An analysis of the eyewitness statements, and reasons to suspect that others had reached a similar conclusion
For reasons beyond my grasp, the first image in each chapter sometimes
fails to appear. If there's nothing up above, don't despair; you can still see the image here
The Witnesses: Final Analysis
And now the moment we’ve been waiting for (at least the moment I’ve been waiting for)…the results of our eyewitness analysis. With 58 witnesses to the south of Elm Street, 69 witnesses in the motorcade, and 147 assorted witnesses on the railroad bridge, along Elm Street, or in the School Book Depository, we’ve looked at the words of 274 witnesses to see if they add up to something. Of this 274, 75 failed to tell us much that would indicate how the shots were fired. Of the remaining 199, 101 made statements suggesting there were three shots fired, with the first shot being heard between Z-190 and Z-224 and the last 2 shots being heard in rapid succession after a short pause. Another 53 made statements suggesting that the first shot was heard between Z-190 and Z-224, but made no statements indicating the last two shots were bunched together. Another 13 heard the last two shots fired closely together, and yet another could only swear to hearing two shots, but thought there may have been a third, which was wholly consistent with the last two being fired closely together. This means that 168 of the 199 witnesses described the shots in a relatively consistent manner. Of the remaining 31, 18 heard four or more shots, and another 3 made statements indicating there was a shot after the head shot. This leaves just 10 witnesses whose statements can reasonably be seen as supporting the shooting scenario theorized by John Lattimer, Gerald Posner and Dale Myers. And 8 of these 10, once their words are compared to the various photographs and films, can be used to argue for a different scenario. This leaves just 2 witnesses who can be used to support the LPM scenario over other scenarios—Mrs. Robert Reid and Geneva Hine—and Reid testified in a manner supporting that the first shot was fired after frame 160. This, then, leaves Hine as the sole unblemished supporter of the scenario, and she didn't even see the impact of the shots. She merely described the shooting in a manner more consistent with a first shot at frame 160 than at 190. That’s it. The TV simulations depicting a first shot miss and a five second gap between the second and third shots are therefore incredibly at odds with the available evidence. No matter how many shooters fired on the motorcade, no matter who fired the fatal bullet, the statements of the eyewitnesses indicate THE SHOOTING DID NOT HAPPEN AS PURPORTED BY LATTIMER, POSNER, MYERS, AND NOW, BUGLIOSI.
In defense of the LPM theory, one might venture that those who believed they heard two shots almost on top of each other really heard echoes on the third shot, and simply missed the first shot altogether. But, if this were the case, they should have heard echoes on the second shot as well and concluded there were 4 shots. Moreover, that 24 of the 26 earwitnesses back at Houston and Main who told us anything of value heard the second two shots bunched together is indicative that this is how the shots actually were fired, as Houston and Main was nearly equidistant from the grassy knoll, the Dal-Tex, and the Texas School Book Depository, the possible sniper locations of most frequent speculation. Should one wish to believe that the excitement caused by the shots led these earwitnesses to perceive the shots as having been fired closer together than they really were, one should be reminded that this conclusion directly contradicts all that we know about the effect of stress on human memory. According to Dr. Elizabeth Loftus in her online paper Juror Understanding of Eyewitness Testimony, “People have a strong tendency to overestimate the duration of a stressful event.” Attempts to measure this tendency show that people will often interpret the duration of a stressful event as being twice as long as its actual time. As most of the witnesses to Kennedy’s assassination were initially unaware that the first loud noise was a shot, for them to say the last two shots were closer together than this first noise and the second shot, is therefore indicative that the last two shots were extremely close together. To clarify, as Dr. Loftus’ research indicates that the time between these last two shots would most logically have been overestimated, the probability is that, as close together as many witnesses placed these shots, they were even closer. And yet this simple piece of information is little understood by the public at large. In a study by Yarmey and Jones quoted online by Dr. Loftus, it was found that 95% of the psychologists and legal experts surveyed understood that witnesses routinely overestimate the lengths of events, while less than 50% of the public shared this understanding.
So what actually did happen? Obviously that’s a bit more difficult to demonstrate. In the initial phase of this research, in earlier versions of this presentation, I identified five areas of interest. We shall now examine these five areas in greater detail.
Areas 1 and 2. While roughly 90% of the witnesses
heard three shots or less, and less than 10% heard four shots or more, 7 of the
17 motorcade observers nearest the
corner of Houston and Elm (the red rectangle) said they initially thought
they’d heard four shots. When one compares this
to the statements of those on the northwest corner of Houston and Main, just a block away (the blue rectangle), where better than 25 witnesses said they heard three shots or less, and a
big fat zero said four, this raises the possibility some sort of sound-suppressed weapon was
fired near Houston and Elm. Since all but one of the 40 witnesses or
so inside or directly in front of the Texas School Book Depository, on the west
side of Houston, reported hearing three
shots or less, the likelihood is that the source of this possible fourth shot
was on the east side of Houston, either the Dal-Tex Building or the County Records
Building. In accordance with this deduction
is that the one witness in front of the Depository to hear more than three
shots, James Worrell, was the one closest to the corner. That the Dal-Tex Building, where Jim Braden,
a mystery man with a long criminal record and purported mob ties, was arrested
after the assassination, is a likely source for a fourth shot, is especially
intriguing. Amazingly, not one witness
inside the Dal-Tex Building,
and only a handful outside, was interviewed by the FBI. As to why people on the corner of Houston and Elm could hear a silenced shot so much better than others, there could be two
factors: one, they were the closest to
the Dal-Tex,; and two, they were to the left of bullets fired from the sniper’s nest. This meant they heard the muzzle
blast as bullets were fired, but not the shock wave as they passed
overhead. These two factors would minimumise the difference in volume between a shot fired from the book depository and a suppressed shot fired from the Dal-Tex Building to a greater degree than elsewhere.
Area 3. While many conspiracy theorists believe an extra shot came from the grassy knoll (the yellow hexagon), when one looks at the earwitness testimony, one finds that of the 11 witnesses nearest the stockade fence on the north side of Elm, 2 of the witnesses heard only three shots—the other 9 heard only two! That one of the three shots heard by others in the plaza was significantly softer than the other two, or that the sounds of the motorcade blocked out the sound of one of the shots is refuted by both the simulations conducted by the HSCA and the fact that those standing at Houston and Main, directly adjacent to the middle of the motorcade and a block away from the shots, almost unanimously heard three shots. To wit, the firing of a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle is reputed to be much louder than even a siren, as decibels are recorded on a similar scale as earthquakes, whereby a ten decibel increase represents a ten-fold increase in power, and a Mannlicher-Carcano was tested at 137 decibels, compared to a loud siren’s 120. Adding to this mystery of the two-shot witnesses is that the only witnesses in the Elm Street section of the motorcade to say they heard two shots were in the vicinity of the grassy knoll when the fatal shot arrived. It seems, therefore, that it was the location of these witnesses that somehow prevented from hearing one of the shots.
After spending a day at the library reading books on hearing, I began to understand the scientific principles underlying the possibility of two shots closely spaced together in time but coming from different directions “blurring” into one shot in the minds of those in the middle. As it turns out, the human ear is a far from accurate recording device and has a tendency to “flinch” in self-defense when exposed to sudden loud noise. This “flinching” not only hides other lesser noises beneath the loud noise but it blocks out lesser sounds for up to a fifth of a second (3-4 frames of the Zapruder film) afterwards and can prevent sounds that preceded the loud noise by up to 20 ms (less than one frame) from even being processed by the brain. This phenomenon is written about extensively in books on hearing, and the specialized field of Psychoacoustics, and is known as masking, with simultaneous masking occurring when one sound buries another when the sounds overlap and temporal masking occurring when a louder sound blocks out a preceding or succeeding sound. Significantly, the length of the masking after the end of the noise is proportionate to the length of the original noise, and the degree to which the two sounds share tones. Consequently, a gunshot would be more likely to block out another gunshot than a woman’s scream. Furthermore, when one considers that the human brain will automatically fill in short silent spaces between similar tones so that the tones sound like one long sound rather than two shorter bursts, then it becomes clear that those hearing two shots close together would most likely interpret them as one shot. (Indeed, this may explain why the shots “lingered” in the air for some back at Houston and Elm.)
I’m not the first to suspect that shots blurred together. Senator Ralph Yarborough lobbied the HSCA to study this very issue. In his 12-27-78 letter to Chairman Louis Stokes, he wrote: “I have been on hunting trips a number of times when two hunters, neither knowing that the other hunter was firing, fire simultaneously at game, each thinking that they had killed it, each hearing only one explosion. With those experiences in mind, what I recommended to someone of the Committee staff (whom I took from our phone conversation to know nothing about gunfire) was that firing from the Texas School Book Depository window and the grassy knoll be synchronized and be made simultaneously, with proper listening devices at all proper points, in an effort to see if science, so applied, would throw any light on the doubts which increase with the years, as to the accuracy of the Warren Commission Report. My recommendation may never have gotten past the person on your staff to whom it was given, as that person seemed not to understand it.” While a small fortune was spent studying the acoustical characteristics of Dealey Plaza, the tests outlined by Yarborough were never conducted.
Areas 4 and 5. In my earlier research, I made marks on a copy of a surveyor’s plat of Dealey Plaza. I plotted the origin of the shots as determined by 120 witnesses: 33 witnesses seemed to indicate the TSBD; 21 witnesses seemed to indicate the TSBD, but could also have been referring to the other buildings at Houston and Elm; 44 seemed to indicate an area west of the TSBD, including the grassy knoll; 6 seemed to indicate an area west of the TSBD or the TSBD; 10 seemed to indicate shots came from both behind the limousine towards Houston and Elm and in front of the limousine towards the grassy knoll and the railroad bridge; and 6 seemed to indicate neither the area west of the TSBD nor the TSBD itself. I removed some from the list when they either changed their story or gave conflicting stories at the time. There were quite a few surprises. Perhaps the main surprise was that, while much has been made of the fact that so few heard shots from more than one location, there were three men in the Secret Service car behind the President (and virtually equidistant between the TSBD and the knoll area) who heard shots from both behind and in front. This is significant and seems to have been overlooked by most researchers. That there were two additional witnesses who heard shots from both the west and the east standing in the crowd nearby, and that these five witnesses are almost in a line with one another (the pink belt) only adds to their credibility (although the two additional witnesses’ credibility on their own is poor). It is especially remarkable since each of these witnesses, without variance, heard the first shot fired from behind the limousine, near the TSBD, and heard the last shot fired from somewhere to the west. Another surprise was that by a decisive score of 13 to 4 more witnesses standing in front of the TSBD (the green crescent) thought shots came from somewhere west of the TSBD than from the TSBD. This goes against the argument that those in Dealey Plaza who thought shots came from the knoll were simply confused by “echoes,” as echoes would have been heard with a slight delay and at a substantially lower volume than the shots directly overhead. That virtually every one of these witnesses heard three shots as opposed to four or six is an additional argument against their merely being confused by echoes
When one reads a rarely-cited HSCA analysis of the way gunshots are heard in Dealey Plaza, one can see for oneself that it is indeed fairly easy to distinguish shots from echoes in Dealey Plaza. The writer of this report, Harvard Psychophysics Professor David Green, makes a point of stating that although his hearing was impaired in his left ear, and he was unable to hear the echoes with the clarity of the trained observers, he was nonetheless able to localize the shots based on their initial blast with a similar degree of accuracy as the experts. In the report, the trained observers state that there is a strong echo from the Post Office Annex on the south side of the plaza that comes a second after a shot fired from the TSBD. They said it was readily distinguishable as an echo, but that someone on the knoll hearing this echo might misinterpret the original source of the sound as coming from an area directly behind himself. OK, so that could be an explanation as to why the witnesses on the knoll were incorrect, but what about those in front of the TSBD? Well, the report goes on to say that it would be difficult for someone standing in front of the TSBD to immediately localize a sound high overhead, and that some of the witnesses may have localized on a subsequent echo coming 8/10 of a second later from the area of the overpass “especially if the rifle had been fired from well within the TSBD.”
This disclaimer indicates that Dr. Green didn’t really believe his offered explanation, as he knew or should have known that the rifle in the TSBD was seen sticking out the window and that the window was not open sufficiently high enough for someone to fire from back inside the building. Similarly, since the theoretical ability of a lone sniper to shoot accurately from this window is based upon his use of the boxes stacked in front of the window for support, this statement argues against a lone gunman’s ability to shoot 3 accurate shots from the sniper’s nest without his giving away his position to a far greater degree than actually occurred. This disclaimer, therefore, can be taken as yet another argument for shots or sounds coming from more than one location, as a lone sniper shooting from the sixth floor window should have been more readily identifiable. Indeed, in his 9-11-78 appearance before the committee, Green made this point abundantly clear.
Early in his testimony, he offered: "when you are situated immediately under the Texas School Book
Depository, which was our general location for the second sequence of
shots, two things are rather confusing.
First of all, the N wave comes right over your head so you tend to
localize the source directly over your head or on occasion you directly
localize the source in whatever direction you were facing. You could,
for example, move your head into different directions.
I once looked down Elm Street in this direction fairly well
convinced that the sound came from this direction, and the other
observers did likewise, pointed their heads in different directions and
said that that influenced their judgments.
Also when you are in this location the sound sweeps down the
building and the apparent source of the sound is rather large, probably
because it scattered off the regular surface of the building. That was
caused by the blast wave." He was then asked if this confusion caused his observers to incorrectly identify the source of any of the shots, and responded "They certainly made some inaccurate responses. I would say in the order of 10 percent."
Well, this suggests it really wasn't that confusing. And sure enough, Dr. Green summed up his tests as follows: “there are certain locations that are best for
observing certain shots and in the general region of the book depository, right
on the street beneath it, in our opinion it was extremely easy to tell it came
from the book. There was a massive sound
to the right and rear that sort of crawled down the building, presumably due to
scatter on the regular surface of the building and it was quite evident.”
Unstated but implied in Green’s report is his knowledge that 11 of the 14
witnesses in this “general region” in front of the depository, including those
on its front steps, nevertheless believed the shots came from somewhere else,
with 9 pointing west, the direction of the railroad yards and the knoll.
Green’s attempts to account for this anomaly by suggesting that the rifle was
fired from well within the building, as opposed to the more logical possibility
that the bullets were undercharged in order to create less noise—which was
believed to have been beyond the “lone nut” Oswald’s capabilities-- or that the
witnesses were simply responding to the last sound they heard, which came from
the west, is nevertheless informative, as it indicates a second rifle firing
from well within either the Dal-Tex or County Records buildings would not
necessarily have been interpreted as coming from those locations, even if the
weapon were not equipped with a silencer.
But that is not all the report has to offer. Although, strangely, no rapid fire sequences with shots alternating between the grassy knoll and the TSBD were attempted for the study, the witnesses were able to distinguish isolated shots between the locations with relative ease, with over 85% accuracy, including pistol shots from the knoll and rifle shots from well within the TSBD. When one looks only at the results of the rifle shots fired from the window and any shot fired from the knoll, one sees that the observers correctly identified the source 73 out of 80 times, no matter where they stood in Dealey Plaza. When one looks only at the results gleaned from the observers while they stood near the knoll, one sees they correctly identified the source of the shots 26 out of 26 times, claiming that the un-silenced shots fired were readily identifiable as coming from the stockade fence, which argues against a shot coming from that location, as most the witnesses nearby, including Abraham Zapruder, believed the shots came from somewhere further back. (Why they failed to perform tests using silenced weapons is never explained.) When one looks only at the results gleaned from the observers while they stood on the street in front of the Depository, in addition, it reveals they correctly identified the source 18 of 20 times.
These actual results reveal that the report’s musings about people being confused by echoes on the knoll and shock waves in front of the TSBD was so much hooey, offered most likely so that the HSCA would have the option of defending the Warren Commission’s conclusions. Instead, the results reveal it’s fairly easy to identify the source of a shot fired in Dealey Plaza under normal circumstances. And yet the single-assassin theorists maintain that the 7 out of 9 witnesses between the knoll and the limousine who heard shots from behind them were wrong, in a location where the observers were right 26 out of 26 times, and also that the 5 out of 6 witnesses on the North side of Elm who said shots came from the west, were wrong, in a location where the observers were right 18 of 20 times. These results indicate that it is the single-assassin theorists who are wrong, yet again. That those convinced of a conspiracy have failed to embrace this report as the convincing argument for a conspiracy that it is can only be explained by their blind reluctance to embrace any evidence or testimony that calls into doubt that the head shot came from the stockade fence.
Through studying the statements of those claiming to have heard four shots or more, and comparing them to the statements of those who heard three, we can evaluate if there was really a fourth shot fired, and when it was fired. As the bulk of the witnesses heard a first shot between Z-190 and Z-224, followed after a pause by two closely bunched together shots, and as the Zapruder film shows three apparent hits, one on Kennedy circa Z-190, one on Kennedy and Connally circa Z-224, and one on Kennedy at Z-313, we need to ascertain whether or not the fourth shot heard by the four-shot witnesses corresponds to a second shot between Z-190 and Z-224.. If so, then everything makes sense.
Only no such luck. The extra-shot witnesses are all over the map. Consequently, we need to re-evaluate them one by one and see if any sense can be made of them. From west to east across the plaza…
S.M. Holland observed the motorcade from the railroad bridge. (11-22-63 statement to Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, 19H480, 24H212) “the President’s car was coming down Elm Street and when they got just about to the Arcade I heard what I thought for the moment was a fire cracker and he slumped over and I looked over toward the arcade and trees and saw a puff of smoke come over from the trees and I heard three more shots after the first one but that was the only puff of smoke I saw…After the first shot the President slumped over and Mrs. Kennedy jumped up and tried to get over in the back seat to him and then the second shot rang out. After the first shot the secret service man raised up in the seat with a machine gun and then dropped back down in the seat. And they immediately sped off.” (4-8-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 6H239-248) “the motorcade was coming down in this fashion, and the President was waving to the people on this side…And she (Jackie) was looking…in the southern direction…And about that time he went over like that(indicating) and put his hand up, and she was still looking off…(he) pulled forward and his hand just stood like that momentarily…His right hand; and that was the first report that I heard…it was a pretty loud report, and the car traveled a few yards, and Governor Connally turned in this fashion, like that (indicating) with his hand out, and another report…And another report rang out and he slumped down in his seat, and about that time Mrs. Kennedy was looking at these girls over here (indicating). The girls standing—now one of them was taking a picture…by the time she could get turned around, he was hit again along in—I’d say along in here (indicating)…It knocked him completely down on the floor. Over, just slumped completely over. I heard a third report and I counted four shots and about the same time all this was happening and in this group of trees…There was a shot, a report, I don’t know whether it was a shot…And a puff of smoke came out about 6 or 8 feet above the ground right out from under those trees…you could see that puff of smoke, like someone had thrown a firecracker, or something out…It wasn’t as loud as the previous reports or shots.” Analysis: Holland’s testimony conflicts with his initial statement on a number of points. The shot he initially described as the first shot was obviously the head shot. His mentioning of four shots could be an indication he heard two shots around the time of the head shot, and their immediate echoes. By the time of his testimony, he’d obviously been studying Life Magazine and other photographs, and “improving” his memory. Red circle. Probably heard two shots and echoes.
Royce Skelton was by Holland on the railroad bridge. (11-22-63 statement to the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, 16H496) “We saw the motorcade come around the corner and I heard something which I thought was fireworks. I saw something hit the pavement at the left rear of the car, then the car got in the right hand lane and I heard two more shots. I heard a woman say “Oh, no” or something and grab a man inside the car. I then heard another shot and saw the bullet hit the pavement. The concrete was knocked to the south away from the car. It hit the pavement in the left or middle lane.” (12-18-63 FBI report, CD205 p. 26) “Mr. Skelton noticed that as an open top limousine turned on Elm Street, it had moved approximately one hundred feet at which time he noticed dust spray up from the street in front of the car on the driver’s side. This dust spray came from the direction of the Texas School Book Depository building. A few seconds later, he heard what he believed to be three shots.” (4-8-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 6H236-238) “Just about the same time the car straightened out—got around the corner—I heard two shots, but I didn’t know at the time they were shots…It sounded like they were right there more or less like motorcycle backfire, but I thought they were these dumbballs that they throw at the cement because I could see the smoke coming up off the cement (when asked how many shots) “I thought I heard four—I mean—I couldn’t be sure…after those two shots, and the car came on down closer to the triple underpass, well, there was another shot—two more shots I heard, but one of them—I saw a bullet, or I guess it was a bullet…hit in the left front of the President’s car on the cement, and when it did, the smoke carried with it—away from the building.” Analysis: as with Holland, the first shot or shots heard by Shelton was the head shot. He then thought he’d heard two shots immediately thereafter, almost certainly echoes, and then a fourth shot after Jackie cried out. By the time he testified, he was no longer sure. Red circle. Probably heard two shots and echoes.
Thomas Murphy was a third railroad man claiming to have heard four shots or more. (3-20-64 FBI report, 22H835) “Murphy said they watched President Kennedy’s limousine turn down Elm Street past the Texas School Book Depository and start towards them. He stated he then heard what sounded like two shots and he saw President Kennedy and Governor Connally slump in their seats. Murphy said in his opinion that these shots came from just west of the Texas School Book Depository.” (5-6-66 interview with Stewart Galanor, transcription on history-matters.com) (When asked how many shots he heard) “More than three.” (When asked where the shots came from) “they come from a tree to the left, of my left, which is to the immediate right of the site of the assassination…on the hill up there. There are two or three hackberry and elm trees. And I say it come from there.” (When asked if he saw smoke) “Yeah, smoke...in that tree.” Analysis: as he apparently failed to tell the FBI about hearing “more than three” shots in 1964, it seems Murphy concluded there were “more than three” shots afterwards, perhaps after extensive contact with Holland and Skelton. Red circle. Probably heard two shots and echoes.
Toni Foster is believed to be the woman in the Zapruder film running towards Kennedy as his head explodes. (2000 article in the Kennedy Assassination Chronicles) “I heard two firecracker-like sounds and I looked up because it sounded like it was coming from up in the air. At the time, I thought, “Those sound like firecrackers.” To me it was click-click; they were just that fast. As I thought that and I looked towards the president I didn’t know he was already shot. Because when I did look at him that’s when the third shot hit and his head went down like that (puts her head to her chest). I looked at him, I noticed he took his hands and did like this (brings her hands up and crossed at her chest), his head came down. I thought, “I wonder what he’s doing? Why did he do that?” As I’m thinking that—that fast—the 4th shot, the last shot, hit and his head exploded. So to me it was four shots. I do recall after that, the shell, I could hear that clink. And I remember everything stopped for me. I remember (his head) looked like confetti, it was just blown off. It hit him back here (puts her hand on the right rear of her head) and it was just like confetti. The spray went behind him. I do believe from what I heard and what I saw the shots came from the back. Now this whole thing was a shock but that’s how I feel, what I heard and what I saw—they were coming from the back.” Analysis: despite her only coming forward in recent years, Foster’s account is fairly credible, but not indicative of four shots. While many described the first shot as sounding like a firecracker, Foster is one of the few to conclude it was two separate shots. Her claiming the neck shot was the third shot, when virtually no one else heard this shot, makes some sense when one considers that she was running right towards Kennedy and could see his and Connally’s responses to this shot. Her statement that she was wondering what he was doing after this shot is consistent as well with her continuing to run towards Kennedy until the moment of the head shot. As she immediately turns and starts running away, moreover, it also makes sense that she might have missed the last shot heard by so many others. Green circle. Earliest recorded statements came yers after the shooting. Not entirely credible.
Jean Hill is the woman in red in the Zapruder film. She stood right in the middle of the plaza with her friend, Mary .Moorman. (11-22-63 WBAP interview, quoted in Pictures of the Pain) “the shots came directly across the street from us, and just as the President’s car became directly even with us…he and Jackie were looking at a dog that was in the middle of the seat, and about that time two shots rang out just as he looked up—just as the President looked up and these three shots rang out and he grabbed his chest, looked like he was in pain, and fell over in his seat. And Jackie fell over him and said “My God, he’s been shot!” After that more shots rang out and the car sped away.” (11-22-63 WBAP interview, quoted in Pictures of the Pain) “Mary started to take the picture and the President came right even with us, two shot, we looked at him and he was looking at a dog in the middle of the seat—two shots rang out…And there was an interval and then three or four more shots…” (11-22-63 KRLD interview, transcribed by David Lifton and posted online by Jack White, 2-16-07) “we were both looking at the President. We were looking at his face. As Mary took the picture, I was looking at him. And he grabbed his hands across his chest when two shots rang out. He grabbed his hands across his chest. I have never seen anyone killed, or in pain before like that but there was this odd look came across his face, and he pitched forward onto Jackie’s lap. And, uh, she immediately, we were close enough to even hear her, and everything, and she fell across him and says, “My God, he’s been shot”…The motorcade was stunned after the first two shots, and it came to a momentary halt, and about that time 4 more uh, 3 to 4 more shots again rang out, and I guess it just didn’t register with me. Mary was, huh, had gotten down on the ground and was pulling at my leg, saying “Get, get down, they’re shooting, get down, they’re shooting, and I didn’t even realize it. And I just kept sitting there looking...After they were momentarily stopped—after the first two shots—then they sped away real quickly. ” (11-22-63 WFAA interview, quoted in Pictures of the Pain) “just as the car came right in line with us, the President looked up and just as he looked up two shots rang out and he grabbed his chest and this real odd look came over his face and he pitched forward onto her lap…the motorcade momentarily halted and three or four more shots rang out and they sped away real quickly.” (11-22-63 statement to Dallas Sheriff’s Department, 19H479, 24H212) “The President’s car came around the corner and it was over on our side of the street. Just as Mary Moorman started to take a picture we were looking at the President and Jackie in the back seat… looking at a little dog between them. Just as the President looked up toward us two shots rang out and I saw the President grab his chest and fall forward across Jackie’s lap and she fell across his back and said “My God, he has been shot”. There was an instant pause between the first two shots and the motorcade seemingly halted for a second and three or four more shots rang out and the motorcade sped away.” (Interview in Rush to Judgment, filmed 2-18-64) “the consensus of opinion…down there at the quarters was that there had been only three shots…they kept sayin’, are you sure it wasn’t echoes?” (3-18-64 FBI report, 25H853) “She stated that President Kennedy was looking down when she shouted and when he turned to look at her a shot rang out and he slumped towards Mrs. Kennedy… Mrs Hill heard more shots ring out and saw the hair on the back of President Kennedy’s head fly up…she heard from four to six shots in all and believes they came from a spot just west of the Texas School Book Depository. She thought there was slight interval between the first three shots and the remaining shots.” (3-24-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 6H205-223) “We were standing on the curb and I jumped to the edge of the street and yelled “Hey, we want to take your picture” to him and he was looking down in the seat—he and Mrs. Kennedy and their heads were turned toward the middle of the car looking down at something in the seat, which later turned out to be roses…as I yelled “Hey” to him, he started to bring his head up to look at me and just as he did the shots rang out. Mary took the picture and fell on the ground and of course there were more shots…I have always said there were some four to six shots. There were three shots, one right after the other, and a distinct pause, or just a moment’s pause, and then I heard more.” Analysis: Hill failed to hear any shots before witnessing the head shot. She then heard the same last two shots bunched together heard by others, and then a series of echoes. There’s little reason to accept her contention there were two or three more shots fired after the head shot, when Hudson, Summers, and Brehm all heard but one. Unlike Hill, they’d at least heard the first shot. Red circle. Probably heard two shots and echoes.
Beverly Oliver claims to be the woman standing behind Charles Brehm and his son in the Zapruder film. People often refer to this woman as the Babushka Lady. (The Men Who Killed Kennedy, broadcast 1988) “When I first heard a noise I was not aware that that was a shot being fired. And maybe perhaps that’s why I continued to film because I thought it was a backfire or a firecracker. I mean I wasn’t used to being around guns. I did not realize that those were shots until I saw in the frame of my camera President Kennedy’s head come off, the back of his head. Then I realized that that was a shot. I don’t know how many I heard. I know where I thought the shots came from. It was the picket fence area, around that large tree, somewhere on the other side of those steps but in the picket fence area. There was a figure there and there was smoke there. I will always believe that the man who shot President Kennedy was standing somewhere in the picket fence area and no one will convince me any differently.” (From her 1996 book Nightmare in Dallas) “Beverly heard a pop, pop sound coming from the direction she faced….How rude that some parents would let their kids throw sidewalk poppers near the President, she thought. Then she heard another pop. Hold steady. The car was moving about twelve miles an hour as it passed directly in front of her. It then seemed to come to a stop. She continued filming wishing President Kennedy would turn around, then a loud, boom-boom sounded, and the President’s head was violently thrown backward as a spray of crimson blood spouted from the back of his head…”“Oh, my God…he’s been shot.” …Beverly smelled something acid in the air. It didn’t smell right. A cloud of smoke drifted up from behind the fence and dissipated as it blew across the lawn.” Green circle: earliest recorded statements came years after the shots. Not entirely credible.”
William Greer was the driver of the limousine. (11-28-63 report, 18H 723) “The President’s automobile was almost past this building and I was looking at the overpass that we were about to pass under in case someone was on top of it, when I heard what I thought was the backfire of a motorcycle behind the President’s automobile. After the second shot, I glanced over my right shoulder and saw Governor Connally start to fall, I knew then that something was wrong and immediately pushed the accelerator to the floor and Mr. Kellerman said get out of here.” (12-10-63 FBI report, CD7 p.3-11) “He advised that the throngs of people were great and that he had just emerged from the congested area of people and was proceeding into an open area of the highway, which a short distance away passed beneath an overpass. Greer stated that he first heard what he thought was possibly a motorcycle backfire and glanced around and noticed that the President had evidently been hit. He thereafter got on the radio and communicated with the other vehicles.” (3-9-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 2H112-132) (When asked how far they were from the overpass when the first shot rang out) “I wouldn't have a distance recollection at all on how far it was. It wasn't too far…Well, when we were going down Elm Street, I heard a noise that I thought was a backfire of one of the motorcycle policemen. And I didn't--it did not affect me like anything else. I just thought that it is what it was… And then I heard it again. And I glanced over my shoulder. And I saw Governor Connally like he was starting to fall. Then I realized there was something wrong. I tramped on the accelerator, and at the same time Mr. Kellerman said to me, "Get out of here fast." And I cannot remember even the other shots or noises that was. I cannot quite remember any more. I did not see anything happen behind me any more, because I was occupied with getting away.” (When asked how many shots he heard) “I know there was three that I heard - three. But I cannot remember any more than probably three. I know there was three anyway that I heard…I knew that after I heard the second one, that is when I looked over my shoulder, and I was conscious that there was something wrong, because that is when I saw Governor Connally. And when I turned around again, to the best of my recollection there was another one, right immediately after.” (When asked how much time elapsed between the first and second shots.) “It seems a matter of seconds, I really couldn't say. Three or four seconds.” (When asked how much time elapsed between the second and third shots.) “The last two seemed to be just simultaneously, one behind the other, but I don't recollect just how much, how many seconds were between the two. I couldn't really say.” Analysis: Greer would only say he heard 3 shots, but if he turned around after the second shot, and heard another after he turned back around, and heard the last two simultaneously, there’s no escaping that he heard four shots. The only reasonable explanation is that he meant to say “successively” or some other term instead of “simultaneously.” Blue circle. Possibly heard 4 shots but would only admit to hearing 3 shots.
A.J. Millican (11-22-63, 19H486) “I was standing on the North side of Elm Street, about half way between Houston and the Underpass… Just after the President’s car passed, I heard three shots come from up toward Houston and Elm right by the Book Depository Building, and then I immediately heard two more shots come from the Arcade between the Book Store and the Underpass, and then three more shots came from the same direction only sounded further back…Then everybody started running up the hill. A man standing on the South side of Elm Street was either hit in the foot or the ankle and fell down…” Analysis: Heard way more shots than any other human. Purple circle. Obviously confused by echoes.
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’s belief that there was a sixth shot fired so long after the others should cause one to doubt he heard the other five accurately. Purple circle. Obviously confused by echoes.
Rosemary Willis is the little girl seen running in the Zapruder film, as discussed on the Finding the Right Time slide.(11-13-78 HSCA staff interview, summarized in HSCA Report, vol. 12, p.7) "Ms. Willis said she was aware of three shots being fired. She gave no information on the direction or location of the shots, but stated that her father became upset when the policeman in the area appeared to run away from where he thought the shots came from; that is, they were running away from the grassy knoll." (6-5-79 UPI article) “I heard three shots and they all came from across the street from the direction of the book depository…The sounds I heard came from the book depository but they weren’t necessarily the shots that killed him. Someone with a gun with a silencer could have been in the gutter where they later found shells or on the railroad trestle or behind the wall.” (6-5-79 article in the L.A. Times, as cited in Pictures of the Pain, p. 171) (She had stopped running) “when I heard the first shot.” (Interview with Texas Monthly, published November, 1998) “As they made the turn from Houston to Elm Street, they’d just gone a few feet when the first shot rang out, and upon hearing the sound, my normal body reaction was to look up and follow the sound that I heard…And the pigeons immediately ascended off that roof of the school book depository building and that’s what caught my eye…Next thing I know, right after that, there’s another shot. And after that, there’s another shot and another shot…My ears heard four shots…I really think that there were six, but I heard four and I’ll tell you why…the first shot rang out. It was to the front of me, and to the right of me, up high. The second shot that I heard came across my right shoulder. By that time, the limousine had already moved further down. And that shot came across my shoulder. And the next one, right after that, still came from the right but not from as far back, it was up some. Still behind me, but not as far back as the other one. And the next one that came was from the grassy knoll and I saw the smoke coming through the trees, into the air…Fragments of his head ascended into the air, and from my vision, focal point, the smoke and fragments, you know, everything met.” Analysis: it’s a shame Miss Willis was never interviewed when her memories were fresh. In 1979, she said she heard three shots from the right, and in 1998 she said she heard three shots from the right, and then one from in front of the limousine. As a result her credibility is questionable. Yellow circle. Probably heard three shots and convinced herself she heard four. Not entirely credible.
Amos Euins sat on the fountain wall by Houston and Elm. (11-22-63 statement to Dallas Sheriff’s Department, 16H963, 19H474) “I saw the President turn the corner in front of me and I waived at him and he waived back. I watched the car on down the street and about the time the car got near the black and white sign I heard a shot. I started looking around and then I looked up in the red brick building. I saw a man in the window with a gun and I saw him shoot twice…I could tell the gun was a rifle and it sounded like an automatic rifle the way he was shooting. This was a white man, he did not have on a hat. I just saw this man for a few seconds.” (12-23-63 FBI report, CD205 p.i) “Amos Lee Euins, age 14, states saw white man…in window…with rifle after first shot and observed this man fire second and third shots and what he believes may have been a fourth shot.” (3-10-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 2H201-210) ‘then when the first shot was fired, I started looking around, thinking it was backfire. Everybody else started looking round. Then I looked up at the window, and he shot again...I got behind this little fountain, and then he shot again. (when asked hw many shots he heard) “I believe there was four to be exact…After he shot the first two times, I was just standing back here. And then after he shot again, he pulled the gun back in the window. And then all the police ran back over here in the track vicinity….The first shot I was standing here…And as I looked up there, you know, he fired another shot, you know, as I was looking. So I got behind this fountain thing right in there, at this point B…I got behind there. And then I watched, he did fire again. Then he started looking down towards my way, and then he fired again.” Analysis: Euins is a credible witness. Although he initially said he only saw the sniper fire twice, his discussion of automatic weapons indicates that one of the times he saw the sniper fire, he heard two shots ring out. This most logically means that Euins heard two shots around the time of the head shot. Sure enough, his description of these last two shots indicates only a short interval between the shots. Light blue circle. Credible witness.
Ronald Fischer was on Houston along the same fountain wall as Euins.(11-22-63 statement to the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, 19H475, 19H650) “by that time the motorcade rounded the corner. And then I heard what I thought was three shots, and the motorcade was about where the Stemmons Freeway sign is there.” (12-2-63 FBI report, CD205 p.19-20) “Shortly after the President’s car had passed his position, he heard several shots, evenly spaced, with what he thought three or four seconds between each shot. He thought first shot was firecracker.” (4-1-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 6H191-200) “Well the motorcade—the limousine made the wide turn and –they went out of our view just as they began to straighten up onto Elm Street…I started watching the other cars…as I looked around to watch these other cars, I heard a shot. At first I thought it was a firecracker. And—uh—everybody got quiet. There was no yelling or shouting or anything. Everything seemed to get real still. And-uh—the second shot rang out, and then everybody, from where I was standing, everybody started to scatter. And—uh—then the third shot. At first I thought there were four, but as I think about it more, there must have been just three…They appeared to be coming from just west of the School Book Depository. There were some railroad tracks and there were some railroad cars back in there.” (7-9-98 video-taped interview posted on Youtube) "I originally said in my deposition in the Sheriff's office that there were four shots. And there were a number of people who had claimed that they heard four shots. However, I began to question that because I just simply could not remember exactly how many shots there were. It's like trying to remember if it was eight or nine--y'know it's a little easier with three or four--but becomes more difficult with eight or nine and still more difficult with nineteen or twenty. I don't know if there were three or four shots. I thought there was four and I had explained that to the investigator, Mr. Belin. I still think that there were probably four shots but I couldn't swear to it." Analysis: Fischer admittedly talked himself out of thinking there were four shots. He then talked himself back into thinking it again. That he even thought for a moment there were four shots says something, particularly as he was standing near Euins and Edwards. White circle. Talked himself out of hearing four shots.
Robert Edwards was with Fischer.(11-22-63 statement to the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, 19H 473, 19H647) “The motorcade rounded the corner at this time, and I thought I heard four shots, but it never occurred to us what it was. The shots seemed to come from that building there.” (12-2-63 FBI report, CD205 p.21-22) “Shortly after President Kennedy’s car passed his position, he heard shots, which he thought were three or four in very rapid sequence.” (4-1-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 6H200-205) (When asked how many shots he heard) “I heard one more than was fired, I believe…I still right now don’t know how many was fired. If I said four, then I thought I heard four. (When asked if he knew where the shots came from) “I have no idea” (When asked if he’d said the shots came from the building) “No, I didn’t say that.” Analysis: Edwards, to his credit, stuck to his impression that he’d heard four shots. Too bad he never told us how these shots sounded. Light blue circle. Credible witness.
James Worrell (11-23-63 affidavit to Dallas County) “I was standing on the sidewalk against a building on the corner of Elm and Houston Streets watching the motorcade of the President. I heard loud noise like a fire cracker or gun shots. I looked around to see where the noise came from. I looked up and saw the barrel of a rifle sticking out of a window…While I was looking at the gun it was fired again. I looked back at Mr. Kennedy and he was slumping over. I got scared and ran from that location. While I was running I heard the gun fire two more times. I ran from Elm Street to Pacific Street on Houston. When I was about 100 yards from the building I stopped to get my breath and looked back at the building. I saw a w/m, 5’8” to 5’10”, dark hair, average weight for height, dark shirt or jacket open down front, no hat, didn’t have anything in his hands, come out of the building and run in the opposite direction.” (3-10-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 2H190-201) “as they went by me, they got, oh at least another 50, 75 feet on past me, and then I heard the shots…I looked up and saw the rifle…I looked to see where he was aiming and after the second shot and I have seen the President slumping down in the seat…I looked up again and turned around and started running and saw it fire a third time…I did it all in one motion, I looked up, turned around, and ran, pivoted…everybody was screaming and saying “duck”…Just as I got to the corner I heard the fourth shot…they were right in succession…I turned the corner, went right down beside the building on the sidewalk and when I got to the corner…Of this building (The Texas School Book Depository) (I) ”Cut directly across, kind of at an angle…I rested there…approximately three minutes before I saw this man come out the back door.” (When asked to estimate the time span of the shots) “best estimate 5, 6 seconds” (When asked how he knew the rifle fired the second shot) “I saw what you might call a little flame and smoke.” (When asked about the third shot) “Same thing, a little flash of fire, and then smoke.” Analysis: Worrell’s recollection of seeing fire and smoke come from the barrel of the gun is unique and probably a by-product of an over-active imagination. If smoke were pouring from the gun, it should have been apparent to Harold Norman, who was only feet below this barrel. Beyond this, Worrell is credible. As Euins, he may have merely seen the rifle and assumed it fired the second shot. His description of the last two shots indicates they were close together. Light blue circle. Credible witness.
Mrs. Carolyn Walther (12-5-63 FBI report, 22H522) (She was standing) “on the east side of Houston Street, about fifty or sixty feet south of the south curb of Elm Street…As soon as the President’s car passed where she was standing, she and Mrs. Springer turned away and started walking north toward Elm Street. At about the time they reached the curb at Elm Street, she heard a loud report and thought it was fireworks. There was a pause after this first report, then a second and third report almost at the same time, and then a pause followed by one and possibly more reports.” (Late 1966 interview with Lawrence Schiller recounted in The Scavengers and Critics of the Warren Report, published 1967) "I heard one shot, and I thought at the time the first shot was a firecracker, and after the last car passed me I started walking back to work, and I had reached the curb, and two more shots, and then a second--two seconds later, one more. It wasn't as loud as the others. But the second and third shots were right together, and then I thought 'Oh, it's gunshots'.....I definitely feel that I heard four shots." (Interview with CBS broadcast 6-25-67) “The President passed us, and he was smiling, and everybody was waving. Then the last of the cars went by, and I heard the shot. I thought it was a firecracker. Then I started back to work, and it was along the curb, and then two shots right together, and then another one. I'm sure there were four shots.” (2-14-69 testimony in the trial of Clay Shaw) (When asked how many shots she heard “All together I heard four” (When asked what the first one sounded like) “It was a loud popping sound and I thought it was just a firecracker…the last car was passing in front of me when I heard the first shot…The second one I was just stepping off the curb. “ (And the third?) “Almost to the center of the street.” (And fourth?) “In the center of the street.” (And how did they sound? The second? ) “It sounded just like the first one.” (The third?) “The same” (And fourth?) “A little lower…I stopped and said "That is gunshots." Analysis: Mrs. Walther’s placement of the two bunched shots in the middle is problematic. Her companion, Mrs. Pearl Stringer, heard only 3 shots, and said that shots 2 and 3 rang out together; this would seem to indicate that the extra shot heard by Walther was an extra shot at the end. This would seem to be in opposition to the eyewitness evidence taken as a whole, which suggests two shots--one hitting Kennedy and one hitting Connally--were fired during a period the bulk of the witnesses heard but one shot fired. Nevertheless,Walther's statement that the last shot sounded different matches the statements of Rosemary Willis. Light blue circle. Credible witness.
Mrs. Ruby Henderson (12-6-63 FBI report, 24H524) “She was standing on the east side of Elm Street just north of Houston Street (they must mean the east side of Houston just north of Elm)…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. She said after the first shot, she believes she heard two more in rapid succession, and then a fourth shot.” Analysis: it’s strange that Mrs. Henderson described the shots in the same idiosyncratic manner as Mrs. Walther. Once again, the extra shot appears to have been an extra shot after the head shot. One possible explanation for this joint recollection of the shots is that, by the time, they talked with the FBI, the two women had talked to one another. Since they both worked in the Dal-Tex Building this appears possible. Light blue circle. Credible witness.
Mike Brownlow is a long-time assassination researcher and a regular presence in Dealey Plaza. He claims also to have been a witness. In November 2004, and again in 2005, I talked with him in Dealey Plaza and asked him where he was when the shots rang out. Both times he told me he was standing in front of the Dal-Tex Building on the northeast corner of Houston and Elm with his grandmother. Both times he said he heard four shots, but could not tell where they came from. (12-6-11 article by Jay Gibbs on researcher Bruce Engelman, found on the Starlocalnews.com website) "Engelman, who has worked for several national news organizations, including ABC, has a national sports talk show that he records every Tuesday night. Last Tuesday, however, he had a special guest in his recording studio -- Mike Brownlow of Dallas. Brownlow was a 13-year-old kid who was near the Grassy Knoll in Dallas when JFK was shot. "I heard one shot and then, immediately after that, I heard a second shot," Brownlow said. "Then, after that, I heard several shots in succession -- POP! POP! POP! Then, in a matter of five or six seconds, it was all over. The shooting had stopped. And I definitely think that the last shot I heard came from the Grassy Knoll." Analysis: Green circle. Earliest recorded statements came years after the shooting. Not entirely credible.
John Hoefen, an NBC sound technician, sat in the middle of the front seat of the first of three Chevrolet convertibles approaching Houston and Elm at the time of the first shot. (11-22-63 phoned-in report broadcast on NBC radio--WBAP in Dallas--at approximately 1:50) "We were just leaving the business district of Dallas when this shooting took place...We were making a sweeping curve here on a roadway approaching a freeway when the first shot rang out. Our first reaction was that some teenager had fired a cherry-bomb. When the second one rang out, we sort of felt that there was something wrong up there. People started to drop down to the ground ahead of us, roughly 50 to 60 feet up near the President's car. Then there was a third and if I remember correctly a fourth shot. Immediately, after that last shot the President's car took off in a tremendous burst of speed followed by the Secret Service follow-up car..." (11-22-63 phoned-in report broadcast on NBC television, at approximately 2:00 PM) “We were approaching a drive which would put us on a freeway, where we would then drive to the Trade Mart...As we turned down this moderate curve here there was a loud shot. At first we thought it was a cherry bomb by some teenager. Then it was immediately followed by two or three more. Everybody said "duck" then there were people falling to the ground. We did not know who was shot. Ladies and men both were screaming..." Analysis: in his initial interview, Hoefen said there was "If I remember correctly a fourth shot." This suggests his initial impression was that there was indeed four shots, but that he'd started doubting his impression after coming in contact with others. One can only wonder, then, how many others thought they'd heard four shots but who stopped claiming as much as soon as the news media started trumpeting there were three. It should also be noted, however, that Hoefen thought people fell to the ground after the second shot--and that this would almost certainly have been the head shot. As very few heard more than one shot after the head shot, well, it seems possible Hoefen was yet another witness confused by the final echoes. Light blue circle. Credible witness.
Henry Burroughs was in the Chevy behind Hoefen. (Pictures of the Pain p.398, based on Trask interview 8-21-85) “Burroughs remembers hearing four shots…”We came up to the scene of the shooting and people were running all over the place.” (10-14-98 letter to Vince Palamara quoted in JFK: The Medical Evidence Reference) “After the President’s limousine turned the corner at the book depository we could not see him, but we heard the shots, and the motorcade stopped.” Analysis: it is interesting indeed that the one member of the motorcade besides Hoefen to say he heard four shots just so happened to be in the car right behind Hoefen and approaching Houston and Elm around Z-224. It’s also interesting that one of the few to have claimed he heard two shots before Z-270 or so, Dave Wiegman, was in the car just in front of him, with Hoefen. Green circle. Earliest recorded statements came years after the shooting. Not entirely credible.
Robert West (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." 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. Green circle. Earliest recorded statements
came years after the shooting. Not
This review of the statements of the preceding witnesses demonstrates quite convincingly that the four sounds heard by these witnesses were not the same sounds. While there are a number of credible witnesses near Houston and Elm, the statements by Walther and Henderson are not only in conflict with our analysis of the Zapruder film, which indicates the fourth shot unheard by those hearing three shots was the shot impacting at Z-224, but also the statements of Willis, Euins, and Worrell. As the other witnesses in the area—Fischer, Edwards, Burroughs, and Brownlow, told us very little beyond that they’d initially believed they’d heard four shots, we are prevented from using the statements of the Houston and Elm witnesses to come to a concrete conclusion. Still, the strange circumstance that so many witnesses heard an extra shot in one of the easiest locations to tell echoes from shots is noteworthy, and should not be overlooked. It should also be noted that the likely origin for the extra shot heard by the credible four shot witnesses just so happened to be the building with the best vantage point for a sniper, the Dal-Tex Building. One might reasonably suspect this was more than a coincidence.
Sniper’s Nest Views
When one looks at photographs taken from the sniper’s nest and compares them with photographs taken from the Dal-Tex Building one can see the advantages of the Dal-Tex Building as a location for a shooter. While a sniper from the nest would have to pan as he shot at the motorcade, a sniper from the Dal-Tex would barely have to change his aim. According to snipers trained in the U.S. Special Forces, having the time to aim before firing and being to able to re-fire without re-aiming is more desirable than being right on top of a target. Sniper tactics first popularized by legendary WW I sniper Herbert McBride, moreover, dictate that shooting across an obstacle, such as a tree or a creek, or in this case an open window in the sixth floor of the school depository, will cause those in the target area to focus their attention on the obstacle closest to them. It follows then that the Dal-Tex Building was the ideal location in Dealey Plaza for a shooting on Elm. Despite the current speculation that a shot came from the second floor, a more vertical location would have been preferable, because from such a perch one could zero in on Kennedy without having to shoot through the Secret Service Agents standing on the side of the follow-up car.
The FBI, apparently, reached this same conclusion. While testifying for Arlen Specter before the Warren Commission, FBI Exhibits Chief Leo Gauthier brought along some photos of a scale model he’d created of Dealey Plaza. He testified that exhibit 879 represented “a view of the scale model looking toward the southwest, in the direction of the triple underpass, from a position on the sixth floor in the southeast corner window.” While this implies the photo depicts the view from the sniper’s nest, a quick look at the view reveals that it is in fact a view from the upper floors, or roof, of the Dal-Tex Building, across the street from the depository. Gauthier, a 29-year-veteran of the Bureau, who had created hundreds of crime-scene models as visual aids for trials, was almost certainly aware of the inaccuracy of his statement. Months before Gauthier’s testimony, the FBI had supplied the Commission with a collection of visual aids created by Gauthier. The photo was misrepresented at that time as well.
When one looks at an actual view from the sniper's nest, exhibit 724, and compares it with the surveyor’s plat of Dealey Plaza used by Gauthier (which strangely excludes the Dal-Tex Building), and marks the position of the limo at the various frames of the Zapruder film, one can find even more reason to mistrust the "official" story, and yet another reason to reject the LPM scenario.
To refresh, the LPM scenario--the shooting scenario pushed by Dr. John Lattimer, Gerald Posner, Dale Myers, and sometimes Vincent Bugliosi, and the shooting scenario the mainstream media pretends is the official government scenario--holds that the first shot rang out around frame 160 of the Zapruder film. As we've learned from reading the eyewitness statements, this is silly.
When one compares exhibit 724 with the plaza plat, however, one can see that it is more than silly; it is ludicrous.
First, one can see that the Thornton Freeway sign, where witness after witness placed the limo at the time of the first shot, was a good thirty feet past where the LPM scenario places the car when the first shot rang out. Second, when one notes the location of wounded bystander James Tague on the plat, and reflects that the LPM scenario holds that Tague was wounded when the lead core of the FIRST bullet fired hit a nearby curb after striking a twig, one can’t help but scratch one’s head. It simply makes no sense that a high-speed bullet fired from a position 60 feet up and 120 feet behind could hit a twig 30 feet off the ground, break up, and be deflected four hundred feet forward and to the right, particularly, when this same kind of bullet, with the very next shot, is purported to have slashed through a man’s torso, hit another man in the armpit, smashed out inches of his ribcage, crashed through his wrist and lodged itself in his thigh, with little apparent damage to the bullet. It’s doubtful a shot at frame 160 would even strike a twig.
Now, it's not as if I readily throw out EVERY idea presented by the single-assassin theorists. Ironically, I suspect two other prominent single-assassin theorists, Kenneth Rahn and Larry Sturdivan, have solved the mystery of Tague’s wound. Since Rahn is so terribly Rahng in his defense of Dr. Vincent Guinn’s Neutron Activation Analysis (see chapter 11), I wasn’t prepared for it, but I now believe he’s been successful in demonstrating that the fragment which kicked up the concrete near Tague, and cut up Tague’s cheek, could have come from the bullet striking Kennedy on the top of his head. A quick look at the plat above shows how they are almost in line. When one projects this location back to the car at 313, moreover, one can see that the trajectory of the fragment passes only inches above and to the right of the trajectory of the nose of the bullet, which hit the windshield, and the trajectory of the tail of the bullet, which hit the window frame. While the Tague fragment also aligns with a missed shot from the Dal-Tex, the FBI inspection of the scar on the curb near Tague revealed only lead, and no copper, which would indicate this mark was created by a fragment, without a copper jacket. When one recalls that the base of a bullet found in the limousine was completely empty of its lead and that almost half the bullet was never found, moreover, a conclusion that the lead came from this bullet seems perfectly reasonable. Since Sturdivan’s calculations show that a fragment would have had enough energy to continue on and strike the curb near Tague, Rahn’s conclusion seems more than reasonable; it seems probable.
But don't worry, this does little to convince me there was only one shooter, and that the shooter in the depository was Oswald.
Views on the Sniper
Beyond the reasons already discussed, there are purely
technical reasons to doubt Oswald was one among any number of shooters.
The sniper's nest shooter was in a very crammed space, rapid firing on a
target moving left to right, and was purported to have taken these
shots while sitting on a box, using a gun rest. There are reasons to
believe a man with Oswald's limited training would not only not be able
to pull this off, but would not even attempt to fire shots in this
- Although Oswald's shooting scores while
in the Marines were adequate at the beginning of his service, Allison
Folsom, the Marine Corps officer contacted by the Warren Commission to
discuss Oswald's training, said that Oswald's score on the last test he
took in 1959 indicated he was a "poor shot". Folsom actually went
further than this, and volunteered that, due to inactivity, there was
reason to believe Oswald's skills had depreciated even further since
- Even worse, Oswald's Marine Corps scorebook, CE
239, reflects that he had only been trained to shoot on stationary
targets, and never from elevation. It takes a bit of practice to learn
how to lead a moving target, and a bit more practice to learn how firing
from elevation has an effect on this lead. For one thing, there's less
bullet drop. A military rifle fires slightly above its crosshairs, to
account for the effects of gravity on the bullet. When firing downwards
from elevation, however, the gravity effect is lessened, and an
inexperienced sniper will probably overshoot his target. The difficulty of shooting a
moving target is confirmed by the 2007 book, To Be a Military Sniper,
which notes "engaging a moving target is a skill that can be developed and maintained only through constant practice."
Not only had Oswald never received training as a sniper, the Warren
Commission found no evidence Oswald had EVER fired his rifle on a moving
- Military Science and Tactics, a WWII-era textbook written "Conforming to the War Department Program",
which would presumably be relevant to Oswald's training 14 years later,
reflects that U.S. soldiers are trained to fire from the Prone,
Sitting, Kneeling, and Standing positions. The drawing for the "Sitting"
position is of a soldier sitting on the ground. This makes me suspect
that Oswald had never practiced shooting while sitting on a box.
- This book also asserts, in a section entitled "General
Rules for Positions" "(1) To assume any position first face the target
and then face half right. In any position the rifle makes an angle of
about 45 degrees with the front of the body or the spine." If Oswald
was the shooter in the sniper's nest, then, his training would have
dictated his facing the west side of the building, and turning his upper
torso and rifle to fire out the window.
- This book also asserts, in a section entitled "Marksmanship, Moving Targets", that "There is no unit of measure for leads that the rifleman can quickly apply except the target itself. That is all he sees. So the unit of measure for leads is the actual target...When the trigger is correctly squeezed the rifleman does not know when the piece will go off. Accordingly, when he has obtained the correct lead, the rifle must continue to be swung smoothly and uniformly to maintain the lead while squeezing the trigger. The tendency to stop swinging the piece when the lead has been obtained, and fire instantly by jerking the trigger, must be avoided. This is of utmost importance. The rifleman begins to squeeze the trigger as soon as he has his lead, and maintains his lead by swinging the piece while pressing the trigger." Well, this is interesting. Oswald's facing west would have made his tracking a target from directly to his left to 45 degrees to his left a bit awkward, particularly if he was using a box as a rifle rest. In fact, this passage makes me suspect that a military-trained sniper would not even use a rifle rest for such a shot, as it would only prohibit the "smooth and uniform" movement of his rifle as he tracked his target.
- A 1970's era U.S. Marine Corps Scout/Sniper Data Book in my possession confirms this last point. Its section on "Leads" reads: "Moving
targets are the most difficult to hit. When engaging a target which is
moving laterally across his line of sight, the sniper must concentrate
on moving his weapon with the target while aiming at a point some
distance ahead. Holding this 'lead', the sniper fires and follows
through with the movement after the shot. Using this method, the sniper
reduces the possibility of missing..."
- Intriguingly, however, this Data Book then proceeds: "Another method of leading a target, and one which is used extensively by snipers, is known as the 'point' lead. By 'point lead' we mean the sniper selects a point some distance in front of his target and holds the crosshairs on that point. As the target moves across the horizontal crosshair, it will eventually reach a point which is the proper lead distance from the center. At that instant the sniper must fire his shot. This is a very simple method of hitting a moving target, but a few basic marksmanship skills must not be forgotten: The sniper must not only estimate his target range, but also its speed and angle of travel relative to his line of sight in order to determine the correct lead. The sniper must continue to concentrate on his crosshairs and not on his target. The sniper must continue to squeeze the trigger and not jerk or flinch prior to the shot being fired." To Be a Military Sniper confirms this point, noting that shooting in this manner is "the preferred method of engaging moving targets." Well, this raises a few questions: 1) when would Oswald have learned to fire in this manner?; and 2) if a shooter did use a cardboard box for a rifle rest, and fire after acquiring a "point lead" and MISS, as supposedly happened in Dallas, wouldn't this cut into the likelihood of his successfully firing two rapid-fire shots in the next 8 seconds? Let's see. He hasn't been actively tracking the target. He has already guessed wrong. Are we to believe he then re-acquired his target, tracked it successfully through a tree, and fired successfully, not once but twice, the first time in 3 seconds, and the second time in 5 seconds?
- An even greater reason to doubt Oswald established a "point" lead on Kennedy comes from looking at the sniper's nest view above. The President would have been coming into view not from the left of the scope, but from below--out from under the rifle barrel. This would have given Oswald (or the sniper presumed to have been Oswald) very little time to react, particularly if he was using the iron sights. It follows then that the sniper almost certainly tracked Kennedy along Elm Street, and did not use a cardboard box as a rifle rest.
- There are reasons to doubt Oswald did the tracking, however. On the next page of the data book, when discussing the lead times given walking soldiers, based upon the angle they are walking in relation to the sniper, another problem becomes clear: "The leads previously mentioned hold true for a right-handed shooter firing on a target moving from his right to his left. If the target is moving from left to right, the lead must be doubled due to a natural hesitation to follow through when swinging against the shooting shoulder. This hesitation is extremely difficult to overcome even by the most experienced shooters."
- This hesitation is confirmed,
moreover, by The Ultimate Guide to U.S. Special Forces Skills, Tactics
and Techniques (2011). When discussing shooting on moving targets, it
notes "Double leads are sometimes necessary for a sniper who uses the
swing-through method on a target that is moving toward his firing side.
The double lead is necessary because of the difficulty that a person
has in swinging his weapon smoothly toward his firing side. Practice on a
known-distance range and meticulous record-keeping are required to hone
a sniper's moving target engagement skill." Hmm... As proven on the
slide above, the target car was moving upward from the sniper's nest
shooter's left to his right. Oswald was a right-handed shooter.
Now...are we to believe he both had the practice necessary to "hone a
sniper's moving target engagement skill", and that he somehow knew how
to compensate for his "natural hesitation"? Or was it just dumb luck he hit Kennedy twice in three tries?
1993, noted gun expert Massad Ayoob wrote an article for Handgunner
Magazine in which he discussed his own impression of the shots
to Oswald. He noted that the two fastest shooters in a 1992 re-enactment
of Oswald's purported shooting feat were both left-handed shooters
firing from their left shoulder, and operating the bolt with their right
- Although the specifics of this re-enactment were not described, the Summer/Fall issue of the "Dateline: Dallas" newsletter mentioned that Richard Davis, the owner of Chance Body Armour, had sponsored a recent event in Central Lake, Michigan, in which 50 shooters tried to replicate Oswald's shooting by firing a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle from a wooden platform at a cardboard target traveling at 11 miles an hour. According to the article, "Some sharpshooters got off three shots in 5.6 seconds matching Oswald's purported action. A couple were able to squeeze off 1.66 seconds with the sluggish rifle. After two days of shooting, however, not one marksman was able to duplicate the speed and accuracy of the sixth floor assassin as outlined by the Warren Commission Report."
- Anyhow, Ayoob's observation on the
lefties supports what was said in the data book about left-handed
shooters having a noticeable advantage when shooting at targets moving
from left to right. While concluding that Oswald could indeed have made
the shots, Ayoob does so in part because of speculation Oswald was a
left-eye dominant shooter. There is no indication of this anywhere
outside Oswald's mother's recollection he was left-handed--a point
rejected by both Oswald's wife and his brothers. (Apparently, his mother
was confusing him with his brother Robert, who was left-handed.) In
addition, the only known photo of Oswald firing a rifle shows him to be
shooting right-handed with his right eye. (Information found online
suggests both that the Marines keep an eye out for left-eye dominant
shooters and that they train them to shoot left-handed when discovered.)
As a result, Ayoob's speculation falls flat.
purported use of his scope only magnifies this problem. Guns of the
Elite, a 1987 book on snipers and sniper weapons, notes "optical
sights suffer certain inherent problems. Not only are they
complicated--and often too delicate to withstand the rigours of military
service--but magnification of the target means that the firer's eyes
see different images if both eyes remain open during the shooting. Thus,
though the sights improve deliberate shooting, they can hinder target
location and (particularly) engagement of moving targets." This book
then goes on to note that some armies have learned to account for this
problem by using 1.5 power scopes on their sniper rifles, which permit "a wider field of view"
than 4 power scopes. The scope on the assassination rifle was a 4 power
scope. If Oswald was using this scope, with its limited field of view,
it seems highly unlikely he could have accurately established a "point lead"
on a target coming from below and to his left. If he missed this first
shot, furthermore, it seems unlikely he could have adjusted rapidly
enough to track the target through a tree and fire two accurate shots,
the first one within a second of the target coming out from behind the
tree, and the second less than 5 seconds later.
- This last point is supported by the Army's tests of Oswald's rifle in March, 1964. The three Master rifleman chosen to test the rifle, after being allowed as much time as needed for the first shot, missed the second shot 4 of 6 times, even though they were aiming at a stationary target, and their target was approximately 3 times larger than the approximately 7 inch circle within which Oswald had purportedly placed two shots. The sudden switch from waiting to turning and firing was apparently a difficult one, made even more difficult by the use of a scope.
- Intriguingly, the HSCA came to agree that Oswald's use of the scope was unlikely. Their Firearms Panel concluded "that
an individual could attain better accuracy using the iron sights than
the scope under the circumstances involved in Dealey Plaza." In his testimony, the panel's spokesman, Monty Lutz, explained why. First he questioned the accuracy of the scope. He claimed "The accuracy is fairly undependable, as far as once getting the rifle
sighted in, and it is very cheaply made. The scope itself has a
crosshair reticle that is subject to movement or being capable of being
dislodged from dropping, from impact, or a very sharp recoil. So the
accuracy would be somewhat questionable for this particular type of a
scope." Then he questioned if the scope would be of help even under optimal conditions. He explained: "This scope, I will apply the principle to it. We are dealing with a four-power or a magnification of 4. The field of
view is 18, meaning an 18-foot circle at 100 yards. So it is a 4 x 18
scope, a relatively small circle to locate your target in when you are
firing and recovering from the recoil in successive shots. So to align
your target to get a sighting position, by placing the stock into the
shoulder, the head has to be adjusted or moved slightly to the left to
align the way that the scope is mounted on the left-hand side and get
into position to fire.
The scope itself is also designed so that the crosshair, the
reticles, do not remain in the exact center position. When you adjust
windage or elevation those crosshairs move, so that you are not looking
dead center in the object itself.
A more natural and easier form or position to fire is to put the
rifle against the shoulder, the cheek on the stock, and look right down
the center, straight ahead from where you are now positioned, and align
the iron sights, the fixed iron sights that are presently on the rifle." He then testified that, for him, using the iron sights would be "considerably easier" than using the scope. None of his colleagues on the panel disagreed.
- While the panel's conclusion was no doubt influenced by the fact they'd found the rifle could also be fired faster when using the iron sights, and the HSCA was anxious to conclude the rifle had been fired faster than previously believed possible, there were presumably other factors influencing their conclusion. Perhaps one of these factors was that, as acknowledged in the 1969 testimony of the FBI's Robert Frazier--the first man to test the weapon--one had to lift one's eye away from the scope between shots in order "To prevent the bolt of the rifle from striking (one) in the face as it came to the rear." Perhaps another of these factors was that, when first tested by Frazier on 11-27-1963, the rifle, when fired using the scope, fired 4 inches high and one to the right at only 15 yards. Assuming this was the condition of the rifle as found in the depository, this meant that the sniper, in order to lead the President and hit him in the head while he was moving away and to the right, would have to have fired behind the President, and aimed for low on his back, or perhaps even at the trunk of his limousine. This would have been quite a trick. Perhaps the HSCA Firearms Panel, unlike the Warren Commission, which concluded that the use of the apparently misaligned scope had been a "substantial aid" in the shooting, saw the unlikelihood of Oswald pulling off such a trick. Unfortunately for them, however, the only man known to rapid fire the assassination rifle while using the iron sights, a Mr. Miller, the best shooter in the Army's 1964 tests, only attempted one run using these sights... On this run, Mr. Miller not only missed the head and neck silhouette of his third and final target, he missed the target completely.
- A not so quick aside...While some assume the rifle
and scope were in alignment on 11-22-63, only to get misaligned in the
aftermath of the shooting, there is little real support for this
assumption. While Sebastian Latona, the FBI's fingerprint expert,
testified before the Warren Commission that the rifle had been
dismantled by the FBI's ballistics examiners and inspected for prints
prior to the FBI's initial test of the rifle's accuracy, he did not
the removal of the scope. When the FBI's chief ballistics examiner
Robert Frazier testified just a few days prior to Latona, moreover, he
indicated he'd been present when the rifle arrived at the laboratory,
and also failed to mention the scope had been removed. He did make the
nebulous statement that "apparently the scope had even been taken off of the rifle, in
searching for fingerprints on the rifle. So that actually the way it
was sighted-in when we got it does not necessarily mean it was
sighted-in that way when it was abandoned." This indicates that he thought it possible the scope had been removed in the search for fingerprints in Dallas,
something which was denied by the Dallas crime scene investigator, J.C.
Day. Frazier then let on that he had reason to suspect it had not been
removed in Dallas; he testified that, upon further examination of the
rifle in March 1964, he found that the scope took 5 or 6 shots to
stabilize after each adjustment, and that "When we fired on November 27th, the shots were landing high and
slightly to the right. However, the scope was apparently fairly well
stabilized at that time, because three shots would land in an area the
size of a dime under rapid-fire conditions, which would not have
occurred if the interior mechanism of the scope was shifting." If
the scope was stabilized on 11-27, as claimed, and neither the Dallas
Police nor FBI had before that time adjusted the scope and fired the
rifle 5 or 6 times to stabilize the scope, as Frazier found was
necessary, it follows then that the scope had not recently been removed,
replaced, and re-adjusted before 11-27, and that the inaccuracies of
the rifle on 11-27 were the inaccuracies on 11-22. (Frazier would later
confirm this by telling writer David Fisher not that the Dallas Police
had adjusted or bumped the scope to knock it out of alignment, but that
they'd lost a wooden shim that had been placed beneath the scope to
bring it into alignment. He, of course, offered no evidence that this
shim had ever existed, let alone that the DPD had lost it after removing
- Even if the scope had been removed and haphazardly screwed back on, however, as some presume, it does nothing to suggest the rifle had been accurate on 11-22. All indications are, in fact, that it was not. In March 1964, when Frazier discovered the problem with the stability of the scope, the FBI tried to sight-in the rifle and make it as accurate as possible. They found this was impossible, and that it still fired an average of over 4 inches high and 2 1/2 inches to the right at 100 yards when using the scope even after it was stabilized. While some, apparently including the FBI and Warren Commission, have chosen to assume this misalignment was the misalignment of the rifle on 11-22, and would have worked to Oswald's advantage, they miss entirely that having the rifle fire high and to the right at a distant target moving up and to the right in the scope would only have been an advantage if Oswald knew exactly how misaligned his scope was--and that he only could have known this had he had extensive practice with his rifle...extensive practice for which the FBI and Warren Commission found no evidence...
- In any event, when,
subsequent to the FBI, the Army tested the rifle, they found it
necessary to add shims beneath the scope mount to bring it into
alignment. This was acknowledged in the 3-31-64 testimony of Ronald
Simmons, Chief of the Infantry Weapons Evaluation Branch of the
Ballistics Research Laboratory of the Department of the Army. The
gunsmith who'd worked on the rifle made an interesting observation,
moreover, which he passed on to Warren Commission counsel Melvin
Eisenberg on April 6. 1964. Eisenberg's Memo for the Record on this
conversation was published in the commission's volumes as CE 2560. It
reads "There were three pieces in the scope examined by the BRL gunsmith.
Two pieces were .015 inches thick, so placed as to elevate the scope
with respect to the gun. One piece was .020 inches thick so placed as to
point the scope leftward with respect to the gun. The gunsmith observed
that the scope as we received it was installed as if for a left-handed
man." Well, this is fairly confusing, as it suggests the shims were already on the rifle when
received by the BRL, when Simmons testified to the opposite. We can
only assume, then, that Eisenberg's words are misleading, and that he
should have written "three pieces in the scope added in by the BRL gunsmith," and not "examined by the gunsmith." In any event, the gunsmith's observation that "the scope as we received it was installed as if for a left-handed man"
feeds back into the sniper data book's observation that right-eye
dominant shooters have trouble with targets moving left to right, and
Ayoob's observation that the best shooters during the re-enactment he'd
witnessed had both been left-handed, and presumably left-eye dominant.
Was the sniper in the sniper's nest a left-eye dominant shooter firing
right-handed to simulate Oswald? Hmmm...
- In 1969, Dr. John Lattimer gave a presentation to the New York
Academy of Medicine on his own attempts to replicate Oswald's supposed
feat. While claiming his tests showed that Oswald could have performed
the shooting, he made some interesting observations which did not
remotely support this conclusion. After discussing his acquisition of
four rifles like Oswald's, fitting them with scopes like the one found
on Oswald's rifle, and picking out the rifle which most closely
resembled its overall condition, he admitted: "To align the sight perfectly, it
was necessary to place thin metal wafers (shims) under the front ring
of the mount of the telescope, just as had been found necessary with
Oswald's rifle, in order to correct the faulty alignment of the
telescope." This point, moreover, was confirmed by writer Stephen
Hunter in his 2013 book The Third Bullet. In an appendix to his novel in
which an alternate scenario to the shooting was presented, Hunter
claimed he'd bought a rifle like the one used in the shooting, and scope
like the one found on the rifle, and discovered they were hopelessly
out of alignment without the addition of shims. So yeah, it's true. The
shims added to Oswald's rifle were added after it
was found in the depository, not before. This suggests, then, that on
the day of the shooting Oswald's
rifle was inaccurate, at least when using the scope, and that this was
an inherent defect of that rifle and scope combination, not a problem
created afterward as presumed by so many for so long.
- Lattimer continued: "It was found that with the sling binding the rifle tightly to the experimenter's arm, and by resting both forearms flat against the legs, above the knees (as was possible from Oswald's high perch), three cartridges could be worked through the action in six or seven seconds, still allowing a short period for aiming, before each simulated shot. If the interval between each shot was increased to five seconds (10 seconds total) aiming became quite easy." Lattimer failed to explain that he was firing at stationary targets, and that tracking or leading a moving target would be more difficult, and take more time. But I digress...
- Lattimer then said something quite
interesting. He noted: "It was found necessary not only to push the
bolt vigorously forward but to pull it vigorously back, each time, with
more force than is usually required with bolt-action rifles. Facility
with these motions was acquired with many, many workings of the action
over a period of two weeks of both simulated and actual firing. It
became obvious to us that the ability to fire this rapidly and
dexterously required a prolonged period of practice." Lattimer then proceeded to speculate that Oswald's failed attempt on General Walker "might have
persuaded him to sharpen his skill at rapid fire (as he did all too
well) by further practice, before November 22..." Well, I'll be.
Lattimer's belief Oswald fired the shots is related to his belief
Oswald had extensive practice with his rifle...something both the FBI
and Warren Commission specifically ruled out!
- Lattimer then drove this point home: "The prolonged period of
practice and familiarization was found to be essential for the
achievement of any kind of accuracy during rapid firing of this rifle.
In general, we were surprised and interested to observe how effectively
proficiency with this rifle could be acquired, if plenty of time was
allowed." Well this suggests as well that a prolonged period of defamiliarization with this rifle would lead to a degeneration of one's
skills, does it not? The Warren Commission found no evidence that Oswald had
even touched, let alone fired, his rifle for at least six weeks prior
to the shooting. They found no evidence he'd ever used it to fire on a
moving target. They found no cleaning equipment or spare ammunition among
his possessions. This should make us suspect that, if one man fired all
the shots on Kennedy, he was either a
much better shot than Oswald was presumed to have been in 1963, or had been
practicing with Oswald's
rifle for some time prior to 11-22.
- This suspicion has received support from surprising sources. On August 27, 1972, Governor John Connally, at that time a former Secretary of the Navy and a soon-to-be Secretary of the Treasury, was asked about the possibility of two assassins on the ABC news program Issues and Answers. He replied: "if one man did it--and I really think one man did it from all that I know about it--he was an expert at handling that rifle, no question about it, because he got off three shots in a remarkably short period of time."
2013, I received an e-mail suggesting Connally was far from alone. A
gentleman named Steve Schlah reported that in 1979 he was working as a "manager of the Jobs for Veterans Program of the National Alliance of Business, for the Tri-Counties
of Central Coast of California." He then told me that "Each year, the 50 Managers (each from a
different city or region across the U.S.) would meet twice in D.C. and
once in a host city. In 1979, we 50 Vietnam Vets of various military
branches met in the host city of Dallas Texas. After the various
meetings, we ALL wanted to go to Dealey Plaza, to the site of the
assassination and all 50 made the pilgrimage. It was there that all 50
came to the instant conclusion that none of us, whether having qualified
as Marksman or Expert, could have fired that Italian Mannlicker-Carcano 91-38 6.5 mm Bolt Action
rifle 3 times in 6 seconds (note: he originally said 4 seconds but then corrected himself in a subsequent email) with any repeated accuracy, over the
distance from the Book Depository to the moving target of the
Presidential Continental. All 50 came to the same conclusion, that it
was not humanly possible, without a dissenting vote."
- Curiously, Massad Ayoob touched on this same point in his 1993 article when he wrote "There
is reason to believe that Oswald in 1963 had become a far better shot
than he was when he only made sharpshooter in the Marines." Apparently,
Ayoob's "reason" (or lack thereof) was that he believes Oswald fired
the shots, so he must have been able to fire the shots, which means he
must have been a better shot than he was when he qualified as a
sharpshooter, because a mere sharpshooter would not have been
accomplished enough to have fired these shots... This totally neglects
that Oswald, when last tested by the Marines in 1959, had suffered a
noticeable decline in his skills and had barely qualified as a marksman,
far below the level of sharpshooter he'd reached in 1956. This neglects
as well that in the intervening years, 1959-1963, Oswald had scarcely
fired any weapon, let alone the assassination weapon, a bolt-action
rifle far more difficult to operate than the semi-automatic rifle he'd
fired while in the Marines.
- In 1994, former sniper Craig Roberts released his book Kill Zone: A Sniper Looks At Dealey Plaza. In the book, he not only expressed doubt that a right handed shooter could fire effectively from the crowded corner window of the depository, and hit a target just as it emerged from behind a tree, he recounted a discussion he had with legendary Marine Corps sniper Carlos Hathcock. Hatchcock reportedly told him "Let me tell you what we did at Quantico. We reconstructed the whole thing: the angle, the range, the moving target, the time limit, the obstacles, everything. I don't know how many times we tried it, but we couldn't duplicate what the Warren Commission said Oswald did."
- That the sniper shooting at Kennedy, should it have been but one sniper shooting at Kennedy, had a significant set of skills has been confirmed, moreover, in more recent years. In 2003 a Discovery Channel program entitled “The JFK Conspiracy Myths” attempted to show that Oswald had enough time to perform the shooting by having a sharpshooter on a scaffold shoot at watermelons riding in a remote-controlled limousine. That the sharp shooter hired by the program, Michael Yardley, was able to hit a moving target 3 times in 7.87 seconds (longer than the Warren Commission's favored scenario) was supposed to prove that Oswald, who hadn’t fired his rifle in months, if ever, and who had never been trained in shooting at a moving target from an elevated perch, would have been able to accomplish a similar feat. While the program mentioned that Yardley fired six other sets of three shots, and that four of these proved successful, with the other two marred by equipment failure (the rifle jammed 5 times in 21 tries), they failed to mention the timing of these other sets. This leads one to suspect the other sets took longer than the already too long 7.87 seconds quoted in the program. Even worse, when it came time to test the accuracy of Yardley’s shooting, they provided him with a rifle hooked up to a laser switch, which he then aimed at a pretend Kennedy, as the limo crossed the plaza at night. As a laser beam travels at the speed of light, making it dramatically easier to hit a moving target, and as a laser beam suffers no bullet drop or wind resistance, and as a laser rifle offers no recoil, making it easier to shoot and re-aim, this was akin to playing with a stacked deck.
- As if the clear but
unacknowledged point made by the program--that Oswald's shooting Kennedy
all by his lonesome was possible, but not likely--needed any
sharpshooter Michael Yardley wrote a short article on his experience
entitled "Who Shot John F. Kennedy? It was me" that was published in his native England. While claiming he believed Oswald had indeed "fired three shots from the depository," Yardley nevertheless expressed serious doubts that these were the shots striking Kennedy, as he also claimed the head shot, "if taken from the Grassy Knoll, Badgeman
Walkway positions (all positions forward of the presidential
vehicle) would have been much easier" and that "practical experience of the second
positions leads me to suspect that there could well have been
another shooter." He then closed his article with "Of what can one be certain? That Oswald was a
patsy." Of course, none of this was mentioned in the program.
- And Yardley is far from the last expert to voice his concerns about the difficulty of Oswald's purported feat. In 2013, Matthew Melton, a former Navy Seal sniper and CIA contractor, was hired to replicate Oswald's purported feat for the History Channel program JFK: The Definitive Guide. The producers asked him to rapid fire a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle from a six-story tower to see if he could accomplish two hits in 5.6 seconds, as purported by the Warren Commission. Melton accomplished three hits in 5.53 seconds. Mission accomplished. Only not so fast. He was firing at a stationary target, 88 yards away. While admitting that their test "proved that the rifle definitely had the ability" to perform the shots proposed by the Warren Commission, moreover, Melton voiced his disagreement that the test suggested Oswald was the shooter. To Professor Tom Stone's suggestion that "common sense" indicated Oswald was the shooter, Melton interjected "I would totally disagree. So the rifle can make the shots." He then explained that shooting on a range and shooting at an actual person are two different things and that "You're gonna be scared. You're gonna have an Adrenalin rush. You're gonna have a lot of outside pieces that have to be considered when it comes to shooting." Ayoob, Hathcock, Yardley, and Melton's comments, then, should make us suspect that Oswald was not the super shooter necessitated by Lattimer's observations, and that more than one shooter fired the shots on the motorcade.
- Should one accept
the shooting scenario preferred by most single-assassin theorists--that
the shots were fired just before frames 160, 224 and 313 of the
Zapruder film--moreover, one should acknowledge that this gives us even more
reason to doubt Oswald was the sole shooter. As demonstrated by Secret
Service agent John Joe Howlett in the DVD to the National Geographic
program JFK: The Lost Bullet (2011), and acknowledged by single-assassin
theorists Dale Myers and Todd Vaughan in their article Mr. Holland's
Opus, it would have been impossible for Oswald to have fired down upon
the limousine at frame 160 or before from the crouched position
presumably used to fire the last two shots. This means that he would
have to have fired the first shot from a standing position before crouching down to fire the last two shots. This is not something
Oswald was ever taught in the Marines. This movement between shots,
moreover, is not something any live-fire reenactment of the
shooting has ever dared to simulate. Here, see for yourself...
- The 1994 book Sniper, by military historian Adrian Gilbert, gives us even more food for thought. While reporting on many of the tactics previously discussed, Gilbert addresses something new as well. He reports: "Fighting in built-up areas offers good concealment and cover...Dummy positions are frequently used to draw enemy fire away from the sniper's position. The short ranges over which most combat in towns and cities is fought tends to negate the sniper's range advantage. The sniper can overcome this, however, by the application of his superior knowledge of fieldcraft and, where possible, by firing from positions to the rear of the...combat zone...When firing out of a window, he should stand well back in the room, muffling the blast and hiding the muzzle blast...Windows and doorways are obvious firing positions; it may be better if the sniper cuts a funnel-shaped hole through the wall. A hole of this nature is hard for the enemy to locate and hit, while giving the sniper a reasonable field of fire." Now, this is pretty interesting. This suggests two previously unexplored possibilities. First, that the so-called grassy knoll, where most ran after shots were fired at the motorcade, was a "dummy" position. And second, that a second sniper beyond the one seen in the depository building was totally concealed from view in one of the buildings at Houston and Elm.
- Now, no dummies were found on the grassy knoll. But that's not the only way to create a "dummy" position. The August 27, 1942 issue of Tactical and Technical Trends, a publication of the U.S. War Department, in an article on Japanese Tactics in the Philippines, described the use of firecrackers to "confuse U.S. troops as to the actual Japanese position." More to the point, Combat Lessons #4, a 1942 publication of the U.S. Army, noted that German
snipers, in order to confuse those under fire, used firecrackers with slow-burning fuses. Similarly, Combat Lessons #6, from 1944, noted that, in both the Pacific and European theaters of World War II, "enemy
troops have used firecrackers for diversionary purposes, especially
when trying to deceive our troops as to the positions of snipers." Beyond that many witnesses thought they heard shots from the knoll, a number of witnesses saw smoke or smelled smoke in the area. Was this smoke the smoke of a firecracker? Used for diversionary purposes? By someone trained in military tactics?
So...single-assassin theorists supporting the LPM scenario have a choice. First, to be true to Lattimer, they must agree that the Warren Commission was wrong and hold that Oswald had somehow acquired extensive practice with his rifle. Second, to be true to the accumulated literature on sniping they should either 1) assert Oswald used a gun rest and a scope, and missed anyhow, and then propose he successfully fired the next two shots while using the iron sights, or 2) take a cue from the HSCA and admit the use of a scope would only complicate his shots, and assert that he tracked the limo using the iron sights for all three shots. In any alternative, they should admit that the photos of Kennedy's stand-in taken through a 4 power scope from the sniper's nest at the moment of the head shot are deceptive, and most probably not representative of what was actually seen by the sniper.
That they continue to use this photo to push that the shots were easy and that Oswald used a scope indicates that they either have far greater faith in Oswald's ability and/or luck than warranted or far less respect for the truth than desired.