A continuation of our look into false information concerning the first shot
Bogus first shot miss witnesses:
In order to support the first shot miss theory, lone gunman kooks often cite the statements by three witnesses. These witnesses are motorcycle officer James Chaney, reporter Mary Woodward, and secret service agent Glen Bennett. However, examination of their statements along with the photographic evidence, reveals that they do not support the first shot miss theory.
Let’s begin with James Chaney.
Chaney was the motorcycle Officer riding to the right rear of President Kennedy’s limousine - in the inboard position. Despite being the closet non-limousine witness to the assassination – he was never called to testify before the Warren Commission! Following the assassination, he was interviewed by Bill Lord from WFAA –TV. This is how he described the shooting:
“We had proceeded west on Elm Street at approximately 15-20 miles per hour. We heard the first shot. I thought it was a motorcycle backfiring and uh I looked back over to my left and also President Kennedy looked back over his left shoulder. Then, the, uh, second shot came, well, then I looked back just in time to see the President struck in the face by the second bullet. He slumped forward into Mrs. Kennedy’s lap, and uh, it was apparent to me that we were being fired upon. I went ahead of the President’s car to inform Chief Curry that the President had been hit. And then he instructed us over the air to take him to Parkland Hospital and he had Parkland Hospital stand by. I went on up ahead of the, to notify the officers that were leading the escort that he had been hit and we're gonna have to move out."
Chaney claimed he looked over his left shoulder following the first shot. He also claimed Kennedy looked over his left shoulder following the first shot. As we can see in the Zapruder film, Kennedy doesn’t look to his left between frames 160 and 224. The Altgens photo taken at Zapruder frame 255 shows Chaney looking to his left. Hence, Chaney heard only one shot between frames 160 and 255. He also claimed the second shot was the one which hit Kennedy in the face (by which he certainly meant the head). His observation therefore doesn’t support the first shot miss theory. The Altgens photo is shown below, with Chaney indicated by the circle.
Mary Woodward was a junior reporter from the Dallas Morning news. She was accompanied by three of her co-workers on the day of the assassination. Woodward stood between the freeway signs along Elm Street. Following the assassination, she wrote a newspaper article describing what she observed. Here is the relevant excerpt from her article:
“We had been waiting about half an hour when the first motorcycle escorts came by, followed shortly by the President’s car. The President was looking straight ahead and we were afraid we would not get to see his face. But we started clapping and cheering and both he and Mrs. Kennedy turned, and smiled and waved, directly at us…After acknowledging our cheers, he [JFK] faced forward again and suddenly there was a horrible, ear-splitting noise coming from behind us and a little to the right. My first reaction, and also my friends', was that as a joke someone had backfired their car. Apparently, the driver and occupants of the President's car had the same impression, because instead of speeding up, the car came almost to a halt...I don't believe anyone was hit with the first bullet. The President and Mrs. Kennedy turned and looked around, as if they, too, didn't believe the noise was really coming from a gun...Then after a moment's pause, there was another shot and I saw the President start slumping in the car. This was followed rapidly by another shot. Mrs. Kennedy stood up in the car, turned halfway around, then fell on top of her husband’s body.”
Woodward makes it perfectly clear that she heard the first shot after Kennedy had turned and waved at her (not before he waved – as per the LPM theory). She is therefore not a witness to the first shot miss theory. It should be noted that she was almost certainly mistaken about hearing the shot after Kennedy waved (as the evidence indicates otherwise). Woodward also makes it clear that it was the cheering by her and her three friends which caused both Kennedy and his wife to turn towards the right. However, Lone gunman kooks want us to believe that it was the sound of the first shot which caused Jackie Kennedy to turn towards the right (further discussion below). Woodward is indicated in a crop of the Altgens’ photo below:
Glen Bennett was the secret service agent sitting in the right rear seat of the Secret service follow-up car. From Bennett’s secret service report written on 23/11/63:
“About thirty minutes after leaving Love Field about 12:25 P.M., the Motorcade entered an intersection and then proceeded down a grade. At this point the well-wishers numbered but a few; the motorcade continued down this grade enroute to the Trade Mart. At this point I heard what sounded like a fire-cracker. I immediately looked from the right/crowd/physical area/and looked towards the President who was seated in the right rear seat of his limousine open convertible. At the moment I looked at the back of the President I heard another fire-cracker noise and saw the shot hit the President about four inches down from the right shoulder. A second shot followed immediately and hit the right rear high of the President's head. I immediately hollered "he's hit" and reached for the AR-15 located on the floor of the rear seat. Special Agent Hickey had already picked-up the AR-15”
Bennett claimed to look towards the President’s car “immediately” following the first shot. However, the photographic evidence doesn’t support Bennett’s recollections. In the Betzner slide(taken circa Zapruder frame 186), Bennett is not looking forward, but is looking to his right. In the Willis slide (taken circa frame 202), Bennett is still looking to his right. In the Altgens’ photo, we can see that Bennett is still looking to his right! So just when exactly did he “immediately” look towards the President’s car? Well, the photographic evidence strongly indicates it was just after Zapruder frame 255.
Bennett also gave no indication of Kennedy’s actions following the first shot. He is therefore not a credible witness for the first shot miss theory. Futhermore, five of his fellow secret service agents (including David Powers), made it clear they saw Kennedy slump/lean after the first shot. I think it’s also important to note, that Bennett’s observation of seeing the shot hit Kennedy’s back “about 4 inches down from the right shoulder” is a blow to the single bullet theory. Below are the photographs which show Bennett. We can also see agent George Hickey looking to his left in the Betzner slide. In the Willis slide we can see that he is now facing forward.
The Betzner slide with Bennett circled (with brightness and contrast slightly adjusted)
The Willis slide with Bennett circled
The head snaps to the right
As stated previously, lone gunman kooks constantly use Governor Connally’s rapid head snap to the right as the best evidence of a shot fired circa frame 160. By my observation, Connally snaps his head to the right circa Zapruder frame 165. First lady Jacqueline Kennedy also begins to turn her head to the right at circa frame 171, and is completely facing President Kennedy by frame 200 (by my observation). Now, Governor Connally did inform both the FBI and the Warren commission that he turned to his right upon hearing the first shot. However, he also claimed the time between the first shot and the one which hit him were fired very close together. Let’s take a look at his FBI interview on 13/12/63:
“Governor Connally stated “First sense or realization of anything unusual I became conscious of a shot or what sounded like a gunshot. I knew it came from my right rear. I instinctively turned to my right to look back and as I did so I sensed more than I saw that President Kennedy was hit. As I turned I realized something was amiss with President Kennedy and then I turned back to my left a little and as I did so I got hit with a bullet in my right shoulder…I believe I remarked “Oh my God, they are going to kill us all!” Realizing I had been hit I crumpled over to Mrs Connally and she pulled me over towards her…I was conscious of a third shot and heard it…we were all splattered with what I thought was brain tissue from President Kennedy.” …When Governor Connally was asked about the elapsed time between the first and last shot he remarked “Fast, my God it was fast. It seemed like a split second. Just that quick” and he snapped his fingers three times rapidly to illustrate the time and said “unbelievably quick…Governor Connally felt the shots were fired so fast the assassin had hit him by accident on the second shot.”
Excerpt from Connally’s Warren commission testimony before Arlen Specter:
As the automobile turned left onto Elm from Houston, what did occur there, Governor?
We had--we had gone, I guess, 150 feet, maybe 200 feet, I don't recall how far it was, heading down to get on the freeway, the Stemmons Freeway, to go out to the hall where we were going to have lunch and, as I say, the crowds had begun to thin, and we could--I was anticipating that we were going to be at the hall in approximately 5 minutes from the time we turned on Elm Street. We had just made the turn, well, when I heard what I thought was a shot. I heard this noise which I immediately took to be a rifle shot. I instinctively turned to my right because the sound appeared to come from over my right shoulder, so I turned to look back over my right shoulder, and I saw nothing unusual except just people in the crowd, but I did not catch the President in the corner of my eye, and I was interested, because once I heard the shot in my own mind I identified it as a rifle shot, and I immediately--the only thought that crossed my mind was that this is an assassination attempt. So I looked, failing to see him, I was turning to look back over my left shoulder into the back seat, but I never got that far in my turn. I got about in the position I am in now facing you, looking a little bit to the left of center, and then I felt like someone had hit me in the back.
What is the best estimate that you have as to the time span between the sound of the first shot and the feeling of someone hitting you in the back which you just described?
A very, very brief span of time. Again my trend of thought just happened to be, I suppose along this line, I immediately thought that this--that I had been shot. I knew it when I just looked down and I was covered with blood, and the thought immediately passed through my mind that there were either two or three people involved or more in this or someone was shooting with an automatic rifle. These were just thoughts that went through my mind because of the rapidity of these two, of the first shot plus the blow that I took, and I knew I had been hit, and I immediately assumed, because of the amount of blood, and in fact, that it had obviously passed through my chest that I had probably been fatally hit. So I merely doubled up, and then turned to my right again and began to--I just sat there, and Mrs. Connally pulled me over to her lap. She was sitting, of course, on the jump seat, so I reclined with my head in her lap, conscious all the time, and with my eyes open; and then, of course, the third shot sounded, and I heard the shot very clearly. I heard it hit him. I heard the shot hit something, and I assumed again--it never entered my mind that it ever hit anybody but the President. I heard it hit. It was a very loud noise, just that audible, very clear. “
As we can see, Governor Connally informed both the FBI and the Warren commission that the time between the first shot and the one which hit him was very brief. In fact according to Connally, it was so brief that he initially believed somebody was shooting with an automatic rifle! He also claimed the Limousine travelled between 150 and 200 feet (further down Elm Street than the position at frame 160). His recollections are therefore more in line with a shot fired between frames 178 and 190 (as per the witnesses who observed Kennedy waving). Of course, there is every reason to believe his memory could’ve been badly affected by his injuries. However, couldn’t the same be said of his recollection of turning to the right following the first shot? Of course it could.
In fact, during an interview with life magazine in 1966, Connally was shown frames of the Zapruder film, where he was asked to give his opinion of when he was hit. Connally had ultimately decided on frame 234. However, the most telling part of the interview was when he made the statement he turned to his right when the limousine was behind the sign. From Pat Speer’s website:
"You can see my leftward movement clearly...I had turned to the right when the limousine was behind the sign. Now I'm turning back again. I know that I made that turn to the left before I was hit. You can see the grimace in the President's face. You cannot see it in mine. There is no question about it. I haven't been hit yet."
So there you have it folks. Despite the claims by lone gunman kooks, Connally himself claimed to turn to his right when the limousine was behind the sign. Clearly, the limousine was not behind the sign at frame 160. We can see the limousine disappear completely behind the sign at circa frame 200, and we see Governor Connally emerge at circa frame 223. Let me just state for the record, that unlike many conspiracy theorists, I do believe Connally was struck by a bullet at frame 224! However, I don’t believe in the single bullet theory (I will discuss my beliefs on these matters in a future post). Let’s bear in mind that Connally’s claim of turning to his right as the limousine was behind the sign, is perfectly consistent with his earlier claims of the time span between the shots being very brief. It is also consistent with his claim that the limousine could have travelled between 150 to 200 feet along Elm Street, before the first shot was fired.
Still, despite Connally’s own claim of when he turned to his right, lone gunman kooks will argue that Connally’s head snap (circa frame 165) is “proof” of a missed shot. I think an explanation for this reaction is certainly warranted. So what was the cause of it? To answer that question, let’s go back to the article by reporter Mary Woodward.
“We had been waiting about half an hour when the first motorcycle escorts came by, followed shortly by the President’s car. The President was looking straight ahead and we were afraid we would not get to see his face. But we started clapping and cheering and both he and Mrs. Kennedy turned, and smiled and waved, directly at us…After acknowledging our cheers, he [JFK] faced forward again and suddenly there was a horrible, ear-splitting noise coming from behind us and a little to the right.”
So there it is. Woodward claimed that both Kennedy and his wife, turned towards them as they started to clap and cheer. Now wouldn’t Governor Connally, who was also watching crowds throughout the motorcade, turn his head quickly from looking to his left (just prior to frame 165) upon hearing the clapping and cheering? Of course he would. After all, isn’t that precisely the sort of reaction we would expect from anybody hearing cheering? I sure believe that to be the case.
Now, Woodward herself never claimed that Connally had turned towards her. This is understandable however, considering she was paying attention to the President and his wife, and not Connally. Supporting Woodward’s observation, there is the testimony of TSBD employee, Victoria Adams. Here is the relevant excerpt of her testimony before David Belin:
Mr. Belin :
Will you state what you saw, what you did, and what you heard?
I watched the motorcade come down Main, as it turned from Main onto Houston, and watched it proceed around the corner on Elm, and apparently somebody in the crowd called to the late President, because he and his wife both turned abruptly and faced the building, so we had a very good view of both of them.
Where was their car as you got this good view, had it come directly opposite your window? Had it come to that point on Elm, or not, if you can remember
I believe it was prior, just a second or so prior to that.
And from our vantage point we were able to see what the President's wife was wearing, the roses in the car, and things that would attract men's attention. Then we heard---then we were obstructed from the view.
A tree and we heard a shot, and it was a pause, and then a second shot, and then a third shot.
As was the case with Mary Woodward, Victoria Adams made it clear that both the President and the first lady turned to their right before the first shot, not after. I honestly don’t know how much clearer it could be. When we also take into account the witnesses who observed Kennedy waving as the first shot was fired, along with Connally’s claim of turning to his right as the limousine was behind the sign, it’s obvious the first shot was fired between Zapruder frames 178 and 190. As I also previously stated, it makes little or no sense that President Kennedy would hear a loud noise such as a gunshot, and continue to smile and wave.
Secret service agents John Ready and Paul Landis
Apart from the reactions of President Kennedy, Mrs Kennedy, and Governor Connally, there are also the reactions of secret service agents John Ready, and Paul Landis, who were standing on the right running board of the secret service follow-up car. Stephen Barber wrote an article entitled “a close examination of the Zapruder film”, which is posted on the website of lone gunman kook, John McAdams. In the article, Barber discusses the reactions of the two agents as follows:
“An examination of the two Secret Service agents John Ready and Paul Landis, riding on the right running board of the Secret Service car, we can see that both men are looking to their immediate left. At approximately frame 169, agent Ready quickly turns his head to the right front, and appears to be scanning the area. Agent Landis follows with the same reaction.”
Barber evidently believes the two agents were reacting to a gunshot. However, wouldn’t the sudden cheering of Mary Woodward and her three friends also have attracted the attention of these two agents? Of course it would. What Barber doesn’t note, are the reactions of the Ready and Landis which follow. At approximately Zapruder frame 200, agent ready drops his right arm, and begins to turn around. In the Altgens’ photo we can see that he is looking to his rear. According to Ready’s secret service report, he turned around immediately following the first shot. Here is the relevant excerpt:
“The shooting occurred as we were approaching the Thornton Freeway, traveling about 20-25 miles per hour in a slight incline. There appeared to be no spectators on the right side of the road-way. After the initial shot I attempted to locate the area from where they had come from but was not able to. It appeared that the shots came from my right-rear side.”
It’s important to note, that Ready begins to turn around just as George Hickey rapidly turns his head from looking to the left, to looking straight ahead! His reaction is therefore more supportive of a shot between frames 178 and 190. How about agent Landis? According to his secret service report, he also turned to his rear following the first shot. We can also see him looking to his rear in the Altgens’ photo. Here is the relevant excerpt from his secret service report:
“The President's car and the Follow-up car had just completed their turns and both were straightening out. At this moment I heard what sounded like the report of a high-powered rifle from behind me, over my right shoulder. When I heard the sound there was no question in my mind what it was. My first glance was at the President, as I was practically looking in his direction anyway. I saw him moving in a manner which I thought was to look in the direction of the sound. I did not realize that President Kennedy had been shot at this point. I immediately returned my gaze, over my right shoulder, toward the modernistic building I had observed before.”
As can be seen in the Zapruder film, Landis doesn't turn to his rear, until he is no longer in the field of view of Zapruder’s camera (which is after frame 200). His claim of immediately looking back towards the TSBD is therefore more in line with a shot between frames 178 and 190.
The smoking gun:
There is perhaps no better evidence for a shot between Zapruder frames 178 and 190, than President Kennedy’s own reactions. At frame 190, he has suddenly stopped waving to his right. Now what could have caused this reaction? The most logical answer is the sound of the first shot. At frame 200, he begins to turn his head away from the crowd and to his left. By frame 214 (0.77 seconds later with Zapruder camera at 18.3 frames per second), he is completely facing forward. As he turns his head, he also glides his right hand across his face, and appears to already be struck by a bullet.
Whilst lone gunman kooks naturally scoff at conspiracy theorists for believing Kennedy had already been hit, the HSCA’s photographic panel came to the conclusion that President Kennedy appeared to be showing a reaction to an external stimulus at this point in time. Excerpt from Volume 6 of the HSCA:
“The Zapruder film was studied with care at each of the Panel's conferences. At the final conference, which took place in July 1978, the film was closely scrutinized by 20 photographic scientists who were either members of the Panel or contractors responsible for much of the committee's laboratory work (i.e. photographic enhancement, restoration, etc.).
By a vote of 12 to 5, the Panel determined that President Kennedy first showed a reaction to some severe external stimulus by Zapruder frame 207, as he is seen going behind a sign that obstructed Zapruder's view.
At approximately Zapruder frame 200, Kennedy's movements suddenly freeze; his right hand abruptly stops in the midst of a waving motion and his head moves rapidly from right to his left in the direction of his wife. Based on these movements, it appears that by the time the President goes behind the sign at frame 207 he is evidencing some kind of reaction to a severe external stimulus.”
Just as President Kennedy begins to emerge from behind the Stemmons freeway sign In Zapruder frame 223; we can see that his left arm is already elevated. In frame 224 (just as Governor Connally is hit), we can that President Kennedy already has a look of pain on his face. There is very little doubt in my mind that President Kennedy had already been hit, prior to the “single bullet” shot at frame 224. I will hopefully discuss this further in a future post.
In conclusion, agent George Hickey’s rapid head snap beginning circa frame 193, agent John Ready’s dropping his arm turning around circa frame 200, Governor Connally’s claim of turning around as the limousine was behind the Stemmons freeway sign, and the witnesses who claimed JFK was waving as the first shot was fired, all place the first shot closer to frame 190 of the Zapruder film. We also have the statements by Mary Woodward and Victoria Adams, and the actions of President Kennedy himself who suddenly stopped waving at circa frame 190, and then rapidly turned his head to the front. Let’ also take into account the reaction of Rosemary Willis (the little girl seen running in the Zapruder film), who testified before the HSCA that she began to slow down just as she heard the first shot. In the Zapruder film, she can be seen slowing down circa frame 190!
Let me note, there are a couple of contradictions. Mr’s Kennedy testified before the Warren commission that she was looking to her left as the first shot was fired. However, it’s quite possible that the trauma of seeing her husband murdered before her eyes, had badly affected her memory. Phil Willis also claimed that Mr’s Kennedy’s turned her head to the right, following the first shot. This implies the first shot was fired prior to frame 171 - when Mr’s Kennedy begins to turn her head. However, his words are open to interpretation.