Witnesses speak of second gunman


The geography of the assassination, with the grassy incline known as the Grassy Knoll in the centre and where a second gunman was allegedly located

I think it is beyond any doubt that there was more than one gunman in the Kennedy assassination. Who it was is trickier to say.

The point is, the Warren Commission was an exercise in disinformation – like, say, the case for going to war with Iraq was disinformation. It was a political body, designed to prevent an exposure of powerful, rotten forces in the heart of the US establishment

A combination of forensic analysis and witness testimony shows quite clearly that there was a gunman on the grassy knoll, the elevated area to the right of Elm Street down which Kennedy’s entourage motored.

The shots came from behind a five foot picket fence which ran all the way from a concrete structure called the Pergola to a railway bridge under which the Kennedy convoy was soon to pass.


Grassy knoll. Foreground shows road that JFK’s car took. The five ft. high picket fence can be seen behind the trees.  The smoke appeared under these trees

It was the ideal spot, that area behind the picket fence: it offered concealment for this second gunman’s body HE could sneak up to a point near the road without being easily noticed. There were scattered crowds on the Dealy plaza, but none behind the picket fence. The picket fence area backed onto a car park with vehicles parked for the event Beyond that were railroad yards. Cars driven by lone men had circulated in the carpark area in the 20 minutes before the murder: circled, then left again. Railwayman Lee Bowers, who was sitting in a railway control tower behind the car park, reported spotting two men – not the ones in the cars – standing at the picket fence, ten or fifteen feet apart, looking out at the Dealey Plaze and the eventual route of the Kennedy motorcade.

When the killshot had driven Kennedy back into Jackie’s arms, a pall of smoke rose in front of one the trees on the Dealey side of the picket fence, as seen in this pictture, captured in a still from the film of the assassination by NBC photographer David Wiegman.

Here is Lee Bowers seeing it from behind:

“At the time of the shooting, in the vicinity of where the two men I have described were, there was a flash of light or, as far as I am concerned, something I could not identify, but there was something which occurred which caught my eye in this immediate area on the embankment . Now, what this was, I could not state at that time and at the time I could not identify it, other than there was some unusual occurrence—a flash of light or smoke or something which caused me to feel like something out of the ordinary had occurred there.”

To emphasize, he saw two men behind the picket fence, and shortly after “a flash of light or smoke” and “commotion”.

SM Holland, a railway worker, was standing with a group of coworkers on the railway bridge that was orthogonal to the picket fence and the line of trees, about 20 metres to the left. Holland and his group were waiting for the motorcade to pass through the bridge below them. When the shots came, three or four – the accounts vary – SM Holland heard for – Holland said the following things to the Warren Commission. A note about the Warren commission. It didn’t call all the witnessses who had something to say. And even those who had something to say had their testimonies ignored by the Commission. They ignored Holland. Holland and his mates took the truth into their own hands and spoke openly to journalists and TV programmes. But this is what he said to the Warren commission anyway. It is in the Hearings, Volume VI, p343ff

Mr Holland: “I heard a third report and I counted four shots and about the same time time all this was happening and in this group of trees – [indicating]

Mr Stern (assistant counsel to the Commission): “These trees on the north side of Elm Street ?” [Indicating ]

Holland: “These trees right along here” [Indicating]

Stern: Let us mark this exhibit C and draw a circle around the trees you are referring to

Holland: Right in there. There was a shot, there was a report. I don’t know whether it was a shot. I can’t say that. And a puff of smoke came out about 6 or 8 feet above the ground right out from under those trees. And at just about this location from where I was standing you could see that puff of smoke like somone had thrown a firecracker or something out, and that is just the way it sounded.”

Holland’s testimony was confirmed by other railway workers on the bridge. Shortly after the shots, the man rushed over to the area where the smoke was (the tree itself obscured the exact spot where the assassins would have stood.)

Railwayman James Leon Simmons told TV that “As the presidential limousine was rounding the curve there was a large explosion. I didn’t know what it was but it sounded like a loud firecracker or a gunshot and it sounded as if it came from the left and in front of us towards the wooden fence. And there was a puff of smoke that came from underneath the trees.”

Simmons said to TV that “As soon as we heard the shots we ran around to the wooden fence. When we got there there was no one there but there were footprints in the mud around the fence…” just at the spot where the smoke came out from. Simmons and Holland met the Dallas police, gave their names and told the police what he told the TV. About a month later Simmons was questioned by the FBI. But Simmons (unlike Holland) was never called by the Warren commission. The TV programme – from the 1960s – asked Holland if he understood that the Warren Commission had used only a small part of his testimony – and used that as testimony to prove that there was no shot from behind the picket fence. That all the bullets came from the Book Depository. The reporter asked:

“Did the Warren Commission fairly use your testimony?”

SM Holland: “They were wrong. I made it very clear there was a fourth shot from behind that picket fence.”


Apart from SM Holland, there are numerous witnesses who describe seeing, smelling or hearing things that would point to shots from the grassy knoll – not just from the 6th floor of the book depot, which is the Warren Commission conclusion. Further eye witnesses include the Newman family, Bill, Gayle, and their two small children, who were standing just nelow the grassy knoll on the northern side, below and just metres away from the picket fence. According to Kennedy writer Jim Marrs’s book Crossfire, Bill Newman told Sheriff’s officers:

We were standing at the edge of the curb looking at the [president’s] car as it was coming toward us and all of a sudden there was a noise, apparently a gunshot. . . . By [the] time he was directly in front of us . . . he was hit in the side of the head. . . . Then we fell down on the grass as it seemed that we were in direct path of fire. . . . I thought the shot had come from the garden directly behind me, that was an elevation from where I was as I was right on the curb. I do not recall looking toward the Texas School Book Depository. I looked back in the vicinity of the garden.”

Newman told Marrs that “Kennedy was knocked violently back, almost as if he had been hit by a baseball bat. At the time I was looking right at the president and I thought the shots were coming from directly behind us.” back from the picket fence. Austin Miller, of the Texas and Louisiana Freight Bureau, in a statement to the Dallas Sheriff’s office, on the day, said “one shot apparently hit the street past the car. saw something which I thought was smoke or steam coming from a group of trees north of Elm off of the railroad tracks. I did not see anyone on the tracks or in the trees.” Ie, from behind the picket fence.

Robert West, a surveyor, was standing across on the other side of the Dealey plaza and saw the limousine move slowly past the grassy knoll and the pergola next to it. He heard a small report like a motorcycle backfire – although it could also have been a bullet – and three like rifle fire. There is a lot of controversy about the number of bullets. The Warren commission said three; others have said more. (More about that later.) West said that the bullets cam from the North Eastern part of the plaza. Frank O’Reilly, a mail conveyor standing on the railway overpass had this to say to the Warren Commission. (Mr Ball was the assistant General Counsel)

Mr. REILLY – Three shots.

Mr. BALL – Where did they seem to come from; what direction?

Mr. REILLY – It seemed to me like they came from out of the trees.

Mr. BALL – What trees?

Mr. REILLY – On the north side of Elm Street at the corner up there.

Mr. BALL – On the north side of Elm – on what corner?

Mr. REILLY – Well, where all those trees are – you’ve never been down there?

Mr. BALL – Yes, I’ve been there, but you tell me – I want you to tell me because it has to go on the record here and it has to be in writing.

Mr. REILLY – Well, it’s at the park where all the shrubs is up there – it’s to the north of Elm Street – up the slope.

Naval commander Thomas Atkins, an official photographer for the Kennedy White House, was never questioned by the Warren commission. He was travelling in the motorcade some cars back from the Kennedys. He described in an article how his car was facing the Texas Book Depository – straight ahead – while Kennedy’s car had just turned left and was heading down Elm Street towards the Grassy Knoll.

He later wrote:

“Although I did not look up at the building, I could hear everything quite clearly. . . . The shots came from below and off to the right side from where I was [the location of the Grassy Knoll]. . . . I never thought the shots came from above. They did not sound like shots coming from anything higher than street level.”

After returning to Washington on Air Force 2 – the vice president’s plane – he compiled a documentary called the Last Two Days which he later described as “terribly damaging to the Warren commission finding that Lee Harvey Oswald was a lone assassin.”

People didn’t just see gunsmoke, they smelled it. Elizabeth Cabell, wife of the mayor of Dallas Earle Cabell, was rising a few cars behind Kennedy in the motorcade. She told the Warren Commission: “I was acutely aware of the odor of gunpowder.” Texas Senator Ralph Yarborough was two cars behind the Kennedy limousine. He said there was the smell of gunpowder in the street and that it even clung to the car all the way to Parkland. He said later, according to Kennedy writer Fred Newcomb, that

“You don’t smell gunpowder unless you’re shooting at something upwind and it blows bin your face” The motorcade was headed into a breeze. Patrolman Earl Brown was standing west of the underpass and felt the reek of gunpowder as the limousine sped past into hospital, the cop said in an interview with Kennedy writer Fred Newcombe.

There are further testimonies in this vein, and they can be found in the rich flora of Kennedy books that have been written, as well as in documentaries and, in some cases, the transcripts of the Warren commission. (For the ones that were interviewed there, that is.) In JFK: the smoking gun by Colin McLaren,

“Many witnesses were were not called to the commission, or, for those that were, the lawyers simply passed over their observations with complete disregard for the process they were meant to be serving To a detective to this author, this lack of integrity by the lawyers at the commission is unforgivable, especially as the standing of the witnesses, in each and every case, was exemplary, all respectable, working Americans. Some of these had significant experience with long arms. Journalists Tom Dillard and Robert Jackson definitely smelled gunpowder. Signal Supervisor Hollande saw a puff of smoke, Lady Mayoress Elizabeth Cabell was adamant about smelling gunpowset, as was her travel partner in the motorcade, Congressman Roberts. Then there was the stunning comments of police officer Martin ‘You can smell powder burning, smell the gunpowder on the street; He then lists a long number of people, from Nolan Potter to Walter Winborn, who were never called to the Commission . “The men in the Courtroom with their suits and impressive law degrees just brushed over their words or failed even tio probe the observations.”

In future blog posts, I will show how the medical and forensic evidence from Kennedy’s bodies supports the idea of multiple gunmen. But first I will deal with the testimonies that go a step further and claim that there were actually gunmen on the grassy knoll, behind the picket fence. Sadly their testimonies were vilified or ignored. Maybe this was the day the Americans lost faith in their government.


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