EXTRA BULLETS AND MISSED SHOTS IN DEALEY PLAZA
Michael T. Griffith
@All Rights Reserved
Revised on 4/28/2001
With the discovery that the single-bullet theory is very probably a physical impossibility, it is perhaps appropriate to review the evidence of extra bullets and misses in Dealey Plaza. Since it now seems clear that the single-bullet theory is impossible, we can be very confident that more than one gunman fired at President Kennedy. We can also be virtually certain that, contrary to the lone-gunman theory, more than three bullets were fired during the shooting. This being the case, researchers need to take another look at the accounts of extra bullets striking in Dealey Plaza during the shooting, and to reconsider the implications of the subsequent finding of additional bullets and weapons in the area.
Extra Bullets and Weapons
* Among the files released by the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) between 1994 and 1996 was an FBI evidence envelope (FBI Field Office Dallas 89-43-1A-122). Although the envelope was empty, the cover indicated it had contained a 7.65 mm rifle shell that had been found in Dealey Plaza after the shooting. The envelope is dated 2 December 1963, so the shell was found sometime between 11/22/63 and 12/2/63. Nothing was known about the discovery of this shell until the FBI evidence envelope was released along with other assassination-related files.
* Other documents released by the ARRB discuss a Johnson semi-automatic 30.06 rifle that was apparently suspected of having been used in the assassination. One can infer from the documents that the rifle might have even been found in Dealey Plaza, although the documents never actually say where the weapon was located on the day of the shooting. The documents strongly link this rifle to two men who have long been suspected of being involved in the assassination plot, Loran Hall and Jerry Patrick Hemming. The files also reveal that the FBI took a strong interest in the history and ownership of this rifle within hours of the shooting. A man named Richard Hathcock, who lived in California at the time, had kept the rifle in his office for a while. The day after the assassination, an FBI agent questioned him about the weapon. Among other things, the agent wanted to know if Hathcock had an employee named Roy Payne, who apparently knew a great deal about the rifle. In one of the released files, we read that Hathcock said the following:
It's my opinion that the reason he [the FBI agent] wanted to see Mr. Payne was because Payne's fingerprints undoubtedly were all over that rifle from his having handled it many times. It's also my opinion that unless that particular rifle had been found [near the scene of the crime] or in some way involved in this whole thing [the assassination], that the FBI would have no interest in it. (HSCA 180-10107-10443)
This rifle had quite a history. It was used in CIA-connected anti-Castro raids in Cuba. Roy Payne said the weapon could "put a hole in a dime at 500 yards" (HSCA 180-10107-10440). Loran Hall and an unidentified Hispanic man took the weapon from Payne about a week before the assassination. Hall's associate, Jerry Hemming, is known to have been in Dallas on the day of the shooting, and Hall himself told Hathcock five days prior to the assassination that he had to catch a flight to Dallas (HSCA 180-10107-10440).
* In 1975 a maintenance man named Morgan, while working on the roof of the County Records Building in Dealey Plaza, found a 30.06 shell casing lying under a lip of roofing tar at the base of the roof's parapet on the side facing the plaza, according to his son, Dean Morgan. The shell casing is dated 1953 and marks on it indicate it was made at the Twin Cities Arsenal. One side of the casing has been pitted by exposure to the weather, suggesting that it was exposed on the roof for some time. The casing, which is still in Morgan's possession, has an odd crimp around its neck (Marrs 317; Roberts 80-81).
The term "extra misses" implies that one miss has already been documented. This miss is the bullet which struck the south Main Street curb in Dealey Plaza during the shooting. It landed about 25 feet from James Tague, who was standing next to the triple underpass. The bullet made a visible scar in the curb, and the mark was immediately recognized by those who saw it as a fresh bullet mark. (The mark might have been made by a sizeable fragment from a bullet that struck nearby.)
Warren Commission (WC) supporters strain to explain this mark. Most of them now deny it was made by a bullet. Instead, they say, it was caused by a fragment. But the closest bullet they can produce from which this fragment could have come is the missile that struck the President in the head at frame 312 in the Zapruder film. However, the mark on the curb was over 200 feet from the limousine's position at Z312. In addition, a fragment from the head shot would have just finished plowing through a human skull, and, to make matters worse, would have had to somehow fly over the limo's support bar and windshield just to clear the car.
Another theory has been advanced by Gerald Posner in his book CASE CLOSED. Posner opines that the sixth-floor gunman fired at around Z160, that this missile struck a branch of the intervening oak tree, that the lead core separated from the bullet's jacket as a result of striking the tree branch, and that this lead fragment traveled over 400 feet and struck the curb! Even many WC supporters reject this forced, unlikely theory. The WC stated that the sixth-floor gunman would have had a clear view of the limousine until Z166 (see also CE 889).
Now, let us consider some of the accounts of extra misses striking in Dealey Plaza during the shooting:
* Dallas policeman J. W. Foster, who was positioned on top of the triple underpass, saw a bullet strike the grass on the south side of Elm Street near a manhole cover, about 350 feet from the TSBD. He reported this to a superior officer and was instructed to guard the area (Shaw and Harris 72-75; Marrs 315).
Journalists and bystanders were kept at a distance from the spot where the bullet landed. An unidentified blond-haired man in a suit was photographed bending down, reaching out his left hand toward the dug-out point on the ground as if to pick up something, standing back up, apparently holding a small object in his hand, and then putting his hand in his pocket (Shaw and Harris 73-74). The hole made by the bullet was even photographed, and the picture appeared in the FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM on 11/23/63.
In his WC testimony, Officer Foster denied a bullet was recovered from near the manhole cover, though he did not explain what the man in the suit picked up and put into his pocket. Foster did, however, say that a bullet "had hit the turf there at that location [near the manhole cover]."
Contemporary press accounts reported that a bullet was retrieved from the dug-out hole in the grass near the manhole cover. For example, when the FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM published a photo of the hole in the grass, it included the following caption:
One of the rifle bullets fired by the murderer of President Kennedy lies in the grass across Elm Street. . . .
The next day the DALLAS TIMES HERALD, in referring to the hole in the grass, reported:
Dallas Police Lt. J. C. Day of the crime lab estimated the distance from the sixth-floor window . . . to the spot where one of the bullets was recovered at 100 yards.
Newsman Richard Dudman said the following about this miss and the recovered bullet in the 12/21/63 issue of the NEW REPUBLIC:
On the day the President was shot I happened to learn of a possible fifth [bullet]. A group of police officers were examining the area at the side of the street where the President was hit, and a police inspector told me they had just found another bullet in the grass.
Richard Trask, dismissing all evidence to the contrary, argues that the blond-haired man did not pick up a bullet from the hole in the grass (Trask 497-498, 542-543). Trask rests his case almost totally on the fact that the two of the photographers who took pictures of the event, Jim Murray and Bill Allen, later denied that a bullet was found. But neither Murray nor Allen could say positively that a bullet was NOT found; rather, they simply did not BELIEVE that a bullet had been found. Nor did either of them explain exactly what it was that the unidentified man picked up and put in his pocket. Trask concedes that the photographic record of the event does not refute the accounts of a bullet being recovered from the hole in the grass. He also acknowledges that in the photos the left hand of the unidentified man in the suit is "cupped" after he stands up, which would certainly suggest he was holding something.
Murray said he accepted "the later speculation" that the hole and accompanying mound in the grass were made by "brain matter from Kennedy's skull." Are we to believe that the unidentified man in the suit picked up brain matter and put it in his pocket? If the hole was made by brain matter, why did the Dallas police maintain a guard over the hole for the next several hours? Why did not a single police or FBI report mention the finding of brain matter at this location? And what about the credible contemporary accounts that a bullet was recovered from the hole in the grass? What's more, how would brain matter from Kennedy's skull have made it all the way to that location, much less to have arrived there with enough force to dig into the grass?
Allen said he didn't believe a bullet was found because neither Walthers, Foster, nor the blond-haired man specifically mentioned having just picked up a bullet after the man stood up. But this was surely a rather weak reason for concluding the man didn't pick up a bullet. Furthermore, as mentioned, when newsman Richard Dudman entered the area at the side of Elm Street where the President had been shot, a police inspector informed him that they had "found another bullet in the grass." In point of fact, the discovery of the bullet in the grass near the manhole cover was photographed and widely reported in the press. It was, however, quickly dismissed and then ignored by federal investigators because they were already committed to a scenario of only three shots fired by a lone gunman from the sixth floor of the Book Depository Building.
In the photos taken of this event, i.e., the finding and removal of the bullet, one can see Officer Foster and a civilian-clothed Deputy Sheriff Buddy Walthers standing over the spot where the bullet landed, along with the unidentified man in the suit. It has been suggested that the man was a federal agent of some kind. Given the man's dress and appearance, this is not an unreasonable suggestion. Dallas police chief Jesse Curry believed the man was an FBI agent, and some researchers have tentatively identified the man as FBI Agent Robert Barrett.
As mentioned, the identity of the blond-haired man is unknown. The recovered bullet was never entered into evidence, and its present whereabouts are not known.
* Officer Foster also reported that a bullet struck the concrete part of the abovementioned manhole cover. It is not known if this was the same missile that made the dug-out hole in the grass a few feet from the manhole cover. The bullet might have skipped off the manhole cover and then imbedded itself in the grass. Or, the mark on the concrete could have been made by a separate bullet, and thus would represent another miss fired from the same approximate location. The sewer cover and the hole in the turf were about 3-5 feet apart, and the latter was farther down the side of Elm Street (that is, it was slightly farther away from the TSBD than was the sewer cover).
About two and a half hours after the shooting, Dealey Plaza witness John Martin came across the mark on the manhole cover. He immediately identified it as a bullet mark. He then told a policeman, "you better get your boss down here to check this thing out, because that will show where the bullet came from" (Trask 573).
Researchers have noted that the photo of the mark indicates it did NOT come from the TSBD. The mark can be seen on the twelfth photo page in the second set of photographs in Harrison Livingstone and Robert Groden's book HIGH TREASON. One can readily see that the angle of the mark does not line up with the Book Depository, but that it does line up with the County Records Building. It might be worth recalling that a 30.06 rifle cartridge casing was later found on the roof of the County Records Building.
* Just after President Kennedy's limousine passed the front steps of the TSBD, five witnesses saw a bullet strike the pavement on Elm Street near the right rear of the limousine. Witnesses saw this bullet kick up concrete toward the car (Weisberg 187-189; cf. Posner 324; Moore 198) (Posner attempts to explain this miss with his bullet-limb-collision theory.)
* Within a day or two of the assassination, Dallas resident Eugene Aldredge saw a dug-out, four-inch-long bullet mark in the middle of the sidewalk on the north side of Elm Street, which is the side nearest the TSBD. Aldredge did not tell the FBI about the mark until shortly after the release of the WARREN COMMISSION REPORT because he assumed, logically enough, that the mark had surely been noticed by law enforcement officials and would be discussed in full in the Commission's report. When he realized that the mark apparently had been "overlooked," he immediately contacted the FBI and told them about it (Weisberg 383-390). Aldredge related to the FBI that Carl Freund, a reporter for the DALLAS MORNING NEWS, had also identified the mark as a bullet mark.
Less than a week after Aldredge informed the FBI of the mark's existence and location, he took a friend to see it. They found the mark, but saw that it had been altered--it had been filled in. Said Aldredge,
. . . we went to the site and found the mark, [which was] formerly about 1/4 inch deep, had been filled in with what appeared to be a mixture of concrete and asbestos. . . .
A crude attempt had been made to make the altered mark appear to be weather-worn to match the surrounding concrete.
In its report on the mark, the FBI admitted to locating it and described it as being approximately 4 inches long, 1/2 inch wide, and "dug out." And why did the FBI dismiss the significance of this mark? Because, explained the Bureau, it could not have been made by a shot from the window from which Oswald allegedly fired.
Would these misses require us to believe that a veritable mob was shooting at Kennedy, as some WC defenders suggest? Not at all. Bullets fired lower elevations and from other buildings in Dealey Plaza, such as the grassy knoll, the County Records Building, and the second floor of the Dal-Tex Building, could have barely missed Kennedy's head and then landed in the plaza. A 1999 trajectory test in Dealey Plaza, using lasers, determined that shots could have been fired from the second-floor window of the Dal-Tex Building.
Groden, Robert and Harrison Edward Livingstone, HIGH TREASON, Berkley Books Edition, New York: Berkley Book, 1990.
Marrs, Jim, CROSSFIRE: THE PLOT THAT KILLED KENNEDY, New York: Carroll and Graf, 1989.
Moore, Jim, CONSPIRACY OF ONE, Ft. Worth: The Summit Group, 1991.
Posner, Gerald, CASE CLOSED, New York: Random House, 1993.
Roberts, Craig, KILL ZONE: A SNIPER LOOKS AT DEALEY PLAZA, Typhoon Press, 1994.
Shaw, J. Gary and Larry Harris, COVER-UP, Second Edition, Austin: Thomas Publications, 1992.
Summers, Anthony and Robbyn, "The Ghosts of November," VANITY FAIR, December 1994, pp. 86-139.
Trask, Richard, PICTURES OF THE PAIN: PHOTOGRAPHY AND THE ASSASSINATION OF PRESIDENT KENNEDY, Danvers, Massachusetts: Yeoman Press, 1994.
Weisberg, Harold, NEVER AGAIN: THE GOVERNMENT CONSPIRACY IN THE JFK ASSASSINATION, New York: Carroll and Graf/Richard Gallen, 1995.
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. 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.
JFK Assassination Web Page
JFK Assassination Web Page 2
JFK Assassination Web Page 3
JFK Assassination Web Page (Old)