aid of the President and first Lady in the President’s car. I saw one shot strike the President in the right side of the head.” Double head shot. Emory Roberts sat next to Kinney in the front seat of the back-up car. He was directly behind the President. (11-22-63 report, 18H739) “at 12:30 PM, two or three shots were fired, at which time I saw the President lean over on Mrs. Kennedy. I knew he was hit. Just as the second or third shot was fired, Hill ran from follow-up car to president’s car.” (11-29-63 report, 18H733-738) “12:30 PM: First of three shots fired, at which time I saw the President lean toward Mrs. Kennedy. I do not know if it was the next shot or third shot that hit the President in the head, but I saw what appeared to be a small explosion on the right side of the President’s head, saw blood, at which time the President fell further to his left... Just after the third shot was fired, I picked up the car radio and said “Halfback (code name for SS. follow-up car) to Lawson, the President has been hit.” Double head shot.
We then read the accounts of the two agents riding on the driver's side of the back-up car. Clint Hill rode on the outside of the back-up car by the driver’s door. (11-30-63
report, 18H740-745) “On the left hand side was a grass area with a few people
scattered along it observing the motorcade passing, and I was visually scanning
these people when I heard a noise similar to a firecracker. The noise came from my right rear and I
immediately moved my head in that direction. In so doing, my eyes had to cross the Presidential automobile and I saw
the President hunch forward and then slump to his left. I jumped from the follow-up car and ran
toward the Presidential automobile. I
heard a second firecracker type noise but it had a different sound—like the
sound of shooting a revolver into something hard. I saw the President slump more toward his
left.” Heard two shots. William McIntyre rode on the outside of
the driver’s side of the back-up car, behind Clint Hill. (11-22-63, 18H748) “As we approached the underpass
leading to the Thornton Freeway, there was little if any crowd present. I heard three shots fired…I recall a rolling
lawn to the right of the area where the President was shot, and seem to also
recall an expanse of lawn to the left of the Presidential vehicle.” (11-29-63 report, 18H746-747) “The
Presidential vehicle was approximately 200 feet from the underpass when the
first shot was fired, followed in quick succession by two more. After the second shot, I looked at the
President and witnessed his being struck in the head by the third and last
shot. By that time, Mr. Roberts had used
the radio in our car to direct the vehicles to a hospital." Last
two shots bunched together with the last shot the head shot.
There were also two agents riding on the outside of the passenger's side of the back-up car. John Ready rode by the passenger's side door. (11-22-63 report, 18H750) “I heard what sounded like firecrackers…The shooting occurred as we were approaching the Thornton Freeway…There appeared to be no spectators on the right side of the roadway…After the initial shot I attempted to locate the area from where they had come from but was not able to. It appeared that the shots came from my right-rear side.” (Undated report, 18H 749) “I heard what sounded like firecrackers going off…I immediately turned to my right rear trying to determine the source but was unable to determine the exact location.” Too vague. Paul Landis stood along the right side of the back-up car behind John Ready. (11-27-63 report, 18H758-759) “At this point the President’s car and follow-up car had just completed its turn and both were straightening out. At this moment, I heard what sounded like the report of a high powered rifle behind me. My first glance was at the President… I did not realize that the President was hit…I saw him moving and thought he was turning in the direction of the sound. I immediately returned my gaze to the building which I had observed before, at a quick glance saw nothing and dropped my eyes to the crowd, scanning it quickly from right to left... I think I recall Special Agent Jack Ready saying, “What was it? A firecracker?” I remarked “I don’t know. I don’t see any smoke.” …I glanced back towards the President, he still appeared upright in his seat, leaning slightly towards Mrs. Kennedy. It was at this moment that I heard a second report and saw the President’s head split open and pieces of flesh and blood flying through the air.” (11-30-63 report, 18H751-757) “At approximately this point, I would say, the President's car and the Follow-up car had just completed their turns and both were straightening out. At this moment I heard what sounded like the report of a high-powered rifle from behind me, over my right shoulder…My first glance was at the President, as I was practically looking in his direction anyway. I saw him moving in a manner which I thought was to look in the direction of the sound. I did not realize that President Kennedy had been shot at this point. I immediately returned my gaze, over my right shoulder, toward the modernistic building I had observed before. With a quick glance I saw nothing and immediately started scanning the crowd at the intersection from my right to my left. I observed nothing unusual…So far the lapsed period of time could not have been over two or three seconds. It must have been another second or two before the next shot was fired...I glanced towards the President and he still appeared to be fairly upright in his seat, leaning slightly toward Mrs. Kennedy with his head tilted lightly back. I think Mrs. Kennedy had her right arm around the President's shoulders at this time. I also remember Special Agent Clinton Hill attempting to climb onto the back of the President's car. It was at this moment that I heard a second report and it appeared that the President's head split open with a muffled exploding sound. I can best describe the sound as I heard it, as the sound you would get by shooting a high powered bullet into a five gallon can of water or shooting into a melon. I saw pieces of flesh and blood flying through the air and the President slumped out of sight towards Mrs. Kennedy. I still was not certain from which direction the second shot came, but my reaction at this time was that the shot came from somewhere towards the front, right-hand side of the road. I did not notice anyone on the overpass, and I scanned the area to the right of and below the overpass where the terrain sloped towards the road on which we were traveling.” Heard two shots.
We then read the statements of the two men in the back seat. George Hickey sat on the driver’s side of the back seat of the back-up car. (11-22-63 report, 18H765) “As 100-X made the turn and proceeded a short distance, I heard what seemed to me that a firecracker exploded to the right and rear. I stood partially up and turned to the rear to see if I could observe anything. Nothing was observed and I turned around and looked at the President’s car. The President was slumped to the left in the car. I heard what appeared to be two shots and it seemed as if the right side of his head was hit and his hair flew forward.” (11-30-63 report, 18H761-764) “Just prior to the shooting the Presidential car turned left at the intersection and started down an incline toward an underpass…After a very short distance I heard a loud report which sounded like a firecracker…I stood up and looked to my right and rear in an attempt to identify it. Nothing caught my attention except people shouting and cheering. A disturbance in 679X caused me to look forward to the President’s car. Perhaps 2 or 3 seconds elapsed from the time I looked to the rear and then looked at the President. He was slumped forward and to his left, and was straightening up to an almost erect sitting position as I turned and looked. At the moment he was almost sitting erect I heard two reports which I thought were shots and that appeared to me completely different in sound from the first report and were in such rapid succession that there seemed to be practically no time element between them. It looked to me as if the president was struck in the right upper rear of the head. The first shot of the second two seemed as if it missed because the hair on the right side of his head flew forward and there didn’t seem to be any impact against his head. The last shot seemed to hit his head and cause a noise at the point of impact which made him fall forward and to his left again. Possibly four or five seconds elapsed from the time of the first report and the last.” (Our inspection of the Zapruder film reveals that Kennedy’s hair didn’t fly forward until he was struck by the bullet.) Shot after the head shot.
Glen Bennett sat on the right side of the back seat of the back-up car. (11-23-63 report, 18H760) “The motorcade entered an intersection and then proceeded down a grade. At this point the well-wishers numbered but a few, the motorcade continued on down this grade en route to the trade mart. At this point I heard what sounded like a firecracker. I immediately looked from the right/crowd/physical area and looked towards the President who was seated in the right rear seat of his limousine open convertible. At the moment I looked at the back of the President I heard another firecracker noise and saw the shot hit the President about four inches down from the right shoulder. A second shot followed immediately and hit the right rear high of the President’s head. I immediately hollered “he’s hit” and reached for the AR-15 located on the floor of the rear seat.” Last two shots bunched together with the last shot the head shot.
We also receive the statements of the two agents in the lead
car of the motorcade, just ahead of the limousine. Winston Lawson (11-23-63
report, 17H628-629) “It was about the time our car was arriving at this bridge
that I heard the first shot. I believe I
heard two more sharp reports and looking back saw people scurrying away from
the route, as though they were taking cover. Almost immediately the President’s car leaped ahead.” (12-1-63 report, 17H630-634) “As the
lead car was passing under this bridge I heard the first loud, sharp report and
in rapid succession two more sounds like gunfire. I could see persons to the
left of the motorcade vehicles running away.” Last two shots bunched together. Forrest Sorrels (11-28-63
deposition, 21H548) “When we were at a point approximately three fourths of the
distance between the Houston and Elm Street intersections and the first
underpass, I heard what sounded like a rifle shot and said “What’s that?”, as I
turned to my right to look back in the direction of the terrace and the Texas
School Book Depository. When I heard two
more shots, I said “let’s get out of here.” Last two shots bunched together.
We are at a loss. The
statements of the Secret Service agents largely confirm the statements of the
other eyewitnesses. They conflict with
both Connally’s recollections and the apparent sequence of events in the
Zapruder film. The eyewitnesses taken as
a whole assert that the last shot was significantly closer to the second shot than the second
shot was to the first. Period.
Not Exactly in the Bag
On 12-1-63 we read yet another report about the paper bag roadblock. The FBI still can't figure out how Oswald, or anyone, got the rifle used to kill Kennedy into the building. On 11-29, agent Vincent Drain followed up on agent Anderton's interview of Buell Frazier, in which Frazier mentioned that, oh yeah, he'd taken a lie detector test regarding his refusal to ID the bag. Drain talked to Dallas Police Captain Will Fritz, who confirmed that Frazier had told him on the day of the shooting that the bag he saw was "about two feet in length, and of brown paper." (CD7, p290). Drain then talked to Dallas Detective R.D. Lewis, who confirmed that Frazier, while being given a polygraph test, "was shown what appeared to be a homemade brown heavy paper gun case." Lewis stated further that "Frazier said that it was possible this was the case, but he did not think it resembled it. He stated that the crinkly brown paper sack that Oswald had when he rode to work with him that morning was about two feet long." Detective Lewis also told Drain "that if this was not identical to the sack that was turned over to the Bureau, it is possible that Oswald may have thrown it away." (CD7, p291). Apparently, Lewis believed Frazier.
The widespread desire to close the case, particularly as it relates to the paper bag and its use by Oswald to bring the rifle into the building, however, is demonstrated by a 12-1 article in the Philadelphia Bulletin, datelined the day before, describing the events of 11-22. This article describes the morning's events as follows: "Oswald picked the blanket roll off the floor and put it on a white leather chair. He was busy with the bundle for perhaps ten minutes, police said. From it, they added, he took the bolt-action rifle which was used to kill the President. Police said he transferred the rifle from the roll to a brown paper bag." Later in the article, Buell Frazier, who gave Oswald a ride to work, further describes the bag: "As they drove off, Frazier said, he glanced to the back seat where he saw a paper-wrapped bundle. 'He said, yes, it was his--and he muttered something about curtain rods,' said Frazier. As a matter of fact, said Frazier, Oswald had told him the day before that he would be bringing some rods to exchange them for other rods he wanted for his room at Mrs. Johnson's. 'It didn't look to me as long as a rifle ought to be,' said Frazier. 'It seemed to me it should have been longer. If it was a rifle, he had taken it apart, to put it together in the warehouse." A few paragraphs later, the article returns to the bag one last time: "Frazier doesn't remember what Oswald did with the paper-wrapped bundle. 'I just lost track of it,' he said, although I guess he took it out of the car because I didn't see it again."
Well, this is quite puzzling, Frazier has signed a statement saying he saw Oswald remove the package from the car, and carry it into the building, and now he says he "guesses" Oswald took it out of the car? Someone's playing games. Either Frazier is lying to the press, for no apparent reason, or the writer of this article is twisting his words to hide that he got a good look at the bag and felt quite sure the "paper-wrapped bundle" was much smaller than a bag holding the rifle. That the article allows Frazier's assertion that the rifle had to have been broken down to fit inside the bag, sack, or bundle, but fails to tell its readers that the bag described by Frazier was a foot shorter than the rifle, even when the rifle was broken down, and that Frazier had refused to ID the bag found near the sniper's nest as the bag he saw in Oswald's possession, suggests that the writers and their sources in the Dallas Police were more concerned with telling a seamless tale than in getting at the truth.
The New York Times, in an article published the day before, was even worse. The Times avoided the problems with the bag by reporting: "Mr. Frazier noticed that Oswald put a long package wrapped in brown paper sacks into the back seat, saying it was curtain rods. Evidence showed he had removed it from the Paine garage, where he had kept it with his other belongings wrapped in a blanket. Only the blanket was there when the police came to check. Mr. Frazier said Oswald carried the long package into the depository building and that was the last he saw of him before the assassination." This, disturbingly, not only avoids the sticky issue that the "long" package described by Frazier was not nearly long enough to have held the rifle, but completely misinforms its readers by asserting there was any evidence whatsoever that the "long package" had ever been in the garage. That the "long package" had been wrapped in the blanket sitting on the garage floor for almost two months, was either pure speculation, or deliberate misinformation. (The FBI had already tested the paper sack and had (reportedly) found it to match the paper sample taken from the roll in use at the depository on 11-22. They would soon determine that the depository changed rolls every few days, and that, accordingly, the sack or bag had most probably been created within 24 hours of the shooting.)
On 12-2-63, we find out that Dallas FBI agents Odum and McNeely, desperate to get around the problem created by Frazier's refusal to ID the bag, have visited the school book depository, gathered up some paper and some tape, and created a replica sack to show those who knew Oswald. Significantly, the report on their actions of the day before tells us the paper was described as "60 pound paper, 24 inches wide" and that the tape was "gummed, brown paper tape, three inches wide, made on 60 pound paper stock." (CD7, p292). It also tells us that after creating the sack, they took it, along with the original sack, which had been stained by the FBI during testing, over to show Ruth Paine, at whose home Oswald had stayed the night before the shooting. She "advised that she does not recall seeing Lee Oswald in possession of any sack resembling either of these sacks, nor does she recall seeing him in possession of paper or tape of the type used on either of these sacks." (CD7, p293).
Perhaps hoping he would change his mind, they then showed these sacks to Buell Frazier. In their 12-2 report, Odum and McNeeley re-tell Frazier's story. They write: "As he started to drive out of the yard, Frazier glanced back and noticed a long package, light brown in color, lying on the back of the rear seat and extending from approximately the right rear door to about the center of the seat...Frazier designated an approximate spot on the back seat where he felt the package extended to from the right rear door and measurement by Special Agents Bardwell D. Odum and Gibbon E. McNeeley determined that this spot was 27 inches from the inside of the right door, indicating that Frazier estimates that as the length of the package." They then recount Frazier's recollection of how Oswald carried the package into the building: "Oswald had this package under his right arm, one end of this package being under his armpit and the other end apparently held with his right fingers...Frazier stated that when he saw this package under the arm of Oswald, he reached the conclusion that the package was wrapped in a cheap, crinkly, thin paper sack, such as that provided by Five and Ten Cent Stores." They then describe showing Frazier the replica sack. Agent Odum held the sack under his arm, and they measured how much of the sack was visible to Frazier, when held under his arm. It was 9" by 1". According to Odum's report, Frazier then advised Odum "that he now realizes that his conclusion that the sack was thin, crinkly paper, of the type used in Five and Ten Cent stores, was based to a considerable extent upon the fact that the color of the sack was a very light brown as compared with the type of dark brown paper used for heavier grocery sacks. He noted that the color of the replica sack was the same color as the package which he had seen in possession of Oswald on the morning of November 22, 1963." Odum then shows Frazier the original sack. He writes: "Frazier examined the original found by the sixth floor window of the TSBD Building on November 22,1963, and stated that if that sack was originally the color of the replica sack, it could have been the sack or package which he saw in the possession of Oswald on the morning of November 22, 1963, but that he does not feel he is in a position to definitely state that this original is or is not the sack." This is incredibly disingenuous, and fails to note that Frazier was shown this sack, on the night of the shooting, before it had been discolored by the FBI's tests, and had refused to identify it as the sack or bag brought into work by Oswald. Odum then reports: "Frazier indicated on the replica sack the estimated width of the package in possession of Oswald on the morning of November 22, 1963, and this was found to be an approximate width of six inches". (CD7, 294-297).
They then showed the sack to Frazier's sister, Linnie Mae Randle. She also has her doubts about the sack. Odum reports: "Mrs. Randle states that at the time she saw Oswald walking across the street, he was carrying a long package wrapped in brown paper or a brown sack in his right hand. It appeared to contain something heavy. She stated that it was long but did not touch the ground as he walked across the street. She examined a replica of the sack...She stated that this was the same kind of paper that made up the sack or package that she saw Oswald carrying, and was the same heavy grade of paper, since she recalls noting that there was something heavy in the sack when she saw it, and it was the same color paper as the sack she had seen on the morning of November 22, 1963. She was shown the original paper sack...She stated that if the original sack was previously the same color as the replica sack, that the original sack could have been the one which she saw Oswald carrying on the morning of November 22, 1963...The action of Oswald walking across Westbrook Street was re-enacted by Special Agent McNeeley, carrying the replica sack...in accordance with Mrs. Randle's observations, Special Agent McNeeley grasped the top of the sack with his hand...When the proper length of the sack was reached according to Mrs. Randle's estimate, it was measured and found to be 27 inches long. She demonstrated the width of the sack as it appeared to her, noting that it did have something bulky in it originally. Her designation on the replica sack was found to be 8 1/2 inches for the width of the original package she had seen Oswald carrying." (CD7, p298-299). Here, once again, Odum acts as though the recollection of the witness is consistent with the sack carried by Oswald being the sack found in the sniper's nest. This just isn't true. Two witnesses saw the sack. The FBI performed two tests to determine the length of the sack seen by the witnesses. They put the replica sack in Frazier's back seat. This confirmed for Frazier that the sack he saw was about 27 inches long. They then re-enacted Oswald walking across the street to get Randle's best estimate of the length of the sack. This led her to conclude the sack she saw was...27 inches long. We've seen some evidence photos. The sack found in the sniper's nest was 38 inches long, approximately 40% longer than the sack described by both Frazier and Randle. We've also seen photos of the original sack, as it was brought out of the school book depository. It appears to have been well over 10 inches in width.
This gets us thinking. We do a quick comparison of photos of the bag as it was
removed from the depository, and these convince us the bag was actually about
10.75 inches wide. Okay. The bag in these photos is also about 38 inches long. If the bag holding the rifle was 38 by 10.75, however, it would have covered 408.5 sq. inches on the back seat of Frazier's car. The sack described by Frazier, meanwhile, is 27 x 6, 162 sq. inches...This means that the bag shown Frazier--assuming it was the bag in the press photos--was TWO AND A HALF TIMES as large as the bag he recalled seeing in Oswald's possession. And made from a thicker paper. No wonder he'd refused to ID the bag.
The next day we receive a report on an interview with Orville Nix. Nix had filmed the fatal headshot from the opposite of Zapruder. (12-3-63 FBI report, 24H539) “Nix believed the film depicts the third shot hitting President Kennedy and the sequence of events immediately after including Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy reaching out over the back trunk lid to assist a secret service agent who is running to her aid.” Too vague. Why wasn’t Nix asked to describe the shooting sequence? Does the description of the head shot as the third shot come from Nix or from the writer of the report? Has the FBI already made up its mind? Apparently so.
The 12-3-63 edition of the Washington
Evening Star, a newspaper used by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to leak stories
he wants before the public, reports: “An exhaustive FBI report now nearly ready
for the White House will indicate that…Oswald was the lone and unaided assassin
of President Kennedy, Government sources said today."
The next day, we receive a report on an interview with Marie Muchmore. We've heard rumors that she filmed the assassination from the east end of the plaza, but she denies them. (12-4-64 FBI report CD7 p.31) “She advised that they stood on Main and Houston Streets. As the parade passed by there she heard the first shot but from where they were standing could not observe where the shot came from. She said she panicked after this shot and ran back to the office, later becoming deathly sick over the incident…She said she had a movie camera with her at the time and Wilma Bond had a box camera but she advised that she did not obtain any photographs of the assassination scene.” Too vague.
Also on 12-4, a witness named Carolyn Walther comes forward and claims she "saw a man standing on either the fourth or fifth floor in the southeast corner window...In his hands this man was holding a rifle with the barrel pointed downward." The man she saw “was wearing a white shirt and had blond or light brown hair.” She also offered that “the rifle was different from any she had ever seen. This man was standing in about the middle of the window. In the same window, to the left of this man, she could see a portion of another man standing by the side of this man with a rifle. This other man was standing erect, and his head was above the opened portion of the window. As the window was very dirty, she could not see the head of this second man. She is positive this window was not as high as the sixth floor. This second man was apparently wearing a brown suit coat, and the only thing she could see was the right side of the man, from about the waist to the shoulders.” (24H522). Hearing this, we ask Latona once again if he's gonna run some elimination prints, and try to find out who, besides Oswald, had been in the sniper's nest. Silence.
But this is not the most disturbing development of the day. In agent Robert Barrett's memo on an interview with Abraham Zapruder we spot an intriguing sentence, one which we know could prove most problematic. It states that, according to Zapruder, who filmed the assassination from beginning to end, his camera was set to take "normal speed movie film or 24 frames per second." (CD7, p.12). Since Agent Robert Frazier has already indicated that the shooting would take a minimum of 5.6 seconds with Oswald's rifle, and since Agent Barrett's report on the Secret Service reenactment indicates the first and third shots hit Kennedy, Zapruder's film should show Kennedy first hit at least 134 frames before he suffered his fatal blow, should Oswald have acted alone. We are told this is not the case. We take comfort, nevertheless, in Barrett's statement that he has obtained Zapruder's camera and that the camera will undergo testing at the FBI's crime lab.
On 12-5 we
see yet another signed statement from Buell Frazier, who gave Oswald a
ride to work on 11-22-63. Frazier was the only person to get a good
look at the package Oswald brought to work. Every member of law
enforcement working on the case wants to believe this package contained
Oswald's rifle, but Frazier told first the Dallas Police, and then the
FBI, that the package he saw was only 2 feet long. Unfortunately, the
bag reportedly found in the sniper's nest (there is no picture of it in
situ) was over 3 feet long. This was barely long enough to have held
Oswald's disassembled rifle. This newly-signed statement comes from the
Secret Service. The third time's not the charm. Frazier sticks to his
guns. He writes: "He had put a package in the back seat of the car. I
got into the car and sort of glanced over my shoulder and saw a package
in the seat. The package was approximately two feet in length. It was a
brown paper sack and was folded so that the contents could not be seen.
I asked Lee about the package and he said it was curtain rods." Frazier
sticks to his guns (or lack of gun) in other ways as well. He writes: "Lee got out and
took the package...The package was under his arm lengthwise and the
paper was all that could be seen." (CD87, p795-796). A three-foot long
package would not have fit under Oswald's arm in such a manner. If Frazier is correct, Oswald didn't act alone.
Do It Again
On 12-5 we also see an FBI teletype message from Special-Agent-in-Charge J. Gordon Shanklin in Dallas. It discloses that the FBI's Exhibits section, under Leo Gauthier, is in Dallas preparing exhibits depicting the shooting, and that "While Gauthier and assistants were making measurements on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository Building, on December Five, Secret Service Agents Miller and Sorrell arrived on the scene with a motion picture cameraman. These men identified themselves as Secret Service men to Gauthier. At approximately three P.M. on December Five, Secret Service Agents Miller and Sorrell supervised re-enactment of the route of the President's assassination. A white convertible similar to the black one in which President Kennedy made his last ride, rolled past the assassination spot. A man and a woman sat in the back seat just as President and Mrs. Kennedy did, two men were in the front. Looking down on this scene was the movie camera, perched in the same window from which the fatal shots were fired. Field surveyors from the Robert H. West land survey company, apparently employed by the Secret Service, were present, compiling survey data (slope of the road) at the three points on the freeway where it is believed the bullets struck the President and the Governor. Gauthier discontinued making measurements during the time the Secret Service enactment." This tells us that not only are the Secret Service and FBI not working together to investigate the crime, but that they aren't even sharing any basic information.
12-5 New York Times further describes this re-enactment: "An open car
with a man and a woman in the back seat simulated again and again today
the ride of the President and Mrs. Kennedy on Nov. 22. A motion picture
camera in the sixth-floor window that was used by the assassin recorded
these trips. A surveyor's transit stood in the parkway on the other
side of the street looking up at the window. Each of the simulations
differed slightly from the other, either in the speed of the car or the
gestures of the occupants, or in some other detail. On one trip both
occupants of the back seat waved. On another the man turned to the
right, and, moments later, slumped in his seat; then the car's speed
picked up. On all simulations, a motorcycle policeman rode on each side
near the rear of the car. At all times the car used the middle of the
On 12-9, we see a memo from Gauthier himself, describing his efforts in Dallas. He is preparing floor plans of the depository and of the police station where Oswald was killed, as well as a mock-up of Dealey Plaza. He lists the advantages of having these exhibits and then declares "The marks on the freeway indicating where shots one, two, and three were believed to have struck the Presidential car, have been noted and this information can be indicated on the model. From this information, it appears that shot one struck the President momentarily after he came within gun range when his car moved passed the tree top as viewed by the assassin. Shot number two which is believed to have struck Governor Connally occurred after the car had traveled a distance of 95 feet at approximately 15 m.p.h. The markings on the Freeway indicated that shot number three which is believed to have struck the President occurred after the car had traveled another 45 feet. At 15 m.p.h a car moves forward at a speed of about 22 feet per second or one car length. The President's car length is 21 feet long. Based upon this information the second shot occurred about 4.36 second after the first shot was fired and the third shot occurred about 2.0 seconds after the second shot was fired. The total elapse time to fire shots two and three was approximately 6.4 seconds during which time the President's car traveling at 15 m.p.h. covered approximately 141 feet."
is disturbing, and raises lots of questions. Hasn't anyone told Gauthier that the FBI's Robert
Frazier has already tested the rifle and found that a shooter would
need at least 2.8 seconds between shots? And what does he mean by
"marks on the freeway"? Has someone placed marks on Elm Street at the
limo's locations when the shots were fired? If so, how did they
establish these locations and why do these marks differ so greatly from
the locations determined by agent Howlett?
The Conclusion That Shouldn't Have Been
the FBI gives their summary report to each member of the newly convened
Warren Commission. On page 1 it reads: “As the motorcade was
traveling through downtown Dallas
on Elm Street about fifty
yards west of the intersection with Houston Street
(Exhibit 1), three shots rang out. Two
bullets struck President Kennedy, and one wounded Governor Connally.
The President, who slumped forward in the
car, was rushed to Parkland Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced
dead at 1:00 p.m. Eyewitnesses at the scene of the shooting saw
an individual holding a rifle in a sixth-floor window of the Texas
School Book Depository Building located on the corner of
Houston and Elm Streets. One individual
stated that after he heard what he believed to be a second shot, he
and saw this man take deliberate aim with a rifle and fire in the
the Presidential motorcade as it passed. “ On page 18, the report
examination of the President’s body revealed that one of the bullets
entered just below his shoulder to the right of the spinal column at an
of 45 to 60 degrees downward, that there was no exit, and that the
not in the body.” As the bullet creating this wound could not have
continued on into Governor Connally, it certainly implies the bullet
was a separate shot. This would undoubtedly suggest the scenarios
described by Secret Service Agent Howlett and FBI exhibits chief Gauthier...that the first shot hit Kennedy, the second hit
Connally, and the third hit Kennedy in the head.
Outside of the statements of Howard Brennan, whose statements were misrepresented in order to support this shooting scenario (he, in fact, had never said he heard a second shot), the statements of the closest witnesses, normally the backbone of a criminal investigation, have apparently been ignored.
We're also appalled by the report's treatment of the fingerprint evidence. Not only does the report fail to mention that "Oh yeah, while we were able to identify 3 prints on the boxes as Oswald's, there were 25 more that we haven't yet identified," it actually goes out of its way to hide this fact, describing photos showing numerous prints as photos of "a latent fingerprint identifed as the right index finger impression of Lee Harvey Oswald" and "a latent palm print identified as the left palm print of Lee Harvey Oswald." (CD1 evidence photos 27 and 28, respectively.)
And we're also disgusted with the report's treatment of the paper bag. As could have been gathered from Agent Bardwell Odum's 12-2 reports, the FBI pretends that Frazier and Randle's statements support that the bag or sack carried by Oswald was the bag or sack found in the sniper's nest. On page 5, the FBI Summary Report declares: "When Oswald left Irving, Texas, on the morning of November 22, 1963, he carried a long package wrapped in brown paper." It later claims "After the assassination, brown wrapping paper in the shape of a long bag was found near the window from which the shots were fired on the sixth floor of the depository building." (CD1, p5). There is no acknowledgment that the only two witnesses to see Oswald with this "brown wrapping paper" refused to ID the paper bag found in the sniper's nest as this bag, and, in fact insisted the sniper's nest bag was far larger than the bag they saw. Apparently such things were just not to be acknowledged.
In our frustration, we make some phone calls, searching for an explanation for the FBI's failure to properly present the evidence. We find that the Summary Report was sent over to President Johnson and Acting Attorney General Katzenbach on 12-5-63, before the FBI had even determined the speed of Abraham Zapruder's camera, and thus, if it was even possible for Oswald to have fired all the shots depicted in the film. If Zapruder is correct, and his camera was filming at 24 frames per second, so we've been told, then Oswald could not have fired all the shots. While complaining about this, we hear a rumor that the National Photo Interpretation Center has studied the film for the Secret Service.
We call a close friend working at the National Photo Interpretation Center. He tells us that on the evening of November 23rd, the Secret Service had given a copy of the Zapruder film to two of the Center's photo experts, Homer McMahon and Ben Hunter, and had asked them to make enlargements on 28 frames of the film. It was believed that the creation of these enlargements would help them identify the moments the bullets struck both the President and the Governor. (While evidence for this incident had been discussed for years, it was not fully investigated until Doug Horne of the ARRB did so in 1997.) Our friend gets access to the worksheets created as part of this study. These worksheets indicate that the initial conclusion was that Kennedy was struck at frame 224, Connally was struck at frame 256, and that Kennedy was struck again at frame 312. This was based on the supposition that the Zapruder film was recording 16 frames per second, and that there was a 2 second gap between the first two shots, and a 3.5 second gap between the second and third. (This apparent conclusion is written in bold on the front side of a worksheet discovered in the CIA files in 1981. McMahon and Hunter recognized their writing on this worksheet.) There are numerous calculations on this worksheet. Most revolve around the number 242, an obvious reference to frame 242, by which time Connally has obviously been struck. On the front side of the worksheet, there is 312 - 242 (to measure the time between the headshot at 312 and the apparent impact on Connally). There is also 242 - 213 (to measure the time between when Kennedy would seem to be hit, 213, and when Connally appears to be hit). Next to this is 242 - 32 (As 242 - 213 was only 29 frames, too short a time span for two shots to have been fired from a bolt-action rifle, it appears they were measuring what frame would then be acceptable, given that the dead bolt would take at least two seconds to operate). Next to this is 256 – 224 (which was 32 frames and was thus deemed acceptable). On the back side of the sheet there were even more calculations, many of them repeated from the first side. These calculations, however, are made with the assumption that the Zapruder film was recording 18 frames per second. Thus, the magic number here is 36 frames, e.g. 213 + 36 = 249. There are also 242 – 190 = 52 and 52 / 18 = 2.8. These last two indicate that if the Zapruder film was shown to record at 18 frames per second, the Secret Service was prepared to say the first shot hit Kennedy at 190, the second hit Connally at 242, and the final shot hit Kennedy at 312.
On the whole, then, these numbers indicate that, rather than trying to isolate the actual moments of impact, the Secret Service was, from the very beginning, assuming that the third shot was the head shot, and trying to make the moments of impact fit neatly within the time constraints of Oswald’s bolt-action rifle. This suggests they were always operating under the belief Oswald acted alone. We wonder if this same kind of thinking has not infected the FBI, and negatively influenced the Summary Report.
We look closer at the worksheets, to see if anything they've proposed makes sense. On one sheet they suggest that the shots occurred at frames 213, 263,
and 312. This is strange, as it seems obvious that Connally was hit long before 263. Another scenario of 217, 242, and 312 is equally curious, as Robert Frazier’s tests back on 11-27 tell us that
Oswald would have needed approximately 2.8 seconds or 51 frames between
shots. Certainly, they weren't considering that someone other than Oswald fired one of the shots. This makes us suspect that the FBI has failed to tell the NPIC or Secret Service about their tests. As the NPIC is closely associated with the CIA, and as FBI Director Hoover has a problem with the CIA, this is not a big surprise.
When we look further through the worksheets, however, there is a surprise. The Secret Service has seriously considered the scenario offered in the 12-6 edition of Life magazine, holding that Kennedy was hit at 190, Connally at 264, and Kennedy at 312. We just can’t accept that Connally was hit so late however. Other scenarios considered at NPIC and by the Secret Service are 206, 242, 312, and 213, 242 and 312, but both of these have the first two shots too close together to have been fired by Oswald. The only single-assassin scenario that works, then, based upon even a cursory study of the Zapruder film, is the Kennedy 190, Connally 242, and Kennedy 312 scenario. Even this scenario is less than convincing, however. Not only does Connally appear to have been hit before frame 242 of the film, but the witnesses, as we well know, clearly suggested that the last two shots were bunched together, with the final shot after the headshot. (A more elaborate analysis of the Zapruder film by Robert Frazier for the Warren Commission concluded that, assuming a rifle was fired from the sixth floor sniper’s nest, Connally was turned too far to his right after frame 231 to receive his wounds.)
With our re-inspection of the Zapruder film, however, we make another discovery. A number of the frames are blurry. Two blurs in particular stand out, one between frames 190 and 200 and one shortly after frame 313. The thought occurs that these blurs are related to the shots and are perhaps a reflection that Zapruder flinched after hearing the shots. One of us decides to hold the camera, which had been obtained by the FBI crime lab on 12-06, and asks the rest of us to make random loud noises all around while he films someone walking down the hall. This test confirms that the blurred images on the Zapruder film are quite possibly related to Zapruder’s jumping at the sound of the gunshots. When we closely analyze the original film, however, we find that his largest startle reaction occurs shortly after the startle reaction seemingly related to the head shot. This supports the many eyewitness statements claiming there were two closely bunched shots, shots fired so close together that many of the witnesses, including the two secret service agents directly behind Kennedy, couldn’t remember which one hit the President. We now have real reason to suspect the eyewitnesses were correct and that the last two shots were fired too close together to have been fired by Oswald alone. Do we tell Hoover? Neither the eyewitness statements nor our analysis of the rifle and Zapruder film suggest three shots were fired by a shooter in the sniper's nest. We have real reason to suspect that a second shooter was involved. Do we make the call? Do we ask Hoover if we can expand the investigation and look for this second shooter?
Well, no matter how you answered that last question, the fact is that this has been an imaginary investigation. As far as we know, there was no one in the FBI tasked with making sense of the eyewitness testimony, and seeing if it agreed with the physical and photographic evidence. No effort was made, and consequently no agreement was reached. The FBI search for witnesses and the truth was so half-hearted, in fact, that they failed to establish the photographer of Marie Muchmore's film of the assassination until February, 1964. On 11-26-63, Muchmore's film was shown on television; over the following days it was much discussed in newspapers. And yet the FBI never sought a copy of this film and only acknowledged its existence after its color frames were published in a widely distributed photo book of the assassination. Perhaps no one in the FBI read the paper or had a TV.
(Note: the significance of the blurred frames of the Zapruder film was not discovered until several years after the assassination. I include it here because I have every confidence that these blurs could have and should have been analyzed in 1963 by the FBI, should they have honestly been interested in analyzing the film. Professor William Hartmann studied these blurs for the HSCA in 1978. A chart in his final report, Figure II-5, measures the blurs in the Zapruder film and demonstrates that the largest startle prior to Zapruder’s losing control took place around frames 330-332. As most everyone by 1978 had come to believe the last shot was the head shot, however, Hartmann arbitrarily dismissed this substantial startle reaction as a second reaction to the head shot, and to Zapruder’s crying out. The consistent movement and blurring one would expect from Zapruder’s crying out does not in fact occur until approximately one second after the startle reaction recorded between frames 330-332.)