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Was Officer Chaney splattered with blood from the headshot(s)?


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From the midsixties, it has been apparent that the motorcyclists behind and to the left of the limousine were sprayed with impact debris. Riding to the right were Chaney and Jackson. Jackson wrote out an account of that day and mentioned that he had blood on his left boot and left pantleg. In his account, he said this came from him climbing into the limousine and helping get Kennedy and Connally out of the car. That leaves Chaney.

Chaney gave an interview to Bill Lord of ABC at the DPD headquarters on the night of the 22nd. He did not mention being hit with any debris. He’s wearing his motorcycle helmet and it appears clean. Following the interview, there is perhaps a ten second addition from Lord sitting at a newsdesk in a studio. Lord says: “This patrolman was so close to the President that following the three shots his uniform was splattered with blood.”

Chaney was interviewed at the time by the FBI but only about his chance encounter with Jack Ruby in Dealey Plaza on November 23rd. He was interviewed again by the FBI again on September 8, 1975 about his experience of the shooting yet once again makes no mention of being blood-spattered. This is especially interesting because of the circumstances that brought about Chaney’s interview.

A few days before Chaney’s interview in 1975, a Dallas FBI agent was standing on a corner in downtown Dallas talking with Lt. Jack Revill of the Dallas Police. According to the agent’s report, Revill told him that former Dallas police chief Jesse Curry told him that he still believes that two men were involved in the Kennedy assassination. “Why?” asked the agent. Revill replied that Curry said he believes this because one of the motorcycle officers said “he had ridden through a spray of blood at the time the shots were fired.” Revill went on to say that only a few moments before meeting Brown, he had been talking with Officer James Chaney. Chaney told Revill “that he had never been interviewed by anyone following the assassination.”

The report on the Revill conversation worked its way up to FBI headquarters and soon a request comes down to interview both Chaney and Jackson. Both are interviewed within ten days with no surprises; they relate the same stories told earlier in Jackson’s account and Chaney’s TV interview. Since the FBI’s interest in both was kindled by Curry’s remark concerning a motorcycle officer being hit with “a spray of blood,” it is curious that neither was asked if they ran into any blood spray.

One final point. Here’s a quote from Murder from Within by Fred Newcomb and Perry Adams published in 1974:

The two motorcycle officers on the right rear of limousine were closer to the President than those on the left. James M. Chaney, on the right, stated that all four were hit with the “spray.” The bloody condition of Chaney’s motorcyle and clothes were later noted by Sgt. Stavis Ellis at Parkland Hospital. Also on the right rear of the limousine was Douglas L. Jackson, who stated he was not hit. This is possible because Jackson had begun to lag behind the limousine and was about 10 feet away from it at the time of the fatal shot. Officer Chaney, who was riding in front of Jackson, could have screened him. Fig. 3-8 shows the positions of the four officers and the limousine at the time of the fatal shot. The shaded area represents the zone where debris was forced out by an exiting bullet from the back of the President’s head. The cone-shaped pattern indicates a shot was fired from directly in front of the President. (page 60)

The sentences dealing with Chaney, Stavis Ellis and Jackson are all footnoted to author’s interviews with Chaney, Ellis and Jackson. No dates are given for the interviews or additional information. The book contends that “the President was facing forward and slightly to his left when he was struck by the fatal bullet fired by the driver.” (p. 55) It contains a diagram (p. 311) showing at Z 313 an entry in the center of JFK’s forehead with impact debris strewn to the right rear.

A section at the end mentions that all interviews were done on a reel-to-reel tape recorder and were later put on CDs. Does anyone have any idea where these CDs might be? Does anyone have any additional information on this question?

JT

Edited by Josiah Thompson
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Tink,

Get ahold of Debra Conway. Newcomb's children have had that book reprinted, and they were at the Lancer Conference. Debra should have their contact information, and they could probably help you with this.

Kathy

Edited by Kathy Beckett
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Tink,

I was once in email contact with Newcomb's son. If I recall 1) Newcomb is still alive, and 2) his tapes are archived at the University of California Santa Barbara.

It has long been my feeling that ALL tapes of original witnesses prior to the HSCA investigation should be archived on a website and made publicly available. They are not personal possessions, IMO, but pieces of evidence in an unsolved murder.

As far as Chaney and Jackson, you are incorrect in stating they both told the FBI what they'd said earlier. They had in fact both changed their stories. Chaney, for example, had decided to toe the line with the official story and pretend the head shot was the last shot.

From patspeer.com, chapter 5b:

James Chaney rode to the right and rear of the President. Despite the fact he was the closest witness behind the President and that he had a private conversation with Jack Ruby on the day following the assassination, Chaney was not questioned by the Warren Commission. (11-22-63 interview on WFAA, as shown on Youtube) “I was riding on the right rear fender...We had proceeded west on Elm Street at approximately 15-20 miles per hour. We heard the first shot. I thought it was a motorcycle backfiring and uh I looked back over to my left and also President Kennedy looked back over his left shoulder. Then, the, uh, second shot came, well, then I looked back just in time to see the President struck in the face by the second bullet. He slumped forward into Mrs. Kennedy’s lap, and uh, it was apparent to me that we were being fired upon. I went ahead of the President’s car to inform Chief Curry that the President had been hit. And then he instructed us over the air to take him to Parkland Hospital and he had Parkland Hospital stand by. I went on up ahead of the, to notify the officers that were leading the escort that he had been hit and we're gonna have to move out." (When asked if he saw the person who fired on the President) "No sir, it was back over my right shoulder.” (Note: some sources have it that Chaney also mentioned “a third shot that was fired that (he) did not see hit the President” and that he did see “Governor Connally’s shirt erupt in blood..” but I can not find a primary source for this part of the interview.) ((3-24-64 testimony of Mark Lane before the Warren Commission, 2H32-61) “James A. Chaney, who is a Dallas motorcycle policeman, was quoted in the Houston Chronicle on 11-24-63, as stating that the first shot missed entirely. He said he was 6 feet to the right and front of the President's car, moving about 15 miles an hour, and when the first shot was fired, "I thought it was a backfire." (12-8-63 AP article by Sid Moody) "His head erupted in blood" said Dallas patrolman James Chaney, who was 6 feet away from the president." (3-25-64 testimony of Marrion Baker before the Warren Commission, 3H242-270) “I talked to Jim Chaney, and he made the statement that the two shots hit Kennedy first and then the other one hit the Governor.” (9-12-75 FBI report) “Chaney stated that as the President’s car passed the…(TSBD), he was four to six feet from the President’s right shoulder. He heard three evenly spaced noises coming seconds apart, which at first he thought to be motorcycle backfire. Upon hearing the second noise, he was sure it was not a motorcycle backfire. When he heard the third noise he saw the President’s head “explode” and realized the noises were gunshots. He said that the shots did not come from his immediate vicinity and is positive that all the shots came from behind him.” (9-17-75 FBI report, FBI file 62-109060, sec 181, p168-170) “after making a left turn off Houston Street and shortly after the car had passed the School Book Depository, Chaney heard a noise which sounded like one of the motorcycles close to the President’s car had backfired…Chaney said he glanced to his left at the two motorcycles on the opposite side of the President’s car…Within a few seconds after Chaney heard the first noise, he heard a noise again and turned to his right to try and determine what the noise was and where it was coming from…Chaney said he then looked straight ahead to avoid colliding with the curb and presidential car and then looked at the President just as he heard a third noise. Chaney said while he was looking at President Kennedy, he saw his head “explode.” Chaney said he was positive that all the noises he heard were coming from behind his motorcycle and none of these noises came from the side or the front of the position in which Chaney was located. Chaney said the noises were evenly spaced.”

Douglas Jackson rode on the far right of the President. (Notes written on the night of 11-22-63 as reprinted in The Kennedy Assassination Tapes, 1979): Officer C “we turned west onto Elm Street. Drove only a short way traveling very slowly. About that time I heard what I thought was a car back fire and I looked around and then to the President’s car in time for the next explosion and saw Mr. Connally jerk back to his right and it seemed that he look right at me. I could see a shocked expression on his face and I thought 'Someone is shooting at them.' I began stopping my motor and looking straight ahead first at the Railroad overpass and saw only one Policeman standing on the track directly over the street. I looked then back to my right and behind me then looked back toward Mr. Kennedy and saw him hit in the head; he appeared to have been hit just above the right ear. The top of his head flew off away from me. Mrs. Kennedy pulled him toward her. Mrs. Connally pulled Mr. Connally down and she slid down into the seat. I knew that the shooting was coming from my right rear and I looked back that way but I never did look up. Looking back to the front again I saw the Secret Service Agent lying down across the car over Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy, the presidential limousine was beginning to pick up speed and the Secret Service men were running past the presidential car drawing their guns as they ran. I said to Jim Chaney "Let's go with them" and we sped away, he pulled past the President's car and up toward Chief Curry's car.” (As quoted by Fred Newcomb in Murder from Within, an unpublished manuscript from 1974) "Mr. Connally was looking toward me. And about that time then the second shot went off. That's the point when I knew that somebody was shooting at them because that was the time he [Connally] got hit - because he jerked. I was looking directly at him…he was looking…kind of back toward me and…he just kind of flinched." "…that car just all but stopped…just a moment." (9-17-75 FBI report, FBI file 62-109060, sec 181, p171-173) “As the presidential vehicle was proceeding down Elm Street, and Jackson was turning the corner from Houston to Elm Street, he heard a loud report which he first thought to be a motorcycle backfire. He looked at the Presidential car to see what the reaction was and observed Texas Governor John Connally turn to his right in the car. At the same time he heard a second noise and saw Connally jerk to his right. At this point, Jackson had just rounded the corner from Houston to Elm Street and he recognized the second noise as a definite gunshot. At this point, he was 15 to 20 feet away from the Presidential vehicle and he stopped his motorcycle in the street and looked toward the railroad overpass, directly in front of the Presidential car. He observed a police officer with his hands on his hips, looking toward the Presidential car. As this appeared normal, he then looked to his right and rear in the direction of the Texas School Book Depository and the intersection of Houston and Elm Street and observed many bystanders falling to the ground. He looked toward the Presidential vehicle and at the same time heard a third shot fired. He observed President Kennedy struck in the head above his right ear and the impact of the bullet exploded the top portion of his head, toward the left side of the Presidential vehicle. Jackson immediately knew that Kennedy had been hit and that the shot had been fired from his right rear. He turned and looked back at the intersection of Houston and Elm Street, however, did not look up at the windows in any of the buildings. When he looked back toward the Presidential car, a Secret Service agent was climbing onto the trunk of the vehicle and the car was picking up speed. Jackson then told Officer Chaney that they should go with the vehicle and Chaney proceeded forward to Chief Curry's car and then cleared the way toward Parkland Hospital...Jackson advised he had recognized three distinct noises at the time President Kennedy was shot and could identify two as definitely being gunfire. He further stated he is positive the shot that struck President Kennedy in the head was fired from the right rear, the vicinity of the Texas School Book Building."

Edited by Pat Speer
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As usual, Pat, you are right on target! Thank you so very much. I checked the UCSB website and found no listing for Fred Newcomb but a listing in the library's special collections for the "Perry Adams -- Murder from Within Collection. Sadly, it is made up of "correspondence and a typescript draft." I have written the library for more information.

You are of course correct about the changes from 1963 to 1975 and I am adjusting my text accordingly.

You are a true prince, Pat. I owe you one.

JT

Tink,

I was once in email contact with Newcomb's son. If I recall 1) Newcomb is still alive, and 2) his tapes are archived at the University of California Santa Barbara.

It has long been my feeling that ALL tapes of original witnesses prior to the HSCA investigation should be archived on a website and made publicly available. They are not personal possessions, IMO, but pieces of evidence in an unsolved murder.

As far as Chaney and Jackson, you are incorrect in stating they both told the FBI what they'd said earlier. They had in fact both changed their stories. Chaney, for example, had decided to toe the line with the official story and pretend the head shot was the least shot.

From patspeer.com, chapter 5b:

James Chaney rode to the right and rear of the President. Despite the fact he was the closest witness behind the President and that he had a private conversation with Jack Ruby on the day following the assassination, Chaney was not questioned by the Warren Commission. (11-22-63 interview on WFAA, as shown on Youtube) “I was riding on the right rear fender...We had proceeded west on Elm Street at approximately 15-20 miles per hour. We heard the first shot. I thought it was a motorcycle backfiring and uh I looked back over to my left and also President Kennedy looked back over his left shoulder. Then, the, uh, second shot came, well, then I looked back just in time to see the President struck in the face by the second bullet. He slumped forward into Mrs. Kennedy’s lap, and uh, it was apparent to me that we were being fired upon. I went ahead of the President’s car to inform Chief Curry that the President had been hit. And then he instructed us over the air to take him to Parkland Hospital and he had Parkland Hospital stand by. I went on up ahead of the, to notify the officers that were leading the escort that he had been hit and we're gonna have to move out." (When asked if he saw the person who fired on the President) "No sir, it was back over my right shoulder.” (Note: some sources have it that Chaney also mentioned “a third shot that was fired that (he) did not see hit the President” and that he did see “Governor Connally’s shirt erupt in blood..” but I can not find a primary source for this part of the interview.) ((3-24-64 testimony of Mark Lane before the Warren Commission, 2H32-61) “James A. Chaney, who is a Dallas motorcycle policeman, was quoted in the Houston Chronicle on 11-24-63, as stating that the first shot missed entirely. He said he was 6 feet to the right and front of the President's car, moving about 15 miles an hour, and when the first shot was fired, "I thought it was a backfire." (12-8-63 AP article by Sid Moody) "His head erupted in blood" said Dallas patrolman James Chaney, who was 6 feet away from the president." (3-25-64 testimony of Marrion Baker before the Warren Commission, 3H242-270) “I talked to Jim Chaney, and he made the statement that the two shots hit Kennedy first and then the other one hit the Governor.” (9-12-75 FBI report) “Chaney stated that as the President’s car passed the…(TSBD), he was four to six feet from the President’s right shoulder. He heard three evenly spaced noises coming seconds apart, which at first he thought to be motorcycle backfire. Upon hearing the second noise, he was sure it was not a motorcycle backfire. When he heard the third noise he saw the President’s head “explode” and realized the noises were gunshots. He said that the shots did not come from his immediate vicinity and is positive that all the shots came from behind him.” (9-17-75 FBI report, FBI file 62-109060, sec 181, p168-170) “after making a left turn off Houston Street and shortly after the car had passed the School Book Depository, Chaney heard a noise which sounded like one of the motorcycles close to the President’s car had backfired…Chaney said he glanced to his left at the two motorcycles on the opposite side of the President’s car…Within a few seconds after Chaney heard the first noise, he heard a noise again and turned to his right to try and determine what the noise was and where it was coming from…Chaney said he then looked straight ahead to avoid colliding with the curb and presidential car and then looked at the President just as he heard a third noise. Chaney said while he was looking at President Kennedy, he saw his head “explode.” Chaney said he was positive that all the noises he heard were coming from behind his motorcycle and none of these noises came from the side or the front of the position in which Chaney was located. Chaney said the noises were evenly spaced.”

Douglas Jackson rode on the far right of the President. (Notes written on the night of 11-22-63 as reprinted in The Kennedy Assassination Tapes, 1979): Officer C “we turned west onto Elm Street. Drove only a short way traveling very slowly. About that time I heard what I thought was a car back fire and I looked around and then to the President’s car in time for the next explosion and saw Mr. Connally jerk back to his right and it seemed that he look right at me. I could see a shocked expression on his face and I thought 'Someone is shooting at them.' I began stopping my motor and looking straight ahead first at the Railroad overpass and saw only one Policeman standing on the track directly over the street. I looked then back to my right and behind me then looked back toward Mr. Kennedy and saw him hit in the head; he appeared to have been hit just above the right ear. The top of his head flew off away from me. Mrs. Kennedy pulled him toward her. Mrs. Connally pulled Mr. Connally down and she slid down into the seat. I knew that the shooting was coming from my right rear and I looked back that way but I never did look up. Looking back to the front again I saw the Secret Service Agent lying down across the car over Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy, the presidential limousine was beginning to pick up speed and the Secret Service men were running past the presidential car drawing their guns as they ran. I said to Jim Chaney "Let's go with them" and we sped away, he pulled past the President's car and up toward Chief Curry's car.” (As quoted by Fred Newcomb in Murder from Within, an unpublished manuscript from 1974) "Mr. Connally was looking toward me. And about that time then the second shot went off. That's the point when I knew that somebody was shooting at them because that was the time he [Connally] got hit - because he jerked. I was looking directly at him…he was looking…kind of back toward me and…he just kind of flinched." "…that car just all but stopped…just a moment." (9-17-75 FBI report, FBI file 62-109060, sec 181, p171-173) “As the presidential vehicle was proceeding down Elm Street, and Jackson was turning the corner from Houston to Elm Street, he heard a loud report which he first thought to be a motorcycle backfire. He looked at the Presidential car to see what the reaction was and observed Texas Governor John Connally turn to his right in the car. At the same time he heard a second noise and saw Connally jerk to his right. At this point, Jackson had just rounded the corner from Houston to Elm Street and he recognized the second noise as a definite gunshot. At this point, he was 15 to 20 feet away from the Presidential vehicle and he stopped his motorcycle in the street and looked toward the railroad overpass, directly in front of the Presidential car. He observed a police officer with his hands on his hips, looking toward the Presidential car. As this appeared normal, he then looked to his right and rear in the direction of the Texas School Book Depository and the intersection of Houston and Elm Street and observed many bystanders falling to the ground. He looked toward the Presidential vehicle and at the same time heard a third shot fired. He observed President Kennedy struck in the head above his right ear and the impact of the bullet exploded the top portion of his head, toward the left side of the Presidential vehicle. Jackson immediately knew that Kennedy had been hit and that the shot had been fired from his right rear. He turned and looked back at the intersection of Houston and Elm Street, however, did not look up at the windows in any of the buildings. When he looked back toward the Presidential car, a Secret Service agent was climbing onto the trunk of the vehicle and the car was picking up speed. Jackson then told Officer Chaney that they should go with the vehicle and Chaney proceeded forward to Chief Curry's car and then cleared the way toward Parkland Hospital...Jackson advised he had recognized three distinct noises at the time President Kennedy was shot and could identify two as definitely being gunfire. He further stated he is positive the shot that struck President Kennedy in the head was fired from the right rear, the vicinity of the Texas School Book Building."

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As usual, Pat, you are right on target! Thank you so very much. I checked the UCSB website and found no listing for Fred Newcomb but a listing in the library's special collections for the "Perry Adams -- Murder from Within Collection. Sadly, it is made up of "correspondence and a typescript draft." I have written the library for more information.

You are of course correct about the changes from 1963 to 1975 and I am adjusting my text accordingly.

You are a true prince, Pat. I owe you one.

JT

Ahh. That's right. It was Adams who'd placed his stuff with Santa Barbara... While I wasn't able to find an email I'd once received that included Newcomb's phone number, I was able to find his son Tyler's email address. You can email me at pat@patspeer.com if interested.

P.S. If you'd like an extra set of eyes to read over your new manuscript and help catch some pesky mistakes, mine are available.

Edited by Pat Speer
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