Over six hundred people witnessed the assassination of President Kennedy.
The FBI acting on behalf of the Warren Commission interviewed at least
two hundred of them.
Regrettably, the Commission seemed unconcerned that the FBI reports
on seventy of these interviews did not reveal if the witness had an
opinion on the source of the shots. Nor did the Commission conduct an
analysis of witness accounts or give any credence to those accounts
of witnesses who thought the shots came from the grassy knoll.
Analysis of 178 Witnesses
In 1978 the House Select Committee on Assassinations analyzed the accounts
of the witnesses taken by the Warren Commmission and from FBI reports
publised in the 26 Volumes of Hearings and Exhibits that accompanied
the Warren Report. In analyzing witness accounts, a diligent investigator
would consider various issues that the House Committee faild to address.
One delicate issue to confront is the truthfulness of some of the witnesses.
James Altgens, Associated Press photographer, told the Warren Commission
he thought the shots came from behind the Presidential limousine (i.e.,
the direction of the Depository). (7H517) But on November 22, he wrote
in an AP dispatch, "At first I thought the shots came from the opposite
side of the street [i.e., the knoll]. I ran over there to see if I could
get some pictures . . . I did not know until later where the shots came
from." (See Document 28 in Cover-up)
Jesse Curry, the Dallas chief of police, told reporters on November
23 that although he was driving the lead car of the motorcade, he "could
tell from the sound of the three shots that they had come from the book
company’s building near downtown Dallas." (The New York Times, 11/24/63)
However, when confronted with the transcript of the police radio transmissions,
Curry admitted that just after the shots were fired, he broadcast over
his car radio: "Get a man on top of that triple underpass and see what
happened up there." (23H913; 4H161)
Bill Decker, the Dallas Sheriff, was riding with Curry in the lead car,
and according to the police transcript, Decker called over Curry’s radio:
"Have my office move all available men out of my office into the railroad
yard to try to determine what happened in there and hold everything
secure until Homicide and other investigators should get there." (23H913)
When Decker testified to the Warren Commission, he did not reveal, nor
was he asked, where he thought the shots came from.
House Speaker Tip O’Neill revealed in his autobiography that five years
after the assassination:
"I was surprised to hear [Presidential aide Kenneth] O’Donnell say that
he was sure he had heard two shots that came from behind the fence.
"That’s not what you told the Warren Commission," I said.
"You’re right," he replied. "I told the FBI what I had heard, but they
said it couldn’t have happened that way and that I must have been imagining
things. So I testified the way they wanted me to. I just didn’t want
to stir up any more pain and trouble for the family."
"Dave Powers [another Kennedy aide] was with us at dinner that night,
and his recollection of the shots was the same as O’Donnell’s." (Man
of the House,178)
Another issue to consider is whether or not the Dallas Police and the
FBI submitted erroneous reports to the Warren Commission.
Robert Edwards testified before counsel for the Warren Commission, David
Belin, that the Dallas Police affidavit he made out on November 22,
1963 contained a statement he did not make.
Mr. Belin. Where do you think the shots came from?
Mr. Edwards. I have no idea.
Mr. Belin. In the affidavit you stated that the shots seemed to come
from the building there. Did you really say that or not?
Mr. Edwards. No; I didn’t say that. (6H205)
Richard Dodd, a railroad track supervisor who was standing on the overpass
during the assassination, was interviewed by two FBI agents. In their
report to the Warren Commission, the FBI agents said that Dodd "did
not know where the shots came from." (22H835) Several witnesses contradicted
what was in their FBI reports, and Dodd was one of them. Dodd told Mark
Lane in a filmed interview that he told federal agents that "the shots,
the smoke came from behind the hedge on the north side of the plaza."
(The film Rush to Judgment)
James Simmons, another railroad worker, was interviewed by two agents
of the FBI, who reported that "Simmons advised that it was his opinion
the shots came from the direction of the Texas School Book Depository
Building." (22H833) One of the main flaws of the Committee’s analysis
is its unquestioning reliance on hearsay reports of FBI agents. Simmons
has contradicted what was in his FBI reports, and in a filmed interview,
he told Mark Lane, "It sounded like it came from the left and in front
of us towards the wooden fence. And there was a puff of smoke that came
underneath the trees on the embankment. . . . It was right directly
in front of the wooden fence." Simmons went on to say that he told the
FBI agents who interviewed him that he had seen a puff of smoke on the
knoll. Evidently, they chose to hand in a false report instead. (The
film Rush to Judgment)
Puff of Smoke
At least seven witnesses saw a puff of smoke on the grassy knoll.
o In May of 1966 I spoke with railroad workers Thomas Murphy and Walter
Winborn, who were standing on the triple overpass at the time of the
assassination. I asked Murphy, "Could you tell me where you thought
the shots came from?"
Murphy. Yeah, they come from a tree to the left, of my left, which is
to the immediate right of the site of the assassination.
Galanor. That would be on that grassy hill up there.
Murphy. Yeah, on the hill up there. There are two or three hackberry
and elm trees. And I say it come from there.
Galanor. Well, was there anything that led you to believe that the shots
came from there?
Murphy. Yeah, smoke.
Galanor. You saw smoke?
Murphy. Sure did.
Galanor. Could you tell me exactly where you saw the smoke?
Murphy. Yeah, in that tree. (See Cover-up, 59)
Walter Winborn told me he saw "smoke that come out from under the trees
on the right hand side of the motorcade." The FBI agents who interviewed
Winborn for the Warren Commission, however, did not mention in their
report that he had seen smoke on the knoll.
Galanor. Did you tell them about that, that you saw smoke on the grassy
Winborn. Oh yes. Oh yes.
Galanor. They didn’t include it in their report.
Galanor. Do you have any idea why they didn’t?
Winborn. I don’t have any idea. They are specialists in their field,
and I’m just an amateur. (See Cover-up, 60)
S. M. Holland, a railroad signal supervisor, was standing on the overpass
watching the motorcade move toward him. "I looked over toward the arcade
and trees [the knoll] and saw a puff of smoke come from the trees."
(19H480) Later Holland told the Warren Commission, "A puff of smoke
came out about 6 or 8 feet above the ground right out from under those
trees." (6H243) The Warren Commission ignored Holland’s testimony and
never addressed the fact that five other railroad workers claimed to
have seen smoke on the knoll at the time of the shots.
Seymour Weitzman, a Dallas Police Officer, wrote in a statement made
out the day after the assassination, "I ran in a Northwest direction
and scaled a fence towards where we thought the shots came from." (24H228)
The record shows that when Weitzman was interviewed by the FBI the next
day and when he testified before counsel for the Warren Commission four
months later, he was not asked where he thought the shots came from.
Austin Miller, in a sworn statement to the Dallas Sheriff’s Department
on November 22, said, "I saw something which I thought was smoke or
steam coming from a group of trees north of Elm off the railroad tracks."
(19H485) Apologists for the Warren Commission have pointed out that
what Miller saw was steam, so that, most likely, any smoke seen by other
witnesses was in fact steam. The closest steam pipe, however, was over
100 feet away. If a steam pipe had been the source of smoke, one would
expect the steam to have been seen again. No such sightings have occurred.
When Miller was questioned four and a half months later by a Warren
Commission counsel, he was not asked one question about the smoke or
steam he observed.
The Committee’s analysis ignores lapses of this sort and neglects to
mention that 70 FBI reports were handed over to the Commission with
no indication that the witnesses were ever asked their opinion on the
origin of the shots.
Witnesses Not Called
According to the HSCA, 692 witnesses "were present in the Plaza during
the assassination." Most of them were never called to testify by either
the Warren Commission or the HSCA. (8HSCA139)
Ed Johnson, a reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram who was riding
in the motorcade, wrote for his paper the next day, "Some of us saw
little puffs of white smoke that seemed to hit the grassy area in the
esplanade that divides Dallas’ main downtown streets." He was never
interviewed by any government agency.
Any analysis of the 216 witnesses is inherently biased towards producing
an unrealistically high percentage of Depository witnesses. Of the 216
witnesses who were interviewed by the FBI or the Warren Commission,
73 of them were Dallas Police Officers, Dallas Deputy Sheriffs, Secret
Service Agents and other government employees who traditionally tend
to identify with the government’s case. Thus, the tabulation of 216
witnesses (culled from the Warren Commission’s 26 Volumes and from Commission
Documents stored in the National Archives) does not constitute a random
sample of the witnesses to the assassination. Hence, it cannot be the
basis for an accurate statistical analysis of witness accounts. What
happens if we separate out the 73 government employees from the 143
143 Nongovernment Employees
73 Government Employees
In the nongovernment group, the number of Knoll witnesses is two times
larger than the Depository witnesses, while in the government group,
the number of Depository witnesses is three times larger than the number
of Knoll witnesses.
The House Committee's analysis of witness accounts is a disingenuous
attempt to dismiss and discredit evidence that the shots were fired
from at least two locations. The evidence of a shooter firing from behind
the fence is staggering, not least of which is the testimony of witnesses
who heard shots or saw smoke on the grassy knoll.
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