Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Kill Zone: Reactions (Part 1 of 4)

The first chapter of Crossfire is entitled "The Kill Zone" and, as you would expect, it deals with the events that took place within the confines of Dealey Plaza (Note: there is a link on the right-hand side that will show a map of Dealey Plaza for reference) before, during, and after the assassination. The main points that I wanted to focus on while reading this chapter are nothing new; they are the same questions that people have been asking since the first shot was fired. How many shots were there? Where did they come from? Who pulled the trigger?

With those thoughts in mind, my initial reactions are after the jump...

First, let's deal with the testimony of the those closest to the action: those riding in the Presidential limo.
  • Secret Service agents William Greer (driver) and Roy Kellerman were in the front seat of the limo. Both had similar accounts. Greer recalls hearing what sounded like "motorcycle backfire" first, then a second noise that he recognized as a gunshot, followed by a brief pause, then 2 shots right on top of each other. Kellerman first heard a "pop" followed by a "flurry of shells" coming into the car. These accounts are important for those who oppose the lone gunman theory as they claim that there were more than the 3 possible shots that Lee Harvey Oswald could have taken. They also point out a common theme in nearly all testimony taken by those in Dealey Plaza: the odd sound of the first shot. Many would categorize it as sounding like a "firecracker" even though they recognized the following sounds quite clearly as shots. In the lead car, nearing the underpass at the time the shots were fired, Agent Lawson recalls hearing a "bang" first, then gunshots.
  • Texas Governor John Connally, however, immediately recognized the first sound as a shot from a "high-powered rifle." Also of importance, he heard the first shot, but was not hit by it; at least he claims as much. According to his Warren Commission testimony, he turned to his right, and as he began to turn back to his left he felt the second shot hit him. Also of importance, the Governor felt the car accelerate AFTER hearing the final, fatal shot. 
Next, let's look at where the shots were believed to originate:
  • The majority of agents and passengers in the motorcade, as well as police stationed in other areas along the route claim that when the shots were fired, their attention was drawn not to the book depository, but an area near the underpass on the northwest side of Dealey Plaza: the grassy knoll. Agent Paul Landis, who was riding in the Secret Service follow-up car, heard the first shot come from "somewhere towards the front, right-hand side of the road."
  • One particular event stood out to me as being particularly ominous. Julia Ann Mercer drove through Dealey Plaza 2 hours prior to the motorcade. At this time, she passed a green pickup truck where a man retrieved a long slender package that she believes contained the outline of a rifle. This man then proceeded up to the area of the knoll. She alerted the local authorities and continued on her way. After the assassination, she was contacted again by authorities where she picked out the two men she saw earlier that day. She IDed one of them as Jack Ruby. She would not be the only one to say that they saw Ruby at Dealey Plaza that afternoon.
  • There were some, however, who recall hearing the first shot come from the depository. A number of people claim to have seen two men on the sixth floor, one with a rifle, about 15 minutes before President Kennedy was to arrive. Officer Marrion Baker saw birds fly off the depository roof after the first shot was fired. Moments later, he raced into the building with Depository superintendent Ray Truly. When he reached the second floor breakroom approximately 90 seconds after the final shot was fired, he encountered a calm and collected Lee Harvey Oswald, who had just purchased a Coke from the vending machine.
  • A number of witnesses, both within the confines of Dealey Plaza and the motorcade itself, recall smelling gunpowder as the proceeded out of the plaza and through the underpass. This seems more plausible if shots were fired from roughly ground level in front of the motorcade, not from six stories up and behind. 
Other notes:
  • Hugh Betzner, a bystander taking pictures of President Kennedy, heard four shots. Additionally, he claims, as others will, that Kennedy's limo had almost come to a complete stop when the fatal headshot was delivered. (Note: if you have seen the Zapruder film, which I have posted below, you will notice that car never appears to slow down, let alone come to a complete stop. This will be the source of major controversy to be discussed later.) Betzner also reported that he saw policemen "digging around in the dirt as if they were looking for a bullet." 
So what I have gathered so far is that there were at least three shots, possibly more. The first shot had a distinctly different sound than those that followed. The majority of witnesses heard the sounds come from the area of the grassy knoll, though some saw a man with a rifle on the sixth floor of the depository. What is particularly odd, and unsettling if you believe the Warren Commission findings that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman, is that when Officer Baker and Superintendent Truly entered the depository moments after the shots were fired, they found Oswald in the second floor breakroom. Also, Jack Ruby's presence in Dealey Plaza raises addition questions about his possible role in a conspiracy.

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