last update - 11/03/17
Just after the Presidential limousine had rounded the corner of Elm St. and Houston on Friday 11/22/1963 at about 12:30pm, a shot rang out. A sniper located in a window of the Texas School book depository had just taken a shot at the President [Brennan], with a rifle that did not fire missiles at a particularly high velocity in comparison to some other high power rifles. However, probably due to the sideways motion of the vehicle, and a traffic light pole that entered the sniper's line of sight, the shot missed [Willis, Bennett, Ellis - others]. A white spot on the pavement, between the limo and south curb of Elm Street at Zapruder frame 143, reinforces the possibility that the shot was fired at that time [DC]. If the shot was fired later, tree branches might also have been a factor [CE889]. The bullet most likely ricocheted out of Dealey Plaza. The shot does get the attention of Governor John Connally, who turns his head briefly to the right.
For some reason, the first explosion might not have been as loud the following explosions, possibly indicating the second and third explosions were each two nearly-simultaneous explosions. Some witnesses would take note of the softer sound of the first explosion [Summers - others]; with others, it would clearly register as a rifle shot [Baker - others], while even some others—notably west of the SBD—might not have heard it at all [Bowers, Sitzman, Zapruder - others]. The unlikely possibility exists that the first explosion was not a shot from Oswald's rifle, and Ellis instead saw a bullet fragment from the headshot hit the pavement or south curb of Main [Skelton, Decker].
About 4.4 seconds later, the limo is a little farther past the SBD, and its sideways motion relative to the SBD has decreased. Just after the limo clears an oak tree [Zapruder frame 223, CE893], the sixth floor shooter fires off a round that passes through John F. Kennedy's throat at vertical angle of about 17 degrees (in relation to the vehicle) [WC survey, Fox 3&5] and a horizontal angle of about 10 degrees. The copper jacketed bullet hits JFK in the back of the lower neck area about 1 1/8" to the right of midline [Fox 5], passes through about 5 1/2" of tissue, and exits at about midline [Fox 3]. It does not strike bone on the way through and causes unspecified damage the wall of the trachea [autopsy report] before exiting just below JFK's collar button [Artwohl, shirt]. The pressure from the shirt collar and tie probably helps keep the skin around the exit wound from tearing and creating the classic large-exit-wound [Lattimer]. The bullet grazes the left side of the nicely tightened necktie knot as it passes by, creating an elliptical tear. Later, photos taken of the knot at an angle—after the knot has loosened—mislead some into believing the tear occurred to the front of the knot [DC]. JFK's jacket and shirt are somewhat bunched when he is hit due to having one arm in a raised position, making the entry wound appear lower on the shirt and jacket [shirt, jacket, Croft photo, Zimmerman] and slightly further to the right than it actually was. The bullet, having been partially slowed, travels another 30" or so and hits Governor John Connally, who is seated in front of JFK about 3-4" lower and 6-8" to the left [Kelley, various photos, WR], in the right upper back. The bullet, having lost some of its spin, probably begins to tumble before entering Connally, causing a slightly elliptical (6x15mm) entry wound. On its way through, the bullet shatters part of Connally's fifth rib, which causes a downward deflection of the bullet of about seven degrees. Upon exiting Connally’s chest, the bullet and associated blood and debris push the right side of Connally's jacket away from his chest [Zap frame 223]. The bullet then enters his lower right forearm, causing a moderately splintered fracture to one bone [X-rays]. After exiting his wrist, the slightly flattened bullet lodges itself in a shallow wound in Connally’s left knee [WR]. Amazingly, Connally continues to hold on to his hat all the way to the hospital [N. Connally]. As the bullet flattens on its way through Connally, a small "plug" of lead is pushed out from the base of the bullet. The lead, which is a bit softer than most bullets (less antimony), is sheared off as it enters Connally's wrist, leaving tiny lead fragments behind. While Connally is turning to look back at the president, Nellie pulls him towards her. JFK is probably in full realization at this point as to what is taking place; unfortunately, his ability to duck is hindered by a back brace.
Four point nine seconds later, the sniper fires off a fatal round. The bullet strikes the president at a vertical angle of about 12 degrees and a horizontal angle of about 7 degrees. It enters the rear of the President's skull one inch to the right and slightly above the occipital protuberance [Fox 8, X-rays, autopsy notes/diagrams]* causing another slightly elliptical (6x15mm) entrance wound [autopsy notes], which is possibly caused by the President’s head being tilted 8 degrees downward and perhaps 8 degrees more to the left than the bullet trajectory [WR]. The impact causes a pattern of fractures radiating from the point of impact [Boston U. team]. The bullet fragments considerably upon impact, sending at least four sizable fragments forwards and upwards 12-22 degrees from the original bullet trajectory, and exits the upper right temple, causing severe trauma. The energy from the bullet builds up inside the skull and, when released by the exiting fragments, causes a jet effect, which cancels any forward motion possibly caused by the bullet [Lattimer]. This, along with a neuromuscular reflex action (back muscles are stronger than stomach muscles), causes the President's body to move backwards and to the left [Olivier]. The shot completely shatters the very rear and most of the right side of the President's skull while leaving the scalp in the rear intact [Zap film, autopsy photos]. All of the bullet fragments pass under the metal handhold/crosspiece, with one small fragment whizzing past the Governor's forehead and striking the inside of the windshield a few inches to the left of the rear view mirror [CE350]. Another small fragment strikes the visor clip, breaking off and bending a small "tab" upwards over the right visor rod [CE349, DC]. Yet another fragment, probably the midsection of the bullet**, clears the windshield, but hits the edge of the left visor on the way out [DC], travels about 100 feet with an average speed of only about 182fps (124mph), then bounces (probably while spinning) along the south curb of Elm Street near a manhole cover, leaving a dust trail [CE350, Skelton]. A fifth fragment of lead-only also clears the windshield, and after passing between the visors with an average speed of about 473fps (322mph)***, travels about 260 feet before hitting the south curb of Main St., where it reflects directly towards one James Tague, striking him in the right cheek. Numerous tiny fragments are left behind in the right portion of JFK's cranial cavity. Tague would hear the sound of the shot that hit him about 1/5 of a second before being struck.
All the bullets fired into the limo were from Oswald's rifle.[CE566,568,570, FBI and HSCA N.A.A. tests, Guinn, Rahn]
Some people report a "doubled up" shot at this time [Kellerman, Greer, Holland] or the last two shots being closer than the first [Bowers - others] even though there is evidence to suggest that the space between the second and third shot was, in fact, longer. For the occupants of 100X, the doubled shot might be a result of the bullet (and its associated ballistic wave) having struck the vehicle about 1/10 second (100ms) ahead of the muzzle blast. Witnesses reported seeing a cloud of white smoke near a fence separating Dealey Plaza from a train yard/parking lot [Holland, Paschall, others], and many thought that shots had come from that vicinity. A police officer reported smelling gunpowder on the knoll [Smith]. One witness reportedly encountered a man on the knoll, after the shooting, with what appeared to be a gun hidden beneath a coat draped over his arm [Summers]. However, some witnesses' opinions as to the source of the shots were no doubt influenced by JFK's reaction to the headshot. A bystander reportedly dropped a Coke bottle seconds after the last shot, which shattered loudly on the concrete stairs near the top of the grassy knoll [Sitzman]. If, as some speculate, the damage to the south curb of Main [Dillard curb photo] was from a direct hit—possibly indicating a misfire of Oswald’s rifle about 1 1/2 to 2 seconds after the head shot—Tague would have heard the shot about 1/5 of a second after being struck. However, no traces of copper were found in the suspected curb bullet strike area.
At Parkland hospital, Connally is transferred from the cart he rode in on to the operating table. Either in the process of transferring him [Connally] or shortly afterwards as a nurse [Wester] removes and bundles up the bloody sheets from the cart, a bullet gets knocked onto the side of the stretcher and goes unnoticed. The stretcher, with the bloody sheets and several other small misc. items on top, is wheeled by an orderly [Jimison] onto the nearest elevator, which makes its way down to the lobby/ER. Darrel Tomlinson, a building engineer, is most likely the person who removed the stretcher from the elevator just prior to "keying off" the elevator. A short time later, after returning from several trips to the second floor, he moves one of two stretchers located adjacent to each other in the lobby. When the stretcher contacts the wall, a bullet falls off and Tomlinson hears it contact the floor. Confusing testimony and perhaps inattentiveness by Jimison and Tomlinson lead some to speculate that the cart was not actually Connally's. In the course of treating Connally, a tiny bullet fragment is found lodged in his inner thigh along with a one-centimeter entry wound. The fragment was not removed, therefore leaving open the unlikely possibility that the fragment originated from the headshot.
In the meantime, JFK is wheeled in on a stretcher. In the process of laying him on his back, the forward portion of the wound lays back in place (or was previously set back in place by Jackie), hiding much of the damage to the right temple area. The rear portion—the scalp—falls back on to the stretcher, exposing more of the rear portion of the wound. Not being able examine the wound in detail, the trauma room personnel do not realize how far forward the wound actually extends. They also never see the back wound and assume the throat wound is an entry wound.
Due to tiny circular cracks around the bullet strike in the windshield, some people who did not have time to closely examine the windshield would perceive a hole in the center of the damage, even though it was just an illusion [CE 350, Altgens 1-7].
*An autopsy photograph, commonly referred to as Fox 4, even though taken of the back of JFK’s head, most likely does not show the actual entrance wound. The two locations—a blood spot in the crown area, and an artifact just above the hairline—both of which seem to show “something,” are inconsistent with other things such as the autopsy notes, autopsy diagrams, and X-rays etc.
**CE349 shows additional damage to the limo that appears much like one would expect from a bullet fragment at the time of the headshot (Z313). The photo shows a dent in the chrome strip at the top of the windshield and also shows damage to the edge of the right visor, which would line up with the dent in the flipped-up position. I am not the person who originally noticed the damage to the right visor, but I did notice that the damage to the visor depicted in CE349 is also apparent in an earlier photo taken before Nov 22nd, 1963. It stands to reason that the visor could very well have become pinched between the chrome strip and hand crank during the Nov 1st, 1961 incident described by SA Geis to SS Chief James Rowley. In light of this and the fact that only two sizable bullet fragments were found in the vehicle, I have ruled out this damage as a bullet fragment strike.
***My speed estimates for the Tague and Skelton fragments may be a bit high, especially for the Tague fragment, as both fragments exited the vehicle on a slightly upward angle, perhaps four to seven degrees above level.
[DC] = my own contributions.
Data for determining bullet speeds etc: Muzzle velocity: 2,165 fps; Entry velocity (for head shot): 1,800 fps; Speed of sound: 1,130fps; Time for object to fall 5 feet: point 55 seconds.