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The sniper's perch on the 5th floor

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The sniper's perch on the 5th floor

1>  Bonnie Ray Williams claimed to have left chicken bones and a Dr. Pepper bottle, on the floor, after eating lunch on the 6th floor. (v3pp170-71)  Perhaps they were his, but...

2>  "[Det.] Studebaker was dusting the Dr. Pepper bottle which had been brought up to him from the 5th floor".  (Tom Alyea, in "Secrets from the Sixth-Floor Window" p45)

3>  In a 12/19/63 statement, Alyea notes "a s[t]ack with a stack of chicken bones on it" and a "Dr. Pepper bottle which they dusted for fingerprinting", all supposedly on the 6th floor.  However, he does not note a sniper's nest, and seems to believe that the bottle and chicken mark the window (location on floor not specified) from which the sniper fired.  Taken together, these two statements indicate that he was writing about the 5th floor.  [In his reference to Studebaker, Alyea does not mention the chicken bones, perhaps because their transporter had bagged them.]

4>  Everyone accepts Williams' 6th-floor-foray story, which he seemed to have recounted from the get-go.  But the get-go was his 11/22/63 affidavit:  "I went back up on the 5th floor with a fellow called Hank and Junior."  No 6th floor.  Initially, then, Williams corroborates Alyea.  By Saturday, however, he had retroactively wended his way up to the next floor for his lunch.  The 6th-floor magnet...

5>  But Saturday damage control yielded more damage.  In an 11/23/63 FBI statement, Williams now avers that he did go up to the 6th floor to eat his lunch, and that he then took the stairs back down to the 5th floor, leaving the elevator which he took up to the 6th floor behind.  But, in his Commission testimony, he has to correct his correction: "I didn't tell [the FBI] that I was using the stairs."  (v3p172)  Perhaps he has to make the retraction because Roy Truly testified that when, accompanying Patrolman Baker upstairs, he first looked up the elevator shaft and saw that "both [elevators] were on the 5th floor at that time."  (v3p223)  Of course they were, since Williams had not gone up to the 6th floor.

6>  Truly and Alyea, independently, nix the Williams version of the chicken-and-bottle story.  Williams' prevarications were necessitated by a 1:12 DPD radio transmission from Insp. J.H. Sawyer, and his later advisory to reporters.   In the former, he mentions "empty rifle hulls", and notes that "the man had been there for some time" (Trask p523); in the latter, he mentions "remains of fried chicken and paper", and again notes that "the person had been there quite a while". (Stockton Record, S.F. Examiner, Oakland Tribune [AP] 11/22/63)  The shells, then, were inextricably linked with the chicken.  Everywhere the shells went, the chicken (and bottle) was sure to go.  And, in an elaborate ruse to keep the chicken with the shells, several sheriff's deputies and DPD Sgt. Gerald Hill falsely reported seeing chicken adorning the 6th-floor "nest".  But Alyea and DPD Crime Scene detectives Studebaker and Day put the kibosh on that scenario--none of the three reported seeing chicken remains there.  As Studebaker testified, if they had been there, they would have appeared in his photographs of the area.  

7>  Studebaker did photograph the shells in the "nest", but apparently a good deal later than they were supposed to have been photographed.  Alyea:  "Fritz handed the casings to Studebaker to include them in the crime scene shot of the window..." (email from Alyea to Tony Pitman 5/6/98)  Apparently, the photographing took place *much* later:  Dets. Johnson & Montgomery were assigned to assist in the "nest" and window areas on the 6th floor, beginning about 1:05, until about 2:30, but their respective reports mention no shells nor photographing of same on the 6th floor during that period, although: damage control again: the later Sims/Boyd report has them, supposedly, left guarding the phantom shells while Capt. Fritz, Sims, & Boyd go over to check out the rifle site.  Unlike the chicken, the shells finally do show up in the "nest", but why the delay?  

8>  Back to that 1:12 transmission and subsequent Sawyer briefing of reporters...  The problem with *what* Sawyer reported having been found upstairs was compounded by the problem with *where* it was supposedly found.  The radio message says, "3rd floor".  Baffling, until you realize that some 20 minutes earlier, Sawyer and Hill had been involved with a suspect detained on the 3rd floor who was, at the time, thought to have been a shooter.  (HSCA interview with Officer Ira Trantham, 11/23/63 report of Chief Criminal Deputy Allan Sweatt)  Apparently, Hill--who had entered the depository at about 12:52 and sent the suspect out--had later brought Sawyer (who hadn't gone in with him) up-to-date on what had been found inside the building.  But either Hill did not mention the number of the (higher) floor where the subsequent discovery of shells had occurred, or Sawyer mis-heard--hence, "3rd floor".  Sawyer, however, told reporters later that the discovery had actually happened on the 5th floor.  And that, apparently, was *not* a mistake.  Between the time of his transmission and the time of the briefing, someone must have told Sawyer "5th floor".  Most likely informant: Sweatt, whose report put the finding of the hulls on the 5th floor.  Sawyer and Sweatt were both out front about this time, and the latter must have heard his broadcast and gone over to correct him.

9>  Homicide Captain Fritz must not have been very happy with Sawyer's 1:12 radio broadcast.  And maybe because he had been informed that it was Hill who had put him up to it, he had Hill rushed to a window on the 6th floor to declare that empty shells had just been found on that floor.  The Homicide (Boyd/Sims) report put the time of the finding at 1:15, which would also, then, most likely have been the time that Hill gave his emergency shout.  The problem with this is that, no, the shells had not just been found then.  They were found shortly before one o'clock, according to their finder, Deputy Luke Mooney.  Hill's breathless bulletin must have puzzled onlookers who had heard Mooney shouting the discovery some 15 minutes earlier... And its hapless belatedness indicates that it was not the Hill of the 6th-floor belated shout, nor the Hill and Sawyer of the "3rd floor" confusion, but the Sawyer of the "5th floor" briefing who was the one to listen to re the floor number of the finding of the shells.

10>  Most sheriff's deputies pegged the sniper's "nest" as the site of the discovery of the shells, but these same deputies, obviously erroneously, also named it as the site of the discovery of the chicken bones.  A few deputies, however--namely Jack Faulkner and John Wiseman--put the find on the 5th floor.

11>  Faulkner and Wiseman also put the rifle find on that same floor.  And an ATF agent famously reported the rifle as having been found on a floor lower than the 6th.

12>  Other "mistaken" floor-numbering witnesses whom I believe were actually not mistaken include Amos Euins and Mrs. Carolyn Walther.  The latter was "positive that [the window that she saw a man with a rifle] was not as high as the 6th floor." (FBI interview 12/4/63)  (Her account of a man leaning out the window and holding a rifle, however, seems an embellishment.  But her designation of the "fourth or fifth" floor does not.)  Two reporters, independently, heard Euins say that he thought the shooter was a "colored man", and Deputy Sheriff C.L. Lewis recorded Euins as saying that he "saw man on 5th floor".  (v19p526)    

13>  The Patrolman, James Valentine, who rode to Dealey with Sgt. Hill, and apparently entered with him, stated in 1964 that he had been assigned to the "5th floor".

14>  At 12:37, another Patrolman, Leonard L. Hill, radioed that the shots had seemed to have come from a "second window from the [east] end", on an upper depository floor.  The only open such "second window" was on the 5th floor.  His witness was apparently news photographer Bob Jackson, who testified that he was in a car in Dealey and, supposedly, did not get out of the car there.  But fellow newsperson Malcolm Couch said that he and Jackson in fact did alight in Dealey, near the triple underpass, where Hill was temporarily located.  (Like Sgt. Hill, Patrolman Hill seems to have turned up everywhere that day.)  Apparently, Jackson saw Williams looking out his second-window-from-the-end, just after the shots had been fired, and pegged him, erroneously, as the shooter.  "Bob Jackson is reported to have seen the rifle and the man that fired the shots"--undated info from DPD Sgt. W.G. Jennings. (v19p517)

15>  Howard Brennan testified that the shooter shot from a wide-open window--like (he exampled) the east-end 5th-floor windows.  But then, when Brennan--as well as fellow witness Bob Edwards--were independently persuaded that the man they thought they saw at that wide-open window was actually at the half-open window on the 6th floor, that left them no recourse but to adjust as best they could and leave the window below the relocated sniper unoccupied.  (Brennan: v3p152/Edwards: v6p204)  If, that is, the man were spuriously moved up to the 6th floor, then that necessarily leaves--at least for Brennan and Edwards--the 5th-floor east-end window empty... (Harold Norman was supposedly at that window at 12:30, but the testimonies of Brennan and Edwards creates some doubt.)  Accordingly, Brennan testified that the two men he said he saw on the 5th floor, Norman and Jarman, "were one window over below the man that fired the gun". (p152)  In fact, Brennan moved Norman *two* windows over to the west, leaving both halves of the end double-window vacant, and moved Jarman one single-window over to the east.  (See CE 477.)  Brennan's configuration of the 5th-floor witnesses is so far from that seen in the photos that it's almost surreal.  It would, clearly, take more than mere misremembering to achieve that level of incongruity between witness and photos.  Consider:  If Norman were at the window just under the sniper--as Norman said that he was--then--in the Brennan version--that sniper would, accordingly, have to have been at the third window from the end!  The 5th-floor double-window vacancy--in the Brennan version--was, I believe, filled, in part, by the sniper, at the very end SE window.  (And by Williams, at the next single window, though not until after the sniper had left *his* window.)  Part of Brennan's (very understandable) confusion can be attributed to the fact that counsel David Belin did not tell Brennan, while questioning him, that the photo of the wide-open windows (CE 481) was "taken shortly after the firing of the third shot". (p153)  Not even when his witness stated that he did not "recall this ["nest"] window at the time of the shooting being that low." (p153)  So Brennan does not even realize that he is challenging the official Dealey story.  Belin includes the comment re 481, a bit later, in a general discussion of photo exhibits, to which Brennan was either not privy or not listening.  So he doesn't get a chance to review his earlier observations re 481.  Less risky, apparently, to leave the man in abject confusion, superimposing the shooter and the wide-open window, below, over the empty half-open window, above.  In the end, however, Brennan wins--the window was not "that low".  He at least got the chance to pointedly reject the "nest" shooting window (whether or not counsel admits it) and, consequently, to reject his own, earlier fixing of the location of the shooter as having been on the "second row of windows from the top" of the building, as he put it in his 11/22/63 affidavit.  The window was not "that low".  For his part, counsel simply ignores the implications of what the witness has said and goes on, in his business-like way, to another matter--the same tactic used by commissioner Allen Dulles with W.W. Scoggins when the latter testified that he went in a car with the police after returning to the Tippit scene with Ted Callaway.  (Leaving no explanation whatsoever as to why Scoggins could not have attended a same-day lineup.)

16>  Check the photos of Williams looking out his window at the departing Presidential limo, and compare them with Brennan's well-known, The shooter paused for a second as if to admire his handiwork comment.  (It may have been at this moment that Euins and Jackson, too, mistakenly came to the conclusion that Williams was the shooter.)  Then look up, in Williams' testimony, Williams being asked if a man named Brennan had ID'd him as the man he saw on the 5th floor.  (Williams said, No way, but, again, compare the photos and Brennan's comment.)  Supposedly, Brennan, after 12:30, introduced Williams' fellow 5th-floorers, Norman and Jarman, to the police as the ones he had seen on the 5th floor, but that encounter was never verified by anyone outside Norman, Jarman, and Brennan--not even by SS Agent Forrest Sorrels, to whom Brennan said he presented the two.

17> The next day, 11/23/63, Jarman made out an affidavit, and did not mention the 5th floor but did mention Williams as having been out front with the spectators.  Williams never verified that.  Meanwhile, Williams' other 5th-floor compatriot, Norman, was incommunicado until the next Tuesday.  For some reason, the two seemed reluctant to admit their presence on the 5th floor.  But once they did admit it, they plunged hopefully on, and described debris as having fallen on, first, Norman's head, then, later, no, actually, on Williams' head, then, no again (for the HSCA), on Norman's.  The mysterious debris--a most questionable indicator of a 6th-floor shooter... Photos show Norman and Jarman on the 5th floor, at 12:30, on 11/22, but apparently, if they were there, it was not completely in accordance with their will.  Whereas Williams seemed to embrace his role on the 5th floor, whatever that role was.  Though I don't think that he realized, until afterwards, the full import of what was done that day on the 5th floor.  As building superintendent Roy Truly testified, "I do know that [depository employees] have been rather, as the expression goes, shook up about this thing, especially this tall one, Bonnie Williams. He is pretty superstitious, I would say."  Perhaps even haunted.

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The reason for the 5th-floor ruse should be apparent.  No one would hire on without some safeguards, at least against being photographed or immediately shot in the 6th-floor sniper's "nest".  Even with that, as I noted, Williams was apparently picked out by three witnesses--Brennan, Euins, and Jackson--as having been a shooter, which I don't believe that he was.

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Might as well double down on my out-of-left-field maintaining of a 5th-floor sniper's perch in the TSBD.  You'll recall witness Brennan's confusion re the double windows, which he at first thought were just long long windows.  Notice on CE 477 he crams Norman and Jarman into one single window ("B") on the 5th floor, leaving all the other windows on the floor vacant.  Then notice that he allots the sniper a full double-window ("A") on the 6th floor.  Why?  I think because he saw the sniper, or at least the rifle, first in the east window of a double-window, then thought he saw the same man in the west window of the same double-window.  So he has to circle both halves of the double window in question.  Clearly, though, (if anything in Brennan's testimony can be said to be clear) the location of that double window is in error.  The west window of the SE corner double window on the 6th floor was closed at 12:30.  But both sides of the SE end double window on the 5th floor were open.  But Brennan has to leave those windows vacant when he is persuaded that the sniper was on the floor above.  "A" has to have been on the 5th floor.

CE 477.JPG

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