Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The fatal shooter

On my visit to Dealey Plaza in Dallas last summer, I stood on the Grassy Knoll contemplating that terrible day forty-six years ago when President Kennedy was shot. Looking up at the corner window on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository, I could see that the distance the shot traveled wasn’t so great. It was easy to imagine that a sharpshooter up there with a sniper’s scope and a stable platform upon which to steady his rifle could score a head shot on an unsuspecting target sitting immobile in a car that was slowly moving away. It wasn’t shooting fish in a barrel but it wasn’t the stuff of fantasy either.

Then a number of Segways rolled up and people in a tour group dismounted and ascended the grassy knoll. I could tell from their accents that they were Brits. The tour director wore a jacket saying "Dallas Tours." I sidled over to listen so I could get the benefit of her expertise for free. (Right: The Warren Commission said the fatal shot, the Magic Bullet if you will, came from up there, the corner window one level down. From it's original velocity of traveling 2,200 feet per second upon leaving the barrel of the rifle, the bullet would be hurtling onwards at 1,800 feet per second when it arrived here six feet above street level.)

Using sweeping arm gestures, she explained how on that fateful morning the presidential limousine had just executed two awkward ninety-degree turns and was slowly traveled down the middle lane in the broad roadway below us. She pointed out the window where the shots had come from, above and behind the car. She engaged the tourists by asking them what they would expect the driver of the limousine to do when he heard the first shot.

“Get the 'ell out of there, Luv?” one ventured in Cockney.

“No, actually, he slowed down further.”


“He did, he practically came to a stop. Some people have said that was so the agents in the Secret Service car following could come forward to protect the president.”

She had me engrossed now. My thought was that the driver panicked and his reactions froze.

“Another shot rang out. Still the car crawled slowly away. The president was hit by now and bleeding.”

Everyone’s eyes were shining as they stared at the road and looked up at the window. She had us hanging on her words.

“And then,” she said, gesturing her arm in the opposite direction to the far corner of the grassy knoll where it meets the overhead railroad viaduct, “the fatal shot came from there. It entered the president’s skull through his temple. That’s the shot that killed him”

(Left: The fatal shooter was standing in the little triangle framed by the lamp post, the sloping line of grass meeting the cement wall and the bottom level of leaves on the trees, to the right of center in this photo.) Everyone’s heads snapped around to look for that phantom shooter. Forgotten was the specter of Oswald up in his sniper’s perch.


“Now the car sped up. Only now did they rush off to the hospital with the already-dead president. Meanwhile a police line advanced across the street towards the Grassy Knoll, to seal it off."

Our heads snapped back to scour the roadway for the spectral police phalanx.

“That was to give the shooter time to escape.”

Ahh! (Right: The fatal shot came from here. It looks like a difficult shot to me because the target would be moving across the shooter's front, causing him to to swivel the rifle barrel to track it.)

“It was the CIA,” she added gratuitously.

Now I know.

No comments: