Chapter 5: The Jigsaw Puzzle
The beginning of a comprehensive look at the many ear and eye witnesses to the assassination, in an attempt to determine what REALLY happened
For reasons beyond my grasp, the first image in each chapter sometimes
fails to appear. If there's nothing up above, don't despair; you can still see the image here
Rashomon is the title of a 1950 film by Japanese film-maker Akira Kurosawa. In the film the same event is recounted by four different participants, none of whom is completely reliable. Similarly, over the course of the next few chapters, we'll be looking at the statements of the many witnesses to the shooting, both before the conclusions of the Warren Commission, and afterward, to see if they can help us come to any conclusions on how the shots were fired.
So, why bother? You might ask.. Everybody knows that eyewitnesses aren't reliable. Well, that isn't really true. While everybody knows the impressions of one witness can't be trusted, everybody also knows that the statements of numerous witnesses should never be ignored.
Let's discuss, as an analogy, a party. Say we were invited to a big bash, but were not able to attend. Say we called around the next day to find out what happened. Say that five friends tell us that Mick Jagger showed up at the bash. We'd believe it, right? Now consider that two said he arrived at 10:30, while the other three said he arrived at 11:00. Well, this wouldn't make us think he'd actually never showed, now would it? If we actually cared what time he'd showed, we'd ask more questions, and piece together a puzzle. Say one of those thinking Jagger got there at 10:30 remembered looking at his watch when Jagger arrived. Say the other one thinking Jagger showed up at 10:30 remembered Jagger being at the party for a half-hour or so before going into a bathroom when the 11:00 news came on. Say one of those thinking Jagger showed up at 11:00 remembered his heading down a hall towards a bathroom at 11:00. Say another one of those thinking he'd got there at 11:00 remembered standing in a hall at 11:05, waiting for someone to get out of the bathroom, only to find it was Mick Jagger. Say the third person claiming Jagger got there at 11:00 remembered someone telling him around midnight that Jagger had been there about an hour. Well, from the statements of these five people it's quite clear Jagger got there at 10:30, even though only a minority of them believed this to be true. A simple voice count on the time of Jagger's arrival was misleading. But a STUDY of their statements was conclusive.
By the end of Rashomon, most viewers have a similar
feeling about what really happened to the characters in the movie, even though
this story—the one the viewers usually come to decide is the real story—is
never depicted in the movie. I suspect as much is true with the Kennedy
assassination; that is, I suspect that by reading the many divergent accounts of the
assassination we can come to a conclusion not necessarily described by any one
While previously we have used the contemporaneous statements of the eyewitnesses to show how the conclusions of the FBI and Warren Commission were, well…un-Warren-ted (sorry), in this section we will try to make sense of what on the surface appears to be nonsense--the eyewitness testimony in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Those who have attempted similarly comprehensive studies of the eyewitness evidence in the past have usually broken the evidence down by the number of shots heard by the witnesses and from where the witnesses believed the shots were fired. This approach, however, has its limitations. The first shot heard by some witnesses was clearly not the first shot heard by others, etc. Due to these complicating factors, I’ve found that the best way to effectively demonstrate that the current single-assassin theorist scenario—a first shot miss at Zapruder frame 160, a single-bullet striking Kennedy and Connally at Zapruder frame 224, and a fatal head shot at Zapruder frame 313 (from hereon referred to as the LPM scenario in honor of its chief proponents, Dr. John Lattimer, Gerald Posner, and animator Dale Myers)—is an absolute myth is to go through the eyewitnesses one by one and analyze their statements and testimony. I hope you'll see this out.
My inspiration in undertaking this examination came in part from re-reading the earwitness section of an earlier presentation. While doing so, I realized that everyone who heard three shots and who described the last two shots as being closer together than the first and second was simultaneously stating that the first shot hit President Kennedy. This comes from our familiarity with the Zapruder film. When one watches the film it is obvious that Kennedy is not hit before frame 188 but is hit by frame 224. It is also obvious that Kennedy is hit again at frame 313. For there to have been a first shot miss fired before these two obvious shots, and for the shots at 190-224 and 313 to have been fired closer together than the first shot miss and the second shot hit between 190-224, this first shot miss would have to have been fired at frame 132 or earlier, far earlier than proposed by even the most ardent single-assassin theorists, save one (Max Holland, whose outlandish claims are discussed below). If one grants that the first shot hit Kennedy between frames 190 and 224, however, then the second shot could have been fired around frame 260 and could have been closer to the presumed third shot at 313 than the first shot. The problem with this "second shot miss" theory, however, is that, through the research mostly of single-assassin theorists, the moment of the bullet’s impact on Connally has now been established as occurring at frame 224. This is seemingly too close to 313 for Oswald to have aimed and fired a shot in-between. Well, how about the third shot having missed, then? Unfortunately for single-assassin theorists, while there is plentiful eyewitness evidence for a third-shot miss, there is no evidence that this shot was fired as long as 2.3-2.8 seconds after the shot at 313. This means the single-assassin theory is now DEPENDENT on a first shot miss fired before frame 173.
This mythical miss has been discussed and
demonstrated so often and so convincingly, through countless simulations on TV,
that most Americans have no idea that the Warren Commission discounted the
likelihood of such a shot and that the eyewitness evidence offers virtually no
support—not even through cherry-picking—for this miss. Although much of the evidence for a first shot hit has been previously discussed--Physicist Don Olson and Criminalist Ralph Turner presented evidence for such a hit to the Academy of Forensic Sciences on February 25, 1971--it is now time to set the story straight, for once and for all: there was no first shot miss.
Mr. Holland's Colossal Blunder
On 2-19-07, long after I completed my study of the eyewitness evidence, the presumably sane historian Max Holland unveiled his theory that the first shot occurred when Kennedy was just making the turn onto Elm Street, 1.4 seconds before Zapruder starts filming the motorcade at frame 133. This is at odds with the evidence and signifies a desperate attempt to make the earwitness evidence fit the single-assassin theory. On November 22, 2007, the New York Times published an Op-Ed piece by Holland further pushing this theory. In this piece, Holland wrote:
"In May 1964, with the help of surveyors, the Warren Commission first considered the idea that a shot could have been fired before Zapruder restarted his camera. The commission later heard testimony that included references to what the staff labeled “Position A.” It did not appear on the Zapruder film, but represented the “first point at which a person in the sixth-floor window of the book building ... could have gotten a shot at the president after the car had rounded the corner.”
If the commission had followed up this insight, it would have conceivably been able to describe the duration and intervals of the shooting sequence: that Oswald fired three shots in approximately 11.2 seconds, with intervals of 6.3 seconds and 4.9 seconds between the shots."
In February 2008, on Nation Public Radio, Holland was back at it, telling a nation of radio listeners: “It’s always been a presumption, which I think turns out to be unwarranted, that the whole assassination was captured on the Zapruder film, because it is so gruesome to watch the second and third shots that people naturally thought the first one must be on it also. In fact I believe that the first shot occurred just before Zapruder started filming. That means three shots in a little over 11 seconds which relatively speaking is all the time in the world that he needed.”
This latest statement by Holland spurred Dale Myers to respond, via his online blog: "Of course, it’s never been a presumption, as Max Holland claims, that all three shots were fired while Zapruder’s camera was turning. There is just no credible evidence that any shots were fired before the first frame was exposed, despite Holland’s past and present claims. I agree with (former Senator Daniel Patrick) Moynihan’s sentiments – ‘You’re entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.’ When it comes to an early, pre-Zapruder film shot, Mr. Holland has offered up a spade full of supportive facts – all of his own making."
On this point, Myers and I are in full agreement. The fact that virtually every prominent single-assassin theorist had joined virtually every prominent conspiracy theorist in decrying the silliness of his theory, however, did little to dissuade Holland. In November, 2008, on his website, he returned with another installment, 11 Seconds in Dallas Redux, once again pushing his pet theory. In this one, he cited the recollections of three Secret Service Agents, Ready, Hickey and Bennett, and compared them to their actions in the Zapruder film, in order to conclude the first shot was fired long before anyone had previously believed.
There was a problem with this: the statements of NONE of these men supported Holland's analysis. Ready says he turned to
the right after the first shot; Holland decides instead that he turned to the left
after the first shot, and did not turn to the right until after the
second shot. Hickey also says he turned to the right after the first
shot. Holland decides instead that he too looked to his left after the first shot,
and did not turn to his right until after the second shot. And,
finally, Bennett says he looked to his left after the first shot and
saw the impact of the second shot on Kennedy's back, immediately
followed by a third shot striking Kennedy's head. Holland decides instead that,
unbeknownst to Bennett, Bennett had looked away from Kennedy between the second
and third shots, and that, furthermore, the shot Bennett thought immediately followed the second shot was in fact not fired for 5
Holland then defended his re-interpretation of their words:
Human beings are not recording machines. An eyewitness to a crime is being asked “to be something and do something that a normal human being was not created to be or do.” Recollections are frequently imperfect to begin with, no matter how vivid. Subsequently, they are prone to being subtly influenced by what others think and say, as well as information learned after the fact. If a person is in a responsible position, such as Ready and Hickey were, recollections can be edited unconsciously.
The only approach that makes sense is to examine each recollection carefully and weigh it against the totality of the ballistic, forensic, visual, and aural evidence gathered. A witness can offer one critical detail that is accurate and get almost everything else wrong. Another person’s recollection, like that of Glen Bennett, may prove accurate in every important respect, although even Bennett failed to note that he was briefly distracted, after the second shot, away from his concentration on the president.
While Holland seems strangely sure of himself, we must ask how this can be? Far from examining "each recollection carefully and weighing it against the totality of the ballistic, forensic, visual, and aural evidence gathered", as claimed, Holland has twisted a few statements into supporting an otherwise unsupportable scenario, and then willfully ignored the statements of dozens of witnesses contradicting his twisted view of events. If this is what it takes to become a successful historian, respected by the mainstream media, and published in the New York Times, please count me out.
Unfortunately, that appears to be the case--that I've been counted out. In early 2011, I was approached by an historian in contact with the National Geographic Channel. He said they were looking for new theories to test, and that he would send them my recommendations. I sent him my recommendations, which he forwarded to his contact at the channel. I never heard back. It was to my sheer horror, then, that, many months later, when the channel broadcast its new documentary on the assassination, the theory they were testing was Holland's silly theory--a theory not supported by a single expert on the assassination, even those claiming Oswald acted alone.
As if to add insult to injury, moreover, the program was chock full of deceptions and lies. As but one example of its sheer awfulness, Holland, in the program, uses Amos Euins as his prime witness for the early shot he proposes. The narrator then claims ""Euins has lived most of his life outside the media spotlight, but his
story remains the same--that all three shots...came
from the sixth floor of the book depository, not from the grassy knoll." There was just one problem with this...a HUGE problem. Euins had testified in 1964 that he'd heard FOUR shots, not three! Holland, who fancies himself a "scholar" on the assassination, was certainly aware of this, and his failure to either mention this in the program, or warn viewers that the program was seriously misleading, reveals his contempt for both his audience and the truth, IMHO.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. The sheer awfulness of JFK: The Lost Bullet is almost beyond description. Within a few days of its airing, the two eyewitnesses beyond Euins presented in the program, James Tague and Tina Pender, had both been outed as skeptics regarding Holland's theory. James Tague said Holland was "full of crap" in an email to a researcher, and Dan Sullivan, a photo analyst who'd worked on the program, admitted, in an article on Tina Pender's appearance, that "The first bullet was actually shot way before they thought," with Tina being one of the "they." Sullivan then claimed: "and it hit the traffic light...Consequently, we went back, looked at images of the traffic light, sure enough there was a hole."
Well, this bit about the hole shot another hole in Holland's credibility.
You see, although the program had pushed that no one saw the impact of the first shot proposed by Holland because it had been deflected by a traffic light, and Sullivan had claimed they'd found a hole in a traffic light, Holland had, in the program,
only claimed a "white spot" was visible on images of the traffic light. Hmmm... Was Holland trying to have it both ways--let his audience think a bullet had hit the traffic light, without actually claiming what they'd found was a hole?
Apparently, so. A technical report was added to Holland's Washington Decoded website on 11-20-11, the day JFK: The Lost Bullet was broadcast. In this report, Holland admitted that in June 2011 the
producers of JFK: The Lost Bullet had obtained and studied a traffic
light identical to the one Sullivan claimed had been hit by a bullet on
11-22-63, and had concluded: "After hanging the exemplar light and viewing it from roughly the same perspective as the USSS
training film, the view through the drilled “bullet” hole showed that
the intervening base lip, that was presumed to form a
deflection surface, obscures the view. The viewing also revealed that a gap opening exists in
the corner between the right and bottom back plates and
produces a visible unobstructed hole in the same location as
the “possible bullet hole” that was observed in the USSS
training film. Consequently, the hole was eliminated
as a possible bullet hole."
that wasn't all. The report then admitted that in September 2011 the
producers had contracted with the HP White Laboratory to fire shots from
a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle at the traffic light to see if it was
possible a bullet had been deflected by the light without leaving a
hole. This was their conclusion: "All three test firings revealed that an exemplar Eagle signal
could deflect a bullet from its flight path, but could not do so
without sustaining very visible damage. It appears that if
Oswald’s first shot had been deflected by the Eagle signal, the
damage to the traffic light would have been easily observable
from a street level position. It surely would have been
noticed in the wake of the assassination."
theory had thus been shot to pieces, both figuratively and literally,
even before the program pushing his theory had aired. And by the very
producers of the program. And yet they'd failed to tell this to their TV
audience... And had opted instead to let the truth slip out via
Holland's website... And not only that--they'd kept it from others--like
Sullivan--who'd not only worked on the program, but had thought they'd
helped prove a bullet had hit the traffic light.
Well, by gosh, shouldn't there be a law against
this--deliberately deceiving the public?
Oh, and by the way, if
you're worried about poor Max Holland, don't be... Having his traffic light
deflection theory shot to pieces led him not to abandon his early shot
lunacy, as one might hope, but to wonder if the bullet hadn't hit the
mast arm to the traffic light on a five foot section of the mast arm
currently obscured by signage. Well, bravo for Holland. He is living
proof that supposedly credible historians can be every bit as wacky and
obsessive as the wackiest conspiracy theorists.
Should one wish to give Holland, a man with far more credentials than myself, the benefit of the doubt, however, one should read through the following sections with not only an eye out for witnesses suggesting that the first shot missed, but for witnesses whose statements, when taken as a whole, suggest the first shot rang out when Kennedy was on the turn onto Elm Street, directly in front of the entrance to the school book depository. While one will find a few vague statements to support such a scenario, one will find that there are many times more statements suggesting the first shot came with the limousine a hundred feet further down Elm. Holland’s opus is instead Holland’s blunder.
The Irony of It All
One of the great ironies about the “first shot miss myth” is that it was first proposed on a national level by CBS News in 1967, and that CBS used it to conclude that Oswald would have had enough time to perform the shooting. (They concluded there was a first shot miss at frame 190 of the Zapruder film. They also concluded, without ever testing Zapruder’s camera, that his camera was running slower than previously believed. This allowed them to feel confident that a 35 frame time span between the miss at frame 190 and single-bullet shot around 225 was long enough, when it had previously been accepted that a minimum of 42 frames was required.) The irony is that this same CBS investigation revealed the difficulty in getting off 3 rapid-fire shots with a rifle like Oswald’s, even when given a few more seconds.
approached a legendary marksman, Jim Crossman, and asked him to replicate
Oswald’s purported shooting (2 hits in 3 tries in 5.6 seconds). In 6 attempts, he was unable to do so. When interviewed by Dan Rather, Crossman said
“To hit this target in the short times we were talking about—around 6 to 7
seconds—to hit the target consistently, you would have to be a pretty good
shot, but to hit it maybe a couple of times, he could have zigged when the
target zagged and vice versa. So it’s a
large element of luck gets in there.”
Not surprisingly, CBS never aired this interview. Later, CBS brought in 11 experienced shooters
and asked them to try and replicate the shooting on a mock-up of Dealey
Plaza. The shots these men were asked to make were a
bit easier than those supposedly made by Oswald, as their rifle's scope was in alignment, and as the target these men were
aiming at was moving at a constant speed and in a constant direction. They were also provided some practice shots. Even so, the results were less than
convincing. First of all, the men were unable to complete 17 of the 37 test
runs due to the gun’s jamming or to the shooter’s inability to operate the bolt
fast enough to fire rapidly. This left
just 20 completed runs, 26 including Crossman’s earlier attempts. Let’s take a closer look at these results (first attempts highlighted):
Sid Price: 4.10 seconds (1 hit, 2 complete misses) on his 4th run of 4.
Sid Price: 4.30 seconds (not sure if any hits) on his 2nd run of 4.
Ron George: 4.90 seconds (2 hits, 1 near miss) on his 3rd run of 3.
Al Sherman: 5.00 seconds (2 hits, 1 near miss) on his 1st run of 5.
Al Sherman: 5.00 seconds (1 hit, 2 near misses) on his 5th run of 5.
Howard Donahue: 5.20
seconds (3 hits) on his 3rd
run of 3.
Al Sherman: 5.20 seconds (1 hit, 2 near misses) on his 4th run of 5.
John Concini: 5.40 seconds (1 hit, 2 near misses) on his 2nd run of 2.
Carl Holden: 5.40 seconds (0 hits, 3 near misses) on his 3rd run of 3.
Somersett Fitchett: 5.50 seconds (2 hits, 1 near miss) on his 3rd run of 3.
Somersett Fitchett: 5.90 seconds (2 hits, 1 near miss) on his 2nd run of 3.
Sid Price: 5.90 seconds (1 hit, 1 near miss, 1 complete miss) on his 1st run of 4.
Al Sherman: 6.00 seconds (2 hits, 1 near miss) on his 2nd run of 5.
William Fitchett: 6.00 seconds (1 hit, 2 near misses) on his 2nd run of 3.
William Fitchett: 6.10 seconds (not sure if any hits) on his 3rd run of 3.
Jim Crossman: 6.20 seconds (2 hits, 1 near miss) on his 6th run of 6.
Jim Crossman: 6.26 seconds (1 hit, 2 near misses) on his 4th run of 6.
John Concini: 6.30
seconds (no record of where shots went)
on his 1st run of 2.
Jim Crossman: 6.34 seconds (2 hits, 1 near miss) on his 2nd run of 6.
Jim Crossman: 6.44 seconds (2 hits, 1 near miss) on his 3rd run of 6.
William Fitchett: 6.50 seconds (3 borderline hits) on his 1st run of 3.
Charles Hamby: 6.50 seconds (0 hits, 2 near misses, 1 complete miss) on his 3rd run
John Bollendorf: 6.50 seconds (1 hit, 2 near misses) on his 4th run of 4;
Jim Crossman: 6.54 seconds (0 hits, 3 near misses) on his 1st run of 6.
John Bollendorf: 6.80 seconds (2 hits, 1 near miss) on his 1st run of 4.
Jim Crossman: 6.99 seconds (1 hit, 2 near misses) on his 5th run of 6.
Notice anything? While it is obvious that repeated practice helped the shooters bring down their times--9 of the 11 completing a run had their fastest time on their final run--there is no clear correlation between the amount of time it took the shooters to fire their shots and the accuracy of their shooting. Those completing a run in a time shorter than Oswald's purported time--5.6 seconds--averaged 1.44 hits in 5.0 seconds. Those completing a run in a time longer than Oswald's purported feat, meanwhile, averaged 1.43 hits in 6.3 seconds. This is a strong argument against the widespread belief that having the first shot miss, and adding a couple of seconds onto the shooting scenario, makes the purported shots “easy.”
I found a further illustration of this point in Tactics, by William Balck, published 1915. In this old book, on page 140 to be precise, I found a chart reflecting the accuracy of 6.5 mm Italian rifles (most certainly the Mannlicher-Carcano) when fired at various speeds, as tested by 100 shooters. Below is the chart:
As demonstrated above, the shooters firing 4 shots per minute (1 every 15 seconds if the clock began before the rifle had been aimed, or 1 every 20 seconds if the clock began with the first shot) were only 34-40% more accurate than the shooters firing 14 shots per minute (1 every 4.3 seconds if the clock began before the rifle had been aimed, or 1 every 4.6 seconds if the clock began with the first shot). An approximately 350% increase in concentration time led to an approximately 35% increase in accuracy.
It's probably even worse. While reading an article on a Marine Corps website I realized that shooters firing ten rounds per seventy seconds using a five round clip are rated the same as shooters firing ten rounds per minute using a ten round clip. In other words, they are granted ten seconds to change ammunition clips. A shooter firing 14 shots a minute using a six round clip--which was standard for the Carcano--and another in the chamber, would, in such case, most likely be firing his rifle about 14 shots per 50 seconds (1 every 3.57 seconds if the clock began before the rifle had been aimed, or 1 every 3.85 seconds if the clock began with the first shot). This is close to the speed attributed to Oswald.
If the subjects tested in the study cited by Balck were firing 7 shots per clip change, then, the results in the chart above show that an approximately 520% increase in concentration time beyond the time allotted in rapid fire led to but a roughly 35% increase in accuracy.
And this isn't just the conjecture of a non-shooter. Ronald Simmons, who testified before the Warren Commission on the Army's test of Oswald's rifle, testified that "aiming error decreases as time
increases. But once you get to the area of about 4 seconds in time,
then there is very small decrease in aiming error for increase in time."
So...since the tests reported by Balck and the testimony presented by Simmons suggest that having a little more time would have been of little help to someone firing slower than once every 4 seconds, and since the tests performed by CBS suggest that having a little more time was of little help to men firing as fast as once every 2.5 seconds, it follows that if the first shot fired at Kennedy missed, and that the shooting sequence was actually 50% longer than originally proposed, then this additional time would still have only marginally increased the likelihood the shooter would hit the shots.
course, as we shall see, there was no first shot miss.
The First Shot Miss Myth
those reluctant to read through the plethora of statements and testimony recounted in the pages to follow, but who are nevertheless curious as to how I can feel so sure the first shot did not miss,
I hereby offer a telling taste of the statements of every witness I could find who described the activities in the
limousine during or just after the first shot. While some of these witnesses believed the
first shot missed,
they almost all believed Kennedy responded to the shot by leaning
jerking to his left, actions the Zapruder film reveals occurred
only after he'd been hit. My conclusion that these witnesses were thereby describing Kennedy's actions between frames 190 and 224 of the Zapruder film is further confirmed by the fact that not one of these witnesses said the President
continued waving and smiling to the crowd on his right after the first shot rang out. Common sense tells us that this should have been the impression of at least a few of these witnesses should they really have heard a shot at the time proposed by most "first shot miss" proponents, around frame 160 of the Zapruder film. But common sense, alas, is often ignored in favor of something more glamorous.
Viewers--those noting the impact of the shots from buildings looking
down on Dealey Plaza (all listed witnesses heard three shots unless
Ruth Smith (12-21-63 FBI interview, CD206 p.9) “She looked back toward President Kennedy’s car after the first shot and thinks he raised his hands to his face.”
Lillian Mooneyham (1-10-64 FBI report, 24H531) “Mrs. Mooneyham heard a gunshot and observed President Kennedy slump to the left of the seat of his car."
Cecil Ault (1-10-64 FBI report, 24H534) “Following the first shot Mr. Ault noted that President Kennedy appeared to raise up in his seat.”
Paternostro (1-20-64 FBI report,
24H536) “He said he estimated several seconds,
possibly four or five more, elapsed between the first report and the second and
third reports. He
said he observed
President John F. Kennedy when he appeared to grab his head and thought
time he is “well-trained;” then, when the other reports followed in
succession, he realized that the President had been shot.”
Harold Norman (3-24-64 testimony before
the Warren Commission, 3H186-198) "I can’t remember what the exact time was but I know I heard a shot, and
then after I heard a shot, well, it seems as though the President, you know,
slumped or something."
James Jarman (11-24-63
FBI report, CD5 p334-335) “He said that he heard a shot and then saw President
Kennedy move his right hand up to his head."
we're just beginning and the score is already 6-0. All these witnesses
heard three shots and all of them believed Kennedy responded to the
Eastsiders--those noting the impact of the shots from a location in the Plaza to the east of the limousine:
TE Moore (1-10-64 FBI report, 24H534) “By the time President Kennedy had reached the Thornton Freeway sign, a shot was fired and Mr. Moore observed the President slump forward in the Presidential car."
Mrs. Ruby Henderson
(12-6-63 FBI report, 24H524) “at the time the motorcade
passed where she was standing, she heard what she initially thought was a
firecracker, and saw what she thought was paper fly out of the Presidential
car. She said she now realized it was a
shot she heard and what she thought was paper was probably flesh." (If so, she thought the first of the four shots she heard was the head shot. This seems highly unlikely, in light of all the other statements. It seems probable then that she was mistaken on this point.)
Welcome Eugene Barnett (7-23-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H539-544) “I was looking at the President when the first shot was fired, and I thought I saw him slump down, but I am not sure, and I didn’t look any more then. I thought he was ducking down."
Pierce Allman (11-22-63 eyewitness report on WFAA radio, between 1:45 and 2:00 PM CST) “Right after Mr. Kennedy passed in front of me I
heard one big explosion and my immediate thought like most of the people
standing around me was “this is firecrackers, but it’s in pretty poor
taste”. I looked and saw the president,
I thought, duck. Evidently, he was
slumping at the time."
Phil Willis (7-22-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H492-497) "When I took slide No. 4, the President was smiling and waving and looking straight ahead, and Mrs. Kennedy was likewise smiling and facing more to my side of the street. When the first shot was fired, her head seemed to just snap in that direction, and he more or less faced the other side of the street and slumped forward.”
Linda Willis (7-22-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H498-499) (When asked if she heard shots) “Yes; I heard one. Then there was a little bit of time, and then there were two real fast bullets together. When the first one hit, well, the President turned from waving to the people, and he grabbed his throat, and he kind of slumped forward."
Patricia Lawrence (11-24-63 FBI Report, 22H841): “When the motorcade passed she stated she was looking at Mrs. Kennedy who was looking to the other side of the car. The President was looking in her direction and she had waved. She heard the shot fired as the president was waving." (The president was not waving at frame 160 of the Zapruder film--the moment of the purported first shot miss--but was waving by frame 180, a second or so later. Still, as she does not specifically say the president stopped waving after the shot, it's difficult to say for sure that she is describing a first shot hit.)
Mary Sue Dickerson (Article by Beverly Shay in the 11-01-11 online edition of Now Magazine) “As she was making
eye contact with the president of the United States, several things
occurred at once. She heard what she thought were fire crackers, which
initially seemed so celebratory, but then he slumped forward."
Mary Woodward (11-23-63 newspaper article Witness From the News Describes
Assassination written by Woodward for the Dallas Morning News) "After acknowledging our cheers, he
[JFK] faced forward again and 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...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." (Kennedy,
of course, does not turn and look around after frame 160, but resumes
waving. What Woodward called "turning" then is almost certainly a
reaction to the first shot's impact.)
Jean Newman (11-22-63 statement to the Dallas Sheriff’s Department, 19H489, 24H218) "The motorcade had just passed me when I heard something that I thought was a firecracker at first, and the President had just passed me, because after he had just passed, there was a loud report, it just scared me, and I noticed that the President jumped, he sort of ducked his head down, and I thought at the time that it probably scared him too, just like it did me, because he flinched like he jumped. I saw him put his elbows like this, with his hands on his chest." (Only heard two shots.)
(Letter written on 11-22-63, as read
by her daughter on CNN, 11-21-2003, and featured on the Sixth Floor Museum website)
“here come the president and his wife…His arm in the air waving…He drops his
arm as they go by, possibly 20 feet.
Suddenly--a sound. Gun shots? So hard to
tell above the clamor of the crowd. The president bent forward into his wife’s
lap as his arm slipped off the side of the car."
While we can't rightly count Mrs. Henderson, Ms. Lawrence or Ms.
Newman as first shot hit witnesses, the statements of the other 8
witnesses definitely support that Kennedy was hit by the first shot.
This makes the score 14-0. Unfortunately, things get a little more
confusing when we move on to
discuss the statements of those on the west end of the plaza.
Westsiders--those noting the impact of the shots from a location in the plaza to the west of the limousine:
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...After the first shot the
President slumped over and Mrs. Kennedy jumped up." (Apparently, he thought the first shot was the head shot.)
Stavis Ellis (HSCA
Vol. XII, p.23) “On August 5, 1978...Ellis said that just as he
started down the hill of Elm Street,
he looked back toward President Kennedy’s car and saw debris come up from the
ground at a nearby curb. Ellis thought
it was a fragment grenade. Ellis also said that President Kennedy turned around
and looked over his shoulder."
(Even though Ellis believed the first shot missed, his description of
Kennedy's actions by no means matches the behavior of Kennedy observed
between frames 160 and 190 of the Zapruder film, and instead suggests
the first shot hit. The "fragment grenade" observed by Ellis was most
logically a piece of Kennedy's skull, which would suggest the first shot heard by Ellis was the head shot. It also seems possible Ellis
heard less than three shots.)
Dallas County Sheriff Bill Decker (Undated 1963-1964 statement included with Decker Exhibit 5323, 19H458) “I distinctly remember hearing 2 shots. As I heard the first retort, I looked back over my shoulder and saw what appeared to be a spray of water come out of the rear seat of the President’s car." (Only heard two shots, the first of which was most probably the head shot.)
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." (Once again, the first shot he describes is 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." (Her statement mimics her husband's. Once again, the first shot is the head shot.)
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." (Only recalled hearing two shots, with the first one most probably the head shot.)
Emmett Hudson (11-22-63 statement to Dallas Sheriff’s Department, 19H481) “At the same time the President’s car was directly in front of us, I heard a shot and I saw the President fall over in the seat." (First shot head shot.)
Mary Moorman (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." (Moorman's photo depicts the head shot. Once again...first shot, head shot.)
Jean Hill (11-22-63 statement to Dallas Sheriff’s Department, 19H479, 24H212) “Just as Mary Moorman started to take a picture we were looking at the President and Jackie in the back seat…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." (Once again...first shot, head shot.)
Well, this is a surprise. Here, we have nine witnesses from the west end of the plaza--all of them recalling at least two shots--and ALL of them describing the events observed in the Zapruder film at the time of the head shot as the events they observed at the time of the FIRST shot. Now, this is curious, and suggests that (as Kennedy was obviously hit at least once before the head shot) not only did the first shot not miss, but that the second shot was the head shot. This, in turn, suggests it was the THIRD shot that missed. (Now we can call it either 23-0 or keep it at 14-0. You decide.)
Centrists--those noting the impact of the shots from the center of the plaza.
Abraham Zapruder (2:10 PM 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.” (Only heard two definite shots, but felt certain Kennedy was hit by the first one.)
Marilyn Sitzman (11-29-66 interview with
Josiah Thompson) “There was nothing unusual until the first sound, which I
thought was a firecracker, mainly because of the reaction of President Kennedy.
He put his hands up to guard his face and leaned to the left." (Only heard two shots.)
William Newman (11-22-63 interview on WFAA) “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." (Only heard two shots.)
Frances Gayle Newman (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."
Charles Brehm (11-22-63 NBC television interview first broadcast around 3:15 CST, as shown in Rush to Judgment) “He was coming down the Street and my five-year old boy and myself were by ourselves on the grass there on Commerce Street. And I asked Joe to wave to him and Joe waved and I waved (breaks up)…as he was waving back, the shot rang out and he slumped down in his seat."
John Chism (11-22-63 statement to Dallas Sheriff’s Department, 19H471) "When I saw the motorcade round the corner, the President was standing and waving to the crowd. And just as he got just about in front of me, he turned and waved to the crowd on this side of the street, the right side; at this point I heard what sounded like one shot, and I saw him “The President,” sit back in his seat and lean his head to his left side." (Only heard two shots.)
Marvin Faye Chism (11-22-63 statement to the Dallas Sheriff’s Department, 19H472) “As the President was coming through, I heard this first shot, and the President fell to his left." (Only heard two shots.)
Well, this is also interesting. Why did so few of those in the middle of the plaza hear three shots? The thought occurs that one of the shots was harder to hear than the others. Counting only those initially claiming to have heard three shots, then, the score is now 25-0 or 16-0.
The motorcade witnesses:
Paul Landis (11-27-63
report, 18H758-759) “At this moment,
I heard what sounded like the report of a high powered rifle behind
My first glance was at the President, as my eyes were almost straight
that time. I did not realize that the President was hit at that point.
saw him moving and thought he was turning in the direction of the
sound." (Only heard two shots, but saw Kennedy react to the first
Glen Bennett (notes written on 11-22-63, 24H541-542) "At this point I heard a noise that immediately reminded me of a firecracker. I immediately, upon hearing the supposed firecracker, looked at the boss's car. At this exact time I saw a shot that hit the boss about 4 inches down from the right shoulder. A second shoot followed immediately and hit the right rear high of the boss's head." (While the precise meaning of Bennett's words are open to debate, they do on first glance suggest that he felt the first shot missed. Since he did not see Kennedy's reaction to the first shot, but only saw him at the "exact time" he received the second shot, it seems possible the blood seen by Bennett came from the first shot. But we'll call this one a first shot miss.)
George Hickey (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."
David Powers (5-18-64 affidavit, 7H472-474) “the first shot went off and it sounded to me as if it were a firecracker. I noticed then that the President moved quite far to his left after the shot from the extreme right hand side where he had been sitting."
Clint Hill (11-30-63
report, 18H740-745) “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." (Only heard two shots, but saw the President react to the first one.)
Sam Kinney (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
Emory Roberts (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."
B.J. Martin (4-3-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 6H289-293) “one of the agents got off of the car after the first shot…I looked to my right (after the first shot)…I looked at the President after I heard the (first) shot and he was leaning forward—I could see the left side of his face."
Bobby W. Hargis (11-22-63 article in Dallas Times-Herald) “About halfway
down between Houston and the
underpass I heard the first shot. It
sounded like a real loud firecracker.
When I heard the sound, the first thing I thought about was a gunshot. I looked around and about then Governor
Connally turned around and looked at the President with a real surprised look
on his face…The President bent over to hear what the Governor had to say." (Only heard two shots, but he saw the President respond to the first one.)
James Chaney (11-22-63 interview on WFAA, as shown on Youtube) “We heard the first shot. I thought it was a motorcycle backfiring and uh I looked back over to my left and also President Kennedy looked back over his left shoulder." (By saying the President turned to his left after the first shot-which only happens after Kennedy had obviously been hit--Chaney suggests he was hit by the first shot.)
Roy Kellerman (12-10-63 FBI report, CD7 p.3-11) (11-22-63 FBI interview) “he advised he heard a shot and immediately turned around, looking past Governor Connally…to the President. He observed the President slump forward."
First Lady of Texas Nellie
Connally (Notes written on 12-2-63, as
reprinted in her book From Love Field, 2003) “then I heard a loud, terrifying
noise…I turned and looked toward the President just in time to see him clutch
his neck and see him sink down in his seat."
First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (11-29-63 interview with Theodore White, notes released 5-26-95) “They were gunning the motorcycles; there were these little backfires; there was one noise like that; I thought it was a backfire. Then next I saw Connally grabbing his arm and saying no no nononono, with his fist beating—then Jack turned and I turned." (Only heard two shots, but thought her husband responded to the first one.)
So...a final tally. When one performs even a cursory review of the statements regarding the movements within the limousine at the time of the first shot, one finds that 43 of these indicated Kennedy had a reaction to the first shot. Not one indicated he just sat there waving, or looked around and resumed waving. While Agent Bennett's statement indicated that Kennedy was not hit until the second shot, he does not describe Kennedy's behavior after the first shot, so that his movements can be compared to the Zapruder film. This makes it hard to discern just when Bennett looked at Kennedy, and just how accurate are his recollections. Even if one includes Bennett as a firm witness for a first shot miss, however, and arbitrarily dismisses the statements of those hearing only two shots under the assumption they failed to hear the first shot, and the statements of those claiming the first shot was the head shot under the assumption their recollections are just not credible, the score remains 24-1 in favor of statements indicating that three shots were fired and the first one hit, vs. statements indicating that three shots were fired and the first one missed. Unless someone can come up with a reason why all these witnesses were wrong while Bennett, who was not even asked to testify to clarify his statements, was right, the evidence is overwhelming that the first shot hit.
recall here that Arlen Specter and his pals on the Warren Commission
gave "substantial weight" to Agent Bennett's observation that the first
shot missed, when they MUST have known, as most every statement used in
this study was available to them, that his was the ONLY statement
describing Kennedy's actions at the time of the first shot that
suggested the first shot missed, and that there were literally DOZENS
of statements available suggesting that it hit, many of them from
witnesses with far more credibility. It seems more than just a coincidence, furthermore, that, by giving Bennett's statement its undue weight, the commission was able to suggest that maybe just maybe the first shot missed and that, therefore, Oswald had plenty of time to fire the shots.
The statements of these witnesses thereby supports what we should already suspect: the Warren Commission was a whitewash, a prosecutors' brief created for political purposes without particular concern for the truth.
But what else can we learn from the witnesses?
Setting the Scene: Down on Main Street
Before we dive into the 7 course meal of eyewitness testimony awaiting us, we need to set the table. In order to set the table, and place the incoming testimony and statements in context, we need to understand what really happened. How many loud noises were there? How were they spaced? In order to do that, it’s best that we begin by looking at the statements of those furthest away from the assassination scene, those who failed to see the President struck by any of the shots, but who were nevertheless close enough to hear the shots, and alert enough to write down what the shots sounded like. Witnesses equidistant from the grassy knoll and sniper’s nest are especially desirable. Fortunately, there were a number of such witnesses on November 22, 1963. The Criminal Courts Building, at Houston and Main, was home to the Sheriff’s Office, and a number of Deputies were standing in front of the building watching the motorcade. As the shots rang out these men raced across the Plaza, many of them running all the way up to the railroad tracks. While their early reports are fascinating in many regards, we will focus here on how these men, all well-experienced with firearms, interpreted the shots. Keep in mind that any man who states the last two shots were closer together than the first two shots is in effect stating that the first shot did not miss, and that the LPM scenario is a myth. Here then are brief summaries of the statements and testimony of these deputies. (The citations refer to the volume and page where you can find their statements 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.)
Eugene L. Boone (11-22-63
report, 19H508) “I heard three shots coming from the vicinity of where the
president’s car was.” (3-25-64 testimony before
the Warren Commission, 3H291-295) “we heard what we thought to be a shot. And
there seemed to be a pause between the first shot and the second shot and third
shots—a little longer pause.” (7-23-86 testimony in televised mock trial, On Trial: Lee Harvey Oswald) (Note: Boone's description of the shots comes from the transcript of this testimony reported in Vincent Bugliosi's book, Reclaiming History, but was not shown on the U.S. version of the program.) "So the first and second shots were closer together, then there was an interval, and then the third shot." (11-17-11 interview on KTXS News Abilene) "There was three shots. There was one shot. It went bang. There was a little space between the first and second shot. And then it was like bang...bang bang." (11-19-11 article by Greg Kendall-Ball found on the Abilene Reporter-News website) "Along with hundreds of others, Boone was on a sidewalk outside the
Dallas County Criminal Courts Building — where the sheriff's offices
were housed — at the corner of Main and Houston streets. He watched as President Kennedy, first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, Gov.
John Connally and Nellie Connally rode by, then drove out of sight
around the corner down Elm Street. Then he heard the shots." Analysis: when Boone described the shots before the Warren Commission he certainly made it sound that there was a bigger gap between the first two shots than between the second and third. And yet he later testified to the opposite. Now, when he told the Warren Commission "a little longer pause" he may have been talking about the pause between the second and third shots, but that seems unlikely, particularly in that his co-workers almost all said the last two shots were closer together (as we shall see). This leads me to conclude Boone changed his testimony between 64 and 86, after being prepped by prosecuting attorney Vincent Bugliosi. (Since few have ever seen the original tapes of this mock trial, we don't know if defense attorney Gerry Spence was astute enough to catch this change, and force Boone to explain this change, or even if Boone actually said what Bugliosi claims he said.) Thankfully, however, Boone cleared this up in 2011, when he reverted back to his original claim it was the second two shots that were bunched together. Apparently changed story. Probable first shot hit 190-224 with last two shots bunched together.
Jack Faulkner (11-22-63 report, 19H511) “I heard three shots and the crowd began to move en masse toward Elm..” (No More Silence p.215-223, published 1998) “When they turned back onto Elm Street and headed toward the Triple Underpass, then I heard three very distinct shots. I’ll never forget the sequence: there was a pause between number one and number two, then number two and three were rapid. At the time, I actually thought that someone had attempted to shoot the President and possibly the Secret Service had shot back. It was that fast!” Analysis: First shot hit 190-224. Last two shots bunched together.
C.M. Jones (11-22-63 report, 19H512) “I heard an explosion followed in about 3 to 5 seconds later two more explosions. I am certain that I recognized the second two as being that of gunfire.” Analysis: the grouping of the last two explosions as “two more” suggests there was no significant space between these shots. Probable first shot hit 190-224. Last two shots probably bunched together.
A.D. McCurley (11-22-63 report, 19H514) “I heard a retort and I immediately recognized it as the sound of a rifle. I started running around the corner where I knew the President’s car should be and in a matter of a few seconds heard a second shot and then a third shot.” Analysis: by failing to mention any gap between the second and third shots, McCurley suggests little time lapsed between these shots. Probable first shot hit 190-224. Last two shots probably bunched together.
L.C. Smith (11-22-63 report, 19H516) “I heard the first shot, which I thought was a backfire, then the second shot and third shot rang out. I knew then that this was gun shots.” Analysis: once again “then the second shot and third shot” without mention of a five second space between the two. Probable first shot hit 190-224. Last two shots probably bunched together.
Buddy Walthers (11-22-63
report, 19H518) “I heard a retort and I immediately recognized it to be a rifle
shot. I immediately started running west
across Houston Street…At this time, it was not determined if, in fact, this
first retort and 2 succeeding retorts were of a rifle, however, in my own mind,
I knew.” (12-13-63 article in the Dallas Morning News) "Walthers and
Sweatt were within a block of the slaying site when the sniper opened
fire. They agree with other witnesses that the assassin fired only
three shots." (6-18-64 FBI airtel, FBI file 105-82555, sec 177, p18) "Walthers stated he made no statement whatsoever to anyone that one of the shots was fired from the railroad overpass and had actually concluded at the time that all shots had come from the Texas School Book Depository Building." (7-22-64 memo from Arthur Marmor to Warren Commission Counsel Norman Redlich, as found on Jfkassassinationfiles.com) "Walthers said he then found where a bullet had splattered on the top edge of the curb on Main Street. He thought it was the last shot fired which had missed." (7-23-64 testimony before the Warren Commission,
7H544-552) “I remember three shots…I told her that sounded like a rifle and I ran
across here (indicating) and there is a wall along in here and I hopped over it.” Analysis:
again we see no mention of an appreciable gap between the second and third
shots. Probable first shot hit
190-224. Last two shots probably bunched
together. Last shot probably missed.
Harry Weatherford (11-23-63 report, 19H502) “I heard a loud report which I thought was a railroad torpedo, as it sounded as if it came from the railroad yard…then I heard a second report which had more of an echo report and thought to myself, that this was a rifle and I started towards the corner when I heard the third report.” Analysis: although he confirms some of the other statements that the first shot sounded different than the second, he doesn’t tell us enough about the spacing to come to any other conclusions. Too vague.
Ralph Walters (11-23-63 report, 19H505) “I heard what was shots, three in number.” Analysis: too vague.
Lummie Lewis (11-23-63 report, 19H526) “I heard three shots.” Analysis: too vague.
Luke Mooney (11-23-63 report, 19H528) “I heard a shot and I immediately started running towards the front of the motorcade and within seconds heard a second and a third shot.” (3-25-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 3H281-290) “we heard this shot ring out. At that time, I didn’t realize it was a shot…there was a short lapse between these shots. I can still hear them very distinctly—between the first and second shot. The second and third shot was pretty close together, but there was a short lapse between the first and second shot. Why, I don’t know.” (No More Silence p. 224-228, published 1998) “As the motorcade passed by us, we never attempted to follow it around the corner at Houston and were still standing there when we heard a shot ring out. I knew immediately that it wasn’t a backfire…Several of us started moving toward Houston Street at the moment we heard the first shot. By the time we reached the street (Main), the second shot had been fired, then there was a slight hesitation between the second and third. We had already heard all three shots before we had reached Main Street. Analysis: Mooney's early testimony indicates the first two shots were further apart than the "slight hesitation" between the second and third he described later. First shot hit 190-224. Last two shots bunched together.
J.L Oxford (11-23-63 report, 19H530) “we heard what I thought to be shots.” Analysis: too vague.
Allan Sweatt (11-22-63 report, 19H531) “I heard a shot and about 7 seconds later another shot and approximately 2 or 3 seconds later a third shot which sounded to me like a rifle and coming from the vicinity of Elm and Houston Street.” (12-13-63 article in the Dallas Morning News) "Walthers and Sweatt were within a block of the slaying site when the sniper opened fire. They agree with other witnesses that the assassin fired only three shots." First shot hit 190-224. Last two shots bunched together.
John Wiseman (11-23-63 report, 19H535) “I heard a shot and I knew something had happened. I ran at once to the corner of Houston and Main Street and out into the street when the second and third shots rang out.” Analysis: by placing the second and third shots at the same moment in time—when he ran out into the street—Wiseman suggests that these shots were close together. First shot hit 190-224. Last two shots bunched together.
Roger Craig (11-23-63 FBI report, 23H817) “He heard a shot and ran around the corner onto Houston Street.” (11-25-63 FBI report, 24H23) “he heard a noise which he presumed to be a gun shot. He states he immediately started west on Main Street toward Houston Street, and while en route, he heard two additional noises which he also presumed to be gun shots.” (4-1-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 6H260-273) “I heard an explosion…I knew it was a shot, but—uh—I didn’t want to believe it. But a few seconds later, I heard another explosion and, this time, I knew it was a shot. And, as I began to run, I heard a third one.” (When asked about the spacing of the shots) “The first one was uh-about two or three seconds…Well, it was quite a pause in there. It could have been a little longer.” (When asked about the spacing between the second two shots) “Not more than two seconds. It was—they were real rapid.” (March, 1968 interview in the L.A. Free Press) "Well the motorcade came by about 12:30 and made a right on Houston; several seconds later it made a left on Elm Street. I didn't watch it make a left; I was watching the rest of the cars behind it, but I estimated the time it took it to make a left on Elm Street. And then I heard the first shot. Well, I began to run towards Houston Street...And before I reached the corner--which was about 15 yards away--the third shot had already sounded...There was one report, a pause, and then two reports (claps hands twice quickly) just like that. Impossible for a man to pump a bolt action rifle that fast." (2-14-69 testimony in the trial of Clay Shaw) “I heard a shot. I immediately ran towards Houston…Before I reached the corner, the other two shots.” (Self-penned article When You Kill a President, 1971) "The President had passed and was turning west on Elm Street . . . as if there were no people, no cars, the only thing in my world at that moment was a rifle shot! I bolted toward Houston Street. I was fifteen steps from the corner -- before I reached it two more shots had been fired. Telling myself that it wasn't true and at the same time knowing that it was, I continued to run." (4-7-74 taped interview with Lincoln Carle, shown in the film Two Men in Dallas, 1975) "The President came by and they made the right turn onto Houston Street and--oh, I'll say, y'know--a few seconds later--to give him time to get to Elm Street and make the left--I heard what was a, well, I call it a report, a gunshot. And I said, I said "Oh, my God" and I turned and started towards Houston Street running just as hard as I could and I was probably 15 steps from Houston Street and before I reached those 15 steps I heard two more reports. And I immediately went to Elm Street." (when asked how long this took) "Not more than a few seconds." Analysis: while Craig made a number of wild and inconsistent assertions over the years, his initial impression of the shots--that the last two were fired closely together--was locked in stone. First shot hit 190-224. Last two shots bunched together.
Seymour Weitzman (11-23-63 Affidavit to Dallas County, 24H228) “I was standing at the corner of Main and Houston…my partner was behind me and asked me something. I looked back at him and heard three shots. I ran in a northwest direction.” (11-23-63 FBI report, CD5 p. 124) "Shortly after the President's car turned the corner along Elm Street, he was looking in another direction and heard three sounds in rapid succession, which he beliebved to have been gunshots. He believed these sounds to have come from a northwesterly direction from where he was standing." (11-25-63 FBI report, CD5 p.126) “as the motorcade went out of his line of vision…he heard three shots ring out and immediately ran to the point where Elm Street turns to go under the underpass.” (4-1-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H105-109) “we heard what we thought at that time was either a rifle shot or a firecracker.” (When asked how many shots) “Three distinct shots…First one, then the second two seemed to be simultaneously.” “There was a little period in between the second and third shot.” (When asked which gap was longer, between the first and second or between the second and third) “Between the first and second shot.” (Interview with CBS, broadcast 6-25-67) (Describing the shots) "Well, just three quick bursts, like bang-bang-bang". Analysis: while Weitzman neglected to put a space in his re-enactment of the shots for CBS, his 3 "bangs" are so close together that his version is completely at odds with the LPM scenario. First shot hit 190-224. Last two shots bunched together.
Harold Elkins (11-26-63 report, 19H540) “Just a few seconds after the President’s car had passed my location I heard a shot ring out, a couple of seconds elapsed and then two more shots ring out.” Analysis: by grouping the last two shots together, Elkins implies they were fired close together. Probable first shot hit 190-224. Last two shots probably bunched together.
W.W. Mabra (11-22-63 article in the Dallas Times-Herald) "'I definitely heard three shots,' said Bo Mabrey." (11-27-63 report, 19H541) “we heard three shots. Officer Smith said…”That sounded like a deer rifle.” (No More Silence p. 518-529, published 1998) "After the procession passed, we continued standing there talking when, in just a short time, we heard the first shot which sounded like a backfire from an automobile or truck well down in the Triple Underpass. That had happened a lot of times in the past and had sounded like a rifle shot. But when that first shot went off, of course, it startled both of us. We looked at each other, kind of caught our breath, wondering, since they had just gone around the corner. Then the second shot went off. Smith said to me, 'That was a deer rifle!' 'It sure was,' I responded. Then in a very few seconds a third went off. We then went around the corner as hard as we could run and could see people over on the grassy knoll. As we were crossing Houston running in the direction of the grassy knoll, I could see what looked like a swirl of smoke...By the time I got there, the smoke had disappeared; evidently it was from a cigarette..." (On his discussion with the Warren Commission) "they were trying to shake my story that a bolt action rifle could be worked with three shots being fired in six seconds. That was because my recollection of the timing was that the three shots were spaced within two to four seconds apart. It seemed like they were spaced longer between the second and third than the first and second." Analysis: while Mabra's recent recollections support that the first two shots were fired closer together than the second and third, he also rejects that the third shot could have been fired as much as five seconds after the second, and claims to have seen smoke on the knoll. This makes his statements as un-supportive of the LPM scenario as they are the first shot hit scenario consistent with the statements of so many others. So let's just call it a tie and say he's too vague. Too vague. Saw smoke on knoll.
Should one assume that standing on the north side of Main caused these deputies to hear the shots in a configuration different than how they were fired, there are also the words of these Main Street witnesses, who were on the south side of Main in the courthouse.
Ruth Smith (12-21-63 FBI interview, CD206 p.9) “She was on the second floor balcony of the old red courthouse…she heard what she felt was a shot. She stated there was a pause then two more shots fairly close together…At this time people seemed to panic…She looked back toward President Kennedy’s car after the first shot and thinks he raised his hands to his face. The car seemed to slow or perhaps stop after the first shot and then just after the third shot a Secret Service man from the second car ran up…and threw himself into the rear seat.” Analysis: So here we have our first eyewitness, and she confirms what we’ve gathered from the statements of all the deputies: the first shot hit. Her statement that she thinks Kennedy raised his hands to his face after the first shot can only be interpreted as a reference to his reaching towards his throat in the frames just after frame 224. And yet she’d only heard one shot by this point; according to the LPM scenario she should have heard two--one at 160 and one at 224. First shot hit 190-224. Last two shots bunched together.
John Solon (1-8-64 FBI report, 24H535) “was in the Main Street entrance of the Old Courthouse…heard three shots which sounded as follows: First shot, pause, two shots, then echoes of the shots. Mr. Solon advised he would judge that approximately five and one-half seconds was taken for all three shots.” Analysis: first shot hit 190-224. Last two shots bunched together.
Malcolm Barclay (6-15-64 FBI report, 26H552) "did watch the Presidential procession pass the corner of Main and Houston streets, about one block south of the Texas School Book Depository, scene of the assassination. Shortly after the car bearing the president passed the place where Barclay was standing, Barclay turned to re-enter the court house, at which time he heard one or more loud reports which he identified in his own mind as rifle shots. He turned and the crowd seemed to be surging toward the Depository area. He did not see the Presidential automobile at that time, and it apparently left the area immediately." Analysis: too vague.
Robert West, Dallas County Surveyor, claimed to have been standing in front of the courthouse at Houston and Main when the shots were fired. (2-13-69 testimony in the trial of Clay Shaw) (When asked if he'd heard anything unusual after the limousine turned down Elm Street) "Some time after it turned on Elm Street what sounded to me at that time as what I thought was backfiring, a motorcycle." (When asked how many backfires he heard) "Four". (When asked if these backfires sounded the same) "Yes". (When asked what the first "backfire" sounded like) "A motorcycle backfired." (When asked what the second and subsequent "backfire" sounded like) "A rifle fired...It appeared to me it was rifle fire after the second. The first and the second my response was it was motorcycle backfire." (When asked again to describe the third sound) "Rifle fire." (When asked if these were loud sounds) "Yes, sir." (When asked from where he thought this sounds were coming) "The sound came from the northwest quadrant of Dealey Plaza...This entire area north and west of Elm Street." (When asked if he remembered the spacing of the shots) "No, sir." (When asked what happened after the shooting) "When I left my position on the corner of Main and Houston and went across into Dealey Plaza area, there was quite a commotion. A police motorcycle and several men coming up, what is indicated on the aerial photograph as the grassy knoll. When I got over to the motorcycle there were several men up behind the wood stockade fence along the north edge of the grassy knoll." (When asked to confirm that he heard four sounds and thought the first two were backfires and the second two rifle fire) "Right." (When asked if he felt sure about the number of sounds) "That was my response on that day." (When asked to pinpoint where he was standing) "I was standing at the point indicated by the pin here at the southeast corner of the intersection of Main and Houston." Analysis: West was the Dallas County Surveyor. Since the Secret Service, FBI, and Warren Commission all used his services to make plats of Dealey Plaza, and since they all came to different conclusions, and kept changing the locations for the shots, it only makes sense that he would grow suspicious of the official story, and suspect there'd been more than 3 shots. Still, he testified that he thought he'd heard four sounds from the very beginning. Heard Four Shots.
Setting the Scene: Eastern Spies
As the Down on Main Street witnesses were not technically in Dealey Plaza, there will be those who scoff at our using their statements to debunk the LPM scenario. They will insist that some sort of echo or something confused all those Sheriff’s Deputies in a uniform fashion. Let us then examine the statements of those in the Criminal Courts Building watching the motorcade.
Mrs. Rose Clark (1-10-64 FBI report, 24H533) “was with Lillian Mooneyham and Mrs. Jeannette E. Hooker…From the window of Judge Henry King’s court room on the second floor of the court house, she heard the three shots, and it was her impression that the first shot was louder than the second and third shots. She noted that the second and third shots seemed closer together than the first and second shots…she noticed that the president’s automobile came almost to a halt following the three shots before it picked up speed and drove away.” Analysis: while her recollection of the first shot being louder than the others is unique, her recollection that it sounded different than the others is nevertheless informative, as is her contention that the last two shots were closer together. First shot hit 190-224. Last two shots bunched together.
Lillian Mooneyham (1-10-64 FBI report, 24H531) “Mrs. Mooneyham heard a gunshot and observed President Kennedy slump to the left of the seat of his car. At the time of the initial shot, Mrs. Mooneyham believed that a firecracker had gone off. Following the first shot, there was a slight pause and then two more shots were discharged, the second and third shots sounding closer together. Mrs. Mooneyham observed Mrs. Kennedy climb up on the back of the car…Mrs. Mooneyham estimated that it was a bout 4 ½ to 5 minutes following the shots fired by the assassin that she looked up towards the sixth floor of the TSBD and observed the figure of a man standing in the sixth floor window behind some cardboard boxes.” Analysis: as she saw Kennedy react to the first shot, and heard the last two shots closer together, Mrs. Mooneyham's statements are incompatible with the LPM scenario. Saw first shot hit 190-224. Last two shots bunched together.
Mrs. Jeannette Hooker (1-10-64 FBI report, 24H533) “Mrs. Hooker estimated that the President’s car was almost to the R.L. Thornton Freeway when she heard three gunshots. Mrs. Hooker observed Mrs. Kennedy stand up in the Presidential car and observed a man jump on to the back of the car.” Analysis: the report almost certainly should have said “Thornton Freeway sign.” The Thornton Freeway sign was alongside the limousine around frame Z-190 of the Zapruder film. Probable first shot 190.
Robert Reid (1-10-64 FBI report, 24H532) “followed the progress of the Presidential motorcade from the second floor windows of the court house…heard the three gunshots fired and took his eye from the President’s car because he noticed people who were lining the streets were either running or dropping to the ground after the shots were fired.” Analysis: too vague.
Cecil Ault (1-10-64 FBI report, 24H534) “After the presidential car had turned the corner onto Elm Street, Mr. Ault heard three loud reports…the first and second shots sounded to him to be close together and the third shot was spaced more after the second shot, the first two shots sounding close enough to be from an automatic rifle…Following the first shot Mr. Ault noted that President Kennedy appeared to raise up in his seat in the Presidential automobile and after the second shot the president slumped into his seat.” Analysis: as the “rising up” recalled by Ault is most probably Kennedy’s reaction to being hit in the Zapruder film after Z-224, the slumping mentioned by Ault would almost certainly be a reference to Kennedy’s falling over after the head shot. And yet Ault says this was the second shot. As he also remembered the first two shots being close together, and these two shots were five seconds apart, it seems likely he either misremembered, misspoke, or was misquoted in regards to which two shots were bunched together. Even if he remembered the spacing correctly, however, his contention that the first shot hit is at odds with the LPM scenario. Saw first shot hit 190-224. Last shot possibly after the head shot.
Dr. Samuel Paternostro (1-20-64 FBI report, 24H536) “viewed the presidential parade…from the second floor…with Ruth Thornton…they heard a report or shot…He said he estimated several seconds, possibly four or five more, elapsed between the first report and the second and third reports. He said he observed President John F. Kennedy when he appeared to grab his head and thought at the time he is “well-trained;” then, when the other reports followed in quick succession, he realized that the President had been shot and it was not a practiced action on the part of the President when he fell against Mrs. Kennedy and later into the rear part of the vehicle he was riding in.” Analysis: as Kennedy grabbed his head with the first shot, there was a first shot hit. That the last two shots were bunched together confirms this. Saw first shot hit 190-224. Last two shots bunched together.
Mrs. Ruth Thornton (1-20-64 FBI report, 24H537) “she walked over to a window on the Houston Street side, as the Presidential car drove toward the triple underpass. She said she heard a report which she believed was a car backfiring, until somebody said “That was a shot!” Then she said two more reports followed in quick succession and she observed Mrs. Kennedy as she stood up in the rear seat of the Presidential car just before it was rushed away.” Analysis: the by-now familiar scenario. First shot hit 190-224. Last two shots bunched together.
E.R. Gaddy (1-20-64 report, CD 385 p13) "as he was leaving the courtroom he heard three reports or shots; however, he said he went to a window in the courtroom and looked toward the triple overpass just in time to observe the presidential car being driven away at a high rate of speed." Analysis: too vague.
The next group of witnesses were on Houston Street in front of the Criminal Courts Building and Old Jail.
Garland Slack (11-22-63 statement to the Dallas Sheriff’s Department, 19H495) “just after they rounded the corner form Houston onto Elm Street, I heard a report and I knew at once that it was a high-powered rifle shot. I am a big game hunter and am familiar with the sound of hi powered rifles and I knew when I heard the retort that the shot had hit something. Within a few seconds I heard another retort and knew it also had hit something and all I could see was the highly colored hat that Mrs. Kennedy had on. I couldn’t see anything else… it sounded to me like this shot came from away back or from within a building. I have heard this same sort of sound when a shot has come from within a cave.” (12-2-63 FBI report, 26H364) "He heard two shots in rapid succession and realized from the sound that they must have been fired from the interior of a building. He said he did not realize which building because actually the sound as he first heard it seemed to come from the direction of the overpass but its particular characteristics made him feel it had to come from a building instead of from an open area. He said when he heard the third shot he believed it came from the Texas School Book Depository Building. He said immediately after hearing the first two shots the crowds which were tremendously heavy went into a complete panic and a state of shock." Analysis: by his original signed statement that the two shots he heard came within a few seconds of each other and that they both hit, Slack makes it clear he didn’t hear a first shot miss at frame 160 of the Zapruder film. The FBI report, of course, clouds this considerably. Here, Slack is purported to have claimed there were three shots. Perhaps, then, he'd decided that the first shot he'd heard was in fact two shots, and that a third one followed. If so, his words could be considered supportive of the LPM scenario. This is undercut, however, by Slack's subsequent assertion that panic broke out after the second shot. The testimony of the witnesses as a whole and the filmed footage of the assassination demonstrate beyond any real doubt that the crowd did not panic or go into shock until after the head shot. The probability exists then that, when interviewed by the FBI, Slack simply added a third shot onto his scenario. Probably Only heard two shots. Probable First shot hit 190-224.
Jay Skaggs (3-13-02 oral history for the Sixth Floor Museum) ”After the second and third shot, then I told Erma to stay there, and I took [off] running across from the parade, and I don’t remember what cars I was dodging. Anyway, I ran across the street and headed toward where people were still on the ground.” (12-2-02 article on Baptist Standard.com) “He and his family arrived early, parked their car not far from the School Book Depository, and then walked to the corner of Main and Houston…"I knew they had to make a turn onto Houston Street, and I thought the car might slow down enough that I could get a good picture," Skaggs recalled. "But when the president's car made the turn, he was looking the other direction”…Skaggs instead snapped a photo picturing the back of Kennedy's head, a profile of the First Lady, and a slightly obscured view of Gov. John Connally and his wife, Nellie, turned partly away from the camera. Skaggs took a photo of the press bus that followed the presidential convertible. Then he heard the first gunshot. "I thought it was a firecracker--somebody just being stupid. Then I heard a second shot and a third one, and I knew it was a rifle," Skaggs said. Telling his wife and daughter to stay where they were, Skaggs crossed the street, dashing between cars. He snapped a photo of the assassination scene on Elm Street, about one minute after the last shot was fired.” (Interview in 11-22-03 WBAP radio program found on Youtube) "I mumbled something to my wife about some jerk shooting a firecracker. But then I heard the other two shots and I knew it was a rifle. And I ran across the street." Analysis: as the press bus would have been a ways from Houston at Z-160, the first shot must have come afterwards. His grouping of the last two shots together—with no mention of any activity in between, suggests they were bunched together. Probable first shot 190-224. Last two shots probably bunched together.
I.C. Todd worked in the Criminal Courts Building. (11-27-63 Dallas County Sheriff’s report, 19H543) “I walked outside and onto Houston Street to view the President’s motorcade as it passed. A few seconds after the president’s car passed me and had turned the corner off Houston onto Elm Street, I heard what I first thought was a backfire. I heard a total of 3 and after the last 2, I immediately recognized them as being gun fire.” Analysis: groups the last 2 shots together. Probable first shot hit 190-224. Last two shots probably bunched together.
Arnold Rowland (11-22-63 statement to Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, 24H224) “the motorcade had just turned west on Elm bending down the hill when I heard a noise which I thought to be a back fire…then in about 8 seconds I heard another report and in about 3 seconds a third report.” (11-23-63 FBI report, 26H166) "The Kennedy motorcade...had just turned west on Elm Street and headed down the hill toward the triple underpass when he heard the first shot, which he said sounded somewhat like a backfire of an automobile. He said following the first shot some people around him had laughed. He said that about 8 seconds after the first shot there was another loud report, which he was positive was a rifle shot. A third shot then followed in about three seconds." (11-24-63 FBI report, quoting Rowland, 16H955) "About 15 or 20 minutes later the President came by, but I did not see him get shot, nor did I see any shots fired. I did hear three shots." (3-10-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 2H165-190) “it was proceeding down Elm when we heard the first of the reports. This I passed off as a backfire, so did practically everyone in the area because…practically everyone in the vicinity started laughing …Then approximately 5 seconds, 5 or 6 seconds, the second report was heard, 2 seconds the third report. After the second report, I knew what it was…I knew it was a gun firing.” Analysis: although he adjusted his overall time, the relative gaps in Rowland’s scenario are consistent. The last two shots were bunched together. First shot hit 190-224. Last two shots bunched together.
Barbara Rowland (11-22-63 statement to the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, 24H224) “the President passed…and turned left onto Elm Street and started down towards the underpass when I heard a report and thought it was a backfire then in a few seconds another report sounded and in another few seconds the third report.” (4-7-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 6H177-191) “as they turned the corner we heard a shot, and I didn’t recognize it as being a shot, I just heard a sound, and I thought it might be a firecracker. And the people started laughing at first, and then we heard two more shots…the second and third were closer than the first and second…the people generally ran towards the railroad tracks behind the school book depository building, and so I naturally assumed they came from there.” Analysis: while Rowland was asked to testify in order to discredit her husband’s testimony that there were two men on the sixth floor just before the shooting, and she obliged, testifying that her husband had lied about his high-school grades, she nevertheless confirmed his contention that the last two shots were bunched together. First shot hit 190-224. Last two shots bunched together.
Jim Willmon (as quoted in Crossfire, published 1989) "The car turned down Elm Street. A car backfired, or so I thought. I said to my buddy, 'The Secret Service is going to have a heart attack!' But it wasn't a backfire. It was shots. People ran toward the grassy knoll. No one seemed to look up at the book depository." Analysis: too vague.
Hugh Aynesworth (Early 1964 account written for the Dallas Morning News, published on the 2003 DVD The Story Behind the Story) "I stopped at the corner of Houston and Main. As I looked toward the Texas School Book Depository Building--never dreaming that this would become a legend, only interested in the Hertz clock it held high atop its roof--I spotted a man, I thought, named Maurice Harrell, an assistant district Attorney. I thought I'd walk over and say hello. He was standing out from the crowd at Elm and Houston. By the time I got there, he was gone, moved to another vantage point. Harrell told me later he was standing a block away at the time and that it probably wasn't him I saw. So, by at least a dozen strange quirks of fate, I found myself only a stone's throw away from where a crazed gunman fired three shots really heard 'round the world...Then came the first shot. I looked instinctively at one of the motorcycles to see if it was an exhaust. A woman near screamed. I saw a face look into mine with a lost look, much as mine must have been. Then another shot. This was a shot I knew. I recall darting my eyes to the President's open limousine, now slipping down Elm St. to the viaduct. The president jerked his head. I could not tell if he were looking to see what the noise was, but I recall thinking he was only jerking his head to wave at the people on the other side of the grassy slope. His hair seemed to jump up. Later I understood why. Some of the vehicles in the caravan seemed to come to almost a complete stop. Others crept along. I could not tell who was in charge. Then a third shot, clearer now, for I somehow almost expected it." (Article on Aynsworth by Nora Ephron, published in the February 1976 issue of Esquire Magazine) "He was standing catty-corner to the School Book Depository Building when he heard three shots. 'I thought the first one was a motorcycle backfiring,' he says, but by the time I heard the second, I knew what it was." (Profile of Aynesworth in the March 1976 Texas Monthly) "Aynesworth was standing in front of the County Records Building, across the street from the School Book Depository, when the motorcade came down Elm. The President waved. Nellie Connally leaned forward, said something. Then a shot, the President clutched at his throat, the agonizingly slow motion of the car, another shot, then another, and the President's head exploded. In an instant, the President's car was gone, speeding under the triple underpass." (9-5-93 article in the Dallas Morning News) "Veteran author and newsman Hugh Aynesworth stood in the middle of Elm Street and 'could have hit Oswald with a rock' on that day. He also heard only three shots ring out." (11-21-93 article in the San Antonio News-Express) "'I thought the first shot was a motorcycle backfiring. Actually, if I'd looked up, I could have seen who fired. It was only a few seconds until the second shot, and then I knew. "I looked at the underpass first, because I could see some people starting to run in that direction.' Aynesworth said he then realized the shots had been fired from a window high up in the Texas School Book Depository building. 'My attention was first toward the people who were running and by the time I looked around, he had pulled the gun in after the third shot and gone.'"
(11-21-93 Reporters Remember Conference, as quoted in Reporting the Kennedy Assassination) “I went over to the area around Elm and Houston Streets and was there when the three shots rang out. Three definite shots. Total chaos. I still have trouble putting it all together, how it happened.” (11-22-93 article in the Washington Times) "What I witnessed in the horrible few seconds as he was shot changed my life... I heard what I at first thought was the backfire of one of the police motorcycles veering left as it moved past the Texas School Book Depository... What I had heard were three rifle shots. "Chaos" is not too strong to describe what happened in the next moments. My lawyer friends took off in different directions. I saw two policemen running with guns drawn. Off to my right I saw a public relations man I knew, standing with hands on hips, a perplexed look on his face. Pure agony lined the face of a large black woman holding a child... It must have been a minute or so before I saw two women pointing at a window high in the book depository building." (No More Silence, published 1998, p.21-40) “There was no particular reason why I went to Elm Street other than the crowds were larger along Main Street, two or three deep, and I wanted to get a clearer view. Locating myself in the middle of the street a little toward the curb, had I looked up to my right I could have seen Oswald up there... The first shot I wasn’t sure was a shot. I thought it might have been a backfire from one of the motorcycles since there were several in the vicinity. When you hear one, you listen more closely, and when I heard a second and third very clearly, there was no doubt in my mind that they were shots and that they were from a rifle… Immediately, people started jumping and running and some were throwing their kids down.” (JFK: Breaking the News, 2003) “when I saw a couple of familiar assistant district attorneys standing in front of the jail building near the corner of Houston and Elm, I walked over to join them…I was standing with my lawyer friends maybe 10 feet from the curb. As we watched the big blue Continental glide by—I vividly remember Governor Connally’s grin—a huge black woman nearby burst into shouts… At 12:30 we heard the first loud pop. At first I assumed a nearby police motorcycle backfired.…(Secret Service Agent Roy) Kellerman turned in his seat just as two more shots were fired…” (Interview in film Oswald's Ghost, 2007) "As he goes by, two or three seconds later I hear a pop. I think it's a motorcycle backfire because a motorcycle had just gone by. But then, suddenly, a second or two later another and then another. Three shots." (4-28-11 article by Jim Schutze in the Dallas Observer) "You hear shots ring out, and you don't count how many seconds there are between them." (5-2-12 article on News-Register online.com, reporting on a 4-2-12 appearance by Aynesworth at North Lake College) "'It was amazing, the happiness and the feeling of good will that was in the crowd,' recalled Aynesworth. 'Then all of a sudden BOOM! One shot, but I thought it was backfire from a motorcycle. Then a second and then a third. I then realized it was shots from a rifle. We didn’t know where the fire was coming from or if we’d be next. People were throwing their children to the ground and taking cover. Everyone was scared,' he said.' Analysis: Aynesworth, a career reporter, is not a very credible source of information. He originally claimed he was at Houston and Elm at the time of the shooting but eventually suggested he was out in front of the jail, a half a block away. Still, he said just enough to indicate that the single-assassin theory he’s been standing behind all these years is not exactly solid. His grouping together of the last two shots suggests the last two shots were bunched together. Even more intriguing, his earliest statement indicates that the second shot was the head shot. First shot hit 190-224. Last two shots bunched together, with the last shot after the head shot.
Jay Watson and Jerry Haynes, WFAA newsmen, who'd been standing in front of the jail when the shots were fired. (11-22-63 live broadcast on WFAA, around 12:45) Jerry: "Jay, I remember you said I thought it was a firecracker, or something like that.Then they followed one shot and a second or two later, a gun shot, and then another second..." Jay: "A third shot." Jerry: "And you said the man's been shot at, and then we turned..." Jay: "No, I said 'My God, that's gun shots." (11-22-63 live broadcast on WFAA, around 2:15, while interviewing Abraham Zapruder) Jay: 'We were about a hundred yards away and it sounded like there were three shots. And after the first couple I said 'My God, they've shot the President!'"...At first they sounded like firecrackers. And somebody next to us said they were shooting off fireworks. But then we came to realize they were loud reports." (11-22-64 WFAA program A Year Ago Today) Jay: "We turned to walk away when he got to the corner and started making the turn. And then we heard the first shot." Jerry: "Yes, we were just about right down here on the corner, on the sidewalk." Jay: "We stopped. And then the second shot." Jerry: "And you said 'My God, that's gunfire.' Jay: "I said 'My God, they're shooting at him.'" (Oral History interview of Haynes for the Sixth Floor Museum, 1-23-04) "They turned left onto Elm in front of that building, the school book depository. And I guess we turned to go, and we heard the first shot. And it sounded strange; it was echoes, y'know. And then we heard the second shot. And in our tape, Jay says I said that was a firecracker or something. I can't really remember what we said. And then the third shot, and by then we knew something terrible had happened." Analysis: you gotta love the way Jay corrects Jerry no matter what Jerry says. It's intriguing that the second shot followed the first by a second or two, and that the third followed the second by just a second. It's also intriguing that they described no reaction to the third shot separate from their reaction to the second shot. If it had come 5 seconds later, as proposed in the LPM scenario, it would almost certainly have brought about a separate response. First shot hit 190-224. Last two shots bunched together. (2X).
James W. Powell, Special Agent, Military Intelligence, was running west on the south side of Elm St. towards Dealey Plaza at the time of the first shot. He said he was trying to take a picture of Kennedy, but saw the Presidential limo turn off Houston onto Elm when he was still a block away. (11-22-63 Memorandum for the Record found in the HSCA's files and posted online by Denis Morrissette.) "As I approached this intersection, at approximately 1228 hours, and was about one block away, Kennedy's motorcade was just turning west off Houston Street. At this point, I heard at least two loud explosions, which I assumed could either have been shots from a firearm or some sort of fireworks. Several people in the crowd, which was at the intersection to view the motorcade as it passed, pointed up at the Texas School Book Depository Building, 411 South Elm Street. I took a photograph of the building at that instant." (1-3-64 FBI Report, CD 206, p20) "Powell was approximately one-half block east of the intersection of Elm and Houston, and the Presidential motorcade had already turned west on Elm, when he heard the shots fired at President Kennedy. He then ran to the southeast corner of the Elm and Houston Street intersection and, seeing some people pointing to Texas School Book Depository Building, he took the picture...Powell stated that he recalls having heard two shots fired and possibly a third..." (4-12-96 interview with the ARRB's military analyst Timothy Wray, as published on the JFK Lancer website) " I was coming down this
way and I was almost at this intersection when the motorcade
came around and started down Elm Street, down the hill. I was
probably half way down the block when I heard the shots fired.
At that time, not expecting anything like that, you weren't sure
if we had backfires going on or fireworks or actual shots. Obviously,
it turns out that shots were fired." (When asked how far he was from the corner when the shots were fired) "Maybe a hundred feet." (When asked if he had any sense from where the shots had been fired) No, I didn't...I knew that when I got to this intersection, there were
people pointing up at the Book Depository Building indicating
that they had heard shots coming from there...When someone pointed up at the building and said they'd
heard shots coming from up there, I wheeled around with my camera
and took a picture of the building at that moment." Analysis: could only swear to hearing two shots.
Setting the Scene: Southern Spies
While some might think the preceding witnesses were
cherry-picked, and that the recollections of witnesses from other parts of the
Plaza differed greatly from those who were east of Houston
Street, this is not the case. Here we look at a number of witnesses viewing
the motorcade on Elm from the south, some along Houston Street, some along Main
Street, and even a few from the south side of the Plaza.
Mark Bell filmed Kennedy’s turn onto Elm past the front steps of the school book depository from the west side of Houston Street. (Letter to Josiah Thompson, 2-26-67, as referenced in Six Seconds in Dallas, 1967) “Mr. Bell heard two of the shots definitely bunched but could not honestly say which shots these were. 'Anyone could be mistaken on the bunching of shots...It happened within a few seconds and there was emotion, excitement, and fear involved.'” (Pictures of the Pain p. 267, Trask interview, 3-13-89) “I don’t believe that any individual person can tell you exactly how many shots were fired, because of the echoes.” Analysis: since virtually no one heard the first two shots bunched together, the “bunching” remembered by Bell almost certainly indicates the last two shots were bunched together. Too vague.
Marie Muchmore filmed the fatal head shot from the west side of Houston Street, near the cement peristyle. (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.” (2-18-64 FBI report, CD 735 p.8) “Mrs. Muchmore stated that after the car turned on Elm Street from Houston Street, she heard a loud noise which at first she thought was a firecracker but then with the crowd of people running in all directions and hearing the two further noises, sounding like gunfire, she advised that she began to run to find a place to hide.” Analysis: while, on the surface, Mrs. Muchmore’s words don’t tell us much, when one reflects that she continued filming after hearing an early shot, and only quit after hearing “two more noises”--grouping them together—it seems pretty clear she heard the last two shots bunched together around the moment of the head shot. As she described her thought process regarding the first shot—thinking it was a firecracker—it would be logical to assume she would have mentioned her thoughts about the second, if it had been a separate shot followed by a five second pause, as in the LPM scenario. Still, it's always possible she was merely playing stupid to try and hide the existence of her film from the FBI. For some strange reason, after having sold a film of the assassination to UPI on 11-25, she told the FBI on 12-4 that she'd failed to take photos of the assassination. Probable first shot hit 190-224. Last two shots probably bunched together.
Wilma Bond took a number of photos just before and after the shots. She was standing to the south of Marie Muchmore. (2-18-64 FBI report, CD 735.p.7) “She stated that due to the excitement she did not obtain any photographs at the time of the shooting. She also advised to the best of her knowledge, she heard at least three shots fired at the time of the incident but that due to the excitement, she does not recall the exact number.” (2-14-69 testimony in the trial of Clay Shaw) “I was trying to take a picture of the building, or I mean the corner there…when I heard what I thought was a firecracker…I proceeded on over to the alcove...I heard two more…Still firecrackers to me…I would be walking toward the triple underpass.” (When asked from where the shots came) “From my right” Analysis: as she grouped the last two shots together after mentioning a short pause after the first shot, she probably heard these last two shots bunched together. Probable first shot 190-224. Last two shots probably bunched together.
Orville Nix filmed the head shot from the southern half of the Plaza, on the southern side of Main Street. (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.” (Interview in Rush to Judgment, filmed 3-27-66) (When asked where he thought the shots came from) “I thought it came from the fence between the book depository and the railroad tracks.” (When asked where he now believed them to have come from) “They came from the book depository because there’s proof that it did come from there…I believe in the Warren Report.” (Interview with CBS broadcast 6-25-67) (When asked what the shots sounded like) “I would say-- bang...bang...bang.” Analysis: it’s tough to say what Nix really believed. His granddaughter has made statements indicating that CBS tried to trick Nix into saying all the shots came from the school book depository for their 1967 special. Even if this is false, however, his comments to Lane and his rapid-fire “bang, bang, bang” on the CBS special (with the third shot coming but two seconds after the second) are at odds with the LPM scenario. Last two shots bunched together.
Charles Bronson filmed the head shot from a pedestal near the southwest corner of Houston and Main. (Letter to his sister, 11-24-63, as quoted in Pictures of the Pain, p.283) “they were about halfway down to the underpass. And then it happened! My first impression was parade—celebration—fireworks when I heard the first two shots ring out in rapid succession and a slight pause before the third shot rang out…I remarked to Frances, “Is that fireworks or someone shooting?...right after my remark, Frances said “President Kennedy is bent over and Jackie has her arm around him and Governor Connally is lying down.” Then I looked and saw a few people lay flat on the ground just as the presidential car stopped for a split second and then take off.” (Interview with Dave Hawkins, 12-19-78) “When the first shot rang out, it sounded like somebody had thrown like a cherry bomb—it sounded like they tossed it out between the School Book Depository—out of one of the windows—and on the opposite side of Houston Street. It sounded like it went off between the buildings because there was an echo…Then when the second and third shots went off, then it’s when I realized that it wasn’t a firecracker, it was rifle shots.” (Pictures of the Pain p.283-285, Trask interview 11-23-85) “I was waiting till the limousine got into full view at about right angles (to my position) but the shot rang out just before…I instinctively jumped and snapped it at the same time…then when the second and third shots rang out, that’s when I decided they were rifle shots.” Analysis: while Bronson’s letter to his sister says the first two shots were bunched together, there’s reason to believe he was confused when he wrote this. He supposedly wrote this letter after not being able to sleep for two days. His confusion shows in the jumbled way he tells his story—first numbering the shots, and then mentioning details, such as his wife telling him that Jackie had her arms around the President and the limousine slowing down, as if these events occurred after the third shot. The Zapruder film shows these things took place just before the head shot, whether it be the second shot or the third. He doesn’t even mention in the letter that he’d filmed the head shot. In his later statements, he always talked about the first shot, and then grouped the other two shots together. He also mentioned that the still photo he took just before picking up his movie camera was taken just after hearing the first shot. As this photo was taken at approximately Z-220, and it would have taken the sound of a gun shot a half a second or so to reach Bronson from the north side of the Plaza, this photograph was clearly not taken in response to the second shot of the LPM scenario, at Z-222. It was more logically taken as a response to a shot at 188 or so, as the sound from this shot would have reached him around Z-197, a little over a second before the picture was taken. That this first shot could have been as early as Z-160 is brought into doubt by his comment to his sister that the car was halfway to the overpass at the time of the first shot. If Bronson really heard the first shot at Z-160 and felt the first two shots were bunched together, then, the second shot, according to the LPM scenario, would have rung out just a split second after Bronson took his picture, and would have been a more obvious frame of reference than a shot ringing out just before. As a consequence, it seems likely his later statements reflect his true impressions. First shot 190. Last two shots probably bunched together.
Robert Hughes filmed the motorcade from the western-most lane of Houston Street, below Main. (11-22-63 letter to his parents as quoted in Pictures of the Pain p.265) “About five seconds after I quit taking pictures we heard the shots…Some of the people dropped to the ground at the first shot, but most of us just stood where we were…My first reaction was that somebody was shooting firecrackers…The car had just turned the corner to go under the triple underpass beneath the railroad tracks. I saw Mrs. Kennedy then. She seemed to be in about a half-standing position with her arm behind her on the back of the car.” Analysis: as Hughes did not hear a shot for five seconds after he stopped filming, and he stopped filming circa z-195, he did not hear a shot at Z-160, Z-190, or Z-224. He confirms this by saying people dropped to the ground after the first shot. As we shall see, no one who dropped to the ground did so before witnessing the head shot. The first shot he heard was therefore the head shot. As he wrote “we heard the shots” we can take it he heard a shot after this shot. Only heard two shots. Last two shots probably bunched together (with the last shot after the head shot).
D.V. Harkness was a traffic officer standing near Main and Houston during the final stretch of the motorcade. It could very well be Harkness who walks in front of Robert Hughes’ camera a few seconds before Hughes stopped filming the motorcade's progression up Houston Street. (4-9-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 6H308-315) “I had started west on Main Street to the... plaza area with the crowd to observe the President as he went west on Elm Street…(When asked how many shots he heard) “Three” (and if he knew they were shots) “Yes, sir…When I heard the first shot and saw the President's car almost come to a stop and some of the agents piling off the car, I went back to the intersection to get my motorcycle. (When asked if he was doing that when he heard the second and third shots) “Yes, sir.” (When asked where the shots came from) “I couldn't tell. They were bouncing off the buildings down there.” (7-16-64 statement to the Dallas Police Department, 22H599) “When the first shots were fired, I was with Officer W.K. King and we were walking with the crowd west on Main on the north side, just west of Houston Street. We heard three shots. We were unable at that time to determine where the shots originated from.” (No More Silence, p.204-210, published 1998) “when the motorcade made the turn to go down Elm street, they (the crowd) went back to grassy area there in the median between Main and Elm to get a better view of him. So I kind of followed the crowd. As the first shot rang out, then the second, I saw the President’s head jerk. Then, as the third shot was fired, Mrs. Kennedy came out of the car and was on all fours on the trunk lid of the car. At the time, I was probably 150-200 feet from the car at the edge of the grassy media between Main and Elm, not far from where my motor was parked at the intersection. The sounds were loud reports. It seemed like there was more time between the first and the second shots than between the second and the third. The second and third were pretty close together. Due to the echo pattern in Dealey Plaza, though, I was unable to tell the direction of the shots. After they heard the shots, some people fell down. My first observation on this, if I would have been suspecting where the shots came from, I would have picked the building across from the School Book Depository because I looked up and there was a huge flock of pigeons that flew up from that building.” Analysis: by saying that the President’s car almost came to a stop and agents piled off the car after the first shot, Harkness is saying there was only one shot before frame 280 or so, when agent Clint Hill raced from the Presidential back-up car for the Presidential limousine. By saying he saw Kennedy’s head jerk after the second shot, and that the third shot followed closely after the second shot, and that Mrs. Kennedy crawled out on the trunk as the third shot was fired, he is stating there was a shot after the head shot. First shot hit 190-224. Last two shots bunched together (with the last shot after the head shot).
W.K. King was with D.V. Harkness. (7-16-64 statement to the Dallas Police Department, 22H601 ) “When the first shots were fired, I was with Sergeant Harkness at the intersection of Main and Houston. We both ran into the park west of Houston between Elm and Main.” Analysis: too vague.
J.B Allan was a Dallas patrolman on traffic duty that day. (7-17-64 statement to the Dallas Police Department, CD1259, p11) "At the time the President passed I was in the middle of Houston Street on the south side of Main holding back the crowd and I heard the shots. I did not know where they came from." Analysis: too vague.
W.H. Denham was a fourth traffic control officer at this intersection. He was on the northeast corner of Houston and Main at the time of the shots. (7-16-64 statement to the Dallas Police Department, CD1259, p6) "The motorcade was approximately halfway past my position when I heard the first shot. I did not know where it was coming from." Analysis: too vague.
Jack Weaver was standing on the southeast corner of Houston and Main. (12-12-63 FBI report, CD 329, p. 15) "took a Polaroid photograph of the President's automobile which depicts the automobile and its occupants as the automobile made a right turn onto Houston street from Main street." Analysis: too vague.
William Sharper was an elevator operator for the Dal-Tex Building. (1-24-64 FBI report, found in FBI Oswald File, Sec. 83, p43) "Sharper related that on November 22, 1963 he had left the Dallas-Tex Building to observe President Kennedy, whose car he thought was to pass by the corner of Houston and Main Streets. According to Sharper a short time after the President's car passed by that point he heard several shots and subsequently crossed to the east side of Houston Street and walked to the corner of Houston and Elm immediately in front of the Texas School Book Depository where he remained standing for a very short time. He advised that he saw nothing of pertinence and could furnish no information which could be of assistance to this investigation. He then returned to the Dallas-Tex Building." Analysis: Too vague.
William T. Downey. (6-15-64 FBI report, 26H551) "Downey went to the corner of Houston and Main streets, about one block south of the Texas School Book Depository Building, where he watched the Presidential car drive by. Shortly after the car had passed the corner on which he stood, Downey heard one or more explosions, which he thought were firecrackers. Suddenly the crowd started surging in the direction of the school depository, and he saw the Presidential automobile drive away from the corner of Houston and Elm streets in a hurry, at about the time he heard someone in the crowd say the President had been shot." Analysis: too vague.
Harry Holmes watched the motorcade from his office in the Terminal Annex Building on the south side of the plaza. He was a postal inspector and was the last man to interview Oswald before Oswald was killed. (12-14-63 FBI report, CD205 p30) "Mr. Holmes said he was using a pair of binoculars himself at the time of the shooting, and one of the employees in his office was observing the President when the bullets struck the President." (4-2-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H289-308) “the motorcade turned north on Houston and went to Elm and turned left on Elm where it started on a downgrade to what we refer to as a triple underpass. As it turned in front of the school book depository, I heard what to me sounded like firecrackers, and it was my recollection that there were three of them. I had my binoculars on this car, on the presidential car at the time. I realized something was wrong but I thought they were dodging somebody throwing things at the car like firecrackers or something, but I did see dust fly up like a firecracker had burst up in the air. (When asked where he saw the dust) “Off of President Kennedy and I couldn’t tell you which one of the cracks of the firecracker resulted in this.” (No More Silence, p.351-374, published 1998) “When the motorcade came by, I was watching with a pair of 7x50 binoculars when all of a sudden there was a CRACK!...CRACK!…CRACK!! All of us thought that somebody was throwing firecrackers…Anyway, about the first or second crack, I wouldn’t know which, there was just a cone of blood and corruption that went up right in the back of his head and neck. I thought it was red paper or a firecracker. It looked like a firecracker lit up which looks like little bits of red paper as it goes up. But in reality it was skull and brains and everything else that went up perhaps as much as six or eight feet. Just like that. Then just a minute later another crack, and everybody fell down like they were ducking firecrackers.” Analysis: so here we have Harry Holmes, one of the men who helped build the case against Oswald, acknowledging that there was a shot after the head shot. While he told the Warren Commission he couldn’t tell which shot hit the President, or created the dust he saw fly up, he didn’t tell them that he was unsure between the first and second shots, and that there was a shot after the dust flew up. Evidently it never occurred to Holmes, who was surely no Sherlock, that this was evidence for a second gunman, since the moment of this third shot, when Holmes saw people fall down, was before Z-340, barely a second and a half after the head shot. While Holmes says this crack was “just a minute later” we should not take him literally. Many people use “just a minute” interchangeably with “just a second.” By connecting this final shot with people falling to the ground, Holmes showed he was not talking about 60 seconds later. Probable first shot hit 190-224. Last two shots bunched together (with the last shot after the head shot).
Sam Kelly, a postal worker, also claimed to have watched the motorcade from a window in the Terminal Annex Building. (11-21-93 article in the Bonham Daily Favorite) "I heard what I thought were firecrackers,' Kelly remembered. 'I said, 'Somebody is going to get in trouble shooting firecrackers on an occasion like this.'...'I can't remember how many shots were fired,' Kelly admitted." Analysis: Too vague.
J.C. Price watched the motorcade from the roof of the Terminal Annex Building. (11-22-63 statement to the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department) “The cars had proceeded west on Elm and was just a short distance from the triple underpass, when I saw Gov. Connally slump over. I did not see the President as his car had gotten out of my view under the underpass. There was a volley of shots, I think five and then much later, maybe as much as five minutes later another one. I saw one man run towards the passenger cars on the railroad siding after the volley of shots….He had something in his hand. I couldn’t be sure but it may have been a head piece.” (Interview in Rush to Judgment, filmed 3-27-66) (When asked where the shots came from) “From behind the overpass over there, triple overpass, that’s where I thought the shots were coming from.” (When asked where he saw the man run) “Over behind that wooden fence past the cars and over behind the Texas Depository Building.” (When asked to mark a map showing where he thought the shots came from, and then asked if he has marked the map “just behind the wooden fence where it joins the overpass.”) “That is correct.” Analysis: Price almost certainly heard echoes. No one anywhere near him heard four shots, let alone six shots. His recollection of seeing a man run out behind the school book depository makes perfect sense, however. It is worth noting that neither this man nor the witnesses in the parking lot mentioned by railroad worker Lee Bowers were standing at the corner of the stockade fence, believed by so many to be the site of a second shooter. They could very well have been witnesses frightened to death by what they witnessed and too camera-shy to ever come forward. There are many still-unidentified witnesses visible in the assassination films. Heard six shots?
Well, the scene has now been set. We’ve looked at the statements of 55 witnesses along the south and east sides of
the Plaza, with no deliberate omissions. 17
of these witnesses failed to tell us much about the impact of the shots or how
they were spaced. This leaves 38 witnesses whose statements can help
us figure out what happened. The
statements of 31 of these witnesses suggest that the first shot hit and the last 2 shots were bunched together. 2 of the remaining 7 made statements
indicating the first shot was heard at frame Z-190 or afterward. Of the remaining 5, 1 could only swear to hearing two shots, 1 heard a shot after the head shot, 1 recalled no pause between the second and third shots, 1 heard 4 shots, and the last heard 6 shots. There is therefore but 1 witness whose statements remotely suggest the LPM scenario, the favored scenario of today's crop of single-assassin theorists. This witness is Eugene Boone, and his statement suggesting the scenario, in which he contradicted his testimony before the Warren Commission, was not obtained until 1986, after being contacted by Vincent Bugliosi for a TV show. And he--assuming he actually said what Bugliosi claims he said--reversed himself later. Thus, there is literally no support for the
popular LPM scenario of a first shot miss, a 3 ½ second pause, a second shot, a
5 second pause, and then a head shot, when one looks at all the statements of these eyewitnesses.
Surprisingly, there is more eyewitness support for a third shot miss
after the head shot—5 witnesses so
far—then there is support for a first shot miss—0 witnesses so far. With these numbers in mind, we can begin to
look at the motorcade witnesses and try to determine not just how many shots
rang out, but which shots struck who, when. We can also reflect on the rather shocking fact that the
so-called defenders of the Warren Commission, beginning with CBS News in 1967,
have insisted the first shot missed, thereby disregarding the statements and
testimony of the majority of the witnesses, in favor of a convenient interpretation
of the statements of but one or two witnesses, and a convenient interpretation
of the Zapruder film. It is the purported
role of the media to expose such deception, not sell it. Then why haven’t any of CBS’ competitors
exposed them on this? Professional