Chapter 5: the Jigsaw Puzzle
Chapter 5: The Jigsaw Puzzle
The beginning of a comprehensive look at the many ear and eye witnesses to the assassination, in an attempt to determine what REALLY happened
Rashomon is the title of a 1950 film by Japanese film-maker Akira Kurosawa.In the film the same event is recounted by four different participants, none of whom is completely reliable. Similarly, over the course of the next few chapters, we'll belooking at the statements of the many witnesses to the shooting, both before the conclusions of the Warren Commission, and afterward, to see if they can help us come to any conclusions on how the shots were fired.So, why bother? You might ask.. Everybody knows that eyewitnesses aren't reliable. Well, that isn't really true. While everybody knows the impressions of one witness can't be trusted, everybody also knows that the statements of numerous witnesses should never be ignored.
Let's discuss, as an analogy, a party. Say we were invited to a big bash, but were not able to attend. Say we called around the next day to find out what happened. Say that five friends tell us that Mick Jagger showed up at the bash. We'd believe it, right? Now consider that two said he arrived at 10:30, while the other three said he arrived at 11:00. Well, this wouldn't make us think he'd actually never showed, now would it? If we actually cared what time he'd showed, we'd ask more questions, and piece together a puzzle. Say one of those thinking Jagger got there at 10:30 remembered looking at his watch when Jagger arrived. Say the other one thinking Jagger showed up at 10:30 remembered Jagger being at the party for a half-hour or so before going into a bathroom when the 11:00 news came on. Say one of those thinking Jagger showed up at 11:00 remembered his heading down a hall towards a bathroom at 11:00. Say another one of those thinking he'd got there at 11:00 remembered standing in a hall at 11:05, waiting for someone to get out of the bathroom, only to find it was Mick Jagger. Say the third person claiming Jagger got there at 11:00 remembered someone telling him around midnight that Jagger had been there about an hour. Well, from the statements of these five people it's quite clear Jagger got there at 10:30, even though only a minority of them believed this to be true. A simple voice count on the time of Jagger's arrival was misleading. But a STUDY of their statements was conclusive.
By the end of Rashomon, most viewers have a similar feeling about what really happened to the characters in the movie, even though this story—the one the viewers usually come to decide is the real story—is never depicted in the movie. I suspect as much is true with the Kennedy assassination; that is, I suspect that by reading the many divergent accounts of the assassination we can come to a conclusion not necessarily described by any one person.
The LPM Scenario
While previously we have used the contemporaneous statements of the eyewitnesses to show how the conclusions of the FBI and Warren Commission were, well…un-Warren-ted (sorry), in this section we will try to make sense of what on the surface appears to be nonsense--the eyewitness testimony in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Those who have attempted similarly comprehensive studies of the eyewitness evidence in the past have usually broken the evidence down by the number of shots heard by the witnesses and from where the witnesses believed the shots were fired. This approach, however, has its limitations. The first shot heard by some witnesses was clearly not the first shot heard by others, etc. Due to these complicating factors, I’ve found that the best way to effectively demonstrate that the current single-assassin theorist scenario—a first shot miss at Zapruder frame 160, a single-bullet striking Kennedy and Connally at Zapruder frame 224, and a fatal head shot at Zapruder frame 313 (from hereon referred to as the LPM scenario in honor of its chief proponents, Dr. John Lattimer, Gerald Posner, and animator Dale Myers)—is an absolute myth is to go through the eyewitnesses one by one and analyze their statements and testimony. I hope you'll see this out.
My inspiration in undertaking this examination came in part from re-reading the earwitness section of an earlier presentation. While doing so, I realized that everyone who heard three shots and who described the last two shots as being closer together than the first and second was simultaneously stating that the first shot hit President Kennedy. This comes from our familiarity with the Zapruder film. When one watches the film it is obvious that Kennedy is not hit before frame 188 but is hit by frame 224. It is also obvious that Kennedy is hit again at frame 313. For there to have been a first shot miss fired before these two obvious shots, and for the shots at 190-224 and 313 to have been fired closer together than the first shot miss and the second shot hit between 190-224, this first shot miss would have to have been fired at frame 132 or earlier, far earlier than proposed by even the most ardent single-assassin theorists, save one (Max Holland, whose outlandish claims are discussed below). If one grants that the first shot hit Kennedy between frames 190 and 224, however, then the second shot could have been fired around frame 260 and could have been closer to the presumed third shot at 313 than the first shot. The problem with this "second shot miss" theory, however, is that, through the research mostly of single-assassin theorists, the moment of the bullet’s impact on Connally has now been established as occurring at frame 224. This is seemingly too close to 313 for Oswald to have aimed and fired a shot in-between. Well, how about the third shot having missed, then? Unfortunately for single-assassin theorists, while there is plentiful eyewitness evidence for a third-shot miss, there is no evidence that this shot was fired as long as 2.3-2.8 seconds after the shot at 313. This means the single-assassin theory is now DEPENDENT on a first shot miss fired before frame 173.
This mythical miss has been discussed and demonstrated so often and so convincingly, through countless simulations on TV, that most Americans have no idea that the Warren Commission discounted the likelihood of such a shot and that the eyewitness evidence offers virtually no support—not even through cherry-picking—for this miss. Although much of the evidence for a first shot hit has been previously discussed--Physicist Don Olson and Criminalist Ralph Turner presented evidence for such a hit to the Academy of Forensic Sciences on February 25, 1971--it is now time to set the story straight, for once and for all: there was no first shot miss.
The Irony of It All
But first, a little background. One of the great ironies about the “first shot miss myth” is that it was first pushed by CBS News in June, 1967. In part 1 of its 4-part program on the assassination, CBS introduced physicist Luis Alvarez and his hypothesis the jiggles on the Zapruder film were caused by shots from a rifle. This hypothesis was then tested and developed by Charles Wyckoff. Wyckoff and CBS then concluded there was a first shot miss fired around frame 186 of the Zapruder film.
As CBS also concluded Abraham Zapruder's camera had been running slower than previously believed, and as tested by the FBI, this allowed CBS to simultaneously conclude that a 36 frame time span on his film--between a missed shot fired at frame 186 and a shot hitting Kennedy and Connally fired at frame 222--was long enough for these shots to have been fired by the same shooter, Lee Harvey Oswald. The FBI had said a shooter would have been able to fire once every 42 frames, but CBS had now lowered that to once every 36 frames.
Well, now, that's mighty convenient, wouldn't you say? That CBS was well aware of the utility of moving the missed shot most presumed came between the shots striking Kennedy to a time before Kennedy was struck is proved by the statements of CBS Associate Producer Stephen White in his 1968 book on the CBS 4-part program, entitled Should We Now Believe the Warren Report? There, White discussed the unlikelihood of Oswald's firing three shots between Z-225 and Z-313, and the "help" CBS offered to the single-assassin proposition through its revised account of the shooting. He asserted: "Ironically, the CBS News account, differing as it does form the Warren account, goes a good part of the way toward rescuing the Warren Commission from a dilemma of its own making."
As if CBS had just stumbled upon their theory the first shot missed! And that the camera ran slower than presumed! And that CBS was prepared to claim there was more than one shooter should they have not discovered that the camera may have ran slower than presumed!
Well, I'm sorry. I'm not gonna swallow that. To me it's clear CBS' pushing of a new account that just so happened to work better (in CBS' humble opinion) than the Warren account wasn't ironic at all.
No, what was ironic was that this same CBS investigation revealed the difficulty in getting off 3 rapid-fire shots with a rifle like Oswald’s, even when given a few more seconds to fire these shots.
Let's be clear. CBS initially approached a legendary marksman, Jim Crossman, and asked him to replicate Oswald’s purported shooting (2 hits in 3 tries in 5.6 seconds). In 6 attempts, he was unable to do so. When interviewed by Dan Rather, Crossman said “To hit this target in the short times we were talking about—around 6 to 7 seconds—to hit the target consistently, you would have to be a pretty good shot, but to hit it maybe a couple of times, he could have zigged when the target zagged and vice versa. So it’s a large element of luck gets in there.” Now, not surprisingly, CBS never aired this interview. (For those wondering how we came to know about it then, well, the answer should prove equally unsurprising--the transcript for this interview was obtained by the one and only Mr. Harold Weisberg.)
In any event, after deciding to cut Crossman from their program, CBS brought in 11 experienced shooters and asked them to try and replicate the shooting on a mock-up of Dealey Plaza. Now, to be clear, the shots these men were asked to make were a bit easier than those supposedly made by Oswald, as their rifle's scope was in alignment, and as the target these men were aiming at was moving at a constant speed and in a constant direction. They were also provided some practice shots. Even so, the results were less than convincing. First of all, the men were unable to complete 17 of the 37 test runs due to the gun’s jamming or to the shooter’s inability to operate the bolt fast enough to fire rapidly. This left just 20 completed runs, 26 including Crossman’s earlier attempts. Let’s take a look, then, at these results (first attempts highlighted):
Sid Price: 4.10 seconds (1 hit, 2 complete misses) on his 4th run of 4.
Sid Price: 4.30 seconds (not sure if any hits) on his 2nd run of 4.
Ron George: 4.90 seconds (2 hits, 1 near miss) on his 3rd run of 3.
Al Sherman: 5.00 seconds (2 hits, 1 near miss) on his 1st run of 5.
Al Sherman: 5.00 seconds (1 hit, 2 near misses) on his 5th run of 5.
Howard Donahue: 5.20 seconds (3 hits) on his 3rd run of 3.
Al Sherman: 5.20 seconds (1 hit, 2 near misses) on his 4th run of 5.
John Concini: 5.40 seconds (1 hit, 2 near misses) on his 2nd run of 2.
Carl Holden: 5.40 seconds (0 hits, 3 near misses) on his 3rd run of 3.
Somersett Fitchett: 5.50 seconds (2 hits, 1 near miss) on his 3rd run of 3.
Somersett Fitchett: 5.90 seconds (2 hits, 1 near miss) on his 2nd run of 3.
Sid Price: 5.90 seconds (1 hit, 1 near miss, 1 complete miss) on his 1st run of 4.
Al Sherman: 6.00 seconds (2 hits, 1 near miss) on his 2nd run of 5.
William Fitchett: 6.00 seconds (1 hit, 2 near misses) on his 2nd run of 3.
William Fitchett: 6.10 seconds (not sure if any hits) on his 3rd run of 3.
Jim Crossman: 6.20 seconds (2 hits, 1 near miss) on his 6th run of 6.
Jim Crossman: 6.26 seconds (1 hit, 2 near misses) on his 4th run of 6.
John Concini: 6.30 seconds (no record of where shots went) on his 1st run of 2.
Jim Crossman: 6.34 seconds (2 hits, 1 near miss) on his 2nd run of 6.
Jim Crossman: 6.44 seconds (2 hits, 1 near miss) on his 3rd run of 6.
William Fitchett: 6.50 seconds (3 borderline hits) on his 1st run of 3.
Charles Hamby: 6.50 seconds (0 hits, 2 near misses, 1 complete miss) on his 3rd run of 3.
John Bollendorf: 6.50 seconds (1 hit, 2 near misses) on his 4th run of 4;
Jim Crossman: 6.54 seconds (0 hits, 3 near misses) on his 1st run of 6.
John Bollendorf: 6.80 seconds (2 hits, 1 near miss) on his 1st run of 4.
Jim Crossman: 6.99 seconds (1 hit, 2 near misses) on his 5th run of 6.
Notice anything? While it is obvious that repeated practice helped the shooters bring down their times--9 of the 11 completing a run had their fastest time on their final run--there is no clear correlation between the amount of time it took the shooters to fire their shots and the accuracy of their shooting. Those completing a run in a time shorter than Oswald's purported time--5.6 seconds--averaged 1.44 hits in 5.0 seconds. Those completing a run in a time longer than Oswald's purported feat, meanwhile, averaged 1.43 hits in 6.3 seconds. This is a strong argument against the widespread belief that having the first shot miss, and adding a couple of seconds onto the shooting scenario, makes the purported shots “easy.”
There's also this... It seems apparent that CBS knew full well these tests didn't demonstrate what they'd hoped they would. To wit, in his 1968 book on CBS' 1967 programs CBS Associate Producer Stephen White first claimed "many of the riflemen were quite capable of of firing three shots, as accurate as Oswald did or very nearly so, in times that were at or around five seconds" (which was not exactly true as but 4 of 12, to be generous, demonstrated such capability). He then followed this by admitting: "Oswald, an admittedly mediocre marksman, outperformed on this one occasion, experts against whom in competition he would not have had a ghost of a chance."
So, yeah, Oswald's purported feat was most unlikely.
I found a further illustration of this point in Tactics, by William Balck, published 1915. In this old book, on page 140 to be precise, I found a chart reflecting the accuracy of 6.5 mm Italian rifles (most certainly the Mannlicher-Carcano) when fired at various speeds, as tested by 100 shooters. This chart is below:
As demonstrated above, the shooters firing 4 shots per minute (1 every 15 seconds if the clock began before the rifle had been aimed, or 1 every 20 seconds if the clock began with the first shot) were only 34-40% more accurate than the shooters firing 14 shots per minute (1 every 4.3 seconds if the clock began before the rifle had been aimed, or 1 every 4.6 seconds if the clock began with the first shot). An approximately 350% increase in firing time led to an approximately 35% increase in accuracy.
It could be worse. While reading an article on a Marine Corps website I realized that shooters firing ten rounds per seventy seconds using a five round clip are rated the same as shooters firing ten rounds per minute using a ten round clip. In other words, they are granted ten seconds to change ammunition clips. It's not clear from Balck's book if such an allowance was made for those firing the Italian rifle 14 times in a minute. Should no such allowance have been made, a shooter firing 14 shots a minute using a six round clip--which was standard for the Carcano--and another in the chamber, would most likely be firing his rifle about 14 shots per 50 seconds (1 every 3.57 seconds if the clock began before the rifle had been aimed, or 1 every 3.85 seconds if the clock began with the first shot). This is close to the speed attributed to Oswald.
If the subjects tested in the study cited by Balck were firing 7 shots per clip change, then, the results in the chart above show that an approximately 520% increase in firing time beyond the time allotted in rapid fire led to but a roughly 35% increase in accuracy.
And this isn't just the conjecture of a non-shooter. Ronald Simmons, who testified before the Warren Commission on the Army's test of Oswald's rifle, told them that "aiming error decreases as time increases. But once you get to the area of about 4 seconds in time, then there is very small decrease in aiming error for increase in time."
So...the tests reported by Balck and the testimony presented by Simmons both suggest there is little advantage to be gained by allotting more than four seconds per shot. And the tests performed by CBS cut this down even further, and suggest there is little advantage to be gained from granting someone firing as rapidly as Oswald supposedly was firing an extra second or two per shot.
Well, this flies in the face of the common claim the first shot missed, and that adding a couple of seconds back into the shooting sequence makes Oswald's purported feat "easy".
Of course, as we shall see, there was no first shot miss.
The First Shot Miss Myth
For those reluctant to read through the plethora of statements and testimony recounted in the pages to follow, but who are nevertheless curious as to how I can feel so sure the first shot did not miss, I hereby offer a telling taste of the statements of every witness I could find who described the activities in the limousine during or just after the first shot. While some of these witnesses believed the first shot missed, they almost all believed Kennedy responded to the shot by leaning forward or jerking to his left, actions the Zapruder film reveals occurred only after he'd been hit. My conclusion that these witnesses were thereby describing Kennedy's actions between frames 190 and 224 of the Zapruder film is further confirmed by the fact that not one of these witnesses said the President continued waving and smiling to the crowd on his right after the first shot rang out. Common sense tells us that this should have been the impression of at least a few of these witnesses should they really have heard a shot at the time proposed by most "first shot miss" proponents, around frame 160 of the Zapruder film. But common sense, alas, is often ignored in favor of something more glamorous.
Remote Viewers--those noting the impact of the shots from buildings looking down on Dealey Plaza (all listed witnesses heard three shots unless otherwise noted):
James Jarman (11-24-63 FBI report, CD5 p334-335) “He said that he heard a shot and then saw President Kennedy move his right hand up to his head."
Ruth Smith (12-21-63 FBI interview, CD206 p.9) “She looked back toward President Kennedy’s car after the first shot and thinks he raised his hands to his face.”
Lillian Mooneyham (1-10-64 FBI report, 24H531) “Mrs. Mooneyham heard a gunshot and observed President Kennedy slump to the left of the seat of his car."
Cecil Ault (1-10-64 FBI report, 24H534) “Mr. Ault heard three loud reports…Following the first shot Mr. Ault noted that President Kennedy appeared to raise up in his seat in the Presidential automobile and after the second shot the president slumped into his seat."
Dr. Samuel Paternostro (1-20-64 FBI report, 24H536) “He said he estimated several seconds, possibly four or five more, elapsed between the first report and the second and third reports. He said he observed President John F. Kennedy when he appeared to grab his head and thought at the time he is “well-trained;” then, when the other reports followed in quick succession, he realized that the President had been shot.”
Harold Norman (3-24-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 3H186-198) "I can’t remember what the exact time was but I know I heard a shot, and then after I heard a shot, well, it seems as though the President, you know, slumped or something."
So, we're just beginning and the score is already 6-0. All these witnesses heard three shots and all of them believed Kennedy responded to the first shot.
Eastsiders--those noting the impact of the shots from a location in the Plaza to the east of the limousine at the time of the first shot:
Pierce Allman (11-22-63 eyewitness report on WFAA radio, between 1:45 and 2:00 PM CST) “Right after Mr. Kennedy passed in front of me I heard one big explosion and my immediate thought like most of the people standing around me was “this is firecrackers, but it’s in pretty poor taste”. I looked and saw the president, I thought, duck. Evidently, he was slumping at the time."
Jean Newman (11-22-63 statement to the Dallas Sheriff’s Department, 19H489, 24H218) "The motorcade had just passed me when I heard something that I thought was a firecracker at first, and the President had just passed me, because after he had just passed, there was a loud report, it just scared me, and I noticed that the President jumped, he sort of ducked his head down, and I thought at the time that it probably scared him too, just like it did me, because he flinched like he jumped. I saw him put his elbows like this, with his hands on his chest." (Only heard two shots.)
June Dishong (Letter written on 11-22-63, as read by her daughter on CNN, 11-21-2003, and featured on the Sixth Floor Museum website) “here come the president and his wife…His arm in the air waving…He drops his arm as they go by, possibly 20 feet. Suddenly--a sound. Gun shots? So hard to tell above the clamor of the crowd. The president bent forward into his wife’s lap as his arm slipped off the side of the car."
Mary Woodward (11-23-63 newspaper article Witness From the News Describes Assassination written by Woodward for the Dallas Morning News) "After acknowledging our cheers, he [JFK] faced forward again and suddenly there was a horrible, ear-splitting noise coming from behind us and a little to the right. My first reaction, and also my friends', was that as a joke someone had backfired their car...I don't believe anyone was hit with the first bullet. The President and Mrs. Kennedy turned and looked around, as if they, too, didn't believe the noise was really coming from a gun." (Kennedy, of course, does not turn and look around after frame 160, but resumes waving. What Woodward called "turning" then is almost certainly a reaction to the first shot's impact.)
Patricia Lawrence (11-24-63 FBI Report, 22H841): “When the motorcade passed she stated she was looking at Mrs. Kennedy who was looking to the other side of the car. The President was looking in her direction and she had waved. She heard the shot fired as the president was waving." (The president was not waving at frame 160 of the Zapruder film--the moment of the purported first shot miss--but was waving by frame 180, a second or so later. Still, as Lawrence does not specifically say the president stopped waving after the shot, it's difficult to say for sure that she is describing a first shot hit.)
Mrs. Ruby Henderson (12-6-63 FBI report, 24H524) “at the time the motorcade passed where she was standing, she heard what she initially thought was a firecracker, and saw what she thought was paper fly out of the Presidential car. She said she now realized it was a shot she heard and what she thought was paper was probably flesh." (If so, she thought the first of the four shots she heard was the head shot. This seems highly unlikely, in light of all the other statements. It seems probable then that she was mistaken on this point.)
TE Moore (1-10-64 FBI report, 24H534) “By the time President Kennedy had reached the Thornton Freeway sign, a shot was fired and Mr. Moore observed the President slump forward in the Presidential car."
Phil Willis (7-22-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H492-497) "When I took slide No. 4, the President was smiling and waving and looking straight ahead, and Mrs. Kennedy was likewise smiling and facing more to my side of the street. When the first shot was fired, her head seemed to just snap in that direction, and he more or less faced the other side of the street and slumped forward.”
Linda Willis (7-22-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H498-499) (When asked if she heard shots) “Yes; I heard one. Then there was a little bit of time, and then there were two real fast bullets together. When the first one hit, well, the President turned from waving to the people, and he grabbed his throat, and he kind of slumped forward."
Welcome Eugene Barnett (7-23-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H539-544) “I was looking at the President when the first shot was fired, and I thought I saw him slump down, but I am not sure, and I didn’t look any more then. I thought he was ducking down."
Mary Sue Dickerson (Article by Beverly Shay in the 11-01-11 online edition of Now Magazine) “As she was making eye contact with the president of the United States, several things occurred at once. She heard what she thought were firecrackers, which initially seemed so celebratory, but then he slumped forward."
Karen Westbrook (11-28-17 Living History interview with the Sixth Floor Museum) "When I heard the shot fired... I thought it was a car backfiring... Everything seemed to go into slow motion in my mind. After the first shot was fired I saw the President's hands gradually come up..."
While we can't rightly count Mrs. Henderson, Ms. Lawrence or Ms. Newman as first shot hit witnesses, the statements of the other 9 witnesses definitely support that Kennedy was hit by the first shot. This makes the score 15-0. Unfortunately, things get a little more confusing when we move on to discuss the statements of those on the west end of the plaza.
Westsiders--those noting the impact of the shots from a location in the plaza to the west of the limousine at the time of the last shot:
Abraham Zapruder (2:10 PM 11-22-63 interview on WFAA) “as I was shooting, as the President was coming down from Houston Street making his turn, it was about a half-way down there, I heard a shot, and he slumped to the side, like this. Then I heard another shot or two, I couldn't say it was one or two, and I saw his head practically open up, all blood and everything, and I kept on shooting.” (Only heard two definite shots, but felt certain Kennedy was hit by the first one.)
Emmett Hudson (11-22-63 statement to Dallas Sheriff’s Department, 19H481) “At the same time the President’s car was directly in front of us, I heard a shot and I saw the President fall over in the seat." (First shot head shot.)
S.M. Holland (11-22-63 statement to Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, 19H480, 24H212) “the President’s car was coming down Elm Street and when they got just about to the Arcade I heard what I thought for the moment was a fire cracker and he slumped over...After the first shot the President slumped over and Mrs. Kennedy jumped up." (Once again...first shot, head shot.)
Malcolm Summers (11-23-63 statement to Dallas Sheriff’s Department, 19H500) “The President’s car had just come up in front of me when I heard a shot and saw the President slump down in the car and heard Mrs. Kennedy say, “Oh, no,” then a second shot and then I hit the ground as I realized these were shots." (Only recalled hearing two shots, with the first one most probably the head shot.)
Jack Franzen (11-24-63 FBI report, 22H840) “He said he heard the sound of an explosion which appeared to him to come from the President’s car and noticed small fragments flying inside the car and immediately assumed someone had tossed a firecracker inside the automobile." (Once again, the first shot he describes is the head shot.)
Mrs. Jack Franzen (11-25-63 FBI report, 24H525) “She advised shortly after the President’s automobile passed by on Elm Street near where she and her family were standing, she heard a noise which sounded to her to as if someone had thrown a firecracker into the President’s automobile. She advised at approximately the same time she noticed dust or small pieces of debris flying from the President’s automobile." (Her statement mimics her husband's. Once again, the first shot is the head shot.)
Dallas County Sheriff Bill Decker (Undated 1963-1964 statement included with Decker Exhibit 5323, 19H458) “I distinctly remember hearing 2 shots. As I heard the first retort, I looked back over my shoulder and saw what appeared to be a spray of water come out of the rear seat of the President’s car." (Only heard two shots, the first of which can be presumed to be the head shot.)
J.W. Foster (3-26-64 FBI report, CD897 p.20-21) “Just as the vehicle in which President Kennedy was riding reached a point on Elm Street just east of the underpass, Patrolman Foster heard a noise that sounded like a large firecracker…he realized something was wrong because of the movement of the President. Another report was heard by Patrolman Foster and about the same time the report was heard, he observed the President’s head appear to explode, and immediately thereafter, he heard a third report which he knew was a shot.” (As President Kennedy's movements between Zapruder frame 160 and 190 would not have convinced Foster that something was wrong, it follows that the first shot was heard after 190, and that this shot hit Kennedy.)
Marilyn Sitzman (11-29-66 interview with Josiah Thompson) “There was nothing unusual until the first sound, which I thought was a firecracker, mainly because of the reaction of President Kennedy. He put his hands up to guard his face and leaned to the left." (Only heard two shots.)
Stavis Ellis (HSCA Vol. XII, p.23) “On August 5, 1978...Ellis said that just as he started down the hill of Elm Street, he looked back toward President Kennedy’s car and saw debris come up from the ground at a nearby curb. Ellis thought it was a fragment grenade. Ellis also said that President Kennedy turned around and looked over his shoulder." (Even though Ellis believed the first shot missed, his description of Kennedy's actions by no means matches the behavior of Kennedy observed between frames 160 and 190 of the Zapruder film, and instead suggests the first shot hit. The "fragment grenade" observed by Ellis was most logically a piece of Kennedy's skull, which would suggest the first shot heard by Ellis was the head shot. It also seems possible Ellis heard less than three shots.)
Well, this is a surprise. Here, we have ten witnesses from the west end of the plaza--and all of them recalling at least two shots--and seven of them describing the events observed in the Zapruder film at the time of the head shot as the events they observed at the time of the FIRST shot. Now, this is curious, and suggests that (as Kennedy was obviously hit at least once before the head shot) not only did the first shot not miss, but that the second shot was the head shot. Huh. It follows then that it was the THIRD shot that missed. Now, as far as the other three witnesses--the ones who thought the first shot was other than the head shot--well, they all saw Kennedy react to the first shot. So, yeah, all ten indicated Kennedy was hit by the first shot. (Now we can call it 25-0 or count Foster and disregard the others, whereby it rests at 16-0. You decide.)
Centrists--those standing to the west of Kennedy at the time of the first shot, and to the east of Kennedy at the time of the last shot.
William Newman (11-22-63 interview on WFAA) “we were at the edge of the curb, getting ready to wave at the President when we heard the first shot and the President.....I don't know who was hit first but the President jumped up in his seat, and I thought it scared him, I thought it was a firecracker, cause he looked....you know, fear." (Only heard two shots.)
Frances Gayle Newman (11-22-63 statement to Dallas Sheriff’s Department, 24H218) “When President Kennedy’s car was about ten feet from us, I heard a noise that sounded like a firecracker going off. President Kennedy kind of jumped like he was startled and then covered his head with his hands and then raised up."
Mary Moorman (11-22-63 statement to Dallas Sheriff’s Department, 19H487, 24H217) “As President Kennedy was opposite me, I took a picture of him. As I snapped the picture of President Kennedy, I heard a shot ring out. President Kennedy kind of slumped over." (Moorman's photo depicts the head shot. In other words, she thought the first shot was the head shot.)
Jean Hill (11-22-63 statement to Dallas Sheriff’s Department, 19H479, 24H212) “Just as Mary Moorman started to take a picture we were looking at the President and Jackie in the back seat…Just as the President looked up toward us two shots rang out and I saw the President grab his chest and fall forward across Jackie’s lap." (Once again...first shot--or burst--head shot.)
Charles Brehm (11-22-63 NBC television interview first broadcast around 3:15 CST, as shown in Rush to Judgment) “He was coming down the Street and my five-year old boy and myself were by ourselves on the grass there on Commerce Street. And I asked Joe to wave to him and Joe waved and I waved (breaks up)…as he was waving back, the shot rang out and he slumped down in his seat."
John Chism (11-22-63 statement to Dallas Sheriff’s Department, 19H471) "When I saw the motorcade round the corner, the President was standing and waving to the crowd. And just as he got just about in front of me, he turned and waved to the crowd on this side of the street, the right side; at this point I heard what sounded like one shot, and I saw him “The President,” sit back in his seat and lean his head to his left side." (Only heard two shots.)
Marvin Faye Chism (11-22-63 statement to the Dallas Sheriff’s Department, 19H472) “As the President was coming through, I heard this first shot, and the President fell to his left." (Only heard two shots.)
Well, this is also interesting. Why did so few of those in the middle of the plaza hear three shots? The thought occurs that one of the shots was harder to hear than the others. The score, when one includes those hearing but two shots is now 32-0. Should one limit the count to those initially claiming to have heard three shots, moreover, the score is still 18-0.
The Motorcade Witnesses:
James Chaney (11-22-63 interview on WFAA, as shown on Youtube) “We heard the first shot. I thought it was a motorcycle backfiring and uh I looked back over to my left and also President Kennedy looked back over his left shoulder." (By saying the President turned to his left after the first shot--a movement that only happens after Kennedy has obviously been hit--Chaney suggests Kennedy was hit by the first shot.)
Bobby W. Hargis (11-22-63 article in Dallas Times-Herald) “About halfway down between Houston and the underpass I heard the first shot. It sounded like a real loud firecracker. When I heard the sound, the first thing I thought about was a gunshot. I looked around and about then Governor Connally turned around and looked at the President with a real surprised look on his face…The President bent over to hear what the Governor had to say." (Only heard two shots, but he saw the President respond to the first one.)
Glen Bennett (notes written on 11-22-63, 24H541-542) "At this point I heard a noise that immediately reminded me of a firecracker. I immediately, upon hearing the supposed firecracker, looked at the boss's car. At this exact time I saw a shot that hit the boss about 4 inches down from the right shoulder. A second shoot followed immediately and hit the right rear high of the boss's head." (While the precise meaning of Bennett's words are open to debate, they do on first glance suggest that he felt the first shot missed. Since he did not see Kennedy's reaction to the first shot, but only saw him at the "exact time" he received the second shot, it seems possible the blood seen by Bennett came from the first shot. But we'll call this one a first shot miss.)
Sam Kinney (11-22-63 report, 18H732) “The first shot was fired as we were going into an underpass…it appeared that he (the President) had been shot because he slumped to the left."
George Hickey (11-22-63 report, 18H765) “As 100-X made the turn and proceeded a short distance, I heard what seemed to me that a firecracker exploded to the right and rear. I stood partially up and turned to the rear to see if I could observe anything. Nothing was observed and I turned around and looked at the President’s car. The President was slumped to the left in the car."
Roy Kellerman (12-10-63 FBI report, CD7 p.3-11) (11-22-63 FBI interview) “he advised he heard a shot and immediately turned around, looking past Governor Connally…to the President. He observed the President slump forward."
Paul Landis (11-27-63 report, 18H758-759) “At this moment, I heard what sounded like the report of a high powered rifle behind me. My first glance was at the President, as my eyes were almost straight ahead at that time. I did not realize that the President was hit at that point. I saw him moving and thought he was turning in the direction of the sound." (Only heard two shots, but saw Kennedy react to the first sound.)
Emory Roberts (11-29-63 report, 18H733-738) “12:30 PM: First of three shots fired, at which time I saw the President lean toward Mrs. Kennedy."
First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (11-29-63 interview with Theodore White, notes released 5-26-95) “They were gunning the motorcycles; there were these little backfires; there was one noise like that; I thought it was a backfire. Then next I saw Connally grabbing his arm and saying no no nononono, with his fist beating—then Jack turned and I turned." (Only heard two shots, but thought Connally reacted to the first one.)
Clint Hill (11-30-63 report, 18H740-745) “The noise came from my right rear and I immediately moved my head in that direction. In so doing, my eyes had to cross the Presidential automobile and I saw the President hunch forward and then slump to his left." (Only heard two shots, but saw the President react to the first one.)
First Lady of Texas Nellie Connally (Notes written on 12-2-63, as reprinted in her book From Love Field, 2003) “then I heard a loud, terrifying noise…I turned and looked toward the President just in time to see him clutch his neck and see him sink down in his seat."
B.J. Martin (4-3-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 6H289-293) “one of the agents got off of the car after the first shot…I looked to my right (after the first shot)…I looked at the President after I heard the (first) shot and he was leaning forward—I could see the left side of his face."
David Powers (5-18-64 affidavit, 7H472-474) “the first shot went off and it sounded to me as if it were a firecracker. I noticed then that the President moved quite far to his left after the shot from the extreme right hand side where he had been sitting."
So...a final tally. When one performs even a cursory review of the statements regarding the movements within the limousine at the time of the first shot, one finds that 44 of these indicated Kennedy had a reaction to the first shot. Not one indicated he just sat there waving, or looked around and resumed waving. While Agent Bennett's statement indicated that Kennedy was not hit until the second shot, he does not describe Kennedy's behavior after the first shot, so that his movements can be compared to the Zapruder film. This makes it hard to discern just when Bennett looked at Kennedy, and just how accurate are his recollections. Even if one includes Bennett as a firm witness for a first shot miss, however, and arbitrarily dismisses the statements of those hearing only two shots under the assumption their recollections are just not credible, the score remains 26-1 in favor of statements indicating that three shots were fired and the first one hit, vs. statements indicating that three shots were fired and the first one missed. Unless someone can come up with a reason why all these witnesses were wrong while Bennett, who was not even asked to testify to clarify his statements, was right, the evidence is overwhelming that the first shot hit.
Let's recall here that Arlen Specter and his pals on the Warren Commission gave "substantial weight" to Agent Bennett's observation that the first shot missed, when they MUST have known, as most every statement used in this study was available to them, that his was the ONLY statement describing Kennedy's actions at the time of the first shot that suggested the first shot missed, and that there were literally DOZENS of statements available suggesting that it hit, many of them from witnesses with far more credibility. It seems more than just a coincidence, furthermore, that, by giving Bennett's statement its undue weight, the commission was able to suggest that maybe just maybe the first shot missed and that, therefore, Oswald had plenty of time to fire the shots.
The statements of these witnesses thereby support what we should already suspect: the Warren Commission was a whitewash, a prosecutors' brief created for political purposes without particular concern for the truth.
But that's not the only thing to be learned from these statements. These statements also undermine an oft-repeated argument against the authenticity of the Zapruder film. This argument, as pushed by Dr. David Mantik on his website, The Mantik View, runs like this:
"Many witnesses describe an erect posture at the instant of the final headshot, after which JFK is commonly described as slumping forward. Such witnesses, mostly Secret Service agents in the follow-up car, are Schwartz, Ault, Hargis, Hickey, Kinney, Landis (Assassination Science 1998, pp. 289-290) these descriptions of erect posture are totally inconsistent with the Zapruder film, in which the (single) headshot occurs when JFK is slumped forward and to the left. But when the question is raised (as it rarely is) about what posture the witnesses saw at the moment of the headshot, none of them describe JFK as slumped over. This issue, so striking when it is considered, has received almost no discussion whatsoever."
Cough, cough. Oh my! A quick glimpse at the statements above shows that no fewer than 18 witnesses said they saw the President slump after the first shot or shots. While it's clear some of these were describing the President's reaction to the head shot, a closer reading proves that almost all of these witnesses were describing his response to the first shot or shots, and that the head shot came after the President slumped.
In short, then, Mantik is correct. This is striking when considered. Only not in the way Mantik intended... It's striking that a long-time student of the assassination such as Mantik could get something so basic...so wrong.
Well, this proves that it's not just those subscribing to the LPM theory who need to do some reading, and comprehending...
So...what else can we learn from the witnesses?
The Jigsaw Puzzle
Now, before we dive into the 7 course meal of eyewitness testimony awaiting us, we need to set the scene. In order to set the scene, and place the incoming statements and testimony of the closest witnesses in their proper context, we need to understand what the bulk of the witnesses recalled. How many loud noises were there? How were they spaced? And in order to do that, it’s best that we begin by looking at the statements of those furthest away from the assassination scene, those who failed to see the President struck by any of the shots, but who were nevertheless close enough to hear the shots, and make note of what they heard.
Here then are brief summaries of the statements and testimony of these witnesses. (The citations refer to the volume and page where you can find their statements in the 26 volumes of the Warren Report. References to CD are references to Commission Documents, documents not released with the Warren Report, but now available on The Mary Ferrell Foundation website.)
Let's start by descending from space...
Here 's downtown Dallas in 1963, viewed from the west. The grassy area on the far side of the railroad tracks is called Dealey Plaza. It was the site of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. A red "X" has been added to this photo, for that matter, to mark the location of the President when shot.
Now note the red "JM" on the freeway at the bottom of the photo. This marks the location of the first of hundreds of witnesses, whose combined recollections told a much different story than what was told on TV, 50-60 years after the assassination.
Joe Murphy was a Dallas police officer stationed on the Stemmons Freeway overpass of Elm Street. He was not in Dealey Plaza itself, but roughly a 150 yards away. (12-23-63 FBI report on a 12-9-63 interview, CD205 p41) (This report never mentions the shooting but cites Murphy regarding a truck stalled by the Stemmons Freeway onramp, which Murphy says was repaired and out of the area before the arrival of the motorcade.) (4-8-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 6H256-260) (When asked to draw a circle showing the location of the people he observed on the overpass and how many people were in this circle) "Eight to ten persons." (When asked if he could see the motorcade in the plaza) "Yes, I did....you just get a very short view of it before it goes out of sight then, going down that hill." (When asked if he heard shots) "Yes I did." (When asked if he saw anything unusual happen within the witnesses standing on the overpass) "No, I didn't--I did not." (When asked to describe the shots) "Well, I heard-I knew they were shots as soon as I heard them, but I thought at first it was--it sounded like a shotgun, and then I got the three shots and there were so many echoes and everything--then I did determine it sounded more like a rifle. I do quite a bit of hunting and I determined it sounded more like a rifle." Analysis: too vague.
Now, here's a closer look at the plaza. The building off by itself on the western side of the street is called the Texas School Book Depository. A rifle was purportedly fired from the sixth floor of this building, as Kennedy passed on the street below.
Now note the "EB" on the railroad bridge to the west of the plaza. That was the location of our next witness.
Earle V. Brown was a Dallas police officer stationed on the south side of a railroad bridge stretching over the Stemmons Freeway. He was not in Dealey Plaza itself but on an elevated platform 150 yards or so to the northwest of it, with an unobstructed view of the parking lot behind the stockade fence at the top of the grassy knoll. (12-23-63 FBI report on a 12-9-63 interview, CD205 p39) "He stated he heard the shots that killed President Kennedy, but did not see the shots take effect and stated he could not furnish any information which would assist in identifying the assassin. He advised that he believed he could smell gunpowder in the air on the overpass but believed it was probably brought there by the wind." (4-7-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 6H231-236) "the first I noticed the car was when it stopped...After it made the turn and when the shots were fired, it stopped." (When asked if it made a complete stop) "That I couldn't swear to." (When asked how many shots he heard) "Three." (When asked from where the shots came) "Well, they seemed high to me...I heard these shots and then I smelled this gunpowder...It come on it would be maybe a couple minutes later so--at least it smelled like it to me...It came it seemed the direction of that building, that Texas...School Book Depository." (7-15-64 signed statement to Dallas Police Department, 22H600) "I heard the shots and they seemed like they were coming high from the direction of the book depository building. There was a terrific echo." (11-09-83 AP article found in the Indiana Gazette) "I was down there early at about 10 a.m. and I had this vision of a rifle sticking out of a window. It was very strange. Then I heard these shots," said Brown. "It was a premonition and it has always really shook me up when I think of it. It was like someone was trying to tell me something." About two hours later, Brown said, he heard shots and saw two or three puffs of white smoke wafting toward the bridge. The president, he said, was lying in his wife's lap as the car passed beneath him. "I still see that," he said." Analysis: as Brown associated the shots with the limo's stopping, and as the limo didn't slow to just before the head shot, it's hard to see how his testimony is consistent with a first shot miss, 8 seconds earlier. It's also intriguing that he chose to associate the shots with the depository building, when the grassy knoll was, from his presumed position, in line with the building. It just goes to show the power of suggestion. Still, too vague. Saw Smoke. (On the knoll?)
Now note the "JR" in the upper right corner of the photo.
James Romack saw and heard nothing that he thought was of any significance until he read a newspaper article on March 6th, 1964 telling the story of James Worrell, who came forward on 11-23-63 to say he saw a man run out of the rear of the school book depository a few minutes after the shooting. Romack, in opposition, said, in his initial interview, that he'd watched the back of the building from about 75 feet north on Houston Street and saw no one running out the back of the building after the shooting. (3-7-64 FBI report by Bardwell Odum, CD897 p. 26) "he heard three distinct rifle shots which, by their sound, were somewhere in the vicinity" (3-9-64 FBI report by Ivan Lee and Robert Barrett, CD897, p.30) "After hearing the three shots, he walked south towards the TSBD building to a point where he was about 75' north of the northeast corner of the building..." (4-8-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, Belin 4:00) (When asked how far he was from the building when he heard the shots) "Oh, I was probably 125 yards. 100 to 125 yards, I would say...From the nearest corner of the building." "I heard these three rifle shots sound out...Three... (When asked where the sound came from) "It sounded, I guess, like it came from that building, but it wasn't on my side of the building." (When asked if they sounded high or low) "I would say they were high. I have never been asked that question, but it did sound like they were running out high, I would say, and the wind was blowing a little bit from the south that day, I can remember." (When asked how the shots sounded) "Oh, they happened pretty fast. I would say maybe 3 or 4 seconds apart." (When asked if they were evenly spaced.) "It sounded like to me that they were evenly spaced. They rang out pretty fast." (When asked what he did after the shots rang out) "just immediately after I heard the shots, I saw this policeman running towards me. He was running to look to see if somebody was running out the back of this building...And he didn't stay but just, oh, he was just there to check and he runs back. Well, sensing that something is wrong, I automatically take over watching the building for the man." (When asked if he saw anyone leave the building) "They wasn't anyone left the building." Analysis: Romack's recollections don't carry much weight. He didn't start watching the building until he saw a policeman run to the back of the building. And he was watching from 100-125 yards away until a TV truck drove up and he momentarily stopped watching the building to clear a wooden barricade from its path. He was 75 feet, or was it 110 feet, or was it 35 to 40 yards (his story kept changing), away from the nearest corner of the building when he resumed his watch. Well, somewhere in this time, either before or after Romack started watching the building, Vickie Adams and Sandra Styles came out the back of the building...and went unnoticed by Romack... Heard Three shots. Otherwise, too vague.
Now here's another photo in which the locations of these last two witnesses are repeated, along with the locations of three witnesses who were to the east of the plaza when the fatal shots were fired.
Charles Givens was one of Oswald's co-workers. He was standing in a parking lot a block east of the plaza at the time of the shooting. (11-22-63 statement to Dallas County, 24H210) "I work for the Texas School Book Depository, 411 Elm Street. I worked up on the 6th floor today until about 11:30 am. Then I went downstairs and into the bathroom. At twelve o'clock I took my lunch period. I went to the parking lot at Record and Elm street. I have a friend who works at the parking lot. We walked up to Main and Record when the President passed by. We then walked back to the parking lot after the President had passed by. We had just got back to the lot when we heard the shooting. I think I heard three shots. I did not see anyone in the building that was not supposed to be there this morning." (11-23-63 FBI report based upon an 11-22-63 interview, CD5 p329) "after the President and the group had passed, he walked back to the parking lot, at which time he heard several shots fired from the direction of the building at which he is employed." (12-7-63 Secret Service report on an investigation conducted 12-2-63--12-6-63, CD87 p780) "After Givens ate lunch, he left the building and was several blocks away at the time the shooting took place." (3-18-64 statement to the FBI, 22H649) "When President John F. Kennedy was shot I was standing at the corner of Record and Elm Streets after having watched the parade on Main Street." (4-8-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 6H345-356 Belin 9:00 ) (When asked how many shots he heard) "Three." (When asked what he did when he heard them) "Well, we broke and ran down that way, and by the time we got to the corner down there of Houston and Elm, everybody was running, going toward the underpass over there by the railroad tracks. And we asked--I asked someone some white fellow there, 'What happened?" And he said, "Somebody shot the President." Like that. So I stood there for a while, and I went over to try to get to the building after they found out the shots came from there, and when I went over to try to get back in the officer at the door wouldn't let me in." (6-4-64 FBI report based on a 6-3-64 interview, CD1245 p182) "After the motorcade passed, Givens said he walked back to the Classified Parking Lot at which time he heard, as he now recalls it, three shots which came from the direction of the TSBD building." Analysis: heard three shots, otherwise too vague.
Edward Shields was Givens' lunch partner on 11-22-63. They were together at the time of the shooting. The cafeteria mentioned in his statement was next to the parking lot mentioned by Givens. (3-23-64 statement to the FBI, CD706, p.85) "I was still standing in front of Mullendone's Cafeteria when I heard three loud sounds which i thought was a truck backfiring." (5-14-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H393-395, Ball 5:45) " I heard the shots...I heard one shot and then a pause and then this repetition--two shots right behind the other, and I thought it was backfire from a car and I said, "Someone shot the President." (10-23-77 interview with HSCA investigators. Note my copy of this transcript is extremely blurry and my transcription may be faulty) (When asked how many shots he heard) "I figure I heard two." (When asked if they came in rapid succession) "Simultaneously. Yes, they was." (When asked if they was simultaneous) "To one another. Yes." Analysis: Shields is the first of the witnesses to describe what will soon become a familiar scenario--three shots with shots two and three bang bang. First shot hit 190-224. Last two shots bunched together.
James W. Powell, Special Agent, Army Intelligence, was running west on the south side of Elm St. towards Dealey Plaza at the time of the first shot. He said he was trying to take a picture of Kennedy, but saw the Presidential limo turn off Houston onto Elm when he was still a block away. (11-22-63 Memorandum for the Record found in the HSCA's files and posted online by Denis Morrissette.) "As I approached this intersection, at approximately 1228 hours, and was about one block away, Kennedy's motorcade was just turning west off Houston Street. At this point, I heard at least two loud explosions, which I assumed could either have been shots from a firearm or some sort of fireworks. Several people in the crowd, which was at the intersection to view the motorcade as it passed, pointed up at the Texas School Book Depository Building, 411 South Elm Street. I took a photograph of the building at that instant." (1-3-64 FBI Report, CD 206 p20) "Powell was approximately one-half block east of the intersection of Elm and Houston, and the Presidential motorcade had already turned west on Elm, when he heard the shots fired at President Kennedy. He then ran to the southeast corner of the Elm and Houston Street intersection and, seeing some people pointing to Texas School Book Depository Building, he took the picture...Powell stated that he recalls having heard two shots fired and possibly a third..." (2-3-64 Secret Service report based upon a 1-28-64 interview with SA Roger Warner, CD 354 p4) "Mr. Powell stated that he had been watching the parade from a position near the corner of Houston and Elm Streets, the site of the assassination. Mr. Powell stated further that he heard the shots and he then joined a group of Sheriff's Deputies who were heading toward the rear of the Texas School Book Depository on the basis of information that the assassin had shot from the railroad yards." (4-12-96 interview with the ARRB's military analyst Timothy Wray, as published on the JFK Lancer website) "I was coming down this way and I was almost at this intersection when the motorcade came around and started down Elm Street, down the hill. I was probably half way down the block when I heard the shots fired. At that time, not expecting anything like that, you weren't sure if we had backfires going on or fireworks or actual shots. Obviously, it turns out that shots were fired." (When asked how far he was from the corner when the shots were fired) "Maybe a hundred feet." (When asked if he had any sense from where the shots had been fired) No, I didn't...I knew that when I got to this intersection, there were people pointing up at the Book Depository Building indicating that they had heard shots coming from there...When someone pointed up at the building and said they'd heard shots coming from up there, I wheeled around with my camera and took a picture of the building at that moment." Analysis: could only swear to hearing two shots.
Now, you may have noticed an "LB" in these last two photos. The "LB" marks the location of the railroad tower in which Lee Bowers was working on 11-22-63. For reasons that will later become clear, I have chosen to include Bowers' recollections with those of the witnesses in the plaza along Elm Street.
Wait. Elm Street. I haven't explained that yet, have I?
Let's give some names, then, to this mess of buildings, streets, and features.
(To be clear, this image shows the route of the motorcade, and puts the east side of the plaza at the top.)
Now, I believe that sets the scene. From these photos we can see that Dealey Plaza was at the very edge of downtown Dallas, and that just to the west of the depository building was a train yard. Now look a little closer. There is a park-like area lining the street that runs in front of the depository. This is the crime scene. Kennedy was shot while out in front of this park-like area. As the bulk of this area on the north side of Elm was on an incline, moreover, this area was called the "grassy knoll" on the day of Kennedy's assassination, and continues to be called that to this day.
Let's continue on, then, with our first witnesses to have an unobstructed view of the crime scene.
The View from the Southern Rim
Above: a Dallas Police photo from 11-27-63, shared with the Secret Service and published in Warren Commission Document 87. This photo shows the Elm Street curb at the bottom, and Main and Commerce Streets in the background. It also shows the buildings along the southeastern and southern edges of the plaza. From L to R: the Old Courthouse, the Dallas County Government Center (then under construction), and the Terminal Annex for the Post Office, at right. (The buildings in between the Government Center and the Terminal Annex are hotels a block removed from the plaza.)
Richard Randolph Carr claimed he watched the motorcade from the sixth floor of the Dallas County Government Center then under construction at Houston and Commerce, in the southeast corner of Dealey Plaza. The veracity of his claims has spurred much debate. (1-8-64 FBI report based upon a 12-27-63 interview with Mary Sue Brown, CD395, p28) "On December 27, 1963, Mary Sue Brown...stated that about three weeks ago, an individual named Richard Carr...had told her that Lee Harvey Oswald had not assassinated President Kennedy. Carr is a friend of Mrs. Brown's sister...A friend named Holly Jordon also heard this individual make this statement...According to Mrs. Brown, Carr was making an application for a job at a building which was under construction near the court house at the time President Kennedy was assassinated. Carr told her and the others that he was about five hundred yards from the place where the President was assassinated and that he had seen the individual who fired the gun from the Texas School Book Depository Building, and that it was not Oswald. He said this individual wore a hat, horn-rimmed glasses, and was of athletic build. Carr told them that there was a negro man with a gray-colored car waiting for this individual after the assassination, and that the man who did the shooting got into this gray car." (1-14-64 FBI report based upon a 1-4-64 interview, CD 395, p29) "Carr started walking up the steel stairway of the building under construction and when he reached approximately the fifth floor, he looked toward the Texas School Book Depository Building, and observed an individual described as a white male, wearing a hat, a sportcoat, and wearing glasses, looking out of the top floor window. A few minutes later, he heard sounds which he believed to be backfire of an automobile and shortly thereafter heard a second sound, and looking towards the triple underpass, he saw several individuals falling to the ground. Carr advised he did not look at the TSBD again and immediately proceeded down the staircase with the intentions of going over to the triple underpass to see what had happened. Upon reaching the ground, Carr advised, he proceeded to the Houston Avenue and Commerce Street intersection, at which time he observed an individual he believed to be the person he saw earlier on the top floor of the TSBD building...Carr denied making any statements to the effect he had observed an individual fire a gun from the TSBD on November 22, 1963, and he also denied observing anyone leaving the entrance of the TSBD and getting into a gray car." (2-3-64 statement furnished the FBI, CD 385 p.25) "I started walking up the steel stairway of the building, which stairway was on the west side of the building next to Houston St. As I reached a point at approximately the sixth floor of the building framework I looked over to the Texas School Book Depository Building located at the corner of Houston and Elm Sts. and at that time I observed a man looking out of a window of the top floor of the Texas School Book Depository Building. This man, a heavy set individual, who was wearing a hat, a tan sport coat, and horn rimmed glasses, was not in the end window next to Houston St. but was I believe in the second window over from Houston St. I continued on up the stairway and a minute or so later I heard a noise which I took to be the backfire of an automobile or a firecracker. There was a slight pause after the first report and then two reports in quick succession. From where I was standing on the framework of the new court house building, I looked toward the triple underpass just west of Houston and Elm streets. It seemed to me that the noise I had heard came from this direction. As I looked I saw several individuals falling to the ground. I do not recall that I looked toward the Texas School Book Depository Building after hearing the three reports. I immediately proceeded down the stairway of the building with the intention of going over to the triple underpass to see what happened...While I was on Houston Street near the Commerce Street intersection I saw a man whom I believe was identical with the man I had earlier seen looking out the window of the Texas School Book Depository Building. This man, walking very fast, proceeded on Houston St. south to Commerce St., then east on Commerce St. to Record St., which is one block from Houston St. This man got into a 1961 or 1962 grey Rambler station wagon which was parked just north of Commerce on Record St. The station wagon, which had Texas license and was driven by a young negro man, drove off in a northerly direction...I wish to state at this time that I did not see anyone in the Texas School Book Depository with a gun; I did not see the assassination of President Kennedy and I did not at any time tell anyone that I had seen the assassination of President Kennedy... Any statements I made to the effect that Lee Harvey Oswald was not the person who shot Kennedy were merely expressions of my opinions."
(2-19-69 testimony in the trial of Clay Shaw) "At the time the parade came down towards -- going to the School Book Depository, Dealey Plaza would have been to my left where I was standing, and at the Fifth Floor of the School Book Depository I noticed a man at the third window, this man was dressed -- he had on a light hat, and I saw this man later going down Houston Street, to the corner of Commerce, and then turned toward town on Commerce, and at that time before this happened I heard a single shot which sounded like a small arms, maybe a pistol, and I immediately, immediately there was a slight pause and immediately after that I heard three rifle shots in succession. They seemed to be fired from an automatic rifle and they came (At this point he was interrupted by Clay Shaw's attorney, who objected that Carr couldn't possibly know what kind of weapon had been fired. Carr then stated) "I heard three rifle shots fired from a high-powered rifle" (When asked to describe the man he saw in more detail) "He had on a hat, a felt hat, a light hat, he had on heavy-rimmed glasses, dark, the glasses were heavy-rimmed, and heavy ear pieces on his glasses...He had on a tie, he had on a light shirt, a tan sport coat." (When asked again about the shots) "The first I heard, I made the statement before the objection, I say it was small arms, a pistol--" (At which point he was once again interrupted) (When allowed to continue) "I heard a shot. There was a pause and immediately after that there were three shots in succession." (When asked if he could tell from where the first had been fired) "No, sir, not the first one I could not tell the direction it come from." (When then asked about the others) "They came from the -- from where I was standing at the new courthouse, they came from in this direction here, behind this picket fence, and one knocked a bunch of grass up along in this area here (indicating). This area here is flat, looking at it from here, but the actual way it is, it is on a slope up this way and you could tell from the way it knocked it up that the bullet came from this direction (indicating). (When then asked to describe this location more precisely) "There was a picket fence along in this area here, it does not show it in here, and it seems the shots came from this direction, and underneath that slope there were people...The shots came from this direction, from behind this picket fence that I do not see here, and there is a slope here, there is a grassy slope down here and there were a lot of people, spectators down here, below on this grassy slope, but when those shots were fired the motorcycle policemen, the Secret Service and what-have-you, all came in this direction, the way the shots came from, some of the people that were sitting there or standing fell to the ground as if the shots were coming off of those (At which time Carr was once again interrupted by Shaw's attorney) (When asked again which shots he heard from this location) "The three shots, the last three shots came from this area." (When then asked if the shots were broken up) "No, sir, they were fired from a semi-automatic or either --(At which point Shaw's attorney broke in once again). (When then asked if the shots were close together or separate) "Yes, they were very close together." (When asked to describe them with the sound 'BOOM'.) "Well, BOOM-BOOM-BOOM, just in that order." (When then asked to specify from which end of the arcade he thought the shots had come) "At the end towards the overpass, right here." (When asked again later to pinpoint from where the shots were fired) "The shot was fired from somewhere in here." (When then reminded he needed to use words) "From this direction in here that shot was fired." (When asked if he was pointing at a grassy knoll area by the picket fence) "Yes, sir..." (When asked what he noticed afterward) "At this point right here, at this school book depository, there was a Rambler station wagon there with a rack on the back, built on the top...It was parked on the wrong side of the street, next to the School Book Depository heading north...it was headed in this direction towards the railroad tracks, and immediately after the shooting there was three men that emerged from behind the school book depository. There was a Latin, I can't say whether he was Spanish, Cuban, but he was real dark complected, stepped out and opened the door. There was two men entered that station wagon, and the Latin drove it north on Houston. The car was in motion before the rear door was closed, and this one man got in the front, and then he slid in from the driver's side over, and the Latin got back and they proceeded north and it was moving before the rear door was closed. And the other man that I described to you being in this window which would have been one, two, the third window over here came across the street, he came down, coming towards the construction site on Houston St., to Commerce, in a very big hurry. He came to Commerce St. and he turned toward town on Commerce St. and every once in a while he would look over his shoulder as if he was being followed." (When cross-examined) "as I told you before, I saw these people come out from behind the School Book Depository and I am going to try to make this clear to you so where you can understand it, from where I was at I could not tell whether they came out this side entrance here--there is a side entrance to the School Book Depository--or whether they came from behind it, but they came either from the side entrance or they came from behind it, and got into this station wagon." (When asked once again about the man) "The same man that I saw here in this window was with the three men that I told you (about) a minute ago. They came out from behind the school book depository, got in the station wagon. One man crossed the street and then came down this side of Houston St. and turned onto Commerce St...I watched him until I could see him no longer, but that man acted as if he was in a hurry and someone was following him, and I would know that man if I ever saw him again." (When asked again about the shots) "upon hearing the three successive shots, sir, I saw one, one of those three hit in Dealey Plaza in the grass." (When asked about the spacing of the shots) "The three shots were consecutively." (When asked if he would deny there was a larger gap between shots 1 and 2 than between shots 2 and 3) "Yes, I sure would." (When told to continue) "I said I heard one shot, there was a pause, and then I heard three consecutive shots." (When asked if he would also deny the first two shots were bunched together) "Yes, I would." (When asked if it was his testimony one shot hit the grass) "I saw the grass come up."
(April, 1975 interview with J. Gary Shaw, as presented in Cover-up, 1975) "Steelworker Richard Randolph Carr was working on the seventh story of the new courthouse building, then under construction at Commerce and Houston Streets. Carr saw, standing on the sixth floor of the Depository, a heavy-set man wearing a hat, tan sportcoat and horn-rimmed glasses. Very shortly after the President was shot Carr observed a Rambler station wagon with a luggage rack parked facing north alongside the eastern side of the Depository and on the wrong side of Houston Street. Two men ran from either inside or from behind the building and entered the Rambler, which left in such a hurry that one of its doors was still open; Carr last saw the station wagon speeding north on Houston. After climbing to the ground, to see what had happened, Carr looked up Houston Street and saw the same man in the tan jacket that he had seen in the Book Depository. Carr told the author that the man was “in an extreme hurry and kept looking over his shoulder.” He was last seen walking rapidly eastward on Commerce Street. Carr was not called to testify before the Warren Commission. But the experience he had with agencies investigating the President’s murder was typical of that of several other witnesses. Carr told the author in a taped interview: “The FBI came to my house - there was two of them - and they said they heard I witnessed the assassination and I said I did. They told me, ‘If you didn’t see Lee Harvey Oswald in the School Book Depository with a rifle, you didn’t witness it.’ I said, ‘Well, the man I saw on television that they tell me is Lee Harvey Oswald was not in the window of the School Book Depository. That’s not the man.’ And he (the FBI agent) said I better keep my mouth shut. He did not ask me what I saw, he told me what I saw.” (Carr then proceeds to detail a number of attempts on his life, which he presumes were related to his statements regarding the assassination.) Analysis: Carr doesn't have much credibility. As time passed he "heard" more and more shots and "remembered" more and more details. And yet, even so, his original story could very well be true. He thought he saw a man looking out a window on the top floor of the depository. He didn't claim he saw this man fire a rifle. He didn't claim he saw a gun. He then heard two noises, and apparently came to believe the second of these noises was really two or three shots in quick succession. He then saw someone he thought was this man walking down the street. He could have been mistaken about this being the man he saw in the depository, mind you. Or not. Too contradictory.
Above: an image from the Mark Bell film, taken from the roof of the Terminal Annex Building (aka Post Office Building) building on the day of the shooting (apparently later that afternoon). This demonstrates that from this angle, one could see both the sixth floor window (at top, right), and Elm Street (at bottom left), starting at the second street lamp on Elm Street.
J.C. Price, an employee of the General Services Administration, watched the motorcade from the southernmost part of the plaza on the roof of the Terminal Annex Building. (11-22-63 statement to the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, CD81, p362) “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.” (11-24-63 FBI memo by Calvin Rice and Alfred Neeley to SAC Shanklin, found in the Weisberg Archives) "Mr. Price was interviewed on 11/24/63...(He) was on the roof watching the parade and heard the shot and saw President Kennedy slump over. He stated he assumed that the shot had come from the overpass and looked in that direction but saw nothing pertinent." (11-25-63 FBI report based on its 11-24-63 interview of Price, CD5, p62) "He was on the roof watching the parade, heard the shot, and saw President Kennedy slump over. He assumed the shot had come from the overpass and looked in that direction, but saw nothing pertinent." (Interview with Mark Lane in Rush to Judgment, filmed 3-27-66) (When asked where he thought 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 a 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.” (From the transcript of Lane's 3-27-66 interview with Price found in the papers of Rush to Judgment director Emilo de Antonio at the Wisconsin Historical Archives) (When asked where he thought 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 a man run) “Oh, behind that wooden fence past the cars and over behind the Texas depository building.” (When asked to point out the path of the running man) "From the triple overpass on around the book depository." (When asked once again where he saw the man running) "From the triple overpass over behind the wooden fence and all around the Texas depository building." (When asked if anyone was following the man) "Oh yes, quite a few people, including quite a few officers." (When asked how far behind the man were these officers) "Oh I'd say a hundred feet or more." (When asked yet again about the path of the running man) "After about the second shot, he started from above the triple underpass and ran around the wooden fence and behind two passenger cars, railroad passenger cars, behind the Texas Book Depository Building." (When asked about the shots) "I'd seen Governor Connally slump--of course, I didn't--I wasn't watching the President, but he positively slumped first. And I saw them both fall alright." (When asked if he'd heard any shots) "Yes, I heard five shots. I counted them, and I think I counted them accurately. Three shots in one volley, and in about two seconds, two more from the same gun and they were not echoes." (When asked if he is certain there were five) "I am certain." (When asked yet again about the running man) "I saw a man running from the overpass...And he ran behind the wooden fence on around till I lost sight of him behind the Texas Book Depository Building." (When asked if he saw anything after the shots) "Yes, one man in particular, running from the triple overpass, and he was running north from the triple overpass." (Lane then asks Price about his earlier statement in which he claimed he saw someone run from west of the depository building. Note: it seems clear from this that Lane had assumed Price had meant the grassy knoll and that he is only now realizing that Price had meant the overpass, and not the grassy knoll.) "Yes, I saw the man." (When asked to describe the man for the fourth or fifth time) "Well, he had on khaki trousers, a white shirt, and no hat, or no head-piece, and uh I think that he had light-colored hair. And he ran from the west side of the wooden fence round to the north side of the Texas Depository--Book Depository Building." (When asked if he had anything in his hand) "Yes, he had something in his hand. It could have been a head-piece, it could have been a gun, it could have been most anything, but he was carrying something in his right hand." (When asked where he thought the shots were fired) "Well, at that time, I thought the shots came from the overpass." (When asked where he now believes the shots were fired) "I really think that they came from the Texas Book Depository Building at this time, but I still think there was five shots fired." Analysis: Price almost certainly heard echoes. No one anywhere near him heard four shots, let alone five or six shots. His recollection of seeing a man run out behind the school book depository remains credible, however. It is worth noting that neither this man nor the witnesses in the parking lot mentioned by railroad worker Lee Bowers were standing at the corner of the stockade fence, believed by so many to be the site of a second shooter. They could very well have been witnesses frightened to death by what they witnessed and too camera-shy to ever come forward. Heard six shots?
Harry Holmes watched the motorcade from his office in the Terminal Annex Building on the south side of the plaza. He was a postal inspector and was the last man to interview Oswald before Oswald was killed. (12-14-63 FBI report based upon a 12-12-63 interview, CD205 p30) "Mr. Holmes said he was using a pair of binoculars himself at the time of the shooting, and one of the employees in his office was observing the President when the bullets struck the President." (4-2-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H289-308) “the motorcade turned north on Houston and went to Elm and turned left on Elm where it started on a downgrade to what we refer to as a triple underpass. As it turned in front of the school book depository, I heard what to me sounded like firecrackers, and it was my recollection that there were three of them. I had my binoculars on this car, on the presidential car at the time. I realized something was wrong but I thought they were dodging somebody throwing things at the car like firecrackers or something, but I did see dust fly up like a firecracker had burst up in the air. (When asked where he saw the dust) “Off of President Kennedy and I couldn’t tell you which one of the cracks of the firecracker resulted in this.” (No More Silence, p.351-374, published 1998) “When the motorcade came by, I was watching with a pair of 7x50 binoculars when all of a sudden there was a CRACK!...CRACK!…CRACK!! All of us thought that somebody was throwing firecrackers…Anyway, about the first or second crack, I wouldn’t know which, there was just a cone of blood and corruption that went up right in the back of his head and neck. I thought it was red paper or a firecracker. It looked like a firecracker lit up which looks like little bits of red paper as it goes up. But in reality it was skull and brains and everything else that went up perhaps as much as six or eight feet. Just like that. Then just a minute later another crack, and everybody fell down like they were ducking firecrackers.” Analysis: so here we have Harry Holmes, one of the men who helped build the case against Oswald, acknowledging that there was a shot after the head shot. While he told the Warren Commission he couldn’t tell which shot hit the President, or created the dust he saw fly up, he didn’t tell them that he was unsure between the first and second shots, and that there was a shot after the dust flew up. Evidently it never occurred to Holmes, who was surely no Sherlock, that this was evidence for a second gunman, since the moment of this third shot, when Holmes saw people fall down, was before Z-340, barely a second and a half after the head shot. While Holmes says this crack was “just a minute later” we should not take him literally. Many people use “just a minute” interchangeably with “just a second.” By connecting this final shot with people falling to the ground, Holmes showed he was not talking about 60 seconds later. Probable first shot hit 190-224. Last two shots bunched together (with the last shot after the head shot).
Sam Kelly, a postal worker, also claimed to have watched the motorcade from a window in the Terminal Annex Building. (11-21-93 article in the Bonham Daily Favorite) "I heard what I thought were firecrackers,' Kelly remembered. 'I said, 'Somebody is going to get in trouble shooting firecrackers on an occasion like this.'...'I can't remember how many shots were fired,' Kelly admitted." Analysis: Too vague.
Let us now move to the corner of Houston and Main.
I'm a Patsy... No, Really, I'm a Patsy
Patsy Paschall filmed the aftermath of the assassination from the fourth floor of the old courthouse. (11-24-67 Life Magazine article referencing Paschall's film) "Patsy Paschall, a court clerk, was taking pictures from a window of the courthouse at Houston and Main. She had stopped photographing the procession after it passed her vantage point. Hearing the shots, she started up again in time to photograph the President's limousine as it went under the railroad overpass and started to emerge from the shadows." (Early November 1995 KDFW television interviews found on youtube) 'I thought somebody was popping firecrackers from the knoll. Because I heard a like pow, and a pause, and pow pow. I'll never forget the sound. There was smoke coming from the knoll, like you had popped some firecrackers." (Second interview shown that morning of Paschall in front of the red courthouse) "There was smoke coming from the knoll. And I made the remark "Why is someone popping firecrackers?" My words were "Some nut's popping firecrackers." Because the smoke was about what firecrackers--2 or 3 of them--would be." (When explaining why she thinks there was more to it than Oswald)" I heard the shots...And it was a pow and a pause, and pow pow." (Third interview segment showing Paschall in front of the old red courthouse, filmed from a different angle.) (Describing the smoke on the knoll) "It was the type smoke that you'd see when you pop firecrackers--that kind of smoke coming from the knoll. It wasn't a heavy--but it was enough you could see it." (Fourth segment shown in a subsequent broadcast, with an emotional Paschall looking out the window of the courthouse.) "It was a sad day, but the smoke came from that knoll." (Fifth segment shown later that night, which incorporated footage of Paschall standing in the window, while filmed from the street.) "There was smoke coming from the knoll. It had to be and like I said we heard the shots--I did. And it was a pow and a pause and pow pow." (11-22-95 follow-up interview in which Paschall watches her film with former FBI agent Buck Revell) (When describing the shots) "I heard three. There was a pow and a pause, and pow pow." Analysis: first shot hit 190-224. Last two shots bunched together.
Now, should you have trouble seeing how Patsy Paschall's location relates to Dealey Plaza, this image from her film should be of help. She is viewing the Plaza from the fourth floor of the Old Court House, on the Southeast corner of Houston and Main. At this point in her film, the back end of the motorcade is turning from Main Street onto Houston Street. The building on the right is the Criminal Courts Building. The entrance to this building is in shadow. As the Sheriff's Deputies in front of this building invariably claimed they started running as the shots were being fired, moreover, these deputies would have to have raced towards the plaza along the sidewalk presented below. It seems possible, then, that some of these deputies are captured in this image--as the dark shapes crossing Houston into the plaza.
Here is a gif, moreover, from Paschall's film, showing a rush of witnesses from Houston Street past the obelisk and out into the Plaza. Notice that no one is running north towards the school book depository to see what happened there.
Now let's move back to the The Criminal Courts Building across the street from Paschall. This building was home to the Sheriff’s Office. A number of Deputies were standing in front of this building as the motorcade passed on Main Street. Let's see what they heard (and saw).
(Now, to be clear, the photograph used to make the image below was taken decades after the assassination. As a result, some minor changes to the plaza should be apparent. Here's three: 1) the train yards on the west side of the school book depository building are now a paved parking lot; 2) the loading dock on the west side of the school book depository building is now a parking lot; and 3) the Hertz sign atop the school book depository building is simply no mas.)
The Roads Not Taken
W.W. Mabra (11-22-63 article in the Dallas Times-Herald) "'I definitely heard three shots,' said Bo Mabrey." (11-27-63 report, 19H541) “I, and officer Orville Smith, were standing on the curb in front of Criminal Courts Bldg., appx. 40 ft. East of Houston St., when the car bearing Pres. Kennedy passed. Appx 1 min. after the car turned right onto Houston St. we heard 3 shots. Officer Smith said to me "That sounded like a Deer Rifle." We saw people running toward the parkway and ran in that direction. Officers and People were running to the parkway on north side of Elm. I went to the rail yards and parking area west of the book store and helped search this area. I talked to a city officer who said "I was stationed in rail yards and had this entire area in view. Nobody came this way." I then went to the Book Building and saw that several Sheriff's Dep. were going in along with a large number of city officers. I did not go into the Bldg." (July-August 1988 interview recounted in American History Illustrated, November 1988) "Then I heard the first shot. I thought it was a backfire. People ran toward the knoll. Some said they saw smoke there. I thought at first the shot may have come from there." (No More Silence p. 518-529, published 1998) "After the procession passed, we continued standing there talking when, in just a short time, we heard the first shot which sounded like a backfire from an automobile or truck well down in the Triple Underpass. That had happened a lot of times in the past and had sounded like a rifle shot. But when that first shot went off, of course, it startled both of us. We looked at each other, kind of caught our breath, wondering, since they had just gone around the corner. Then the second shot went off. Smith said to me, 'That was a deer rifle!' 'It sure was,' I responded. Then in a very few seconds a third went off. We then went around the corner as hard as we could run and could see people over on the grassy knoll. As we were crossing Houston running in the direction of the grassy knoll, I could see what looked like a swirl of smoke...By the time I got there, the smoke had disappeared; evidently it was from a cigarette..." (On his discussion with the Warren Commission) "they were trying to shake my story that a bolt action rifle could be worked with three shots being fired in six seconds. That was because my recollection of the timing was that the three shots were spaced within two to four seconds apart. It seemed like they were spaced longer between the second and third than the first and second." Analysis: while Mabra's recent recollections support that the first two shots were fired closer together than the second and third, he also rejects that the third shot could have been fired as much as five seconds after the second, and claims to have seen smoke on the knoll. This makes his statements as un-supportive of the LPM scenario as they are the first shot hit scenario consistent with the statements of so many others. So let's just call it a tie and say he's too vague. Too vague. Saw smoke on knoll.
Eugene L. Boone (11-22-63 report, 19H508) “I was in front of the Sheriff's office...when I heard three shots coming from the vicinity of where the president’s car was. I raced across the street (Main and Houston)...Some of the bystanders said the shots came from the overpass. I ran across the street (Elm) and up the imbankment over the retaining wall and into the freight yard.” (3-25-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 3H291-295) “we heard what we thought to be a shot. And there seemed to be a pause between the first shot and the second shot and third shots—a little longer pause. And we raced across the street there...Houston Street...there is a big cement works out there. We went on west across Houston Street, and then cut across the grass out there behind the large cement works there. Some of the bystanders over there seemed to think the shots came from up over the railroad in the freight yards, from over the triple underpass. So there was some city officer, I don't know who he was, motorcycle officer had laid his motorcycle down and was running up the embankment to get over a little retaining wall that separates the freight yards there. He went over the wall first, and I was right behind him, going into the freight yards. We searched out the freight yards. We were unable to find anything.” (7-23-86 testimony in televised mock trial, On Trial: Lee Harvey Oswald) (Note: Boone's description of the shots comes from the transcript of this testimony reported in Vincent Bugliosi's book, Reclaiming History, but was not shown on the U.S. version of the program.) "So the first and second shots were closer together, then there was an interval, and then the third shot." (Oral history interview for the Sixth Floor Museum, 11-25-03) (When asked if he heard the shots) "By the time the third shot was... was fired, I was in... running across Houston Street, and as I came around the cement works there, I... I never shall forget. I looked to my right as I came around the cement reflecting pool area there, and there was a man and a woman laying on the ground. And the first thing I thought was, there was two dead ones right there (smiling). The presidential car was just entering the Triple Underpass." (When asked if he heard three shots) "Yes. Yes." (When asked if he remembered how they were spaced) "Yes, the first...the first two shots were...there was a bang (one second pause) bang (1.5 second pause) bang. It was over an eight-second period of time, and the first and second shots were closer together than the second and third shot, in... in my opinion. And that’s all it is—my opinion. The second shot probably missed. And later, what’s been discovered as the scratches on the concrete, I guess, over around the drainage area over on the left side of Elm Street, I believe that was where the second bullet went. I believe that the president was hit by the first shot and the third shot." (11-17-11 interview on KTXS News Abilene) "There was three shots. There was one shot. It went bang. There was a little space between the first and second shot. And then it was like bang...bang bang." (11-19-11 article by Greg Kendall-Ball found on the Abilene Reporter-News website) "Along with hundreds of others, Boone was on a sidewalk outside the Dallas County Criminal Courts Building — where the sheriff's offices were housed — at the corner of Main and Houston streets. He watched as President Kennedy, first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, Gov. John Connally and Nellie Connally rode by, then drove out of sight around the corner down Elm Street. Then he heard the shots." (11-3-13 article on The Telegraph.co, for which four witnesses were interviewed, including Boone) "Other vehicles in the motorcade were still passing Boone and his colleagues when a gunshot punctured the air at 12:30pm. As he dashed across a street towards the centre of the plaza, two more shots were fired as he watched the presidential limousine screaming away." (11-3-13 filmed interview of Boone linked to the article on The Telegraph) "There was no doubt in my mind it was a shot, and obviously I did not know if the President was hit or not, but I did know that it was a shot." (Interview in The Day Kennedy Died, on the Smithsonian Channel, 11-17-13) "It went kinda bang (two second pause) bang bang." (Alternative take found on the website for the program) "I was standing in front of the Sheriff's office when the first shot was fired. I started running. By the time the third shot was fired, I was crossing Houston Street." (11-19-13 article in the Los Angeles Times) "I was in front of the sheriff’s office at 505 Main Street. By the time the third shot was fired, I was running across Houston Street. As I came around the reflecting pool [in Dealey Plaza] I noticed two people to my right on the ground and thought, “There’s two dead ones there.” Then they began to get up, and I ran to the grassy knoll and helped a motorcycle officer over the fence. He pulled me over. The other officer went to the post office annex and I went to the rail yard." (Interview with the Voice of America, broadcast 11-19-13) "There's no mistaking what it was. It was three shots." (11-8-14 Living History interview with The Sixth Floor Museum) "I heard the shots fired. The first shot that was fired there wasn't any question in my mind but what it was a shot, and I began to run towards the triple underpass down Main Street...because that's where the sound of the shots were and I knew that's where the Presidential car was...By the time I'd gotten across Houston Street, the third shot had been fired." (about the spacing) "As I recall it was Bang......Bang Bang...The period from the first shot to the last shot was eight seconds. And it seemed to me like the second and third shot was closer together than the first shot and the second shot." (When asked if they sounded like they came from the same location) "Yes." Analysis: when Boone described the shots before the Warren Commission he indicated that there was a bigger gap between the first two shots than between the second and third. And yet he later testified to the opposite. Now, when he told the Warren Commission "a little longer pause" he may have been talking about the pause between the second and third shots, but that seems unlikely, particularly in that his co-workers almost all said the last two shots were closer together (as we shall see). This leads me to conclude Boone changed his testimony between 64 and 86, after being prepped by prosecuting attorney Vincent Bugliosi. (Since few have ever seen the original tapes of this mock trial, we don't know if defense attorney Gerry Spence was astute enough to catch this change, and force Boone to explain this change, or even if Boone actually said what Bugliosi claims he said. Still, whatever happened, Boone seemed to be still under its sway in '03.) Thankfully, however, Boone cleared this up in 2011, when he reverted back to his original claim it was the second two shots that were bunched together. Apparently changed story. Probable first shot hit 190-224 with last two shots bunched together.
C.M. Jones (11-22-63 report, 19H512) “I was standing in front of the Criminal Courts Building talking with Allan Sweatt and Robert Benevides and awaiting the arrival of the motorcade bearing the President's party. The motorcade passed in front of us and everything appeared to be in order. A few short seconds later I heard an explosion followed in about 3 to 5 seconds later two more explosions. I am certain that I recognized the second two as being that of gunfire. I immediately came back into the office.” Analysis: the grouping of the last two explosions as “two more” suggests there was no significant space between these shots. Probable first shot hit 190-224. Last two shots probably bunched together.
A.D. McCurley (11-22-63 report, 19H514) “I was standing at the front entrance of the Dallas Sheriff's office...as the President's motorcade passed and was watching the remainder of the parade pass when I heard a retort and I immediately recognized it as the sound of a rifle. I started running around the corner where I knew the President’s car should be and in a matter of a few seconds heard a second shot and then a third shot. I, along with other officers who were near me, all started running and I rushed towards the park and saw people running towards the railroad yards beyond Elm Street and I ran over and jumped a fence and a railroad worker stated to me that he believed the smoke from the bullets came from the vicinity of a stockade fence which surrounds the park area. A search was made of this vicinity and then information came to us that the shots came from the Texas School Book Depository Building at the corner of Elm and Houston.” Analysis: by failing to mention any gap between the second and third shots, McCurley suggests little time lapsed between these shots. Probable first shot hit 190-224. Last two shots probably bunched together.
L.C. Smith (11-22-63 report, 19H516) “I was standing in front of the Sheriff's Office on Main Street and watched the President and his party drive by. Just a few seconds later, I heard the first shot, which I thought was a backfire, then the second shot and third shot rang out. I knew then that this was gun shots and everyone else did also. I ran as fast as I could to Elm Street just west of Houston and I heard a woman unknown to me say the President was shot, in the head, and the shots came from the fence on the north side of Elm. I went at once behind the fence and searched also in the parking area. Then came from word the shot was thought to have come from the Texas Book Depository Building...” Analysis: once again “then the second shot and third shot” without mention of a five second space between the two. Probable first shot hit 190-224. Last two shots probably bunched together.
Buddy Walthers (11-22-63 report, 19H518) “I was standing at the front entrance of the Dallas Sheriff's office when the motorcade with President Kennedy passed. I was watching the remainder of the President's party when within a few seconds I heard a retort and I immediately recognized it to be a rifle shot. I immediately started running west across Houston Street and ran across Elm Street and up into the railroad yards. At this time, it was not determined if, in fact, this first retort and 2 succeeding retorts were of a rifle, however, in my own mind, I knew. Upon reaching the railroad yard and seeing other officers coming, I immediately went to the triple underpass on Elm Street in an effort to locate possible marks left by stray bullets. While I was looking for possible marks, some unknown person stated to me that something had hit his face while he was parked on Main Street, the next lane south from Elm, as the traffic had been stopped for the parade. Upon examining the curb and pavement in this vicinity I found where a bullet had splattered on the top edge of the curb on Main Street, which would place the direction of firing, high and behind the position the President's car was in when he was shot. Due to the fact that the projectile struck so near the underpass, it was, in my opinion, probably the last shot that was fired and had apparently went high and above the President's car.” (12-13-63 article in the Dallas Morning News) "Walthers and Sweatt were within a block of the slaying site when the sniper opened fire. They agree with other witnesses that the assassin fired only three shots." (As quoted in Red Roses from Texas, by Nerin Gun, published February 1964) "Buddy Walthers, the policeman from the Sheriff's office, states for his part that the shots—or at least one shot--came from the balustrade of the motorway bridge. He ran towards it; that was when, with a Secret Service man, he found a rifle bullet in the grass near the bridge--the "fourth bullet"? (Later) "Why is the existence of a fourth rifle bullet denied? Detective Bill Walthers declares that he found it. He described to me himself how he found the bullet and a picture taken immediately after the shooting by a Dallas Times photographer shows this detective and a Secret Service man in the act of retrieving a bullet from the turf at the roadside." (6-18-64 FBI airtel, FBI file 105-82555, sec 177, p18) "Walthers stated he made no statement whatsoever to anyone that one of the shots was fired from the railroad overpass and had actually concluded at the time that all shots had come from the Texas School Book Depository Building." (7-22-64 memo from Arthur Marmor to Warren Commission Counsel Norman Redlich, as found on Jfkassassinationfiles.com) "Walthers said he then found where a bullet had splattered on the top edge of the curb on Main Street. He thought it was the last shot fired which had missed." (7-23-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H544-552) “After it turned onto Houston and most of the motorcade went by, I turned to talk to Mrs. Decker and asked her if she was ready to go back inside and I proceeded to help her back up the steps and then we heard the shots...I remember three shots…I told her that sounded like a rifle and I ran across here (indicating) and there is a wall along in here and I hopped over it. People were laying down on this grass--women and men were laying on top of their children on the grass...and then someone, I don't know, I say someone---a lot of people was sitting there---but it must have been behind that fence---there's a fence right along here---- (Commission counsel Wesley Libeler then points out "You are referring to the area immediately behind the No. 7 that appears on Commission Exhibit No. 354--- there is a concrete structure there of some sort.") "It don't show on this, but since this picture was made, there's a fence it may be there it's a solid board fence along here...And at that time I heard the shots as well as everybody else, but as we got over this fence, and a lot of officers and people were just rummaging through the train yards back in this parking area.” Analysis: again we see no mention of an appreciable gap between the second and third shots. Probable first shot hit 190-224. Last two shots probably bunched together. Last shot probably missed.
Jack Watson (11-22-63 report, 19H522) "I had just looked out the window of the radio room facing Main St. and watched the Presidential parade pass and as it turned the corner onto Record (note: he means Houston) I looked over in that direction but was unable to see any of the vehicles from my location and about that time I heard three loud reports evenly spaced which I presumed to be a rifle or shotgun blast." Analysis: while Watson says the shots were evenly spaced, the LPM scenario has the first two shots slightly bunched, which--due to the distortion of people's sense of time while under stress--would almost certainly have seemed to be extremely bunched in comparison to the gap before the third shot. As a consequence, we can't consider Watson's report as support for the LPM scenario. Too vague.
Roger Craig (11-23-63 FBI report based upon an 11-22-63 interview, 23H817) “He heard a shot and ran around the corner onto Houston Street and went through the parking area and briefly searched area on Elm Street.” (11-23-63 report, 19H524) "I was standing in front of the Sheriff's Office at 505 Main Street, Dallas, Texas, watching President Kennedy pass in the motorcade. I was watching the rest of the motorcade a few seconds after President Kennedy passed where I was standing when I heard a rifle shot and a few seconds later a second and then a third shot. At the retort of the first shot, I started running around the corner and Officer Buddy Walthers and I ran across Houston Street and on up the terrace on Elm Street and into the railroad yards. We made a round through the railroad yards and I returned to Elm Street by the Turnpike sign at which time Officer Walthers told me that a bullet had struck the curb on the south side of Elm Street. I crossed to Elm with Deputy C. L. Lummie Lewis to search for a spot where a shell might have hit. About this time I heard a shrill whistle and I turned around and saw a white male running down the hill from the direction of the Texas School Book Depository building and I saw what I think was a light colored Rambler Station wagon with luggage rack on top pull over to the curb and the subject who had come running down the hill got into the car. The man driving this station wagon was a dark complected white male. I tried to get across the street to stop the car and talk with subjects, but the traffic was so heavy, I could not make it. I reported this incident at once to a secret service officer whose name I do not know, then I left this area and went at once to the building and assisted in the search of the building. Later that afternoon, I heard that the City had a suspect in custody and I called and reported the information about the suspect running down the hill and getting into a car to Captain Fritz and was requested to come at once to City Hall. I went to the City Hall and identified the suspect they had in custody as being the same person I saw running down this hill and get into the station wagon and leave the scene." (11-25-63 FBI report, 24H23) “he heard a noise which he presumed to be a gun shot. He states he immediately started west on Main Street toward Houston Street, and while en route, he heard two additional noises which he also presumed to be gun shots.” (4-1-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 6H260-273) “I heard an explosion…I knew it was a shot, but—uh—I didn’t want to believe it. But a few seconds later, I heard another explosion and, this time, I knew it was a shot. And, as I began to run, I heard a third one.” (When asked about the spacing of the shots) “The first one was uh-about two or three seconds…Well, it was quite a pause in there. It could have been a little longer.” (When asked about the spacing between the second two shots) “Not more than two seconds. It was—they were real rapid." (When asked what happened next) "I continued running across Houston Street, across the parkway, across Elm Street and, by this time, the motorcade had went on down Elm Street and I ran up to the railroad yard and--uh---started to look around when the people began to all travel over that way. So, I began moving people back out of the railroad yard. (When asked about the shots) "It was hard to tell because---uh---they had an echo, you know. There was actually two explosions with each one. There was the uh--the shot and then the echo from it. So, it was hard to tell." (When asked if people told him from where the shots had been fired) "No; as I reached the railroad yard, I talked to a girl getting her car that--uh--thought they came from the park area on the north side of Elm Street..she was standing there and it sounded real loud at that particular point...And she thought that's where they came from.” (Notes on a 10-25-67 interview with Mark Lane and the staff of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, found in Garrison's files) "Craig said that he was at Houston and Main on November 22, 1963, at 12:30 P.M. He was then a Dallas Deputy Sheriff. The presidential limousine passed him and turned north onto Houston. After the vehicle turned south-west onto Elm, Craig heard three shots. By snapping his fingers he demonstrated the time sequence. A shot--a short pause of perhaps a second or two--then two shots, one following the other so closely that there was practically no separation between them. Craig's demonstration seemed to preclude the possibility that one man fired the second and third shots with the alleged assassination weapon which required a two.three second interval." (March, 1968 interview in the L.A. Free Press) "Well the motorcade came by about 12:30 and made a right on Houston; several seconds later it made a left on Elm Street. I didn't watch it make a left; I was watching the rest of the cars behind it, but I estimated the time it took it to make a left on Elm Street. And then I heard the first shot. Well, I began to run towards Houston Street...And before I reached the corner--which was about 15 yards away--the third shot had already sounded...There was one report, a pause, and then two reports (claps hands twice quickly) just like that. Impossible for a man to pump a bolt action rifle that fast." (2-14-69 testimony in the trial of Clay Shaw) “I heard a shot. I immediately ran towards Houston…Before I reached the corner, the other two shots.” (Self-penned article When You Kill a President, 1971) "The President had passed and was turning west on Elm Street . . . as if there were no people, no cars, the only thing in my world at that moment was a rifle shot! I bolted toward Houston Street. I was fifteen steps from the corner -- before I reached it two more shots had been fired. Telling myself that it wasn't true and at the same time knowing that it was, I continued to run." (4-7-74 taped interview with Lincoln Carle, shown in the film Two Men in Dallas, 1975) "The President came by and they made the right turn onto Houston Street and--oh, I'll say, y'know--a few seconds later--to give him time to get to Elm Street and make the left--I heard what was a, well, I call it a report, a gunshot. And I said, I said "Oh, my God" and I turned and started towards Houston Street running just as hard as I could and I was probably 15 steps from Houston Street and before I reached those 15 steps I heard two more reports. And I immediately went to Elm Street." (When asked how long this took) "Not more than a few seconds." Analysis: while Craig made a number of wild and inconsistent assertions over the years, his initial impression of the shots--that the last two were fired closely together--was locked in stone. First shot hit 190-224. Last two shots bunched together.
Now, should you have trouble visualizing where these men were standing, this Richard Bothun photo shows the front of Criminal Courts Building as the lead motorcycles of the motorcade pass. The Deputy Sheriffs cited above and below were standing in front of this building.
Now, here is a Charles Bronson photo taken a few seconds later, from a location in back of Bothun.
And here is a second Bothun photo, taken seconds after that. This one shows the limousine as it approaches the intersection of Houston and Main.
And here's a follow-up photo by Bronson, taken seconds later.
Harry Weatherford (11-23-63 report, 19H502) “I was standing in front of the Sheriff's Office watching the Presidential Motorcade. The President's car had passed my location a couple of minutes when I heard a loud report which I thought was a railroad torpedo, as it sounded as if it came from the railroad yard…then I heard a second report which had more of an echo report and thought to myself, that this was a rifle and I started towards the corner when I heard the third report. By this time I was running toward the railroad yards where the sounds seemed to come from.” Analysis: although he confirms some of the other statements that the first shot sounded different than the second, he doesn’t tell us enough about the spacing to come to any other conclusions. Too vague.
Ralph Walters (11-23-63 report, 19H505) “I was standing on Main Street in front of the Criminal Courts Building...and observed the Presidential procession pass by. Just after it had turned the corner and a very short time later, I heard what was shots, three in number. I ran around the corner and directly across the street across the Dealy Plaza to the Elm Street side of the triple underpass. As we were running across the street, we could see the presidential car pulling away under the underpass and we continued on to the immediate area. Some stopped to talk to people standing there as there were a number of women who were hysterical. We could not get any information except that the President had been shot. Several of the other officers in the group ran on into the freight yards. After we failed to get any coherent information from people there, we began searching the area and possibly 5 or 6 minutes after the time we reached the area, we went from there to the Texas School Book Depository and 7 of us went inside.” Analysis: too vague.
Lummie Lewis (11-23-63 report, 19H526) “I was standing on the sidewalk on Main Street in the 500 block just east of Houston Street when the motorcade passed and turned the corner onto Houston Street. In a few seconds I heard 3 shots. I ran around the corner and came across Houston Street to Elm Street to the Park. I saw some people there. I began to talk to them getting names and information.” Analysis: too vague.
Luke Mooney (11-23-63 report, 19H528) “I was standing in front of the Sheriff's office at 505 Main Street, Dallas, when President Kennedy and the motorcade passed by. Within a few seconds after he had passed me and the motorcade had turned the corner I heard a shot and I immediately started running towards the front of the motorcade and within seconds heard a second and a third shot. I started running across Houston Street and down across the lawn to the triple underpass and up the terrace to the railroad yards. I searched along with many other officers, this area.” (3-25-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 3H281-290) “we heard this shot ring out. At that time, I didn’t realize it was a shot…there was a short lapse between these shots. I can still hear them very distinctly—between the first and second shot. The second and third shot was pretty close together, but there was a short lapse between the first and second shot. Why, I don’t know. But when that begin to take place after the first shot we started moving out. And by the time I started running...Due west, across Houston Street, went down across this lawn, across Elm Street there--- I assume it is approximately the location the President was hit. Of course the motorcade was gone. There wasn't anything there except a bunch of people, a lot of them laying on the ground, taking on, various things. I was running at full speed...Across Elm, up the embankment, which is a high terrace there, across--there is a kind of concrete building there, more or less of a little park....Jumped over the fence and went into the railroad yards. And, of course, there was other officers over there. Who they were, I don't recall at this time. But Ralph Walters and I were running together. And we jumped into the railroad yards and began to look around there...And, of course, we didn't see anything there. Of course the other officers had checked into the car there, and didn't find anything, I don't believe, but a Negro porter. Of course there were quite a few spectators milling around behind us. We were trying to clear the area out and get all the civilians out that wasn't officers.” (11-23-77 report on an 11-16-77 interview with HSCA investigator Martin Daly, as presented online by Malcolm Blunt on the website of Bart Kamp) "He saw the motorcade pass him and turn right onto Houston Street. He remained there and heard three shots. It seemed to him that there was a distinct pause between shot #1 and the second and third ones which seemed to follow each other quite close." (No More Silence p. 224-228, published 1998) “As the motorcade passed by us, we never attempted to follow it around the corner at Houston and were still standing there when we heard a shot ring out. I knew immediately that it wasn’t a backfire…Several of us started moving toward Houston Street at the moment we heard the first shot. By the time we reached the street (Main), the second shot had been fired, then there was a slight hesitation between the second and third. We had already heard all three shots before we had reached Houston Street." (Oral History interview for the Sixth Floor Museum, 12-4-02) "Well, as the motorcade approached us, we waved just like everybody else did. He waved... and the president waved and Connally and of course, Jacqueline was sitting there with them, and so, they made the right turn onto Houston. Well, we just missed as far as the motorcade was concerned... of course, there was a trail of cars behind it. We just kept standing there, and then that’s when we heard the first shot ring out. And I said, “That was a weapon somewhere.”... "And just a split second, the second one, and then a slight hesitation before the third. And we definitely knew it was a weapon of some kind, but as far as... that’s when people just thought they heard the shots come from the Triple Underpass, which was incorrect. With the wind, you wasn’t exactly sure, but it didn’t sound like it was coming from the Triple Underpass to me. So, we (went) down across the... the Grassy Knoll there..." Analysis: Mooney's early testimony indicates the first two shots were further apart than the "slight hesitation" between the second and third he described later. Apparently changed story. First shot hit 190-224. Last two shots bunched together.
J.L Oxford (11-23-63 report, 19H530) “I was standing in front of the Courthouse along with Officers, McCurley and Wiseman of the Sheriff's Department and the President's car had just gone by. We stood there until the rest of the cars had passed. While we were standing there, we heard what I thought to be shots. Officer McCurley and myself ran across Houston Street on across Elm and down to the underpass. When we got there, everybone was looking toward the railroad yards. We jumped the picket fence which runs along Elm Street and on over into the railroad yards. When we got over there, there was a man who told us that he had seen smoke up in the corner of the fence. We went to the corner of the fence to see what we could find, and searched the area thoroughly. ” Analysis: too vague.
Allan Sweatt, Chief Criminal Deputy, Dallas Sheriff's Dept. (11-23-63 report, 19H531) “I was standing with a group of Deputy Sheriff's about 30 feat east of the corner of Houston and Main Street on Main Street. The president's caravan had just passed and about a minute or 2 (later) I heard a shot and about 7 seconds later another shot and approximately 2 or 3 seconds later a third shot which sounded to me like a rifle and coming from the vicinity of Elm and Houston Street. Several officers and myself from the Sheriff's department ran around the corner and towards Elm Street and Houston and were told that someone had shot at the President. A man by the name of "Hester" told Deputy John Wiseman that the shots had come from the old Sexton building. As we approached the building we were told the shots had come from the fence. Deputy Wiseman and a City Officer went to the front door of the building and I continued towards the railroad yards with Deputy Harry Weatherford and I stopped where I could see two sides of the building which was the west and south sides. Deputy Harry Weatherford went into the building through an open window on the 1st floor and Deputy Wiseman and the DPD officer went in the front door. On the far side of the building opposite me were some DPD Officers. At that time I was told the President had been shot and that Governor Connally also had been shot. Officers started coming to the scene and approximately 15 deputy sheriff's and a number of DPD officers were at location. At this time, Inspector Sawyer of the DPD came to the front of the building and started taking names of witnesses and I suggested to inspector Sawyer that I get two deputies and send the witnesses to the Sheriff's Office for statements instead of letting the witnesses leave the scene. Inspector Sawyer agreed with this plan and as witnesses were brought together they were taken directly across the street to the Sheriff's Office to wait until statements could be taken.” (12-13-63 article in the Dallas Morning News) "Walthers and Sweatt were within a block of the slaying site when the sniper opened fire. They agree with other witnesses that the assassin fired only three shots. Analysis: Sweatt was lying. No one raced with him to Houston and Elm. It's doubtful he raced there himself. Read the reports. They all raced to the railroad yards or triple underpass. Perhaps, then, Sweatt was trying to cover for what may have been viewed a colossal failure on the part of his department. First shot hit 190-224. Last two shots bunched together.
John Wiseman (11-23-63 report, 19H535) “I was standing in front of the Sheriff's Office at 505 Main Street, Dallas when the President passed and the car went around the corner and a few more cars had passed when I heard a shot and I knew something had happened. I ran at once to the corner of Houston and Main Street and out into the street when the second and third shots ran out. I ran on across Houston Street, then across the park to where a policeman was having trouble with his motorcycle and I saw a man laying on the grass. This man laying on the grass said the shots came from the building and he was pointing to the old Sexton Building. I talked to Marilyn Sitzman...who said her boss, Abraham Zaprutes...had movies of the shooting. She said the shots came from that way and she pointed at the old Sexton Building. I ran at once to the Sexton Building and went in. I asked some woman how many doors lead out of the building and she said 4. I left the building and found some DPD patrolmen and we came back to the building. I ran up the stairs and the patrolman started trying to get more help to search the building. I went up the stairs to the 7th floor and started up into the attic and noticed that the door to the roof was locked on the inside with a gate type hook latch. I stopped and started back down the stairs taking a quick look on each floor. I met more officers on the 2nd floor and then in a few minutes the place had maybe 50 officers in it.” Analysis: by placing the second and third shots at the same moment in time—when he ran out into the street—Wiseman suggests that these shots were close together. First shot hit 190-224. Last two shots bunched together.
Seymour Weitzman (11-23-63 Affidavit to Dallas County, 24H228) “I was standing on the corner of Main and Houston as the President passed and made his turn going west toward Stemmons…At this time my partner was behind me and asked me something. I looked back at him and heard three shots. I ran in a northwest direction and scaled a fence towards where we thought the shots came from. Then someone said they thought the shots came from the old Texas Building.” (11-23-63 FBI report, CD5 p. 124) "Shortly after the President's car turned the corner along Elm Street, he was looking in another direction and heard three sounds in rapid succession, which he believed to have been gunshots. He believed these sounds to have come from a northwesterly direction from where he was standing." (11-25-63 FBI report based upon an 11-24-63 interview, CD5 p.126) “as the motorcade went out of his line of vision…he heard three shots ring out and immediately ran to the point where Elm Street turns to go under the underpass.” (4-1-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H105-109) “we heard what we thought at that time was either a rifle shot or a firecracker.” (When asked how many shots) “Three distinct shots…First one, then the second two seemed to be simultaneously.” “There was a little period in between the second and third shot.” (When asked which gap was longer, between the first and second or between the second and third) “Between the first and second shot.” (When asked what happened next) "I immediately ran toward the President's car. Of course, it was speeding away and somebody said the shots or the firecrackers, whatever it was at that time, we still didn't know the President was shot, came from the wall. I immediately scaled that wall...It would be between the railroad overpass and I can't remember the name of that little street that runs off Elm...I scaled the wall and, apparently, my hands grabbed steampipes. I burned them." (When asked what he noticed in the train yards) "We noticed numerous kinds of footprints that did not make sense because they were going different directions." (When asked if anyone was with him) "Yes, sir; other officers, Secret Service as well, and somebody started, there was something red in the street and I went back over the wall and somebody brought me a piece of what he thought to be a firecracker and it turned out to be, I believe, I wouldn't quote this, but I turned it over to one of the Secret Service men and I told them it should go to the lab because it looked to me like human bone. I later found out it was supposedly a portion of the President's skull." (When asked where in the street he found this piece of skull) "As the President's car was going off, it would be on the left-hand side of the street. It would be the...south side of the street...It was in the street itself." (Interview with CBS, broadcast 6-25-67) (Describing the shots) "Well, just three quick bursts, like bang-bang-bang." Analysis: while Weitzman neglected to put a space in his re-enactment of the shots for CBS, his 3 "bangs" are so close together that his version is completely at odds with the LPM scenario. First shot hit 190-224. Last two shots bunched together.
Harold Elkins (11-26-63 report, 19H540) “I was standing in front of the sheriff's office at 505 Main St., which is a block south and just around the corner from the building from which the shots were fired. Just a few seconds after the President’s car had passed my location I heard a shot ring out, a couple of seconds elapsed and then two more shots ring out. I immediately ran to the area from which it sounded like the shots had been fired. This is an area between the railroads and the Texas School Book Depository which is east of the railroads. There were several other officers in this area and we secured it from the public. After searching this area for about ten minutes and not finding any evidence, I went to a tower that overlooks the railroad yards and also has a vantage point over the area around the school book building. I talked to an employee there and he gave me the description of two automobiles that he had seen in the area just a few minutes earlier. When I went back outside I learned from other officers that it had been established that the shots were fired from the school book building.” Analysis: by grouping the last two shots together, Elkins implies they were fired close together. Probable first shot hit 190-224. Last two shots probably bunched together.
Let's continue, then, with those across the street from these deputies. To be clear, these witnesses viewed the plaza from the southeast corner of Main and Houston streets, inside or out front of the Old Courthouse. This courthouse is shown below, in a cropped image from the first of a series of motorcade photos taken by Phil Willis.
Down on Main Street
Ruth Smith (12-21-63 FBI interview, CD206 p.9) “She was on the second floor balcony of the old red courthouse…she heard what she felt was a shot. She stated there was a pause then two more shots fairly close together…At this time people seemed to panic…She looked back toward President Kennedy’s car after the first shot and thinks he raised his hands to his face. The car seemed to slow or perhaps stop after the first shot and then just after the third shot a Secret Service man from the second car ran up…and threw himself into the rear seat.” Analysis: So here we have our first eyewitness, and she confirms what we’ve gathered from the statements of all the deputies: the first shot hit. Her statement that she thinks Kennedy raised his hands to his face after the first shot can only be interpreted as a reference to his reaching towards his throat in the frames just after frame 224. And yet she’d only heard one shot by this point; according to the LPM scenario she should have heard two--one at 160 and one at 224. First shot hit 190-224. Last two shots bunched together.
John Solon (1-8-64 FBI report, 24H535) “was in the Main Street entrance of the Old Courthouse…heard three shots which sounded as follows: First shot, pause, two shots, then echoes of the shots. Mr. Solon advised he would judge that approximately five and one-half seconds was taken for all three shots.” Analysis: first shot hit 190-224. Last two shots bunched together.
R.E. "Buster" Haas (March-May 1964 memo recounting his experiences on 11-22-63, as published on the Dallas Morning News' website, DallasNews.com) "It was about 11 A.M when we walked the couple of blocks from The News to Elm (sic, he almost certainly meant Houston) and Main where the motorcade would turn and we figured we could get a good glimpse of the party...Finally, the motorcade came our way...We had a good view of President Kennedy and Jackie. The wind blew about that time and Jackie grabbed her hat (or scarf or hair), and an Associated Press photographer took that picture. The motorcade continued and made its turn down to the Triple Underpass and I had just commented to my wife and son about Lyndon Johnson riding in the same car with Ralph Yarborough (after stories about their feuding) when we heard what sounded like a car backfiring about a block away. I thought to myself, "What idiot would set off a firecracker or deliberately make a noise like a gun going off at a time like this?" when we heard another and then another. Someone screamed "Oh my God, no, they couldn't have" and everyone started moving. About the same time, the sirens started going off and the motorcycles began moving." Analysis: We heard another, and then another. Probable first shot 190-224. Last two shots probably bunched together.
Malcolm Barclay (6-15-64 FBI report, 26H552) "he had been at the County Court house...he had left the Court House to watch the procession, and did watch the Presidential procession pass the corner of Main and Houston streets, about one block south of the Texas School Book Depository, scene of the assassination. Shortly after the car bearing the president passed the place where Barclay was standing, Barclay turned to re-enter the court house, at which time he heard one or more loud reports which he identified in his own mind as rifle shots. He turned and the crowd seemed to be surging toward the Depository area. He did not see the Presidential automobile at that time, and it apparently left the area immediately." Analysis: too vague.
Robert West, Dallas County Surveyor, claimed to have been standing in front of the courthouse at Houston and Main when the shots were fired. (2-13-69 testimony in the trial of Clay Shaw) (When asked if he'd heard anything unusual after the limousine turned down Elm Street) "Some time after it turned on Elm Street what sounded to me at that time as what I thought was backfiring, a motorcycle." (When asked how many backfires he heard) "Four". (When asked if these backfires sounded the same) "Yes". (When asked what the first "backfire" sounded like) "A motorcycle backfired." (When asked what the second and subsequent "backfire" sounded like) "A rifle fired...It appeared to me it was rifle fire after the second. The first and the second my response was it was motorcycle backfire." (When asked again to describe the third sound) "Rifle fire." (When asked if these were loud sounds) "Yes, sir." (When asked from where he thought this sounds were coming) "The sound came from the northwest quadrant of Dealey Plaza...This entire area north and west of Elm Street." (When asked if he remembered the spacing of the shots) "No, sir." (When asked what happened after the shooting) "When I left my position on the corner of Main and Houston and went across into Dealey Plaza area, there was quite a commotion. A police motorcycle and several men coming up, what is indicated on the aerial photograph as the grassy knoll. When I got over to the motorcycle there were several men up behind the wood stockade fence along the north edge of the grassy knoll." (When asked to confirm that he heard four sounds and thought the first two were backfires and the second two rifle fire) "Right." (When asked if he felt sure about the number of sounds) "That was my response on that day." (When asked to pinpoint where he was standing) "I was standing at the point indicated by the pin here at the southeast corner of the intersection of Main and Houston." Analysis: West was the Dallas County Surveyor. Since the Secret Service, FBI, and Warren Commission all used his services to make plats of Dealey Plaza, and since they all came to different conclusions, and kept changing the locations for the shots, it only makes sense that he would grow suspicious of the official story, and suspect there'd been more than 3 shots. Still, he testified that he thought he'd heard four sounds from the very beginning. Heard Four Shots.
Jack Weaver was standing on the southeast corner of Houston and Main. (12-12-63 FBI report, CD 329, p.15) "took a Polaroid photograph of the President's automobile which depicts the automobile and its occupants as the automobile made a right turn onto Houston street from Main street." Analysis: too vague.
Now here is Jack Weaver's Polaroid of the presidential limo turning onto Houston Street.
While some might think the preceding witnesses were cherry-picked, and that the recollections of witnesses from east of Dealey Plaza differed greatly from those who were in the plaza, this is not the case.
Let us now look at the recollections of a number of witnesses who'd viewed the motorcade from the west or south, some from Houston Street, and some from Main Street, and even a few from the middle of Houston and Main.
Let's start with four traffic cops working the corner of Houston and Main.
J.B Allan was a Dallas patrolman on traffic duty that day. (7-17-64 statement to the Dallas Police Department, CD1259, p11) "At the time the President passed I was in the middle of Houston Street on the south side of Main holding back the crowd and I heard the shots. I did not know where they came from." Analysis: too vague.
D.V. Harkness was a traffic officer standing near Main and Houston during the final stretch of the motorcade. It could very well be Harkness who walks in front of Robert Hughes’ camera a few seconds before Hughes stopped filming the motorcade's progression up Houston Street. (4-9-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 6H308-315) “I had started west on Main Street to the... plaza area with the crowd to observe the President as he went west on Elm Street…(When asked how many shots he heard) “Three” (and if he knew they were shots) “Yes, sir…When I heard the first shot and saw the President's car almost come to a stop and some of the agents piling off the car, I went back to the intersection to get my motorcycle. (When asked if he was doing that when he heard the second and third shots) “Yes, sir.” (When asked where the shots came from) “I couldn't tell. They were bouncing off the buildings down there.” (When asked what he did next) "I went west on Main to observe the area between the railroad tracks and Industrial." (When asked why he went west) "By the way the people, when I went into this area, everybody was hitting the ground, and someone led us to indicate that the shots were coming into the cars." (Warren Commission counsel David Belin then asks "You mean from some point in front of the cars?) "Yes." (When asked "Do you know who that someone was?") "No, sir." (When asked what he did next) "I went down to Industrial to see if I could see anyone fleeing that area...I didn't see anyone, so I come back to the front of the Book Depository and went around to this fence that was across the street from Elm Street...near the railroad track." (7-16-64 statement to the Dallas Police Department, 22H599) “When the first shots were fired, I was with Officer W.K. King and we were walking with the crowd west on Main on the north side, just west of Houston Street. We heard three shots. We were unable at that time to determine where the shots originated from.” (10-26-77 interview with HSCA investigators, HSCA record 180-10111-10106) "I went to the corner of Main and Houston and the motorcade came by. I parked my bike and started to cut diagonally across the grassy area when I heard the shots. The President's car slowed, almost stopped. A second and third shot came close together. I couldn't tell where they came from." (5-11-92 interview with Mark Oakes, as published in the Summer/Fall issue of the Dateline Dallas newsletter) "When he made the right turn off Main onto Houston. I made eye contact with him and he looked right at me and waved and then he made the left turn and then I heard three reports." (When asked if he would say the second two shots were closer together than the first two) "No." (6-1-92 FBI interview, FBI record 124-10273-10402) "After the Presidential motorcade had turned onto Elm Street from Houston, Harkness began to drift west from his original position into the plaza. At the time the shots rang out, Harkness was looking directly at the President." (No More Silence, p.204-210, published 1998) “when the motorcade made the turn to go down Elm street, they (the crowd) went back to grassy area there in the median between Main and Elm to get a better view of him. So I kind of followed the crowd. As the first shot rang out, then the second, I saw the President’s head jerk. Then, as the third shot was fired, Mrs. Kennedy came out of the car and was on all fours on the trunk lid of the car. At the time, I was probably 150-200 feet from the car at the edge of the grassy media between Main and Elm, not far from where my motor was parked at the intersection. The sounds were loud reports. It seemed like there was more time between the first and the second shots than between the second and the third. The second and third were pretty close together. Due to the echo pattern in Dealey Plaza, though, I was unable to tell the direction of the shots. After they heard the shots, some people fell down. My first observation on this, if I would have been suspecting where the shots came from, I would have picked the building across from the School Book Depository because I looked up and there was a huge flock of pigeons that flew up from that building.” (6-29-06 Oral History interview for the Sixth Floor Museum, as quoted in The Kennedy Half-Century, 2013) "The first shot, Kennedy, I think, grabbed like this (motions). I was looking right at him. And then the next one he jerked (motions), (and) that was the second shot. And then (the) third one went wild, I think. I don't know." Analysis: by saying that the President’s car almost came to a stop and agents piled off the car after the first shot, Harkness is saying there was only one shot before frame 280 or so, when agent Clint Hill raced from the Presidential back-up car for the Presidential limousine. By saying he saw Kennedy’s head jerk after the second shot, and that the third shot followed closely after the second shot, and that Mrs. Kennedy crawled out on the trunk as the third shot was fired, he is stating there was a shot after the head shot. He confirms this in his oral history. First shot hit 190-224. Last two shots bunched together (with the last shot after the head shot).
W.K. King was with D.V. Harkness. (7-16-64 statement to the Dallas Police Department, 22H601 ) “When the first shots were fired, I was with Sergeant Harkness at the intersection of Main and Houston. We both ran into the park west of Houston between Elm and Main. At this point I do not know where Sergeant Harkness went. I went on over to Elm Street to try and control the crowd.” Analysis: too vague.
W.H. Denham was a fourth traffic control officer at this intersection. (7-16-64 statement to the Dallas Police Department, CD1259, p6) "I arrived at Main and Houston at 9:45...I went to the northeast corner of the intersection to help with crowd control and watch for any unusual incidents...The motorcade was approximately halfway past my position when I heard the first shot. I did not know where it was coming from." Analysis: too vague.
Now let's look at some witnesses who viewed the motorcade from the west side of Houston Street, but below Main Street.
William T. Downey (6-15-64 FBI report, 26H551) "On the morning, November 22, 1963, he parked his automobile near the Terminal Annex of the Post Office to transact some business there. Because the Presidential parade route was going to pass near the Post Office, Downey went to the corner of Houston and Main streets, about one block south of the Texas School Book Depository Building, where he watched the Presidential car drive by. Shortly after the car had passed the corner on which he stood, Downey heard one or more explosions, which he thought were firecrackers. Suddenly the crowd started surging in the direction of the school depository, and he saw the Presidential automobile drive away from the corner of Houston and Elm streets in a hurry, at about the time he heard someone in the crowd say the President had been shot." Analysis: too vague.
Richard Eaves has a website on the Kennedy assassination, and claims also to have been a witness. (Eaves' description of the assassination on his website, first accessed 2020) "I had nothing better to do, so I decided to walk up to Dealey Plaza. I knew my brother-in-law would be on duty, and I might happen to run into him. The Cowboys were coming off a victory against the Philadelphia Eagles, and I was anxious to relive the glory and talk about the coming game with the Browns. I crossed the street and walked up the west side of Houston Street past Union Station and the Terminal Annex building. I had just crossed Commerce Street when the motorcade reached the intersection of Main and Houston. The motorcade turned right onto Houston Street and proceeded north toward Elm Street. The motorcade was on Elm Street about halfway to the triple underpass when the shooting started. I honestly don’t know how many shots I heard, but it seemed more than three. I heard one particularly loud bang. I looked over at the motorcade just in time to see Jackie Kennedy lunge toward the back of the limousine. A Secret Service agent tried to jump over the trunk to get into the limousine. I heard sirens, and then all the vehicles in the motorcade sped away through the underpass. It all happened within seconds. Analysis: Eaves' account is credible in large part because it's not incredible. He didn't see much, so why lie about it?" Too vague.
Robert Hughes filmed the motorcade from the western-most lane of Houston Street, below Main. (11-22-63 letter to his parents as quoted in Pictures of the Pain p.265) “About five seconds after I quit taking pictures we heard the shots…Some of the people dropped to the ground at the first shot, but most of us just stood where we were…My first reaction was that somebody was shooting firecrackers…The car had just turned the corner to go under the triple underpass beneath the railroad tracks. I saw Mrs. Kennedy then. She seemed to be in about a half-standing position with her arm behind her on the back of the car.” Analysis: as Hughes did not hear a shot for five seconds after he stopped filming, and he stopped filming circa z-195, he did not hear a shot at Z-160, Z-190, or Z-224. He confirms this by saying people dropped to the ground after the first shot. As we shall see, no one who dropped to the ground did so before witnessing the head shot. The first shot he heard was therefore the head shot. As he wrote “we heard the shots” we can take it he heard a shot after this shot. Only heard two shots. Last two shots probably bunched together (with the last shot after the head shot).
Here's a gif taken from Robert Hughes' film, showing the Presidential limo turning from Houston onto Elm. We'll be looking at this over and over again over the next few chapters. But for now let's just point out how many witnesses were on the west side of Houston between Main Street and Elm, and how few of these witnesses (primarily earwitnesses) ever came forward.
We can now present the recollections of two witnesses near this corner who looked to the west as Kennedy crossed the plaza, and filmed the fatal shot.
Charles Bronson took a photograph of the Kennedy limousine around frame 225 of the Zapruder film from a pedestal near the southwest corner of Houston and Main. He then picked up his movie camera and captured the moment of the headshot. (Letter to his sister, 11-24-63, as quoted in the Dallas Morning News in 1978 and Pictures of the Pain, p.283) “they were about halfway down to the underpass. And then it happened! My first impression was parade—celebration—fireworks when I heard the first two shots ring out in rapid succession and a slight pause before the third shot rang out…I remarked to Frances, “Is that fireworks or someone shooting?...right after my remark, Frances said “President Kennedy is bent over and Jackie has her arm around him and Governor Connally is lying down.” Then I looked and saw a few people lay flat on the ground just as the presidential car stopped for a split second and then take off.” (Interview with Dave Hawkins, 12-19-78) “When the first shot rang out, it sounded like somebody had thrown like a cherry bomb—it sounded like they tossed it out between the School Book Depository—out of one of the windows—and on the opposite side of Houston Street. It sounded like it went off between the buildings because there was an echo…Then when the second and third shots went off, then it’s when I realized that it wasn’t a firecracker, it was rifle shots.” (Pictures of the Pain p.283-285, built around a Trask interview 11-23-85) “'I was waiting till the limousine got into full view at about right angles (to my position) but the shot rang out just before…I instinctively jumped and snapped it at the same time…' About five seconds after taking the Leica picture, Bronson grabbed for his movie camera and began filming...Bronson's filmed action is becoming obscured by the tree branches to Bronson's left, but this is not the reason for his stopping the filming of this brief two-second sequence. Bronson, while peering through the small camera viewfinder, could not accurately see the action, but his ears were telling him something was wrong. As he related much later, 'then when the second and third shots rang out, that’s when I decided they were rifle shots, and of course by that time people started running down there...'”
Here is a crop from the photo taken by Bronson circa Z-220-225 of the Zapruder film. This will be studied extensively when we read the statements of the witnesses in the photo. But, for now, let's just note the location of Bill and Gayle Newman at the left side of the image. They are standing on the north side of the street, with their two children. Bronson says he took this photo as a response to the first shot. Kennedy has just been hit. The Newmans are looking right at him.
And here is a cropped snippet from Bronson's film. It's hard to make out, but this shows the head shot, less than 5 seconds after the moment captured above. Note the proximity of Bill and Gayle Newman to Kennedy at this time. Kennedy was just past them when he received his fatal blow.
Analysis: while Bronson’s letter to his sister says the first two shots were bunched together, there’s reason to believe he was confused when he wrote this. He supposedly wrote this letter after not being able to sleep for two days. His confusion shows in the jumbled way he tells his story—first numbering the shots, and then mentioning details, such as his wife telling him that Jackie had her arms around the President and the limousine slowing down, as if these events occurred after the third shot. The Zapruder film shows these things took place just before the head shot, whether it be the second shot or the third. He doesn’t even mention in the letter that he’d filmed the head shot. In his later statements, he always talked about the first shot, and then grouped the other two shots together. He also mentioned that the still photo he took just before picking up his movie camera was taken just after hearing the first shot. As this photo was taken somewheres around Z-220-225, and it would have taken the sound of a gun shot a half a second or so (roughly, nine frames of the Z-film) to reach Bronson from the north side of the Plaza, this photograph was clearly not taken in response to the second shot of the LPM scenario, at Z-222. It was more logically taken as a response to a shot at 188 or so, as the sound from this shot would have reached him around Z-197, a little over a second before the picture was taken. That this first shot could have been as early as Z-160 is thrown into doubt, for that matter, by Bronson's comment to his sister that the car was halfway to the overpass at the time of the first shot. If Bronson really heard the first shot at Z-160 and felt the first two shots were bunched together, then, the second shot, according to the LPM scenario, would have rung out just a split second after Bronson took his picture, and would have been a more obvious frame of reference than a shot ringing out just before. As a consequence, it seems likely his latter-day statements reflect his true impressions. First shot 190 or shortly after. Last two shots probably bunched together.
Orville Nix filmed the head shot from the southern half of the Plaza, on the southern side of Main Street. (12-3-63 FBI report, 24H539) “Nix believed the film depicts the third shot hitting President Kennedy and the sequence of events immediately after including Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy reaching out over the back trunk lid to assist a secret service agent who is running to her aid.” (Interview with Mark Lane in Rush to Judgment, filmed 3-27-66) (When asked where he thought the shots came from) “I thought it came from the fence between the book depository and the railroad tracks.” (When asked where he now believed them to have come from) “They came from the book depository because there’s proof that it did come from there…I believe in the Warren Report.” (Additional segments to the 3-27-66 interview with Lane found in the transcript of the interview made available by the Wisconsin Historical Society and posted online by John McAdams) (When asked why he now believed he'd been mistaken about the source of the shots) "The echo of the shot--I know that it hit the tunnel and bounced back. That's the reason everybody thought it came from the book--that it came from the fence." (When asked again about what he once thought was the source of the shots and what he now believes was the source of the shots, and why) "It was just the echo from the tunnel down there at the Underpass that made it sound like it there--didn't nobody know where they coming from." (When asked how many shots he heard, and from where) "Three shots" (And from where he originally believed they had come) "Behind the fence." (Interview with CBS broadcast 6-25-67) (When asked what the shots sounded like) “I would say-- bang...bang...bang.” Analysis: it’s tough to say what Nix really believed. His granddaughter has made statements indicating that CBS tried to trick Nix into saying all the shots came from the school book depository for their 1967 special. Even if this is false, however, his comments to Lane and his rapid-fire “bang, bang, bang” on the CBS special (with the third shot coming but two seconds after the second) are at odds with the LPM scenario. Heard three shots. Last two shots bunched together.
Now here is a gif from Nix's film. Nix held his camera at an angle...
so Robin Unger fixed it for him...
We'll continue on with the witnesses on Houston above Main in the next chapter...