REACTIONS TO SIX SHOTS IN THE ZAPRUDER FILM
Michael T. Griffith
@All Rights Reserved
Revised on 10/9/99
The Warren Commission said only three shots were fired at President Kennedy. But there is compelling evidence in the Zapruder film alone that six shots were fired. We see reactions to shots in the following frames:
* Kennedy starts to turn his head rapidly from left to right at Z154.
* There is a significant blur episode at Z155.
* Connally starts to turn his head rapidly to the right at Z162.
* Several witnesses said the first shot was fired during the limo's turn onto Elm Street or just after it completed the turn.
* Rosemary Willis, running along the grass to the left of the limousine, starts to look back down Elm Street at around Z160, and by Z 187-190 she has stopped and is looking back toward a point to the rear of the limousine.
This shot was probably fired at around Z145.
* The HSCA photographic evidence panel concluded Kennedy was hit between frames 188 and 190. The panel noted that a fraction of a second later, at around frame 200, Kennedy's movements suddenly freeze and his right hand abruptly stops in the middle of a waving motion. It was further noted that JFK's head rapidly moves from the right toward his wife on his left.
* Based on its jiggle or blur analysis of the Zapruder film, the Select Committee's photographic evidence panel determined that the strong blur episode between frames 189 and 197 indicated a shot was fired "between frames 181 and 192." After correlating this blur episode with other evidence, the panel concluded the shot was fired just before frame 190. Tests have shown that people filming will jiggle the camera at the sound of a shot, even when they know the shot is coming.
* By frames 202-204, Mrs. Kennedy has made a sudden sharp turn to the right, toward her husband. When she reemerges into view at Z223, she is looking intently at her husband (obviously her attention was drawn to him because the reaction that he had begun at around Z200 had become more noticeable while the car was behind the freeway sign).
* At frame 207, Howard Brennan suddenly looks to his right.
* At the direction of the Secret Service, Special Agent John Howlett analyzed films of the shooting (mainly the Zapruder film) with the aid of a surveyor a few days after the assassination and concluded that Kennedy was first hit at around Z199.
* At around frame 200, JFK's hand not only stops suddenly in the middle of a wave, but it also drops to the chin or throat level in a fraction of a second and stays at that level until he disappears behind the freeway sign at Z207.
* SSA Hickey, seated in the left rear of the follow-up car, begins to turn his head to the right in frame 195; he continues this motion for as long as he can be seen in the Zapruder film, i.e., up to frame 207, "at which point he is looking off to the right of the motorcade.
* William Hartmann, a member of the Committee's photographic evidence panel, reported that the panel found that Willis slide 5 indicated a shot was fired at or shortly before frame 190. Willis said he snapped the photo in a startle reaction to the sound of a shot. He took Slide 5 at Z202. "So," notes Hartmann, "that is very nice, consistent evidence that something happened, say, at 190 or shortly before 190." (2 HSCA 15)
* Kennedy's cheek are seen to puff at Z188.
This shot was probably fired at Z186.
* Dr. Luis Alvarez, a Nobel-prize-winning physicist, in his 1967 blur analysis of the Zapruder film for CBS, concluded Kennedy was hit between frames 226 and 229.
* HSCA photographic evidence panel members Hartmann and Frank Scott did their own jiggle analysis of the Zapruder film and noted a blur episode from Z225-228. The panel obliquely conceded that this could represent another shot--not that it DID, but that it COULD: "It is difficult to determine," they said, whether this blur "represents an additional shot."
* There is a four-frame blur at Z226-229.
* Beginning at Z226, Kennedy's body is visibly jolted sharply forward, and the position of his hands and elbows--particularly his elbows--changes dramatically, as they are flung upward and forward. The force and speed of these movements of his arms and elbows are quite startling when one compares frame 226, where they are first discernible, to frame 232 just 1/3-second later. Although the WC, and to a great extent the HSCA, ignored these movements, they are among the most dramatic and visible reactions on JFK's part in the entire Zapruder film. They can be readily discerned by viewing any decent copy of the film. Those readers who are fortunate enough to own the Medio CD entitled THE JFK ASSASSINATION: A VISUAL INVESTIGATION can play the Zapruder film one frame at a time, or in slow motion, and clearly see these movements for themselves.
This shot was probably fired at around Z224.
* John Connally himself, after carefully studying the Zapruder film, chose frame 234 as the actual moment of impact. When LIFE magazine showed Connally the Zapruder film and asked him about the frames leading up to and including frame 230, he replied, "THERE IS NO QUESTION ABOUT IT. I HAVEN'T BEEN HIT YET."
* Dr. Robert Shaw, Connally's chest surgeon, studied the Zapruder film and concluded the bullet struck the Governor at frame 236, "give or take 1 or 2 frames."
* Dr. Charles Gregory, Connally's wrist surgeon, opined that the hit occurred between Z234 and Z238.
* In Z238 we see a very definite change in Connally, indicating the impact a bullet: his right shoulder collapses, his cheeks and face puff, and his hair is disarranged. A few WC supporters claim the shoulder drop is an optical illusion. This claim has been refuted. The shoulder drop is plainly visible and measurable in the Zapruder film, as I discuss in my article "Five Myths About the JFK Assassination," which is available at my JFK web page and in the JFK Debate library in this forum.
(Some researchers believe Connally was struck by a bullet during this same time frame, specifically, at Z224, and that his dramatic, visible reactions in Z236-242 actually begin at Z225. Personally, I remain skeptical of this view, though I concede it is a possibility. If Connally was hit at Z224, the evidence suggests it was a different bullet than the one that struck Kennedy at Z222-225. If one argues that Connally was struck by the same missile that struck Kennedy during this time frame, then one wonders why Kennedy reacts so visibly from Z226 onward while Connally doesn't appear to markedly respond until Z237-238. In any case, if both men were wounded by the same missile at Z222-224, this bullet most certainly was a different missile than the one which hit Kennedy at Z188-190 and to which he begins to react at Z200.)
* There is a strong blur episode in the Zapruder film that starts just before Z290.
* Special Agent Warren Taylor said he heard a shot at the very instant his left foot touched the ground after he opened the door to exit the vehicle in which he was riding. A photo taken by newsman James Altgens at Z255 shots Taylor still in the car but in the process of opening the door.
* Texas Highway Patrolman Milton Wright said he heard a shot just as his car turned onto Elm Street. The above-mentioned Altgens photo shows that Taylor's car had not made that turn by Z255.
* Special Agent William Greer, the limousine's driver, snaps his head to the rear beginning at Z301.
* Special Agent Roy Kellerman, who is sitting next to Greer, is seen to "duck" his head beginning at Z293. His head tips noticeably forward, in an apparent ducking motion.
* Jean Hill begins to snap her head to the right at around Z295. She is standing to the left of the limousine, across the street from Zapruder. By Z298 we can see she has turned her head and is looking to the rear of the limousine.
This shot was probably fired at Z285. Robert Harris presents more evidence of this shot in his superb article "The JFK Assassination: Another Look."
Little needs to be said about these frames.
* At frame 312, Kennedy's head is jolted forward for a split second, but as the head is in the process of moving forward, it and his upper body are rocketed violently to the rear and to the left beginning at frame 313.
* This violent backward motion defies scientific explanation. Warren Commission supporters have proposed two theories to explain this motion, the jet-effect theory and the neuromuscular-reaction theory. The jet-effect theory really is not worthy of comment. However, let it be noted that even pro-lone-gunman-theory wound ballistics expert Dr. Larry Sturdivan told the House Select Committee that the force that would have been generated from the right frontal explosion would have been minimal, and would have pushed Kennedy to the left, not back and to the left as seen in the film. As for the neuromuscular-reaction theory, the violent backward movement that followed the head shot simply occurred too quickly after the bullet struck to have been a neuromuscular reaction (the violent rearward motion started less than 56 milliseconds after the bullet's impact). More importantly, such violent movement is not produced by neuromuscular reactions anyway, according to neuroscientist Dr. Robert Zacharko.
* Many conspiracy theorists suggest the violent backward movement was the result of a shot from the front. This seems wholly logical and reasonable at first glance. After all, objects shot from the front are normally propelled backward, and objects struck from behind are normally propelled forward. That's just common sense. However, the violent backward movement was too rapid to have been caused by the impact of a bullet striking from the front. In short, no bullet fired from the front could have caused Kennedy's head and upper back to move so rapidly.
* There is a third alternative to explain the violent backward movement--film alteration. Some conspiracy theorists now suggest that the Zapruder film has been altered, and that the head shot episode is actually a conflation of what were originally two separate head shots. They theorize that the original backward motion was much slower, and that the first head shot came from behind and the second from the front. This would explain why so much blood and brain matter was blown fiercely backward. It would also explain the evidence that there was a small wound in the area of Kennedy's right temple. And, it would explain why dozens of witnesses, to include doctors and federal agents who saw the body, reported there was a large, exploded wound in the right rear area of Kennedy's head. The film alteration theory cannot be dismissed out of hand. Indeed, given the fact that the violent backward movement defies all the known laws of physics and wound ballistics, film alteration is a distinct possibility.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michael T. Griffith holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Excelsior College in Albany, New York, and two Associate in Applied Science degrees from the Community College of the Air Force. He is a two-time graduate of the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, in Arabic and Hebrew, and has completed advanced Hebrew programs at Haifa University in Israel and at the Spiro Institute in London, England. He is also a two-time graduate of the U.S. Air Force Technical Training School in San Angelo, Texas, and holds an Occupational Instructor Certificate from the Community College of the Air Force. He is the author of the book Compelling Evidence: A New Look at the Assassination of President Kennedy (Grand Prairie, TX: JFK-Lancer Productions and Publications, 1996). His articles on the assassination have appeared in several journals that deal with the case. In addition, he is the author of four books on Mormonism and ancient texts.
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