John F Kennedy Assassination Conspiracy Essaytyper

The assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963 has spurred numerous conspiracy theories, which include accusations of involvement of the CIA, the Mafia, sitting Vice PresidentLyndon B. Johnson, Cuban Prime MinisterFidel Castro, the KGB, or even some combination thereof. Some conspiracy theories further claim that the United States federal government covered up crucial information in the aftermath of the assassination.[1] Former Los Angeles District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi estimated that a total of 42 groups, 82 assassins, and 214 people had been accused at one time or another in various conspiracy scenarios.[2]

In 1964, the Warren Commission concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald was the only person responsible for assassinating Kennedy. In 1979, the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) concluded that Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy, although it did not identify any individuals or groups.[3][4] The HSCA reasoned that a second gunman other than Oswald probably also fired at Kennedy, but acoustic evidence which the HSCA accepted in reaching its conclusions was later discredited by experts.[6][7][8][9][10] Other federal and municipal investigations have been conducted, most of which support the conclusions reached in the Warren Commission report. Nonetheless, a majority of Americans polled indicated a belief in some sort of conspiracy.[11][12]


See also: Assassination of John F. Kennedy in popular culture

PresidentJohn F. Kennedy was assassinated by gunshot as he traveled in a motorcade in an open-top limousine in Dallas, Texas, on Friday, November 22, 1963 (12:30 pm, CST); Texas Governor John Connally was wounded during the shooting, but survived. Within two hours, Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the murder of Dallas policeman J. D. Tippit and arraigned that evening. Shortly after 1:30 am, Saturday, Oswald was arraigned for murdering President Kennedy as well.[13][14] On Sunday, November 24, at 11:21 a.m., nightclub owner Jack Ruby fatally shot Oswald as he was being transferred from the city jail to the county jail.

Immediately after the shooting, many people suspected that the assassination was part of a larger plot,[15] and broadcasters speculated that Dallas right-wingers were involved.[16] Ruby's shooting of Oswald compounded initial suspicions.[15] Among conspiracy theorists, Mark Lane has been described as writing "the first literary shot" with his article, "Defense Brief for Oswald", in the December 19, 1963, edition of the National Guardian.[17][18] Thomas Buchanan's Who Killed Kennedy?, published in May 1964, has been credited as the first book alleging a conspiracy.[19]

In 1964, the Warren Commission concluded that Oswald acted alone and that no credible evidence supported the contention that he was involved in a conspiracy to assassinate the president.[20] The Commission also indicated that Dean Rusk, the Secretary of State; Robert S. McNamara, the Secretary of Defense; C. Douglas Dillon, the Secretary of the Treasury; Robert F. Kennedy, the Attorney General; J. Edgar Hoover, the Director of the FBI; John A. McCone, the Director of the CIA; and James J. Rowley, the Chief of the Secret Service, each independently reached the same conclusion on the basis of information available to them. During the trial of Clay Shaw in 1969, however, New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison challenged the single-bullet theory with evidence from the Zapruder film, which he claimed indicated that a fourth shot from the grassy knoll was responsible for Kennedy's fatal head wound.

In 1979, the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) agreed with the Warren Commission that Oswald assassinated Kennedy, but concluded that the Commission's report and the original FBI investigation were seriously flawed. The HSCA concluded that at least four shots were fired with a "high probability" that two gunmen fired at the President, and that a conspiracy was probable.[4] The HSCA stated that "the Warren Commission failed to investigate adequately the possibility of a conspiracy to assassinate the President."[3] The Ramsey Clark Panel and the Rockefeller Commission both supported the Warren Commission's conclusions.

The last remaining documents which were required to be released under Section 5 of the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 were released on October 26, 2017, while the remaining ones still classified will only be analyzed for redactions.[22]

Public opinion[edit]

According to author John McAdams: "The greatest and grandest of all conspiracy theories is the Kennedy assassination conspiracy theory."[23] Others have frequently referred to it as "the mother of all conspiracies".[24][25] The number of books written about the assassination of Kennedy has been estimated to be in the range of 1,000 to 2,000.[15] According to Vincent Bugliosi, 95% of those books are "pro-conspiracy and anti-Warren Commission".

Author David Krajicek describes Kennedy assassination enthusiasts as belonging to "conspiracy theorists" on one side and "debunkers" on the other.[23] The great amount of controversy surrounding the event has led to bitter disputes between those who support the conclusion of the Warren Commission and those who reject it, or are critical of the official explanation with each side levelling toward the other accusations of "naivete, cynicism, and selective interpretation of the evidence".[25]

Public opinion polls have consistently shown that a majority of Americans believe there was a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy. However, on the question of a government cover-up, different polls show both a minority and majority of Americans who believe the government engaged in one.[28] These same polls also show that there is no agreement on who else may have been involved. A 2003 Gallup Poll reported that 75% of Americans do not believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.[11] That same year an ABC News poll found that 70% of respondents suspected that the assassination involved more than one person.[29] A 2004 Fox News poll found that 66% of Americans thought there had been a conspiracy while 74% thought there had been a cover-up.[30] As recently as 2009, some 76% of people polled for CBS News said they believed the President had been killed as the result of a conspiracy.[31] A Gallup Poll released in 2013 found that 61% of Americans, the lowest figure in nearly 50 years, believed others beside Oswald were involved.[12]

Possible evidence of a cover-up[edit]

Numerous researchers, including Mark Lane,[32] Henry Hurt,[33]Michael L. Kurtz,[34] Gerald D. McKnight,[35]Anthony Summers,[36]Harold Weisberg,[37] and others have pointed out what they characterize as inconsistencies, oversights, exclusions of evidence, errors, changing stories, or changes made to witness testimony in the official Warren Commission investigation, which they say could suggest a cover-up.

Michael Benson wrote that the Warren Commission received only information supplied to it by the FBI, and that its purpose was to rubber stamp the lone gunman theory.[38]

Richard Schweiker, United States senator and member of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told author Anthony Summers in 1978, "I believe that the Warren Commission was set up at the time to feed pabulum to the American public for reasons not yet known, and that one of the biggest cover-ups in the history of our country occurred at that time."

James H. Fetzer took issue with a 1998 statement from Federal Judge John R. Tunheim, the Chair of the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB), who stated that no "smoking guns" indicating a conspiracy or cover-up were discovered during their efforts in the early 1990s to declassify documents related to the assassination. Fetzer identified 16 "smoking guns" that he claims prove the official narrative is impossible, and therefore a conspiracy and cover-up occurred. He claims that evidence released by the ARRB substantiates these concerns. These include problems with bullet trajectories, the murder weapon, the ammunition used, inconsistencies between the Warren Commission's account and the autopsy findings, inconsistencies between the autopsy findings and what was reported by witnesses at the scene of the murder, eyewitness accounts that conflict with x-rays taken of the President's body, indications that the diagrams and photos of the President's brain in the National Archives are not the President's, testimony by those who took and processed the autopsy photos that the photos were altered, created, or destroyed, indications that the Zapruder film had been tampered with, allegations that the Warren Commission's version of events conflicts with news reports from the scene of the murder, an alleged change to the motorcade route that facilitated the assassination, an alleged lax Secret Service and local law enforcement security, and statements by people who claim that they had knowledge of, or participated in, a conspiracy to kill the President.[40]

In 1966, Roscoe Drummond voiced skepticism about a cover-up in his syndicated column: "If there were a conspiracy to cover up the truth about the assassination, it would have to involve the Chief Justice, the Republican, Democratic, and non-party members of the commission, the FBI, the CIA, the Secret Service, the distinguished doctors of the armed services—and the White House—a conspiracy so multiple and complex that it would have fallen of its own weight."[41]

Allegations of witness tampering, intimidation, and foul play[edit]

Alleged witness intimidation[edit]

Richard Buyer wrote that many witnesses whose statements pointed to a conspiracy were either ignored or intimidated by the Warren Commission.[42] In JFK: The Last Dissenting Witness, a 1992 biography of Jean Hill, Bill Sloan wrote that Arlen Specter, assistant counsel for the Warren Commission, attempted to humiliate, discredit, and intimidate Hill into changing her story. Hill also told Sloan that she was abused by Secret Service agents, harassed by the FBI, and was the recipient of death threats.[43]

A later book by Sloan, JFK: Breaking the Silence, quotes several assassination eyewitnesses as saying that Warren Commission interviewers repeatedly cut short or stifled any comments casting doubt on the conclusion that Oswald acted alone.

In his book Crossfire, Jim Marrs gives accounts of several people who said they were intimidated by FBI agents, or intimidated by anonymous individuals, into altering or suppressing what they knew about the assassination, including Richard Carr, Acquilla Clemmons, Sandy Speaker, and A. J. Millican.[44] Marrs also wrote that Texas School Book Depository employee Joe Molina was "intimidated by authorities and lost his job soon after the assassination", and that witness Ed Hoffman was warned by an FBI agent that he "might get killed" if he revealed what he had observed in Dealey Plaza on the day of the assassination.

Witness deaths[edit]

Allegations of mysterious or suspicious deaths of witnesses connected with the Kennedy assassination originated with Penn Jones, Jr.,[47] and were brought to national attention by the 1973 film Executive Action.[47] Jim Marrs later presented a list of 103 people he believed died "convenient deaths" under suspicious circumstances. He noted that the deaths were grouped around investigations conducted by the Warren Commission, New Orleans D.A. Jim Garrison, the Senate Intelligence Committee, and the House Select Committee on Assassinations. Marrs pointed out that "these deaths certainly would have been convenient for anyone not wishing the truth of the JFK assassination to become public."[51] In 2013, Richard Belzer published Hit List: An In-Depth Investigation into the Mysterious Deaths of Witnesses to the JFK Assassination that examines the deaths of 50 people linked to the assassination and claims they were murdered as part of a cover-up.[52]

Vincent Bugliosi described the death of journalist Dorothy Kilgallen—who said she was granted a private interview with Jack Ruby—as "perhaps the most prominent mysterious death" cited by assassination researchers. According to author Jerome Kroth, Mafia figures Sam Giancana, John Roselli, Carlos Prio, Jimmy Hoffa, Charles Nicoletti, Leo Moceri, Richard Cain, Salvatore Granello and Dave Yaras were likely murdered to prevent them from revealing their knowledge.[54] According to author Matthew Smith, others with some tie to the case who have died suspicious deaths include Lee Bowers, Gary Underhill, William Sullivan, David Ferrie, Clay Shaw, George de Mohrenschildt, four showgirls who worked for Jack Ruby, and Ruby himself.[55]

The House Select Committee on Assassinations investigated another alleged "mysterious death"—that of Rose Cheramie.[56] The Committee reported that Louisiana State Police Lieutenant Francis Fruge traveled to Eunice, Louisiana, on November 20, 1963—two days before the assassination—to pick up Cheramie, who had sustained minor injuries when she was hit by a car. Fruge drove Cheramie to the hospital and said that on the way there, she "...related to [him] that she was coming from Florida to Dallas with two men who were Italians or resembled Italians." Fruge asked her what she planned to do in Dallas, to which she replied: "...number one, pick up some money, pick up [my] baby, and ... kill Kennedy." Cheramie was admitted and treated at State Hospital in Jackson, Louisiana for alcohol and heroin addiction.

State Hospital physician Dr. Victor Weiss later told a House Select Committee investigator that on November 25—three days after the assassination—one of his fellow physicians told him that Cheramie had "stated before the assassination that President Kennedy was going to be killed". Dr. Weiss further reported that Cheramie told him after the assassination that she had worked for Jack Ruby and that her knowledge of the assassination originated from "word in the underworld". After the assassination, Lt. Fruge contacted Dallas Police Captain Will Fritz regarding what he had learned from Cheramie, but Fritz told him he "wasn't interested". Cheramie was found dead by a highway near Big Sandy, Texas, on September 4, 1965; she had been run over by a car.

Another "suspicious death" cited by Jim Marrs was that of Joseph Milteer, director of the Dixie Klan of Georgia. Milteer was secretly tape-recorded thirteen days before the assassination telling Miami police informant William Somersett that the murder of Kennedy was "in the working". Milteer died in 1974 when a heater exploded in his house.[63][64] The House Select Committee on Assassinations reported in 1979 that Milteer's information on the threat to the President "was furnished [to] the agents making the advance arrangements before the visit of the President" to Miami, but that "the Milteer threat was ignored by Secret Service personnel in planning the trip to Dallas." Robert Bouck, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Secret Service's Protective Research Section, testified that "threat information was transmitted from one region of the country to another if there was specific evidence it was relevant to the receiving region."[65]

The House Select Committee on Assassinations investigated the allegation "that a statistically improbable number of individuals with some direct or peripheral association with the Kennedy assassination died as a result of that assassination, thereby raising the specter of conspiracy".[47] The committee's chief of research testified: "Our final conclusion on the issue is that the available evidence does not establish anything about the nature of these deaths which would indicate that the deaths were in some manner, either direct or peripheral, caused by the assassination of President Kennedy or by any aspect of the subsequent investigation."[47]

Author Gerald Posner said that Marrs' list was taken from the group of about 10,000 people connected even in the most tenuous way to the assassination, including people identified in the official investigations, as well as the research of conspiracy theorists. Posner also said that it would be surprising if a hundred people out of ten thousand did not die in "unnatural ways". He noted that over half of the people on Marrs' list did not die mysteriously, but of natural causes, such as Secret Service agent Roy Kellerman, who died of heart failure at age 69 in 1984, long after the Kennedy assassination, but is on Marrs' list as someone whose cause of death is "unknown". Posner also pointed out that many prominent witnesses and conspiracy researchers continue to live long lives.[66]

Allegations of evidence suppression, tampering, and fabrication[edit]

Allegations that the evidence against Oswald was planted, forged, or tampered with is a main argument among those who believe a conspiracy took place.

Suppression of evidence[edit]

Ignored testimony[edit]

Some assassination researchers assert that witness statements indicating a conspiracy were ignored by the Warren Commission. In 1967, Josiah Thompson stated that the Commission ignored the testimony of seven witnesses who saw gunsmoke in the area of the stockade fence on the grassy knoll, as well as an eighth witness who smelled gunpowder at the time of the assassination.[68] In 1989, Jim Marrs wrote that the Commission failed to ask for the testimony of witnesses on the triple overpass whose statements pointed to a shooter on the grassy knoll.

Confiscated film and photographs[edit]

Other researchers reported that witnesses who captured the assassination in photographs or on film had their cameras and/or film confiscated by police or other authorities. Author Jim Marrs and documentary producer Nigel Turner presented the account of Gordon Arnold who said that his film of the motorcade was taken by two policemen shortly after the assassination.[69] Another witness, Beverly Oliver, came forward in 1970 and said she was the "Babushka Lady" who is seen, in the Zapruder film, filming the motorcade. She said that after the assassination she was contacted at work by two men who she thought "...were either FBI or Secret Service agents". According to Oliver, the men told her that they wanted to develop her film and would return it to her within ten days, but they never returned the film.[69]

Withheld documents[edit]

Richard Buyer and others have complained that many documents pertaining to the assassination have been withheld over the years, including documents from the Warren Commission investigation, the House Select Committee on Assassinations investigation, and the Church Committee investigation.[42] These documents at one time included the President's autopsy records. Some documents are still not scheduled for release until 2029. Many documents were released during the mid-to-late 1990s by the Assassination Records Review Board under the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992. However, some of the material released contains redacted sections. Tax return information, which would identify employers and sources of income, has not yet been released.[71]

The existence of large numbers of secret documents related to the assassination, and the long period of secrecy, suggests to some the possibility of a cover-up. One historian noted, "There exists widespread suspicion about the government's disposition of the Kennedy assassination records stemming from the beliefs that Federal officials (1) have not made available all Government assassination records (even to the Warren Commission, Church Committee, House Assassination Committee) and (2) have heavily redacted the records released under FOIA in order to cover up sinister conspiracies."[72] According to the Assassination Records Review Board, "All Warren Commission records, except those records that contain tax return information, are (now) available to the public with only minor redactions."[73] In response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by journalist Jefferson Morley, the CIA stated[when?] that it had approximately 1,100 JFK assassination-related documents, about 2,000 pages in total, that have not been released for reasons of national security.[74]

Tampering with evidence[edit]

Some researchers have alleged that various items of physical evidence have been tampered with, including: the "single bullet", also known as the "magic bullet" by some critics of official explanations; various bullet cartridges and fragments; the limousine's windshield; the paper bag in which the Warren Commission said Oswald hid the rifle; the so-called "backyard" photos that depict Oswald holding the rifle; the Zapruder film; the photographs and radiographs obtained at Kennedy's autopsy; and Kennedy's body itself.[75]


Among the evidence against Oswald are the photographs of Oswald posing in his backyard with a Carcano rifle—the weapon identified by the Warren Commission as the assassination weapon. The House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that the photographs of Oswald are genuine[76] and Oswald's wife, Marina, said that she took them.[77] In 2009, the journal Perception published the findings of Hany Farid, a professor in the Department of Computer Science at Dartmouth College, who used 3D modeling software to analyze one of the photographs.[78][79] After demonstrating that a single light source could create seemingly incongruent shadows, Farid concluded that the photograph revealed no evidence of tampering.[78][79] Many researchers, including Robert Groden, assert that these photos are fake.[80]

In 1979, after the HSCA had disbanded, Groden said that four autopsy photographs showing the back of Kennedy's head were forged in order to hide a wound created by a bullet fired from a second gunman.[81] According to Groden, a photograph of a cadaver's head was inserted over another depicting a large exit wound in the back of Kennedy's head.[81]G. Robert Blakey, chief counsel for the HSCA, replied to the allegations stating the "suggestion that the committee would participate in a coverup is absurd"[82] and that Groden was "not competent to make a judgment on whether a photograph has been altered".[83] Blakey stated the photographic analysis panel for the Committee had examined the photographs and that they "considered everything [Groden] had to say and rejected it."[82][83]

The Zapruder film[edit]

The House Select Committee on Assassinations described the Zapruder film as "the best available photographic evidence of the number and timing of the shots that struck the occupants of the presidential limousine".[84] The Assassination Records Review Board said it "is perhaps the single most important assassination record."[85] According to Vincent Bugliosi, the film was "originally touted by the vast majority of conspiracy theorists as incontrovertible proof of [a] conspiracy" but is now believed by many assassination researchers to be a "sophisticated forgery". Among those who believe the Zapruder film has been altered are John Costella,James H. Fetzer,David Lifton, David Mantik, Jack White, Noel Twyman,[87] and Harrison Livingstone, who has called it "the biggest hoax of the 20th century". In 1996 Roland Zavada, a former product engineer for Kodak, was requested by the Assassination Records Review Board to undertake a thorough technical study of the Zapruder Film.[88] Zavada concluded that there was no detectable evidence of manipulation or image alteration on the Zapruder in-camera original.[89]

David Lifton wrote that the Zapruder film was in the possession of the CIA's National Photographic Interpretation Center by the night of the assassination.[90][91] Jack White, researcher and photographic consultant to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, claimed that there are anomalies in the Zapruder film, including an "unnatural jerkiness of movement or change of focus ... in certain frame sequences".[92]

Kennedy's body[edit]

In his 1981 book Best Evidence, David Lifton presented the thesis that President Kennedy's body had been altered between the Dallas hospital and the autopsy site at Bethesda for the purposes of creating erroneous conclusions about the number and direction of the shots.[93]

Fabrication of evidence[edit]

Murder weapon[edit]

The Warren Commission found that the shots that killed Kennedy and wounded Connally were fired from the Italian 6.5mm Carcano rifle owned by Oswald.[94] Deputy Sheriff Eugene Boone and Deputy Constable Seymour Weitzman both initially identified the rifle found in the Texas School Book Depository as a 7.65 Mauser. Weitzman signed an affidavit the following day describing the weapon as a "7.65 Mauser bolt action equipped with a 4/18 scope, a thick leather brownish-black sling on it".[95][96] Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig claimed that he saw "7.65 Mauser" stamped on the barrel of the weapon.[97] But when interviewed in 1968 by Barry Ernest, author of "The Girl on the Stairs—The Search for a Missing Witness to the JFK Assassination", Craig said: "I felt then and I still feel now that the weapon was a 7.65 German Mauser [...]. I was there. I saw it when it was first pulled from its hiding place, and I am not alone in describing it as a Mauser." So, in the videotaped interview he said he read Mauser on the rifle, and to Ernest he said that he felt it was a Mauser.[98]

Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade told the press that the weapon found in the Book Depository was a 7.65 Mauser, and this was reported by the media.[99] But investigators later identified the rifle as a 6.5mm Carcano. In Matrix for Assassination, author Richard Gilbride suggested that both weapons were involved and that Dallas Police Captain Will Fritz and Lieutenant J. Carl Day might have been conspirators.[102]

Addressing "speculation and rumors", the Warren Commission identified Weitzman as "the original source of the speculation that the rifle was a Mauser" and stated that "police laboratory technicians subsequently arrived and correctly identified the weapon as a 6.5 Italian rifle."[103]

Bullets and cartridges[edit]

The Warren Commission determined that three bullets were fired at Kennedy. One of the three bullets missed the vehicle entirely; another bullet hit Kennedy, passed through his body and then struck Governor John Connally; and the third bullet was the fatal head shot to the President. Some claim that the bullet that passed through President Kennedy's body before striking Governor Connally—dubbed by critics of the Commission as the "magic bullet"—was missing too little mass to account for the total weight of bullet fragments later found by the doctors who operated on Connally. Those making this claim included Connally's chief surgeon, Dr. Robert Shaw,[104] as well as two of the Kennedy autopsy surgeons, Commander James Humes,[105] and Lt. Colonel Pierre Finck.[106] However, in the book Six Seconds in Dallas, author Josiah Thompson took issue with this claim. Thompson added up the weight of the bullet fragments listed in the doctor reports and concluded that their total weight "could" have been less than the mass missing from the bullet.[107]

With Connally's death in 1993, forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht and the Assassination Archives and Research Center petitioned Attorney GeneralJanet Reno to recover the remaining bullet fragments from Connally's body, contending that the fragments would disprove the Warren Commission's single-bullet, single-gunman conclusion. The Justice Department replied that it "...would have no legal authority to recover the fragments unless Connally's family gave [it] permission." Connally's family refused permission.[108]

Allegations of multiple gunmen[edit]

The Warren Commission concluded that "three shots were fired [from the Texas School Book Depository] in a time period ranging from approximately 4.8 to in excess of 7 seconds."[109] Some assassination researchers, including Anthony Summers, dispute the Commission's findings. They point to evidence that brings into question the number of shots fired, the origin of the shots, and the ability of Oswald to accurately fire three shots in a short amount of time. These researchers suggest the involvement of multiple gunmen.

Number of shots[edit]

Based on the "consensus among the witnesses at the scene" and "in particular the three spent cartridges", the Warren Commission determined that "the preponderance of the evidence indicated that three shots were fired".[109] In 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded there were four shots, one coming from the direction of the grassy knoll.[4][111]

The Warren Commission, and later the House Select Committee on Assassinations, concluded that one of the shots hit President Kennedy in "the back of his neck", exited his throat, continued on to strike Governor Connally in the back, exited Connally's chest, shattered his right wrist, and embedded itself in his left thigh.[112] This conclusion came to be known as the "single bullet theory".

Mary Moorman said in a TV interview immediately after the assassination that there were three or four shots close together, that shots were still being fired after the fatal head shot, and that she was in the line of fire.[114] In 1967, Josiah Thompson concluded that four shots were fired in Dealey Plaza, with one wounding Connally and three hitting Kennedy.[68]

On the day of the assassination, Nellie Connally was seated in the presidential car next to her husband, Governor John Connally. In her book From Love Field: Our Final Hours, Nellie Connally said that she believed that her husband was hit by a bullet that was separate from the two that hit Kennedy.[115]

Origin of the shots[edit]

The Warren Commission concluded that all of the shots fired at President Kennedy came from the sixth-floor window at the southeast corner of the Texas School Book Depository. The Commission based its conclusion on the "cumulative evidence of eyewitnesses, firearms and ballistic experts and medical authorities", including onsite testing, as well as analysis of films and photographs conducted by the FBI and the US Secret Service.[109]

In 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations agreed to publish a report from Warren Commission critic Robert Groden, in which he named "nearly [two] dozen suspected firing points in Dealey Plaza".[116] These sites included multiple locations in or on the roof of the Texas School Book Depository, the Dal-Tex Building, and the Dallas County Records Building, as well as the railroad overpass, a storm drain located along the north curb of Elm Street, and various spots near the Grassy Knoll.[116] Josiah Thompson concluded that the shots fired at the motorcade came from three locations: the Texas School Book Depository, the area around the Grassy Knoll, and the Dal-Tex Building.[68]

Testimony of eyewitnesses[edit]

According to some assassination researchers, the grassy knoll was identified by the majority of witnesses as the area from where shots were fired.[117] In March 1965, Harold Feldman wrote that there were 121 witnesses to the assassination listed in the Warren Report, of whom 51 indicated that the shots that killed Kennedy came from the area of the grassy knoll, while 32 said the shots came from the Texas School Book Depository.[117] In 1967, Josiah Thompson examined the statements of 64 witnesses and concluded that 33 of them thought that the shots emanated from the grassy knoll.

In 1966, Esquire magazine credited Feldman with "advanc[ing] the theory that there were two assassins: one on the grassy knoll and one in the Book Depository".[119] Jim Marrs also wrote that the weight of evidence suggested shots came from both the grassy knoll and the Texas School Book Depository.

Lee Bowers operated a railroad tower that overlooked the parking lot on the north side of the grassy knoll. He reported that he saw two men behind the picket fence at the top of the grassy knoll before the shooting. The men did not appear to be acting together or doing anything suspicious. After the shooting, Bowers said that one of the men remained behind the fence and that he lost track of the second man whose clothing blended into the foliage. When interviewed by Mark Lane, Bowers noted that he saw something that attracted his attention, either a flash of light, or maybe smoke, from the knoll, leading him to believe "something out of the ordinary" had occurred there. Bowers told Lane he heard three shots, the last two in quick succession. He stated that there was no way they could have been fired from the same rifle.[120] Bowers later purportedly said to his supervisor, Olan Degaugh, that he saw a man in the parking lot throw what looked like a rifle into one the cars.[121] However, in the same 1966 interview by Lane, Bowers clarified that the two men he saw were standing in the opening between the pergola and the fence, and that "no one" was behind the fence at the time the shots were fired.[122][123]

Jesse Price was the building engineer for the Terminal Annex Building, located across from the Texas School Book Depository on the opposite side of Dealey Plaza. He viewed the presidential motorcade from the Terminal Annex Building's roof. In an interview with Mark Lane, Price said that he believed the shots came from "just behind the picket fence where it joins the underpass".

Physical evidence[edit]

Several conspiracy theories posit that at least one shooter was located in the Dal-Tex Building, located across the street from the Texas School Book Depository.[125] According to L. Fletcher Prouty, the physical location of James Tague when he was injured by a bullet fragment is not consistent with the trajectory of a missed shot from the Texas School Book Depository, leading Prouty to theorize that Tague was instead wounded by a missed shot from the second floor of the Dal-Tex Building.[126]

Some assassination researchers claim that FBI photographs of the presidential limousine show a bullet hole in its windshield above the rear-view mirror, and a crack in the windshield itself. When Robert Groden, author of The Killing of a President, asked for an explanation, the FBI responded that what Groden thought was a bullet hole "occurred prior to Dallas".[127][128] In 1993, George Whitaker, a manager at the Ford Motor Company's Rouge Plant in Detroit, told attorney and criminal justice professor Doug Weldon that after reporting to work on November 25, 1963, he discovered the presidential limousine in the Rouge Plant's B building with the windshield removed. Whitaker said that the limousine's removed windshield had a through-and-through bullet hole from the front. He said that he was directed by one of Ford's vice presidents to use the windshield as a template to fabricate a new windshield for installation in the limousine. Whitaker also said he was told to destroy the old windshield.[129][130]

Film and photographic evidence[edit]

Film and photographic evidence of the assassination have led viewers to different conclusions regarding the origin of the shots. When the fatal shot occurred, the President's head and upper torso moved backwards—indicating to many observers a shot from the right front. Sherry Gutierrez, a certified crime scene and bloodstain pattern analyst, concluded that "the head injury to President Kennedy was the result of a single gunshot fired from the right front of the President."[131] Paul Chambers believes that the fatal head shot is consistent with a high velocity (approx. 1,200 m/s; 4,000 ft/sec) rifle rather than the medium-velocity (600 m/s; 2,000 ft/sec) Mannlicher–Carcano.[132] Although it has been thought[133] that Frames Z312 and Z313 of the Zapruder film show Kennedy's head moving forward before his head moves backwards, that close inspection of the frames show Kennedy's head actually moved downwards; Anthony Marsh claims that it was the deceleration of the car by driver William Greer that allowed the President's head to move in that direction.[134] Some, including Josiah Thompson, Robert Groden and Cyril Wecht, state that the film shows that his head was hit by two near-simultaneous bullets: one from the rear and the other from the right front.[136]

Acoustical evidence[edit]

According to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, a Dictabelt recording of the Dallas Police Department radio dispatch transmissions from November 22, 1963, was analyzed to "resolve questions concerning the number, timing, and origin of the shots fired in Dealey Plaza".[138] They concluded that the source of the recording was from an open microphone on the motorcycle of H.B. McLain escorting the motorcade and that "the scientific acoustical evidence established a high probability that two gunmen fired at President John F. Kennedy."

The acoustical analysis firm hired by the Committee recommended that they conduct an acoustical reconstruction of the assassination in Dealey Plaza to determine if any of the six impulse patterns on the dispatch tape were fired from the Texas School Book Depository or the Grassy Knoll. The reconstruction would entail firing from two locations in Dealey Plaza—the depository and the knoll—at particular target locations and recording the sounds through various microphones. The purpose was to determine if the sequences of impulses recorded during the reconstruction would match any of those in the dispatch tape. If so, it would be possible to figure out if the impulse patterns on the dispatch tape were caused by shots fired during the assassination from shooter locations in the depository and on the knoll.[141]

In 1978, at the behest of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, members of the Dallas Police Pistol Team took part in an acoustical reconstruction by firing rifles and pistols from the locations selected by the researchers. During this reconstruction, the Dallas Police marksmen had no difficulty hitting the targets. The Committee's firearms experts "...testified that given the distance and angle from the sixth floor window to the location of the President's limousine, it would have been easier to use the open iron sights." The Warren Commission tests had been carried out on the assumption that Oswald, who they and the Committee concluded fired the shots, used the telescopic sight.[141]

An article in Science & Justice, a quarterly publication of Britain's Forensic Science Society, found there was a 96% certainty, based on analysis of audio recordings made during the assassination, that a shot was fired from the Grassy Knoll in front of and to the right of the President's limousine.[142][143][144]

The acoustical evidence has since been discredited.[6][7][8][9][10] Officer H.B. McLain, from whose motorcycle radio the HSCA acoustic experts said the Dictabelt evidence came,[145][146] has repeatedly stated that he was not yet in Dealey Plaza at the time of the assassination.[147] McLain asked the Committee, "'If it was my radio on my motorcycle, why did it not record the revving up at high speed plus my siren when we immediately took off for Parkland Hospital?'"[148]

In 1982, a panel of 12 scientists appointed by the National Academy of Sciences, including Nobel laureates Norman Ramsey and Luis Alvarez, unanimously concluded that the acoustic evidence submitted to the HSCA was "seriously flawed", was recorded after the President had been shot, and did not indicate additional gunshots.[149] Their conclusions were later published in the journal Science.[150]

In a 2001 article in Science & Justice, D.B. Thomas wrote that the NAS investigation was itself flawed. He concluded with a 96.3% certainty that there were at least two gunmen firing at President Kennedy and that at least one shot came from the Grassy Knoll.[151] In 2005, Thomas' conclusions were rebutted in the same journal. Ralph Linsker and several members of the original NAS team reanalyzed the timings of the recordings and reaffirmed the earlier conclusion of the NAS report that the alleged shot sounds were recorded approximately one minute after the assassination.[152] In a 2010 book, D.B. Thomas challenged the 2005 Science & Justice article and restated his conclusion that there were at least two gunmen.[153]

Medical evidence[edit]

Some researchers have pointed to the large number of doctors and nurses at Parkland hospital, as well as others, who reported that a major portion of the back of the President's head seemed to have been blown out, strongly suggesting that he had been hit from the front.

Some critics skeptical of the official "single bullet theory" have stated that the trajectory of the bullet, which hit Kennedy above the right shoulder blade and passed through his neck (according to the autopsy), would have had to change course to pass through Connally's rib cage and wrist.[155][156][

Handbill circulated on November 21, 1963, one day before the assassination.
The wooden fence on the grassy knoll, where many conspiracy theorists believe another gunman stood.

Main article: Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy

The conspiracy theories relating to the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, a United States Senator and brother of assassinated President John F. Kennedy, relate to non-standard accounts of the assassination that took place shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968, in Los Angeles, California. Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated during celebrations of his successful campaign in the Californian primary elections while seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. president.

The alleged perpetrator was a 24-year-old Palestinianimmigrant named Sirhan Sirhan, who remains incarcerated for the crime as of February 2018[update]. However, as with his brother's death, Robert Kennedy's assassination and the circumstances surrounding it have spawned various conspiracy theories, particularly regarding the existence of a supposed second gunman.[1] Such theories have also centered on the alleged presence of a woman wearing a polka dot dress claiming responsibility for the crime and the purported involvement of the Central Intelligence Agency. Many of these theories were examined during an investigation ordered by the United States Senate, and were judged to be erroneous by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which investigated on the Senate's behalf.

Second gunman theory[edit]

The location of Kennedy's wounds suggested that his assailant had stood behind him, but witnesses said that Sirhan stood facing west, about a yard away from Kennedy, as he moved through the pantry facing east.[2] This has led to the suggestion that a second gunman actually fired the fatal shot, a possibility supported by Chief Medical Examiner-Coroner for the County of Los AngelesThomas Noguchi who stated that the fatal shot was behind Kennedy's right ear and had been fired at a distance of approximately one inch.[3] Other witnesses, though, said that as Sirhan approached, Kennedy was turning to his left shaking hands, facing north and so exposing his right side.[4] As recently as 2008, eyewitness John Pilger asserted his belief that there must have been a second gunman.[5] On August 14th, 1975 the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors (LAC BOS) appointed Thomas F. Kranz as Special Counsel to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office to investigate the assassination.[6] The conclusion of the experts was that there was little or no evidence to support this theory.[7][4]

Sirhan's .22 Calibre Iver-Johnson Cadet Revolver only contained 9 rounds, which were all fired. Since RFK's assassination took place in a tight, confined pantry, all bullets ended up embedded in either the walls and ceiling, or a person. 3 bullets hit Kennedy. 2 stayed in his body and another tore through his arm. The 5 bullets which hit the other 5 victims stayed in their bodies. So we have a total of two bullets which were not in bodies. So logically, there should only have been 2 bullet holes in the room. But the LAPD found that there were 3 bullet holes in the foam ceiling. The LAPD concluded that a bullet must have ricocheted through the ceiling before making a u-turn and hitting a person. This explanation may have been feasible, except for a major flaw. There were two bullet holes in the door-frame to the pantry. The LAPD does not acknowledge this. But photos were taken of the bullet holes by the press. They show cops pointing at the holes and measuring them. Martin Patrusky, a waiter at the ambassador hotel, remembered having a conversation with officers who told him they had removed two bullets from the door frame. But the LAPD removed the door-frame and the ceiling tiles, which they incinerated.

In 2007, analysis of an audio recording[8] of the shooting made that night by freelance reporter Stanislaw Pruszynski appeared to indicate, according to forensic expert Philip van Praag, that at least thirteen shots were fired even though Sirhan's gun held only nine rounds.[2] Van Praag alleged that the recording also revealed at least two cases where the timing between shots was shorter than humanly possible. Van Praag also alleged that an analysis of the Pruszynski tape reveals the firing of more than eight shots was independently corroborated by forensic audio specialists Wes Dooley and Paul Pegas of Audio Engineering Associates in Pasadena, California, forensic audio and ballistics expert Eddy B. Brixen in Copenhagen, Denmark,[citation needed] and audio specialist Phil Spencer Whitehead of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia.[9] Some other acoustic experts, through their own independent analysis, have stated that they believe no more than eight shots are recorded on the audio tape.[10]

On November 26, 2011, Sirhan's defense attorneys William F. Pepper and Laurie Dusek filed a 62-page brief in Los Angeles federal court which asserts that a bullet used as evidence to convict Sirhan was switched with another bullet at the crime scene. The brief claims that this was done because the bullet taken from Kennedy's neck did not match Sirhan's gun. Pepper and Dusek claim that the new evidence presented in their brief is sufficient to find Sirhan not guilty under the law.[11]

The security guard as second gunman theory[edit]

Thane Eugene Cesar has been consistently cited as the most likely candidate for a second gunman in the RFK assassination.[12] Cesar had been employed by Ace Guard Service to protect Robert Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel. This was not his full-time job. During the day he worked as a maintenance plumber at the Lockheed Aircraft plant in Burbank, a job that required a security clearance from the Department of Defense. He worked there from 1966 until losing his job in 1971. Dan Moldea wrote that Cesar began working at Hughes in 1973, a job he held for seven years and a position Cesar said required the second highest clearance level at the plant.[13]

When interviewed, Cesar stated that he did draw a gun at the scene of the shooting but insisted the weapon was a Rohm .38, not a .22, the caliber of the bullets found in Kennedy. He also claimed that he got knocked down after the first shot and did not get the opportunity to fire his gun. The LAPD, which interviewed Cesar shortly after the shooting, did not regard Cesar as a suspect and did not ask to see his gun.[14]

Cesar stated that he did own a .22-caliber Harrington & Richardson pistol, and he showed it to LAPD sergeant P. E. O'Steen on June 24, 1968.[15] When the LAPD interviewed Cesar three years later, however, he claimed that he had sold the gun before the assassination to a man named Jim Yoder. William W. Turner tracked down Yoder in October 1972. Yoder still had the receipt for the H & R pistol, which was dated September 6, 1968, and bore Cesar's signature. Cesar therefore had sold the pistol to Yoder three months after Kennedy's assassination contradicting his claim of 1971 that he had sold the weapon months before the murder.[15] Author Dan Moldea wrote that Cesar submitted years later to a polygraph examination performed by Edward Gelb, former president and executive director of the American Polygraph Association. Moldea reported that Cesar denied any involvement in Kennedy's assassination and passed the test with flying colors.[16]

Manchurian candidate hypothesis[edit]

Another conspiracy theory relates to a Manchurian candidate hypothesis, that Sirhan was psychologically programmed by persons unknown to commit the murder, that he was not aware of his actions at the time, and that his mind was "wiped" in the aftermath by the conspirators so he would have no memory of the event nor of the persons who "programmed" him.[17] This theory was supported by psychologist and hypnosis expert Dr. Eduard Simson-Kallas after 35 hours of work with Sirhan in San Quentin prison in 1969 after his conviction.[18] Sirhan claimed then, and has continued to claim since, to have no memory of the assassination or its aftermath.

The woman in the polka-dot dress[edit]

Some witnesses stated that they observed a woman in a polka dot dress in various locations throughout the Ambassador Hotel before and after the assassination.[19] One witness, Kennedy campaign worker Sandra Serrano, reported that around 11:30 pm she was sitting outside on a stairway that led to the Embassy Ballroom when a woman and two men, one whom she later stated was Sirhan, walked past her up the stairs.[19] Serrano said that around 30 minutes later she heard noises that sounded like the back-fire of an automobile, then saw the woman and one of the men running from the scene.[19] She stated that the woman exclaimed, "We shot him, we shot him!".[19] According to Serrano, when she asked the woman to whom she referred, the woman said "Senator Kennedy."[19]

Another witness, Evan Freed, also saw the girl in the polka dot dress.[20] This report was connected by alternative theorists such as with another report of a girl wearing a polka dot dress who was supposedly seen with Sirhan at various times during the evening, including in the kitchen where the assassination took place.[21][22] Serrano stated that preceding her supposed encounter with the polka-dot dress girl, she heard a series of shots that sounded like a car backfiring.[23] However, following this claim, LAPD criminologist DeWayne Wolfer conducted tests to determine if Serrano could have heard the shots from her location. He found that there would have been a change in sound level of ½ decibel at Serrano's location resulting from a shot being fired in the kitchen of the hotel, and concluded that she could therefore not have heard the shots as she claimed.[24] Additionally, Kranz commented in his report that Serrano admitted to fabricating the story following further interviews with investigating officers and that he was unable to find evidence to corroborate any aspect of the original account.[24]

In 1974, retired LAPD officer Paul Sharaga told a newsman with KPMC in Los Angeles that as he was responding to the shooting in the hotel, an elderly couple reported to him that they saw a couple in their early 20's, one of which being a woman in a polka-dot dress, who were smiling and shouting "We shot him... we killed Kennedy... we shot him... we killed him". Sharaga also stated that he filed official reports of the incident, but that they disappeared and were never investigated.[25][26]

CIA involvement[edit]

In November 2006, BBC Television's Newsnight aired a twelve-minute screening of Shane O'Sullivan's documentary RFK Must Die.[27] O'Sullivan stated that while researching a screenplay based on the Manchurian candidate theory for the assassination of Robert Kennedy, he "uncovered new video and photographic evidence suggesting that three senior CIA operatives were behind the killing".[27] He claimed that three men seen in video and photographs of the Ambassador Hotel immediately before and after the assassination were positively identified as CIA operatives David Sánchez Morales, Gordon Campbell, and George Joannides.[27]

Several people who had known Morales, including family members, were adamant that he was not the man who O'Sullivan said was Morales.[27] After O'Sullivan published his book, assassination researchers Jefferson Morley and David Talbot also discovered that Campbell had died of a heart attack in 1962, six years prior to the assassination of Kennedy.[27] In response, O'Sullivan stated that the man on the video may have used Campbell's name as an alias.[27] He then took his identifications to the Los Angeles Police Department whose files showed the men he identified as Campbell and Joannides to be Michael Roman and Frank Owens, two Bulova sales managers attending the company's convention in the Ambassador.[27] O'Sullivan stood by his allegations stating that the Bulova watch company was a "well-known CIA cover".[27]



  • Moldea, Dan E. (1995). The Killing of Robert F. Kennedy: An Investigation of Motive, Means, and Opportunity. New York: Norton. ISBN 978-0-393-03791-3. 
  • Kranz, Thomas F. (1977). Robert F. Kennedy assassination (summary) (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. Archived from the original on October 14, 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-30. 
  • Melanson, Philip H. (1994). The Robert F. Kennedy Assassination: New Revelations on the Conspiracy and Cover-Up, 1968–1991. New York: S.P.I. Books. ISBN 978-1-56171-324-0. 


Robert Kennedy campaigns in Los Angeles (photo by Evan Freed).
  1. ^Martinez, Michael (April 30, 2012). "RFK assassination witness tells CNN: There was a second shooter". CNN. 
  2. ^ abRanderson, James (2008-02-22). "New evidence challenges official picture of Kennedy shooting". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-04-28. 
  3. ^Noguchi, Thomas (1985). Coroner. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-671-46772-2. 
  4. ^ ab"Robert F. Kennedy Assassination Summary, Part 1(b), p. 35"(PDF). FBI. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  5. ^"Democracy Now! Special: Robert F. Kennedy's Life and Legacy 40 Years After His Assassination". Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  6. ^"George Bush: Nomination of Thomas F. Kranz To Be an Associate Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency". Retrieved 8 January 2018. 
  7. ^[1][dead link]
  8. ^[2][dead link]
  9. ^"Video News - CNN". CNN. Retrieved 8 January 2018. 
  10. ^Harrison, P. (2007) 'Analysis of "The Pruszynski Tape"' (report on recording of gunshots). In Ayton, M., The Forgotten Terrorist: Sirhan Sirhan and the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Washington: Potomac Books.
  11. ^"Linda Deutsch (Associated Press) 2011-11-29". Retrieved 8 January 2018. 
  12. ^Kranz, p. 43
  13. ^Moldea, pp. 200–01.
  14. ^Moldea, p. 149.
  15. ^ abMoldea, pp. 151–52.
  16. ^Moldea, pp. 280–290.
  17. ^Kranz, p. 50
  18. ^Turner, William W.; Christian, Jonn G. (1978). The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy: a searching look at the conspiracy and cover-up, 1968–1978. Random House. p. 199. ISBN 978-0-394-40273-4. 
  19. ^ abcdeAyton, Mel (May 7, 2007). "The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy and the Girl in the Polka Dot Dress". History News Network. Retrieved October 15, 2015. 
  20. ^Robert Blair Kaiser. "R. F. K. must die!": A history of the Robert Kennedy assassination and its aftermath. Dutton, 1970 p 129
  21. ^Seymour Korman (1969-02-18). "Polka Dot Mystery Girl Is Named at Sirhan Trial". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2009-10-30. 
  22. ^Melanson, p. 225
  23. ^O'Sullivan, p. 21
  24. ^ abKranz, p. 47
  25. ^"Young Pair Shouted 'We Killed Kennedy'". Santa Monica Evening Outlook. Santa Monica, California. UPI. December 23, 1974. Retrieved August 2, 2017. 
  26. ^"Report in Robert Kennedy's Slaying Ignored". York Daily Record. York, Pennsylvania. UPI. December 23, 1974. p. 15. Retrieved August 2, 2017. 
  27. ^ abcdefghAaronovitch, David (2010). "Conclusion: Bedtime Story". Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History. Riverhead Books. ISBN 9781101185216. Retrieved May 31, 2015. 

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