Chapter 9: Piecing It All Together
Chapter 9: Piecing It All Together
An analysis of the eyewitness statements, and reasons to suspect that others had reached a similar conclusion
The Witnesses: Final Analysis
And now the moment we’ve been waiting for (at least the moment I’ve been waiting for)…the results of our eyewitness analysis. With 70 witnesses out of the plaza or to the south of Elm Street, 70 witnesses in the motorcade, and 154 assorted witnesses on bridges, along Elm Street, or in the School Book Depository, we’ve looked at the words of 294 witnesses to see if they add up to something. Of this 294, 89 failed to tell us much that would indicate when and how the shots were fired. Of the remaining 205, 102 made statements suggesting there were three shots fired, with the first shot being heard between Z-190 and Z-224 and the last 2 shots being heard in rapid succession after a short pause. Another 57 made statements suggesting that the first shot was heard between Z-190 and Z-224, but made no statements indicating the last two shots were bunched together. Another 13 heard the last two shots fired closely together, and yet another could only swear to hearing two shots, but thought there may have been a third, which was wholly consistent with the last two being fired closely together. This means that 173 of the 205 witnesses described the shots in a relatively consistent manner. Of the remaining 32, 18 heard four or more shots, and another 3 made statements indicating there was a shot after the head shot. This leaves just 11 witnesses whose statements can reasonably be seen as supporting the shooting scenario theorized by John Lattimer, Gerald Posner and Dale Myers. And 8 of these 11, once their words are compared to the various photographs and films, can be used to argue for a different scenario. This leaves just 3 witnesses who can be used to support the LPM scenario over other scenarios—J.M. Head, Mrs. Robert Reid and Geneva Hine. Well, Head told us nothing about the timing of the shots, other than that there was a bigger gap before the last shot. (I mean, he may have thought the first two shots were bang-bang with a two second gap before the last shot--we don't know). And Reid testified in a manner supporting that the first shot was fired after frame 160. Now that leaves Hine, who didn't even see the impact of the shots. She merely described the shooting in a manner more consistent with a first shot at frame 160 than at 190. That’s it. The TV simulations depicting a first shot miss and a five second gap between the second and third shots are therefore incredibly at odds with the available evidence. No matter how many shooters fired on the motorcade, no matter who fired the fatal bullet, the statements of the eyewitnesses indicate THE SHOOTING DID NOT HAPPEN AS PURPORTED BY LATTIMER, POSNER, MYERS, AND BUGLIOSI.
In defense of the LPM theory, one might venture that those who believed they heard two shots almost on top of each other really heard echoes on the third shot, and simply missed the first shot altogether. But, if this were the case, they should have heard echoes on the second shot as well and concluded there were 4 shots. Moreover, that 24 of the 26 earwitnesses back at Houston and Main who told us anything of value heard the second two shots bunched together is indicative that this is how the shots actually were fired, as Houston and Main was nearly equidistant from the grassy knoll, the Dal-Tex, and the Texas School Book Depository, the possible sniper locations of most frequent speculation. Should one wish to believe that the excitement caused by the shots led these earwitnesses to perceive the shots as having been fired closer together than they really were, one should be reminded that this conclusion directly contradicts all that we know about the effect of stress on human memory. According to Dr. Elizabeth Loftus in her online paper Juror Understanding of Eyewitness Testimony, “People have a strong tendency to overestimate the duration of a stressful event.” Attempts to measure this tendency show that people will often interpret the duration of a stressful event as being twice as long as its actual time. As most of the witnesses to Kennedy’s assassination were initially unaware that the first loud noise was a shot, for them to say the last two shots were closer together than this first noise and the second shot, is therefore indicative that the last two shots were extremely close together. To clarify, as Dr. Loftus’ research indicates that the time between these last two shots would most logically have been overestimated, the probability is that, as close together as many witnesses placed these shots, they were even closer. And yet this simple piece of information is little understood by the public at large. In a study by Yarmey and Jones quoted online by Dr. Loftus, it was found that 95% of the psychologists and legal experts surveyed understood that witnesses routinely overestimate the lengths of events, while less than 50% of the public shared this understanding.
So what actually did happen? Obviously that’s a bit more difficult to demonstrate. In the initial phase of this research, in earlier versions of this presentation, I identified five areas of interest. We shall now examine these five areas in greater detail.
Areas 1 and 2. While roughly 90% of the witnesses heard three shots or less, and less than 10% heard four shots or more, 7 of the 20 or so motorcade observers nearest the corner of Houston and Elm (the red rectangle) said they initially thought they’d heard four shots. When one compares this to the statements of those on the northeast corner of Houston and Main, just a block away (the blue rectangle), where better than 25 witnesses said they heard three shots or less, and a big fat zero said four, this raises the possibility some sort of sound-suppressed weapon was fired near Houston and Elm. Since all but one of the 40 witnesses or so inside or directly in front of the Texas School Book Depository, on the west side of Houston, reported hearing three shots or less, the likelihood is that the source of this possible fourth shot was on the east side of Houston, either the Dal-Tex Building or the County Records Building. In accordance with this deduction is that the one witness in front of the Depository to hear more than three shots, James Worrell, was the one closest to the corner. That the Dal-Tex Building, where Jim Braden, a mystery man with a long criminal record and purported mob ties, was arrested after the assassination, is a likely source for a fourth shot, is especially intriguing. Amazingly, not one witness inside the Dal-Tex Building, and only a handful outside, was interviewed by the FBI. As to why people on the corner of Houston and Elm could hear a silenced shot so much better than others, there could be two factors: one, they were the closest to the Dal-Tex,; and two, they were to the left of bullets fired from the sniper’s nest. This meant they heard the muzzle blast as bullets were fired, but not the shock wave as they passed overhead. These two factors would minimize the difference in volume between a shot fired from the book depository and a suppressed shot fired from the Dal-Tex Building to a greater degree than elsewhere.
Area 3. While many conspiracy theorists believe an extra shot came from the grassy knoll (the yellow hexagon), when one looks at the earwitness testimony, one finds that of the 11 witnesses nearest the stockade fence on the north side of Elm, 2 of the witnesses heard only three shots—the other 9 heard only two! That one of the three shots heard by others in the plaza was significantly softer than the other two, or that the sounds of the motorcade blocked out the sound of one of the shots is refuted by both the simulations conducted by the HSCA and the fact that those standing at Houston and Main, directly adjacent to the middle of the motorcade and a block away from the shots, almost unanimously heard three shots. To wit, the firing of a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle is reputed to be much louder than even a siren, as decibels are recorded on a similar scale as earthquakes, whereby a ten decibel increase represents a ten-fold increase in power, and a Mannlicher-Carcano was tested at 137 decibels, compared to a loud siren’s 120. Adding to this mystery of the two-shot witnesses is that the only witnesses in the Elm Street section of the motorcade to say they heard two shots were in the vicinity of the grassy knoll when the fatal shot arrived. It seems, therefore, that it was the location of these witnesses that somehow prevented from hearing one of the shots.
After spending a day at the library reading books on hearing, I began to understand the scientific principles underlying the possibility of two shots closely spaced together in time but coming from different directions “blurring” into one shot in the minds of those in the middle. As it turns out, the human ear is a far from accurate recording device and has a tendency to “flinch” in self-defense when exposed to sudden loud noise. This “flinching” not only hides other lesser noises beneath the loud noise but it blocks out lesser sounds for up to a fifth of a second (3-4 frames of the Zapruder film) afterwards and can prevent sounds that preceded the loud noise by up to 20 ms (less than one frame) from even being processed by the brain. This phenomenon is written about extensively in books on hearing, and the specialized field of Psychoacoustics, and is known as masking, with simultaneous masking occurring when one sound buries another when the sounds overlap and temporal masking occurring when a louder sound blocks out a preceding or succeeding sound. Significantly, the length of the masking after the end of the noise is proportionate to the length of the original noise, and the degree to which the two sounds share tones. Consequently, a gunshot would be more likely to block out another gunshot than a woman’s scream. Furthermore, when one considers that the human brain will automatically fill in short silent spaces between similar tones so that the tones sound like one long sound rather than two shorter bursts, then it becomes clear that those hearing two shots close together would most likely interpret them as one shot. (Indeed, this may explain why the shots “lingered” in the air for some back at Houston and Elm.)
I’m not the first to suspect that shots blurred together. Senator Ralph Yarborough lobbied the HSCA to study this very issue. In his 12-27-78 letter to Chairman Louis Stokes, he wrote: “I have been on hunting trips a number of times when two hunters, neither knowing that the other hunter was firing, fire simultaneously at game, each thinking that they had killed it, each hearing only one explosion. With those experiences in mind, what I recommended to someone of the Committee staff (whom I took from our phone conversation to know nothing about gunfire) was that firing from the Texas School Book Depository window and the grassy knoll be synchronized and be made simultaneously, with proper listening devices at all proper points, in an effort to see if science, so applied, would throw any light on the doubts which increase with the years, as to the accuracy of the Warren Commission Report. My recommendation may never have gotten past the person on your staff to whom it was given, as that person seemed not to understand it.” While a small fortune was spent studying the acoustical characteristics of Dealey Plaza, the tests outlined by Yarborough were never conducted.
Areas 4 and 5. In my earlier research, I made marks on a copy of a surveyor’s plat of Dealey Plaza. I plotted the origin of the shots as determined by 120 witnesses: 33 witnesses seemed to indicate the TSBD; 21 witnesses seemed to indicate the TSBD, but could also have been referring to the other buildings at Houston and Elm; 44 seemed to indicate an area west of the TSBD, including the grassy knoll; 6 seemed to indicate an area west of the TSBD or the TSBD; 10 seemed to indicate shots came from both behind the limousine towards Houston and Elm and in front of the limousine towards the grassy knoll and the railroad bridge; and 6 seemed to indicate neither the area west of the TSBD nor the TSBD itself. I removed some from the list when they either changed their story or gave conflicting stories at the time. There were quite a few surprises. Perhaps the main surprise was that, while much has been made of the fact that so few heard shots from more than one location, there were three men in the Secret Service car behind the President (and virtually equidistant between the TSBD and the knoll area) who heard shots from both behind and in front. This is significant and seems to have been overlooked by most researchers. That there were two additional witnesses who heard shots from both the west and the east standing in the crowd nearby, and that these five witnesses are almost in a line with one another (the pink belt) only adds to their credibility (although the two additional witnesses’ credibility on their own is poor). It is especially remarkable since each of these witnesses, without variance, heard the first shot fired from behind the limousine, near the TSBD, and heard the last shot fired from somewhere to the west. Another surprise was that by a decisive score of 14 to 4 more witnesses standing in front of the TSBD (the green crescent) thought shots came from somewhere west of the TSBD than from the TSBD. This goes against the argument that those in Dealey Plaza who thought shots came from the knoll were simply confused by “echoes,” as echoes would have been heard with a slight delay and at a substantially lower volume than the shots directly overhead. That virtually every one of these witnesses heard three shots as opposed to four or six is an additional argument against their merely being confused by echoes
When one reads a rarely-cited HSCA analysis of the way gunshots are heard in Dealey Plaza, one can see for oneself that it is indeed fairly easy to distinguish shots from echoes in Dealey Plaza. The writer of this report, Harvard Psychophysics Professor David Green, makes a point of stating that although his hearing was impaired in his left ear, and he was unable to hear the echoes with the clarity of the trained observers, he was nonetheless able to localize the shots based on their initial blast with a similar degree of accuracy as the experts. In the report, the trained observers state that there is a strong echo from the Post Office Annex on the south side of the plaza that comes a second after a shot fired from the TSBD. They said it was readily distinguishable as an echo, but that someone on the knoll hearing this echo might misinterpret the original source of the sound as coming from an area directly behind himself. OK, so that could be an explanation as to why the witnesses on the knoll were incorrect, but what about those in front of the TSBD? Well, the report goes on to say that it would be difficult for someone standing in front of the TSBD to immediately localize a sound high overhead, and that some of the witnesses may have localized on a subsequent echo coming 8/10 of a second later from the area of the overpass “especially if the rifle had been fired from well within the TSBD.”
This disclaimer indicates that Dr. Green didn’t really believe his offered explanation, as he knew or should have known that the rifle in the TSBD was seen sticking out the window and that the window was not open sufficiently high enough for someone to fire from back inside the building. Similarly, since the theoretical ability of a lone sniper to shoot accurately from this window is based upon his use of the boxes stacked in front of the window for support, this statement argues against a lone gunman’s ability to shoot 3 accurate shots from the sniper’s nest without his giving away his position to a far greater degree than actually occurred. This disclaimer, therefore, can be taken as yet another argument for shots or sounds coming from more than one location, as a lone sniper shooting from the sixth floor window should have been more readily identifiable. Indeed, in his 9-11-78 appearance before the committee, Green made this point abundantly clear.
Early in his testimony, he offered: "when you are situated immediately under the Texas School Book Depository, which was our general location for the second sequence of shots, two things are rather confusing. First of all, the N wave comes right over your head so you tend to localize the source directly over your head or on occasion you directly localize the source in whatever direction you were facing. You could, for example, move your head into different directions. I once looked down Elm Street in this direction fairly well convinced that the sound came from this direction, and the other observers did likewise, pointed their heads in different directions and said that that influenced their judgments. Also when you are in this location the sound sweeps down the building and the apparent source of the sound is rather large, probably because it scattered off the regular surface of the building. That was caused by the blast wave." He was then asked if this confusion caused his observers to incorrectly identify the source of any of the shots, and responded "They certainly made some inaccurate responses. I would say in the order of 10 percent."
Well, this suggests it really wasn't that confusing. And sure enough, Dr. Green summed up his tests as follows: “there are certain locations that are best for observing certain shots and in the general region of the book depository, right on the street beneath it, in our opinion it was extremely easy to tell it came from the book. There was a massive sound to the right and rear that sort of crawled down the building, presumably due to scatter on the regular surface of the building and it was quite evident.”
Unstated but implied in Green’s report is his knowledge that 11 of the 14 witnesses in this “general region” in front of the depository, including those on its front steps, nevertheless believed the shots came from somewhere else, with 9 pointing west, the direction of the railroad yards and the knoll. Green’s attempts to account for this anomaly by suggesting that the rifle was fired from well within the building, as opposed to the more logical possibility that the bullets were undercharged in order to create less noise—which was believed to have been beyond the “lone nut” Oswald’s capabilities-- or that the witnesses were simply responding to the last sound they heard, which came from the west, is nevertheless informative, as it indicates a second rifle firing from well within either the Dal-Tex or County Records buildings would not necessarily have been interpreted as coming from those locations, even if the weapon were not equipped with a silencer.
But that is not all the report has to offer. Although, strangely, no rapid fire sequences with shots alternating between the grassy knoll and the TSBD were attempted for the study, the witnesses were able to distinguish isolated shots between the locations with relative ease, with over 85% accuracy, including pistol shots from the knoll and rifle shots from well within the TSBD. When one looks only at the results of the rifle shots fired from the window and any shot fired from the knoll, one sees that the observers correctly identified the source 73 out of 80 times, no matter where they stood in Dealey Plaza. When one looks only at the results gleaned from the observers while they stood near the knoll, one sees they correctly identified the source of the shots 26 out of 26 times, claiming that the un-silenced shots fired were readily identifiable as coming from the stockade fence, which argues against a shot coming from that location, as most the witnesses nearby, including Abraham Zapruder, believed the shots came from somewhere further back. (Why they failed to perform tests using silenced weapons is never explained.) When one looks only at the results gleaned from the observers while they stood on the street in front of the Depository, in addition, it reveals they correctly identified the source 18 of 20 times.
These actual results reveal that the report’s musings about people being confused by echoes on the knoll and shock waves in front of the TSBD was so much hooey, offered most likely so that the HSCA would have the option of defending the Warren Commission’s conclusions. Instead, the results reveal it’s fairly easy to identify the source of a shot fired in Dealey Plaza under normal circumstances. And yet the single-assassin theorists maintain that the 7 out of 9 witnesses between the knoll and the limousine who heard shots from behind them were wrong, in a location where the observers were right 26 out of 26 times, and also that the 5 out of 6 witnesses on the North side of Elm who said shots came from the west, were wrong, in a location where the observers were right 18 of 20 times. These results indicate that it is the single-assassin theorists who are wrong, yet again. That those convinced of a conspiracy have failed to embrace this report as the convincing argument for a conspiracy that it is can only be explained by their blind reluctance to embrace any evidence or testimony that calls into doubt that the head shot came from the stockade fence.
Through studying the statements of those claiming to have heard four shots or more, and comparing them to the statements of those who heard three, we can evaluate if there was really a fourth shot fired, and when it was fired. As the bulk of the witnesses heard a first shot between Z-190 and Z-224, followed after a pause by two closely bunched together shots, and as the Zapruder film shows three apparent hits, one on Kennedy circa Z-190, one on Kennedy and Connally circa Z-224, and one on Kennedy at Z-313, we need to ascertain whether or not the fourth shot heard by the four-shot witnesses corresponds to a second shot between Z-190 and Z-224.. If so, then everything makes sense.
Only no such luck. The extra-shot witnesses are all over the map. Consequently, we need to re-evaluate them one by one and see if any sense can be made of them. From west to east across the plaza…
S.M. Holland observed the motorcade from the railroad bridge. (11-22-63 statement to Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, 19H480, 24H212) “the President’s car was coming down Elm Street and when they got just about to the Arcade I heard what I thought for the moment was a fire cracker and he slumped over and I looked over toward the arcade and trees and saw a puff of smoke come over from the trees and I heard three more shots after the first one but that was the only puff of smoke I saw…After the first shot the President slumped over and Mrs. Kennedy jumped up and tried to get over in the back seat to him and then the second shot rang out. After the first shot the secret service man raised up in the seat with a machine gun and then dropped back down in the seat. And they immediately sped off.” (4-8-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 6H239-248) “the motorcade was coming down in this fashion, and the President was waving to the people on this side…And she (Jackie) was looking…in the southern direction…And about that time he went over like that(indicating) and put his hand up, and she was still looking off…(he) pulled forward and his hand just stood like that momentarily… His right hand; and that was the first report that I heard…it was a pretty loud report, and the car traveled a few yards, and Governor Connally turned in this fashion, like that (indicating) with his hand out, and another report…And another report rang out and he slumped down in his seat, and about that time Mrs. Kennedy was looking at these girls over here (indicating). The girls standing—now one of them was taking a picture…by the time she could get turned around, he was hit again along in—I’d say along in here (indicating)…It knocked him completely down on the floor. Over, just slumped completely over. I heard a third report and I counted four shots and about the same time all this was happening and in this group of trees…There was a shot, a report, I don’t know whether it was a shot…And a puff of smoke came out about 6 or 8 feet above the ground right out from under those trees…you could see that puff of smoke, like someone had thrown a firecracker, or something out…It wasn’t as loud as the previous reports or shots.” Analysis: Holland’s testimony conflicts with his initial statement on a number of points. The shot he initially described as the first shot was obviously the head shot. His mentioning of four shots could be an indication he heard two shots around the time of the head shot, and their immediate echoes. By the time of his testimony, he’d obviously been studying Life Magazine and other photographs, and “improving” his memory. Red circle. Probably heard two shots and echoes.
Royce Skelton was by Holland on the railroad bridge. (11-22-63 statement to the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, 16H496) “We saw the motorcade come around the corner and I heard something which I thought was fireworks. I saw something hit the pavement at the left rear of the car, then the car got in the right hand lane and I heard two more shots. I heard a woman say “Oh, no” or something and grab a man inside the car. I then heard another shot and saw the bullet hit the pavement. The concrete was knocked to the south away from the car. It hit the pavement in the left or middle lane.” (12-18-63 FBI report, CD205 p. 26) “Mr. Skelton noticed that as an open top limousine turned on Elm Street, it had moved approximately one hundred feet at which time he noticed dust spray up from the street in front of the car on the driver’s side. This dust spray came from the direction of the Texas School Book Depository building. A few seconds later, he heard what he believed to be three shots.” (4-8-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 6H236-238) “Just about the same time the car straightened out—got around the corner—I heard two shots, but I didn’t know at the time they were shots…It sounded like they were right there more or less like motorcycle backfire, but I thought they were these dumbballs that they throw at the cement because I could see the smoke coming up off the cement (when asked how many shots) “I thought I heard four—I mean—I couldn’t be sure…after those two shots, and the car came on down closer to the triple underpass, well, there was another shot—two more shots I heard, but one of them—I saw a bullet, or I guess it was a bullet…hit in the left front of the President’s car on the cement, and when it did, the smoke carried with it—away from the building.” Analysis: as with Holland, the first shot or shots heard by Shelton was the head shot. He then thought he’d heard two shots immediately thereafter, almost certainly echoes, and then a fourth shot after Jackie cried out. By the time he testified, he was no longer sure. Red circle. Probably heard two shots and echoes.
Thomas Murphy was a third railroad man claiming to have heard four shots or more. (3-20-64 FBI report, 22H835) “Murphy said they watched President Kennedy’s limousine turn down Elm Street past the Texas School Book Depository and start towards them. He stated he then heard what sounded like two shots and he saw President Kennedy and Governor Connally slump in their seats. Murphy said in his opinion that these shots came from just west of the Texas School Book Depository.” (5-6-66 interview with Stewart Galanor, transcription on history-matters.com) (When asked how many shots he heard) “More than three.” (When asked where the shots came from) “they come from a tree to the left, of my left, which is to the immediate right of the site of the assassination…on the hill up there. There are two or three hackberry and elm trees. And I say it come from there.” (When asked if he saw smoke) “Yeah, smoke...in that tree.” Analysis: as he apparently failed to tell the FBI about hearing “more than three” shots in 1964, it seems Murphy concluded there were “more than three” shots afterwards, perhaps after extensive contact with Holland and Skelton. Red circle. Probably heard two shots and echoes.
Toni Foster is believed to be the woman in the Zapruder film running towards Kennedy as his head explodes. (2000 article in the Kennedy Assassination Chronicles) “I heard two firecracker-like sounds and I looked up because it sounded like it was coming from up in the air. At the time, I thought, “Those sound like firecrackers.” To me it was click-click; they were just that fast. As I thought that and I looked towards the president I didn’t know he was already shot. Because when I did look at him that’s when the third shot hit and his head went down like that (puts her head to her chest). I looked at him, I noticed he took his hands and did like this (brings her hands up and crossed at her chest), his head came down. I thought, “I wonder what he’s doing? Why did he do that?” As I’m thinking that—that fast—the 4th shot, the last shot, hit and his head exploded. So to me it was four shots. I do recall after that, the shell, I could hear that clink. And I remember everything stopped for me. I remember (his head) looked like confetti, it was just blown off. It hit him back here (puts her hand on the right rear of her head) and it was just like confetti. The spray went behind him. I do believe from what I heard and what I saw the shots came from the back. Now this whole thing was a shock but that’s how I feel, what I heard and what I saw—they were coming from the back.” Analysis: despite her only coming forward in recent years, Foster’s account is fairly credible, but not indicative of four shots. While many described the first shot as sounding like a firecracker, Foster is one of the few to conclude it was two separate shots. Her claiming the neck shot was the third shot, when virtually no one else heard this shot, makes some sense when one considers that she was running right towards Kennedy and could see his and Connally’s responses to this shot. Her statement that she was wondering what he was doing after this shot is consistent as well with her continuing to run towards Kennedy until the moment of the head shot. As she immediately turns and starts running away, moreover, it also makes sense that she might have missed the last shot heard by so many others. Green circle. Earliest recorded statements came yers after the shooting. Not entirely credible.
Jean Hill is the woman in red in the Zapruder film. She stood right in the middle of the plaza with her friend, Mary .Moorman. (11-22-63 WBAP interview, quoted in Pictures of the Pain) “the shots came directly across the street from us, and just as the President’s car became directly even with us…he and Jackie were looking at a dog that was in the middle of the seat, and about that time two shots rang out just as he looked up—just as the President looked up and these three shots rang out and he grabbed his chest, looked like he was in pain, and fell over in his seat. And Jackie fell over him and said “My God, he’s been shot!” After that more shots rang out and the car sped away.” (11-22-63 WBAP interview, quoted in Pictures of the Pain) “Mary started to take the picture and the President came right even with us, two shot, we looked at him and he was looking at a dog in the middle of the seat—two shots rang out…And there was an interval and then three or four more shots…” (11-22-63 KRLD interview, transcribed by David Lifton and posted online by Jack White, 2-16-07) “we were both looking at the President. We were looking at his face. As Mary took the picture, I was looking at him. And he grabbed his hands across his chest when two shots rang out. He grabbed his hands across his chest. I have never seen anyone killed, or in pain before like that but there was this odd look came across his face, and he pitched forward onto Jackie’s lap. And, uh, she immediately, we were close enough to even hear her, and everything, and she fell across him and says, “My God, he’s been shot”…The motorcade was stunned after the first two shots, and it came to a momentary halt, and about that time 4 more uh, 3 to 4 more shots again rang out, and I guess it just didn’t register with me. Mary was, huh, had gotten down on the ground and was pulling at my leg, saying “Get, get down, they’re shooting, get down, they’re shooting, and I didn’t even realize it. And I just kept sitting there looking...After they were momentarily stopped—after the first two shots—then they sped away real quickly. ” (11-22-63 WFAA interview, quoted in Pictures of the Pain) “just as the car came right in line with us, the President looked up and just as he looked up two shots rang out and he grabbed his chest and this real odd look came over his face and he pitched forward onto her lap…the motorcade momentarily halted and three or four more shots rang out and they sped away real quickly.” (11-22-63 statement to Dallas Sheriff’s Department, 19H479, 24H212) “The President’s car came around the corner and it was over on our side of the street. Just as Mary Moorman started to take a picture we were looking at the President and Jackie in the back seat… looking at a little dog between them. Just as the President looked up toward us two shots rang out and I saw the President grab his chest and fall forward across Jackie’s lap and she fell across his back and said “My God, he has been shot”. There was an instant pause between the first two shots and the motorcade seemingly halted for a second and three or four more shots rang out and the motorcade sped away.” (Interview in Rush to Judgment, filmed 2-18-64) “the consensus of opinion…down there at the quarters was that there had been only three shots…they kept sayin’, are you sure it wasn’t echoes?” (3-18-64 FBI report, 25H853) “She stated that President Kennedy was looking down when she shouted and when he turned to look at her a shot rang out and he slumped towards Mrs. Kennedy… Mrs Hill heard more shots ring out and saw the hair on the back of President Kennedy’s head fly up…she heard from four to six shots in all and believes they came from a spot just west of the Texas School Book Depository. She thought there was slight interval between the first three shots and the remaining shots.” (3-24-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 6H205-223) “We were standing on the curb and I jumped to the edge of the street and yelled “Hey, we want to take your picture” to him and he was looking down in the seat—he and Mrs. Kennedy and their heads were turned toward the middle of the car looking down at something in the seat, which later turned out to be roses…as I yelled “Hey” to him, he started to bring his head up to look at me and just as he did the shots rang out. Mary took the picture and fell on the ground and of course there were more shots…I have always said there were some four to six shots. There were three shots, one right after the other, and a distinct pause, or just a moment’s pause, and then I heard more.” Analysis: Hill failed to hear any shots before witnessing the head shot. She then heard the same last two shots bunched together heard by others, and then a series of echoes. There’s little reason to accept her contention there were two or three more shots fired after the head shot, when Hudson, Summers, and Brehm all heard but one. Unlike Hill, they’d at least heard the first shot. Red circle. Probably heard two shots and echoes.
Beverly Oliver claims to be the woman standing behind Charles Brehm and his son in the Zapruder film. People often refer to this woman as the Babushka Lady. (The Men Who Killed Kennedy, broadcast 1988) “When I first heard a noise I was not aware that that was a shot being fired. And maybe perhaps that’s why I continued to film because I thought it was a backfire or a firecracker. I mean I wasn’t used to being around guns. I did not realize that those were shots until I saw in the frame of my camera President Kennedy’s head come off, the back of his head. Then I realized that that was a shot. I don’t know how many I heard. I know where I thought the shots came from. It was the picket fence area, around that large tree, somewhere on the other side of those steps but in the picket fence area. There was a figure there and there was smoke there. I will always believe that the man who shot President Kennedy was standing somewhere in the picket fence area and no one will convince me any differently.” (From her 1996 book Nightmare in Dallas) “Beverly heard a pop, pop sound coming from the direction she faced….How rude that some parents would let their kids throw sidewalk poppers near the President, she thought. Then she heard another pop. Hold steady. The car was moving about twelve miles an hour as it passed directly in front of her. It then seemed to come to a stop. She continued filming wishing President Kennedy would turn around, then a loud, boom-boom sounded, and the President’s head was violently thrown backward as a spray of crimson blood spouted from the back of his head…”“Oh, my God…he’s been shot.” …Beverly smelled something acid in the air. It didn’t smell right. A cloud of smoke drifted up from behind the fence and dissipated as it blew across the lawn.” Green circle: earliest recorded statements came years after the shots. Not entirely credible.”
William Greer was the driver of the limousine. (11-28-63 report, 18H 723) “The President’s automobile was almost past this building and I was looking at the overpass that we were about to pass under in case someone was on top of it, when I heard what I thought was the backfire of a motorcycle behind the President’s automobile. After the second shot, I glanced over my right shoulder and saw Governor Connally start to fall, I knew then that something was wrong and immediately pushed the accelerator to the floor and Mr. Kellerman said get out of here.” (12-10-63 FBI report, CD7 p.3-11) “He advised that the throngs of people were great and that he had just emerged from the congested area of people and was proceeding into an open area of the highway, which a short distance away passed beneath an overpass. Greer stated that he first heard what he thought was possibly a motorcycle backfire and glanced around and noticed that the President had evidently been hit. He thereafter got on the radio and communicated with the other vehicles.” (3-9-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 2H112-132) (When asked how far they were from the overpass when the first shot rang out) “I wouldn't have a distance recollection at all on how far it was. It wasn't too far…Well, when we were going down Elm Street, I heard a noise that I thought was a backfire of one of the motorcycle policemen. And I didn't--it did not affect me like anything else. I just thought that it is what it was… And then I heard it again. And I glanced over my shoulder. And I saw Governor Connally like he was starting to fall. Then I realized there was something wrong. I tramped on the accelerator, and at the same time Mr. Kellerman said to me, "Get out of here fast." And I cannot remember even the other shots or noises that was. I cannot quite remember any more. I did not see anything happen behind me any more, because I was occupied with getting away.” (When asked how many shots he heard) “I know there was three that I heard - three. But I cannot remember any more than probably three. I know there was three anyway that I heard…I knew that after I heard the second one, that is when I looked over my shoulder, and I was conscious that there was something wrong, because that is when I saw Governor Connally. And when I turned around again, to the best of my recollection there was another one, right immediately after.” (When asked how much time elapsed between the first and second shots.) “It seems a matter of seconds, I really couldn't say. Three or four seconds.” (When asked how much time elapsed between the second and third shots.) “The last two seemed to be just simultaneously, one behind the other, but I don't recollect just how much, how many seconds were between the two. I couldn't really say.” Analysis: Greer would only say he heard 3 shots, but if he turned around after the second shot, and heard another after he turned back around, and heard the last two simultaneously, there’s no escaping that he heard four shots. The only reasonable explanation is that he meant to say “successively” or some other term instead of “simultaneously.” Blue circle. Possibly heard 4 shots but would only admit to hearing 3 shots.
A.J. Millican (11-22-63, 19H486) “I was standing on the North side of Elm Street, about half way between Houston and the Underpass… Just after the President’s car passed, I heard three shots come from up toward Houston and Elm right by the Book Depository Building, and then I immediately heard two more shots come from the Arcade between the Book Store and the Underpass, and then three more shots came from the same direction only sounded further back…Then everybody started running up the hill. A man standing on the South side of Elm Street was either hit in the foot or the ankle and fell down…” Analysis: Heard way more shots than any other human. Purple circle. Obviously confused by echoes.
J.C. Price watched the motorcade from the roof of the Terminal Annex Building. (11-22-63 statement to the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department) “The cars had proceeded west on Elm and was just a short distance from the triple underpass, when I saw Gov. Connally slump over. I did not see the President as his car had gotten out of my view under the underpass. There was a volley of shots, I think five and then much later, maybe as much as five minutes later another one. I saw one man run towards the passenger cars on the railroad siding after the volley of shots….He had something in his hand. I couldn’t be sure but it may have been a head piece.” (Interview in Rush to Judgment, filmed 3-27-66) (When asked where the shots came from) “From behind the overpass over there, triple overpass, that’s where I thought the shots were coming from.” (When asked where he saw the man run) “Over behind that wooden fence past the cars and over behind the Texas Depository Building.” (When asked to mark a map showing where he thought the shots came from, and then asked if he has marked the map “just behind the wooden fence where it joins the overpass.”) “That is correct.” Analysis: Price’s belief that there was a sixth shot fired so long after the others should cause one to doubt he heard the other five accurately. Purple circle. Obviously confused by echoes.
Rosemary Willis is the little girl seen running in the Zapruder film, as discussed on the Finding the Right Time slide.(11-13-78 HSCA staff interview, summarized in HSCA Report, vol. 12, p.7) "Ms. Willis said she was aware of three shots being fired. She gave no information on the direction or location of the shots, but stated that her father became upset when the policeman in the area appeared to run away from where he thought the shots came from; that is, they were running away from the grassy knoll." (6-5-79 UPI article) “I heard three shots and they all came from across the street from the direction of the book depository…The sounds I heard came from the book depository but they weren’t necessarily the shots that killed him. Someone with a gun with a silencer could have been in the gutter where they later found shells or on the railroad trestle or behind the wall.” (6-5-79 article in the L.A. Times, as cited in Pictures of the Pain, p. 171) (She had stopped running) “when I heard the first shot.” (Interview with Texas Monthly, published November, 1998) “As they made the turn from Houston to Elm Street, they’d just gone a few feet when the first shot rang out, and upon hearing the sound, my normal body reaction was to look up and follow the sound that I heard…And the pigeons immediately ascended off that roof of the school book depository building and that’s what caught my eye…Next thing I know, right after that, there’s another shot. And after that, there’s another shot and another shot…My ears heard four shots…I really think that there were six, but I heard four and I’ll tell you why…the first shot rang out. It was to the front of me, and to the right of me, up high. The second shot that I heard came across my right shoulder. By that time, the limousine had already moved further down. And that shot came across my shoulder. And the next one, right after that, still came from the right but not from as far back, it was up some. Still behind me, but not as far back as the other one. And the next one that came was from the grassy knoll and I saw the smoke coming through the trees, into the air…Fragments of his head ascended into the air, and from my vision, focal point, the smoke and fragments, you know, everything met.” Analysis: it’s a shame Miss Willis was never interviewed when her memories were fresh. In 1979, she said she heard three shots from the right, and in 1998 she said she heard three shots from the right, and then one from in front of the limousine. As a result her credibility is questionable. Yellow circle. Probably heard three shots and convinced herself she heard four. Not entirely credible.
Amos Euins sat on the fountain wall by Houston and Elm. (11-22-63 statement to Dallas Sheriff’s Department, 16H963, 19H474) “I saw the President turn the corner in front of me and I waived at him and he waived back. I watched the car on down the street and about the time the car got near the black and white sign I heard a shot. I started looking around and then I looked up in the red brick building. I saw a man in the window with a gun and I saw him shoot twice…I could tell the gun was a rifle and it sounded like an automatic rifle the way he was shooting. This was a white man, he did not have on a hat. I just saw this man for a few seconds.” (12-23-63 FBI report, CD205 p.i) “Amos Lee Euins, age 14, states saw white man…in window…with rifle after first shot and observed this man fire second and third shots and what he believes may have been a fourth shot.” (3-10-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 2H201-210) ‘then when the first shot was fired, I started looking around, thinking it was backfire. Everybody else started looking round. Then I looked up at the window, and he shot again...I got behind this little fountain, and then he shot again. (when asked hw many shots he heard) “I believe there was four to be exact…After he shot the first two times, I was just standing back here. And then after he shot again, he pulled the gun back in the window. And then all the police ran back over here in the track vicinity….The first shot I was standing here…And as I looked up there, you know, he fired another shot, you know, as I was looking. So I got behind this fountain thing right in there, at this point B…I got behind there. And then I watched, he did fire again. Then he started looking down towards my way, and then he fired again.” Analysis: Euins is a credible witness. Although he initially said he only saw the sniper fire twice, his discussion of automatic weapons indicates that one of the times he saw the sniper fire, he heard two shots ring out. This most logically means that Euins heard two shots around the time of the head shot. Sure enough, his description of these last two shots indicates only a short interval between the shots. Light blue circle. Credible witness.
Ronald Fischer was on Houston along the same fountain wall as Euins.(11-22-63 statement to the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, 19H475, 19H650) “by that time the motorcade rounded the corner. And then I heard what I thought was three shots, and the motorcade was about where the Stemmons Freeway sign is there.” (12-2-63 FBI report, CD205 p.19-20) “Shortly after the President’s car had passed his position, he heard several shots, evenly spaced, with what he thought three or four seconds between each shot. He thought first shot was firecracker.” (4-1-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 6H191-200) “Well the motorcade—the limousine made the wide turn and –they went out of our view just as they began to straighten up onto Elm Street…I started watching the other cars…as I looked around to watch these other cars, I heard a shot. At first I thought it was a firecracker. And—uh—everybody got quiet. There was no yelling or shouting or anything. Everything seemed to get real still. And-uh—the second shot rang out, and then everybody, from where I was standing, everybody started to scatter. And—uh—then the third shot. At first I thought there were four, but as I think about it more, there must have been just three…They appeared to be coming from just west of the School Book Depository. There were some railroad tracks and there were some railroad cars back in there.” (7-9-98 video-taped interview posted on Youtube) "I originally said in my deposition in the Sheriff's office that there were four shots. And there were a number of people who had claimed that they heard four shots. However, I began to question that because I just simply could not remember exactly how many shots there were. It's like trying to remember if it was eight or nine--y'know it's a little easier with three or four--but becomes more difficult with eight or nine and still more difficult with nineteen or twenty. I don't know if there were three or four shots. I thought there was four and I had explained that to the investigator, Mr. Belin. I still think that there were probably four shots but I couldn't swear to it." Analysis: Fischer admittedly talked himself out of thinking there were four shots. He then talked himself back into thinking it again. That he even thought for a moment there were four shots says something, particularly as he was standing near Euins and Edwards. White circle. Talked himself out of hearing four shots.
Robert Edwards was with Fischer.(11-22-63 statement to the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, 19H 473, 19H647) “The motorcade rounded the corner at this time, and I thought I heard four shots, but it never occurred to us what it was. The shots seemed to come from that building there.” (12-2-63 FBI report, CD205 p.21-22) “Shortly after President Kennedy’s car passed his position, he heard shots, which he thought were three or four in very rapid sequence.” (4-1-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 6H200-205) (When asked how many shots he heard) “I heard one more than was fired, I believe…I still right now don’t know how many was fired. If I said four, then I thought I heard four. (When asked if he knew where the shots came from) “I have no idea” (When asked if he’d said the shots came from the building) “No, I didn’t say that.” Analysis: Edwards, to his credit, stuck to his impression that he’d heard four shots. Too bad he never told us how these shots sounded. Light blue circle. Credible witness.
James Worrell (11-23-63 affidavit to Dallas County) “I was standing on the sidewalk against a building on the corner of Elm and Houston Streets watching the motorcade of the President. I heard loud noise like a fire cracker or gun shots. I looked around to see where the noise came from. I looked up and saw the barrel of a rifle sticking out of a window…While I was looking at the gun it was fired again. I looked back at Mr. Kennedy and he was slumping over. I got scared and ran from that location. While I was running I heard the gun fire two more times. I ran from Elm Street to Pacific Street on Houston. When I was about 100 yards from the building I stopped to get my breath and looked back at the building. I saw a w/m, 5’8” to 5’10”, dark hair, average weight for height, dark shirt or jacket open down front, no hat, didn’t have anything in his hands, come out of the building and run in the opposite direction.” (3-10-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 2H190-201) “as they went by me, they got, oh at least another 50, 75 feet on past me, and then I heard the shots…I looked up and saw the rifle…I looked to see where he was aiming and after the second shot and I have seen the President slumping down in the seat…I looked up again and turned around and started running and saw it fire a third time…I did it all in one motion, I looked up, turned around, and ran, pivoted…everybody was screaming and saying “duck”…Just as I got to the corner I heard the fourth shot…they were right in succession…I turned the corner, went right down beside the building on the sidewalk and when I got to the corner…Of this building (The Texas School Book Depository) (I) ”Cut directly across, kind of at an angle…I rested there…approximately three minutes before I saw this man come out the back door.” (When asked to estimate the time span of the shots) “best estimate 5, 6 seconds” (When asked how he knew the rifle fired the second shot) “I saw what you might call a little flame and smoke.” (When asked about the third shot) “Same thing, a little flash of fire, and then smoke.” Analysis: Worrell’s recollection of seeing fire and smoke come from the barrel of the gun is unique and probably a by-product of an over-active imagination. If smoke were pouring from the gun, it should have been apparent to Harold Norman, who was only feet below this barrel. Beyond this, Worrell is credible. As Euins, he may have merely seen the rifle and assumed it fired the second shot. His description of the last two shots indicates they were close together. Light blue circle. Credible witness.
Mrs. Carolyn Walther (12-5-63 FBI report, 22H522) (She was standing) “on the east side of Houston Street, about fifty or sixty feet south of the south curb of Elm Street…As soon as the President’s car passed where she was standing, she and Mrs. Springer turned away and started walking north toward Elm Street. At about the time they reached the curb at Elm Street, she heard a loud report and thought it was fireworks. There was a pause after this first report, then a second and third report almost at the same time, and then a pause followed by one and possibly more reports.” (Late 1966 interview with Lawrence Schiller recounted in The Scavengers and Critics of the Warren Report, published 1967) "I heard one shot, and I thought at the time the first shot was a firecracker, and after the last car passed me I started walking back to work, and I had reached the curb, and two more shots, and then a second--two seconds later, one more. It wasn't as loud as the others. But the second and third shots were right together, and then I thought 'Oh, it's gunshots'.....I definitely feel that I heard four shots." (Interview with CBS broadcast 6-25-67) “The President passed us, and he was smiling, and everybody was waving. Then the last of the cars went by, and I heard the shot. I thought it was a firecracker. Then I started back to work, and it was along the curb, and then two shots right together, and then another one. I'm sure there were four shots.” (2-14-69 testimony in the trial of Clay Shaw) (When asked how many shots she heard “All together I heard four” (When asked what the first one sounded like) “It was a loud popping sound and I thought it was just a firecracker…the last car was passing in front of me when I heard the first shot…The second one I was just stepping off the curb. “ (And the third?) “Almost to the center of the street.” (And fourth?) “In the center of the street.” (And how did they sound? The second? ) “It sounded just like the first one.” (The third?) “The same” (And fourth?) “A little lower…I stopped and said "That is gunshots." Analysis: Mrs. Walther’s placement of the two bunched shots in the middle is problematic. Her companion, Mrs. Pearl Stringer, heard only 3 shots, and said that shots 2 and 3 rang out together; this would seem to indicate that the extra shot heard by Walther was an extra shot at the end. This would seem to be in opposition to the eyewitness evidence taken as a whole, which suggests two shots--one hitting Kennedy and one hitting Connally--were fired during a period the bulk of the witnesses heard but one shot fired. Nevertheless,Walther's statement that the last shot sounded different matches the statements of Rosemary Willis. Light blue circle. Credible witness.
Mrs. Ruby Henderson (12-6-63 FBI report, 24H524) “She was standing on the east side of Elm Street just north of Houston Street (they must mean the east side of Houston just north of Elm)…at the time the motorcade passed where she was standing, she heard what she initially thought was a firecracker, and saw what she thought was paper fly out of the Presidential car. She said she now realized it was a shot she heard and what she thought was paper was probably flesh. She said after the first shot, she believes she heard two more in rapid succession, and then a fourth shot.” Analysis: it’s strange that Mrs. Henderson described the shots in the same idiosyncratic manner as Mrs. Walther. Once again, the extra shot appears to have been an extra shot after the head shot. One possible explanation for this joint recollection of the shots is that, by the time, they talked with the FBI, the two women had talked to one another. Since they both worked in the Dal-Tex Building this appears possible. Light blue circle. Credible witness.
Mike Brownlow is a long-time assassination researcher and a regular presence in Dealey Plaza. He claims also to have been a witness. In November 2004, and again in 2005, I talked with him in Dealey Plaza and asked him where he was when the shots rang out. Both times he told me he was standing in front of the Dal-Tex Building on the northeast corner of Houston and Elm with his grandmother. Both times he said he heard four shots, but could not tell where they came from. (12-6-11 article by Jay Gibbs on researcher Bruce Engelman, found on the Starlocalnews.com website) "Engelman, who has worked for several national news organizations, including ABC, has a national sports talk show that he records every Tuesday night. Last Tuesday, however, he had a special guest in his recording studio -- Mike Brownlow of Dallas. Brownlow was a 13-year-old kid who was near the Grassy Knoll in Dallas when JFK was shot. "I heard one shot and then, immediately after that, I heard a second shot," Brownlow said. "Then, after that, I heard several shots in succession -- POP! POP! POP! Then, in a matter of five or six seconds, it was all over. The shooting had stopped. And I definitely think that the last shot I heard came from the Grassy Knoll." Analysis: Green circle. Earliest recorded statements came years after the shooting. Not entirely credible.
John Hoefen, an NBC sound technician, sat in the middle of the front seat of the first of three Chevrolet convertibles approaching Houston and Elm at the time of the first shot. (11-22-63 phoned-in report broadcast on NBC radio--WBAP in Dallas--at approximately 1:50) "We were just leaving the business district of Dallas when this shooting took place...We were making a sweeping curve here on a roadway approaching a freeway when the first shot rang out. Our first reaction was that some teenager had fired a cherry-bomb. When the second one rang out, we sort of felt that there was something wrong up there. People started to drop down to the ground ahead of us, roughly 50 to 60 feet up near the President's car. Then there was a third and if I remember correctly a fourth shot. Immediately, after that last shot the President's car took off in a tremendous burst of speed followed by the Secret Service follow-up car..." (11-22-63 phoned-in report broadcast on NBC television, at approximately 2:00 PM) “We were approaching a drive which would put us on a freeway, where we would then drive to the Trade Mart...As we turned down this moderate curve here there was a loud shot. At first we thought it was a cherry bomb by some teenager. Then it was immediately followed by two or three more. Everybody said "duck" then there were people falling to the ground. We did not know who was shot. Ladies and men both were screaming..." Analysis: in his initial interview, Hoefen said there was "If I remember correctly a fourth shot." This suggests his initial impression was that there was indeed four shots, but that he'd started doubting his impression after coming in contact with others. One can only wonder, then, how many others thought they'd heard four shots but who stopped claiming as much as soon as the news media started trumpeting there were three. It should also be noted, however, that Hoefen thought people fell to the ground after the second shot--and that this would almost certainly have been the head shot. As very few heard more than one shot after the head shot, well, it seems possible Hoefen was yet another witness confused by the final echoes. Light blue circle. Credible witness.
Henry Burroughs was in the Chevy behind Hoefen. (Pictures of the Pain p.398, based on Trask interview 8-21-85) “Burroughs remembers hearing four shots…”We came up to the scene of the shooting and people were running all over the place.” (10-14-98 letter to Vince Palamara quoted in JFK: The Medical Evidence Reference) “After the President’s limousine turned the corner at the book depository we could not see him, but we heard the shots, and the motorcade stopped.” Analysis: it is interesting indeed that the one member of the motorcade besides Hoefen to say he heard four shots just so happened to be in the car right behind Hoefen and approaching Houston and Elm around Z-224. It’s also interesting that one of the few to have claimed he heard two shots before Z-270 or so, Dave Wiegman, was in the car just in front of him, with Hoefen. Green circle. Earliest recorded statements came years after the shooting. Not entirely credible.
Robert West (2-13-69 testimony in the trial of Clay Shaw)(When asked if he'd heard anything unusual after the limousine turned down Elm Street) "Some time after it turned on Elm Street what sounded to me at that time as what I thought was backfiring, a motorcycle." (When asked how many backfires he heard) "Four". (When asked if these backfires sounded the same) "Yes". (When asked what the first "backfire" sounded like) "A motorcycle backfired." (When asked what the second and subsequent "backfire" sounded like) "A rifle fired...It appeared to me it was rifle fire after the second. The first and the second my response was it was motorcycle backfire." (When asked again to describe the third sound) "Rifle fire." (When asked if these were loud sounds) "Yes, sir." (When asked from where he thought this sounds were coming) "The sound came from the northwest quadrant of Dealey Plaza...This entire area north and west of Elm Street." Analysis: West was the Dallas County Surveyor. Since the Secret Service, FBI, and Warren Commission all used his services to make plats of Dealey Plaza, and since they all came to different conclusions, and kept changing the locations for the shots, it only makes sense that he would grow suspicious of the official story, and suspect there'd been more than 3 shots. Green circle. Earliest recorded statements came years after the shooting. Not entirely credible.
This review of the statements of the preceding witnesses demonstrates quite convincingly that the four sounds heard by these witnesses were not the same sounds. While there are a number of credible witnesses near Houston and Elm, the statements by Walther and Henderson are not only in conflict with our analysis of the Zapruder film, which indicates the fourth shot unheard by those hearing three shots was the shot impacting at Z-224, but also the statements of Willis, Euins, and Worrell. As the other witnesses in the area—Fischer, Edwards, Burroughs, and Brownlow, told us very little beyond that they’d initially believed they’d heard four shots, we are prevented from using the statements of the Houston and Elm witnesses to come to a concrete conclusion. Still, the strange circumstance that so many witnesses heard an extra shot in one of the easiest locations to tell echoes from shots is noteworthy, and should not be overlooked. It should also be noted that the likely origin for the extra shot heard by the credible four shot witnesses just so happened to be the building with the best vantage point for a sniper, the Dal-Tex Building.
One might reasonably suspect this was more than a coincidence.
Sniper’s Nest Views
When one looks at photographs taken from the sniper’s nest and compares them with photographs taken from the Dal-Tex Building one can see the advantages of the Dal-Tex Building as a location for a shooter. While a sniper from the nest would have to pan as he shot at the motorcade, a sniper from the Dal-Tex would barely have to change his aim. According to snipers trained in the U.S. Special Forces, having the time to aim before firing and being to able to re-fire without re-aiming is more desirable than being right on top of a target. Sniper tactics first popularized by legendary WW I sniper Herbert McBride, moreover, dictate that shooting across an obstacle, such as a tree or a creek, or in this case an open window in the sixth floor of the school depository, will cause those in the target area to focus their attention on the obstacle closest to them. It follows then that the Dal-Tex Building was the ideal location in Dealey Plaza for a shooting on Elm. Despite the current speculation that a shot came from the second floor, a more vertical location would have been preferable, because from such a perch one could zero in on Kennedy without having to shoot through the Secret Service Agents standing on the side of the follow-up car.
The FBI, apparently, reached this same conclusion. While testifying for Arlen Specter before the Warren Commission, FBI Exhibits Chief Leo Gauthier brought along some photos of a scale model he’d created of Dealey Plaza. He testified that exhibit 879 represented “a view of the scale model looking toward the southwest, in the direction of the triple underpass, from a position on the sixth floor in the southeast corner window.” While this implies the photo depicts the view from the sniper’s nest, a quick look at the view reveals that it is in fact a view from the upper floors, or roof, of the Dal-Tex Building, across the street from the depository. Gauthier, a 29-year-veteran of the Bureau, who had created hundreds of crime-scene models as visual aids for trials, was almost certainly aware of the inaccuracy of his statement. Months before Gauthier’s testimony, the FBI had supplied the Commission with a collection of visual aids created by Gauthier. The photo was misrepresented at that time as well.
When one looks at an actual view from the sniper's nest, exhibit 724, and compares it with the surveyor’s plat of Dealey Plaza used by Gauthier (which strangely excludes the Dal-Tex Building), and marks the position of the limo at the various frames of the Zapruder film, one can find even more reason to mistrust the "official" story, and yet another reason to reject the LPM scenario.
To refresh, the LPM scenario--the shooting scenario pushed by Dr. John Lattimer, Gerald Posner, Dale Myers, and sometimes Vincent Bugliosi, and the shooting scenario the mainstream media pretends is the official government scenario--holds that the first shot rang out around frame 160 of the Zapruder film. As we've learned from reading the eyewitness statements, this is silly.
When one compares exhibit 724 with the plaza plat, however, one can see that it is more than silly; it is ludicrous.
First, one can see that the Thornton Freeway sign, where witness after witness placed the limo at the time of the first shot, was a good thirty feet past where the LPM scenario places the car when the first shot rang out. Second, when one notes the location of wounded bystander James Tague on the plat, and reflects that the LPM scenario holds that Tague was wounded when the lead core of the FIRST bullet fired hit a nearby curb after striking a twig, one can’t help but scratch one’s head. It simply makes no sense that a high-speed bullet fired from a position 60 feet up and 120 feet behind could hit a twig 30 feet off the ground, break up, and be deflected four hundred feet forward and to the right, particularly, when this same kind of bullet, with the very next shot, is purported to have slashed through a man’s torso, hit another man in the armpit, smashed out inches of his ribcage, crashed through his wrist and lodged itself in his thigh, with little apparent damage to the bullet. It’s doubtful a shot at frame 160 would even strike a twig.
Now, it's not as if I readily throw out EVERY idea presented by the single-assassin theorists. Ironically, I suspect two other prominent single-assassin theorists, Kenneth Rahn and Larry Sturdivan, have solved the mystery of Tague’s wound. Since Rahn is so terribly Rahng in his defense of Dr. Vincent Guinn’s Neutron Activation Analysis (see chapter 11), I wasn’t prepared for it, but I now believe he’s been successful in demonstrating that the fragment which kicked up the concrete near Tague, and cut up Tague’s cheek, could have come from the bullet striking Kennedy on the top of his head. A quick look at the plat above shows how they are almost in line. When one projects this location back to the car at 313, moreover, one can see that the trajectory of the fragment passes only inches above and to the right of the trajectory of the nose of the bullet, which hit the windshield, and the trajectory of the tail of the bullet, which hit the window frame. While the Tague fragment also aligns with a missed shot from the Dal-Tex, the FBI inspection of the scar on the curb near Tague revealed only lead, and no copper, which would indicate this mark was created by a fragment, without a copper jacket. When one recalls that the base of a bullet found in the limousine was completely empty of its lead and that almost half the bullet was never found, moreover, a conclusion that the lead came from this bullet seems perfectly reasonable. Since Sturdivan’s calculations show that a fragment would have had enough energy to continue on and strike the curb near Tague, Rahn’s conclusion seems more than reasonable; it seems probable.
Speaking of Sturdivan...
Since our study of the eyewitness statements and Zapruder film suggests that at least one burst of shots--the one (or two) shots hitting Kennedy and Connally around frame 224--was not heard by the bulk of the crowd, and may only have been heard by those standing near the Dal-Tex Building, I decided to read up on the use of silencers and subsonic ammunition, so I could have an informed opinion regarding the likelihood of their use.
I was surprised by what I found.
While some "experts", including the FBI's Robert Frazier in the trial of Clay Shaw, have been dismissive about the use of a silencer on 11-22-63, claiming the shots would still have been heard, they ignore that the use of a silencer still had its advantages. Vincent Bugliosi, in his book Reclaiming History, admits as much. In arguing that Oswald could not have been a hit man, because a hit man would have used a silencer, he unwittingly undercut many of his supporters, who'd been insisting for years that the use of a silencer was impractical and unlikely. On page 1452, Bugliosi quotes an unnamed LAPD firearms expert and asserts that by 1963 silencers were sophisticated enough to reduce the sound of a rifle to nothing louder than "the hitting of a pile of wood with a hammer." Bugliosi's expert said, furthermore, that state-of-the-art silencers at the time "probably wouldn't have even been heard above the background noise of the motorcade and crowd."
The realization from my study of the eyewitnesses that a silenced weapon may have been fired from the Dal-Tex Building, when combined with Connally’s testimony that he initially suspected automatic weapons had been fired, when merged with the fact that both the hole in Kennedy’s hairline and the hole in his throat were smaller than what one would expect from a 6.5 mm bullet, and that a smaller caliber would be more easily deflected in the manner proposed, led me to wonder about the availability of .22 caliber automatic rifles in 1963. Surprisingly, I discovered that a brand new .22 caliber automatic rifle, the AR-15, had just exploded on the market, and was, in November 1963, undergoing tests by U.S. Special Forces in Vietnam. The Special Forces is, of course, the wing of the military that works most closely with the CIA, a favorite suspect of the conspiracy community. To make matters worse, the Air Force and Navy had also received shipments, and the Army was in the process of switching from the M-1 over to their own version of the AR-15, re-christened as the M-16. In light of Oliver Stone’s theory that the military was behind Kennedy’s murder this made me a little paranoid.
While looking through the book Silencers, Snipers, and Assassins to see what I could learn about M-16 silencers, I noticed something which pushed me even further down Paranoid Road. When reading about the M16 silencer HEL M4, I noticed on the photo credit that the photo came courtesy of Aberdeen Proving Ground, where both Warren Commission ballistics expert Alfred Olivier and HSCA ballistics expert Larry Sturdivan found employment. (I would eventually discover that a number of experimental silencers had been developed by the Human Engineering Lab (HEL) at the Aberdeen Proving Ground starting in the early sixties but that HEL4A itself did not become available until 1967. I also found that Sturdivan and Olivier did not work in HEL but at the Edgewood Arsenal building of Aberdeen Proving Ground.)
Even so, this coincidence made me wonder if the ballistics experts who'd testified before the committees hadn’t had a hand in designing the very weapon used in the assassination. (On page 162 of Stalkers and Shooters (2006), one can find yet another assassination weapon designed at Aberdeen Proving Ground--apparently this was one of their specialties.) And so I decided to re-read the pertinent parts of the book Mortal Error, which theorized that Secret Service Agent George Hickey mistakenly discharged an AR-15 from the President’s follow-up car, and accidentally killed the President.
But then I discovered something even more startling. Illustration #27 within Mortal Error included not only HSCA Exhibit #113, which depicted a gelatin test of an M-16 bullet, but a photograph of a list of the other exhibits from the day it was submitted, which had been included in a press package. (This list is now online and can be viewed here). On this list, Exhibit 114, was identified as an “M-193 bullet at 800 FPS velocity.” 800 FPS…as in Feet Per Second…as in slower than the speed of sound, (which travels at roughly 1087 feet per second), which means no shock wave or sonic boom…a silenced shot!
And so I hopped on the internet to download HSCA Exhibit 114. Only when I scrolled through the website of John McAdams, one of the most prominent websites on the net, and certainly the most prominent with a single-assassin bias, I came across something which made me even more paranoid. For on this website Exhibit 113, which represents a gelatin test of M-16 ammunition fired at 3,000 fps, is identified as being the gelatin test of a 30 caliber bullet, and Exhibit 114 is listed as being the “composite of two photographs of bullet exploding in gelatin.” All reference to the M-16 and its cartridge, the M-193, were absent! I then went to the History Matters website, where the entire HSCA Report has been scanned and uploaded straight out of a book, and confirmed that officially the exhibits were indeed those of the bullets used in an M-16. I then printed out a list of the HSCA exhibits from the History Matters website and compared them to the same list on the McAdams website, and found that, while there were a few other discrepancies on the McAdams list, there were none back to back which completely disguised the nature of the exhibits. It really made me wonder if some of the researchers who smell CIA involvement in the single-assassin theorist community weren’t on to something. (Months later, after I'd calmed down a little, I realized that the website with the suspiciously incorrect descriptions of F-113 and F-114 was the website of researcher Mike Russ, and that the McAdams website had merely provided a link.)
My concern was heightened yet again when I re-read Larry Sturdivan’s HSCA testimony to see if Exhibit 114 was indeed an M-193 bullet shot at 800 fps. He stated, regarding Exhibit 113: “This is the bullet that is fired from the M-16 rifle that was used extensively in Vietnam. It is a caliber .22 but at a high velocity, approximately 3,000 feet per second…This bullet entered, and as you can see, it goes nice and straight for a little while. Then the yaw increases dramatically. The pressure is increased dramatically, and the bullet begins to fragment, pieces are broken off…” He went on to state “F-114 is the same bullet at a lower velocity. That velocity would be encountered at about 800 meters per second…This bullet, of course, was not deformed because the pressures, due to the lower velocity, were never high enough to deform the bullet.” Although Mr. Sturdivan is recorded as saying 800 meters per second it occurred to me that the difference between a bullet traveling at 3,000 feet per second and 800 meters per second (2,625 feet!) would not be so great that the slower-moving bullet would fail to deform. Particularly since elsewhere in his testimony Mr. Sturdivan stated that an M-16 bullet “would break up, as I said before, at anything above 1,000 feet per second; it would begin to deform at about 1,000 feet per second.” It occurred to me at this point that Mr. Sturdivan’s testimony had been changed from 800 feet per second to 800 meters per second. It occurred as well that in all his testimony there was no other use of the term “meters per second.” I decided to see if this was true. Upon re-examination of Sturdivan’s testimony, I counted 39 mentions of “feet per second,” which was the standard unit of measurement used in ballistics calculations, and only the one mention of “meters per second.” Within the work he performed in the internet paper written with Kenneth Rahn, Sturdivan mentioned “feet per second” 16 more times, and never once used “meters per second.” Furthermore, Alfred Olivier, in his Warren Commission testimony, used “feet per second” 11 times and never mentioned “meters per second.” I concluded from this that Sturdivan’s testimony probably was changed. The only reason I could come up with is that discussion of silenced M-16 bullets was ruled a violation of national security by someone somewhere somehow. That one or more of these bullets was used on President Kennedy, and that a faction within the government was aware of this and covered it up, might very well explain a lot of our recent history. But this made me uncomfortable, and so I hopped back on the internet to see what else I could find out about the wound ballistics of M-16 ammo.
Well, one of the first things I found was that M-16 ammunition is designed to fragment and incapacitate its victims. While many Americans like to cry about the war crimes committed by other nations, we decided with the M-16 to defeat the purpose of full metal jacket ammunition, which had been developed in the 1890's to reduce the brutality of war, by creating a bullet so unstable it tumbled and broke-up even though it was, at least technically, a full metal jacket bullet. The problem, according to Dr. Martin Fackler, a former military surgeon and ballistics expert, was that M-16 ammunition failed to break up when striking ballistics gelatin at speeds less than 2500 feet per second, a speed it slows down to after traveling but 200 meters, (or even less, depending on the model and the length of the barrel). Well, this meant that, due to the small size of its bullet, (a feature allowing soldiers to carry more ammunition into combat), and its corresponding inability to create massive damage when striking at a reduced speed, the M-16 was less effective as a long-range sniper weapon than its predecessors.
This gave me momentary doubt about its use in Dealey Plaza. But then I realized that I couldn’t dismiss its use as easily as all that. One reason was that in 1963 many of these tests had not yet been performed, and the assassin would have had no reason to doubt that the M-16 was a top flight killing machine. Another was that the shots fired in Dealey Plaza were almost certainly less than 200 meters in length, and were probably less than 100 meters, and were therefore well within the M-16’s range of optimum performance. Still, another reason to suspect a silencer was used came from my discovery of websites devoted to reduced-charge ammunition, which fires at less than 1,000 fps and creates no sonic boom. Some of this ammunition was even designed for M-16s already equipped with silencers, for the ultimate in silent killing.
It then hit me that Sturdivan had identified the speed of the bullet in F-113 as 3,000 fps when elsewhere in his testimony he said that M-16 bullets were fired at 3,200 fps, and that this 3,200 number was repeated all over the net as the definitive speed of M-16 ammunition. This led me to believe that the F-113 test was a simulation of a bullet fired from a distance of a few hundred feet. The thought occurred then that the F-114 test might be the same, and that the F-114 bullet was originally fired at about 1,000 fps, just under the speed of sound. Subsequently, I came across an article on sound suppressors by Mark White, in which he presents a chart demonstrating the drop-off in decibels of a shot once the speed of the bullet drops below the speed of sound. Not surprisingly, it revealed that a sub-sonic charge fired in a suppressed .308 rifle (under normal conditions, somewhat louder than a Carcano) would be roughly the sound of the surrounding traffic and would be unlikely to be noticed by those more than a hundred feet away (which, in the case of a possible shooter on the roof of the Dal-Tex, would mean almost everyone on the street.) It seemed reasonable to assume from this that Sturdivan had been testing the wounding effects of bullets which he’d already determined would not have been heard, to see if such a bullet was likely. If so, that this whole area of inquiry was hidden from the public would have to be considered suspicious, and might even be taken as an indication he decided such a shot was possible.
Ultimately, however, my decision to accept the possibility that a silenced M-16 was used in Dealey Plaza, and was tested by the HSCA, came from the exhibits themselves. I just couldn’t believe that the damage shown in F-113 came as a result of a bullet impacting at a speed only 15% faster than the speed of the bullet in F-114. Since, according to Dr. Fackler, if an M-16 bullet doesn’t have enough velocity to cause fragmentation the result is a deep .22 caliber hole, I decided to compare his drawings of a .22 caliber hole to Exhibit F-114. After confirming that both Fackler and Dr. Olivier in his tests performed for the Warren Commission used 15 inch test blocks of 20% gelatin, I found Dr. Fackler’s drawings of a .22LR quite similar to F-114. The .22 long rifle wound was slightly deeper, which was as one would expect since a 40 grain bullet traveling at 1122 fps should transfer 43% more energy to the gelatin than a 55 grain bullet traveling at 800 fps. (The formula to determine energy release is mass x speed x speed.) When I considered the opposite, that if the bullet in F-114 was traveling at 2625 fps it should represent 7.5 TIMES THE ENERGY released in the wound in Fackler’s drawing, I realized I was almost certainly right, and that F-114 was definitely a test of a bullet traveling 800 fps. When I took into account that Sturdivan told the HSCA, when describing F-113, that after the bullet broke up, “although it is not clearly visible, from here it continues to exit from the corner of the block,” it became obvious that the speed of the bullet tested in F-113 was several times that of the bullet in F-114, and that the amount of energy release was somewhere near the fourteen-fold increase in energy release one would expect when comparing a bullet traveling at 800 fps and 3000 fps and nowhere near the 30% increase expected between 800 mps and 3000 fps.
In January 2006, after gathering up the nerve, I contacted Larry Sturdivan and asked him about his HSCA testimony. As to whether Exhibit F-114 represented a bullet strike at 800 meters per second or 800 feet per second he responded: “It has a simple explanation. I misspoke. The bullet is obviously a low-velocity strike, probably at a simulated range of several hundred meters. The figure of 800 feet per second is certainly the one that is closest to the actual impact velocity. At work, I always used metric measure, but for the public hearings it was suggested that I use feet, inches, and pounds. This is one instance in which I slipped. There may be others. In other cases, the person who transcribed the testimony misinterpreted a few of my words. It likely happened with other witnesses for the HSCA and WC as well.”
When I asked him if his use of an exhibit depicting an M-16 bullet traveling at a subsonic speed indicated he’d studied the possible use of silenced weapons in connection with the Kennedy assassination, he responded: “It was just one of the thousands of pictures we had of military bullets we had tested. I used it because it showed the instability of a bullet in a soft tissue simulant, without the deformation and breakup. Like the WCC/MC, it was a bullet that did not deform in soft tissue. Modern military bullets deform at full velocity, so I showed a picture of one at reduced velocity. The only bullets fired in the WC tests were the WCC/MC.”
When I followed up and asked him if the HSCA had ever asked him about the possible use of silenced weapons, he answered: “Never came up. Several witnesses who were familiar with supersonic rifle fire, such as John Connally, stated that the shots were identifiable as "high-powered rifle" fire. A subsonic bullet is much quieter -- and is much less injurious, has a more arced trajectory (due to its low speed) and, as a result, is much less accurate, etc. A sniper using a subsonic weapon (e.g., a handgun) could fire a volley of shots from the upper floors of the Depository and be unlikely to hit the target with any of them. Such a weapon is more likely to be used in point blank shooting, like the Tippit murder.” (Sturdivan’s comments here are intriguing. He ignores the possibility of subsonic rifle fire even though he’d studied the ballistics of subsonic rifle fire, as proven by F-114. His statement that a subsonic bullet has a more arced trajectory is also intriguing when one considers that the trajectory of the bullet creating Kennedy’s back wound was initially reported as heading sharply downwards.)
When I wrote back and asked if he felt handicapped by the limits of the HSCA investigation, he responded: “No. The HSCA didn't tell me much. They just asked a lot of questions. The most irritating thing is that they kept most of the scientists isolated from each other, so that I didn't meet Bill Hartmann 'til years later.”
Sturdivan’s response forced me to do some soul-searching. Here I had taken several pieces of information: 1) that Exhibit F-114 had been misrepresented in Sturdivan’s published testimony; 2) that it was in fact the ballistics gelatin of a subsonic bullet; and 3) that it was also misrepresented on a website created by Oswald-did-it theorist John McAdams, and convinced myself that this represented some sort of conspiracy. And yet I was wrong. I was right about points one and two, but they had an innocent explanation. And I was wrong about point 3 altogether. When I realized that it was possible Sturdivan had merely told me a cover story, and that it was also possible that Russ had deliberately misrepresented the exhibit on his website, I had a revelation. In that moment, I fully understood what I will call “the seduction of intrigue”. For a split second, it seemed rational to me to assume Sturdivan was lying etc… This was because I had quietly changed gears and begun thinking of reasons to believe I wasn’t wrong, rather than reasons to believe that I was right. It occurred to me that such thinking takes place when someone has spent a lot of time developing a theory, and someone else comes along and wrecks it. I at once understood why my presentation had upset so many alterationists, i.e. why they had refused to honestly look at my presentation etc. They’d thought so long and hard when developing their theories that they couldn’t bear to believe they’d been wrong. What had been their theory had become their religion.
I decided to lose my religion and accept that the mislabeling of F-114 had been some sort of mistake.
Only it turned out my bout with intrigue was far from over. In April, 2006, I acquired video footage of some of the HSCA hearings, including parts of Sturdivan’s testimony. Unfortunately, the footage of Sturdivan began just after he discussed F-114, so I was unable to determine whether he, in fact, said 800 feet or 800 meters. Nevertheless, when I compared the published transcripts of Sturdivan’s testimony against his actual testimony, a few new questions arose.
When I e-mailed Sturdivan and asked about these new (at least for me) discoveries, he was once again quite forthcoming. When asked why his published testimony reflects his actual words, when the testimony of Dr. Baden appears to have been significantly re-written, he replied “Perhaps Baden asked to be allowed to revise his own testimony, I don't know.” (Another witness, Jack White, told me that every witness was given the opportunity to change their testimony. Perhaps Sturdivan was simply not informed he could do so.) When I asked who changed the exhibit numbers in his testimony—Exhibit 583 was twice corrected to read Exhibit 853-- Sturdivan replied: “I guess Mathews corrected the exhibit numbers.” (Mathews refers to I. Charles Mathews, the HSCA Special Counsel responsible for Sturdivan’s testimony.) When I asked why some of the questions asked Sturdivan had been changed, Sturdivan’s response surprised me. He replied: “In the case of (Congressmen) Fauntroy and Ford, the staff probably published the questions as phrased on the script they were supposed to follow. Some of the Congressmen had trouble following the script -- or just did what politicians do; i.e., speak without thinking what they are trying to say, just because they like the sound of their own voices…” When I asked him WHAT script he was talking about, he clued me in on how the HSCA conducted its “public” hearings. (Dr. Baden had previously mentioned the use of scripts in his 1989 book Unnatural Death, but it had fallen below my radar). Sturdivan replied: “A couple of weeks before the open hearings, I got a copy of the questions to be asked, keyed to each Congressman in turn. I prepared my "probable answer" to each so that the staff and/or Congressman could pre-prepare any follow-up questions. I.e., the Committee's staff did it. I suggested a few changes to questions and a few additional questions to make the story more complete. However, the Congressmen had a lot of trouble following the script. Some asked questions I had already been asked by another person and did not ask some of the questions they were scripted to ask. As a result the story got scrambled and less understandable.” In light of the fact that someone (probably Mathews) changed Sturdivan’s testimony to reflect the proper exhibit numbers, I asked Sturdivan if he remembered that he mis-spoke and said F-114 represented a bullet traveling 800 meters per second, or had simply assumed he’d done so. His response was illuminating: “The 800 meters per second, referring to F-114, is an obvious mistake. This is an M-193 bullet. Had it hit at 800 m/s, it would have been deformed, probably would have broken in two, and the bullet (or fragments) would have exited the block. 800 f/s is a handgun velocity that would have produced this type of picture. I don't know whether I said it wrong or they wrote it wrong or later changed it to be wrong.”
And there it sat until Christmas Eve, 2009, when I received a copy of Sturdivan's HSCA testimony from the Poage Library at Baylor University. I put the DVD in my DVD player, convinced that I would soon be able to resolve whether Sturdivan said "800 meters per second" and confused the HSCA, or said "800 feet per second," only to have some unidentified person change his testimony and exhibits to read "800 meters per second." But I was in for another surprise. Sturdivan said "F-114 is the same bullet at a lower velocity. That velocity would be encountered at about 800 meters per second," but then corrected himself and said "800 meters range." This was quite interesting. First of all, at all other points in his testimony, Sturdivan discussed bullet velocity in terms of feet per second, and here he was discussing a bullet's velocity in meters down range. By describing the bullet in such a manner, Sturdivan thereby hid from the record that the bullet tested was not fired from 800 meters down range, but was a reduced charge bullet designed to simulate the effects of a bullet fired from 800 meters down range. Such a bullet was subsonic. Such a bullet was the type used in weapons designed for silent killing.
In retrospect, Sturdivan's verbal gymnastics only made sense. Sturdivan was, after all, testifying on behalf of a government widely suspected of assassinating its President. He'd done work for the military. Included in this work was studying the wounding effects of the subsonic ammunition used in assassination weapons. Needless to say, this was not a topic the committee would want him to touch upon. And so he testified not how fast the bullet was traveling, but how far down range it would normally take the bullet to slow to that speed. And screwed up.
But it's not as simple as that. While on the surface it seems possible Sturdivan's mistaken claim the bullet was traveling 800 meters per second led someone to not only include this mistake in the transcript, but mistakenly re-title his exhibit, this fails to explain why Sturdivan's correction, "800 meters range," was left off his testimony. He was clearly correcting himself. And his words were clearly spoken.
This effectively puts me back where I began, wondering why the exhibit title was changed, and wondering whether it's just a coincidence that this exhibit was of a bullet type used in assassination weapons.
Silent, But Deadly
While trying to figure out if the bullet fired in F-114 had indeed been subsonic, however, I discovered that there was an historical basis for my suspicion that a small caliber weapon firing subsonic ammunition had been used in the assassination. While reading about the CIA’s overthrow of the Guatemalan Government in 1954, I discovered that, among the supply lists, lists of communists to be killed after the take-over, and other documents released in 1997, there was a CIA Manual on Assassination. In this manual there were several relevant passages. At one point, when discussing the advantages and disadvantages of assassinating people with firearms, the manual relates "Public figures or guarded officials may be killed with great reliability and some safety if a firing point can be established prior to an official occasion. The propaganda value of this system may be high.” (Note that the propaganda chief for this operation was future Watergate burglar E. Howard Hunt, who, shortly before his death, admitted an involvement in the Kennedy assassination to his son, and claimed David Morales, one of the CIA's para-military trainers for the Guatemalan Operation, and presumably one of those handing out the CIA' Manual on Assassination, was also involved.) Elsewhere, the manual deals specifically with the issue of subsonic charges, noting “pistols, submachine guns and any sort of improvised carbine or rifle which will take a low velocity cartridge can be silenced,” and then cautioning “Because permissible velocity is low, effective precision range is held to about 100 yards with rifle or carbine type weapons.”
Further confirmation came from studying the supply lists prepared for the Guatemalan op. On one such list there is the surprising item ".22 cal. rifles w/silencers." As larger caliber rifles were available, this gives a clear indication that .22 caliber rifles with silencers were a preferred assassination weapon, and that the 100 yard limit mentioned in the assassination manual was true for these weapons. While I've taken a lot of guff from shooters about this, as they all seem convinced that a sniper rifle firing a small subsonic bullet would be nearly worthless at the distances of Dealey Plaza, I suspect their concern is overstated. Geoffrey Boothroyd, the English Firearms expert who advised James Bond creator Ian Fleming on the weapons described in his books, once famously wrote Fleming: "Silencers. These I do not like. The only excuse for using one is a .22 rifle using low-velocity ammunition, i.e., below the speed of sound." Former sniper Craig Roberts, in his book Kill Zone, moreover, wrote of his suspicion that a "CIA-issued .22 caliber Model 74 Winchester silenced sniper rifle" was fired at Kennedy, wounding him in the throat. Subsequent investigation on my part revealed that, yes indeed, the Winchester 74 sniper rifle pre-dated the assassination and is a semi-automatic weapon, meaning it could be fired quite rapidly, causing separate hits on Kennedy and Connally, and creating the illusion they were hit by the same bullet. I found a photo of such a rifle, furthermore, in the 1991 book OSS Special Weapons and Equipment by H. Keith Melton, an expert on the CIA and its predecessor, the OSS. This is reproduced below:
Note that the range is 100 yards, the same as that of the assassination weapons described in the CIA Manual on assassination.
Elsewhere on the page, the advantages of such a rifle are further detailed.
"A Weapon that eliminates muzzle flash and muzzle noise offers several advantages to special forces personnel.
(1) The source of the fire is masked.
(2) The location of the weapon is difficult for the enemy to pinpoint.
(3) The enemy can not identify the numbers or type(s) of weapons firing, or their range.
(4) The weapon has less recoil and is more accurate to fire.
(5) The enemy is harassed and confused.
(6) The sniper has a psychological advantage over the enemy."
In 2007, at a swap meet, I came across an old book entitled Everyday Ballistics that gave me more reason to believe such a weapon was used on 11-22-63. This book had been the property of the U.S. Navy. In the chapter on bullet drop, it reports that a fully charged .22 long rifle bullet--the type of bullet used in the Winchester 74 rifle--would only drop a foot or so over a distance of 270 feet, the approximate distance from the roof of the Dal-Tex Building to Kennedy at frame 224 of the Zapruder film.
And that was the most it would drop. I later realized that bullet drop, as everything is relative. If a gun firing such a bullet is sighted in at 100 yards, well, that means the bullet will start out below the point of aim, then rise above it, and then drop down to hit the target at 100 yards.
But what if the rifle was sighted in at 50 yards, and the bullet wasn't fired until Kennedy was 90 yards away? How far would it drop over that extra 40 yards?
Well, a chart found on gunsmoke.com provides us the answer. The chart tracking the bullet trajectory for a subsonic .22 long rifle round fired from a rifle sighted-in at 50 yards supports that such a bullet would drop down but 5 inches below the line of sight at 90 yards.
This chart also supports Everyday Ballistics' assertion that a subsonic bullet fired at 1000 fps would suffer less wind deflection than assumed. It reflects that a 15 mph crosswind would deflect such a bullet but 2.12 inches at 90 yards. Hmmm... From this it seems clear that a well-practiced shooter firing a silenced Winchester 74 or M-16 from the Dal-Tex Building could easily have hit Kennedy, or Connally, or both.
In sum, then, my study of the evidence suggests the use of such a weapon can not be ruled out. Upon further reading about the M-16, moreover, I realized that it fired three-round bursts in its semi-automatic setting. Since the wounds to Kennedy and Connally circa frame 224 were quite possibly caused by but two bullets, I now suspect the second rifle used in the assassination was a semi-automatic weapon quite similar to the one shown above.
Let us, then, look at the medical evidence, to see if we can find additional signs of a conspiracy...