Grassy knoll target practice on 11.20.63?

Reader David Regan asks if anyone has information regarding the story below, in which the Dallas police allegedly encountered a group of men engaging in “target practice” on the Grassy Knoll on November 20, 1963: Has anyone come across confirmation on this? “Target Practice in Dealey Plaza” — from “Mafia Kingfish,” by John Davis (paperback Signet Books edition, 1989):

“That same morning [Wednesday, November 20, 1963], in the center of Dallas, two police officers on routine patrol entered Dealey Plaza, through which the presidential motorcade would pass on Friday, and noticed several men standing behind a wooden fence on a grassy knoll overlooking the plaza. The men were engaged in mock target practice, aiming rifles over the fence, in the direction of the plaza. The two police officers immediately made for the fence, but by the time they got there the riflemen had disappeared, having departed in a car that had been parked nearby. The two patrol officers did not give much thought to the incident at the time, but after the assassination of the President two days later, they reported the incident to the FBI, which issued a report of it on November 26. For reasons that have never been satisfactorily explained, the substance of the report was never mentioned in the FBI’s investigation of the assassination and the report itself disappeared until 1978, when it finally resurfaced as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request.

I have been unable to track down this November 26 FBI report. However, confirmation of it comes from historian Michael Kurtz in his book ‘Crime of the Century’ where on page 218 of the second revised edition he says:

‘Two days before the assassination, two Dallas police officers were making their usual rounds on patrol. As they entered Dealey Plaza, they observed several men engaged in target practice with a rifle. The men were situated behind the wooden fence on the Grass Knoll. By the time the policemen reached the area the men had vanished, apparently leaving in a car parked nearby.’”

Kurtz cites an FBI report, 26 Nov. 1963, from Federal Bureau of Investigation. Papers on the Assassination of President Kennedy. 15 volumes, 3,847 pages. Linus A. Sims Memorial Library, Southeastern Louisiana University, Hammond, LA.

35 comments

  1. BradR says:

    Davis did extensive research on the assassination and the Mob ties that were obvious to any real researcher, so I would tend to agree with his report.

  2. BrotherBruce says:

    So, there were several men with rifles taking target practice from behind the fence at the top of the grassy knoll on November 20, 1963?
    If these same men planned on killing the President from that spot, two days later, they sure were a brazen, foolish or inexperienced group of assassins. There is an 11/26/63 FBI report referring to this incident. That report disappeared for 15 years before resurfacing in 1978 after a Freedom of Information request.
    Michael Kurtz references the FBI report in his book “Crime of the Century”.
    A fellow named Warren Castor, who worked in the Book Depository, stated that he bought 2 rifles on 11/20/63 which he brought into the TBD to show to Roy Truly. Mr. Castor stated that one rifle was for him and the other was a Christmas present for his son.
    If any part of this anecdote fits your pet theory re. the assassination, feel free to “shape it to fit”.

  3. Philip Truong says:

    A few years ago, this was the best I could find. It would be nice to find scans of FBI or DPD reports to seal it up.

    http://coverthistory.blogspot.com/2005/08/target-practice-in-dealey-plaza-from.html

    • Jean Davison says:

      Philip,

      A document you found says that someone reported “two unknown men sighting in a a rifle at two silhouette targets” in the “immediate vicinity” of the place JFK was killed. I found a similar report:

      https://www.maryferrell.org/mffweb/archive/viewer/showDoc.do?docId=62262&relPageId=83

      This isn’t the same story told by Davis and Kurtz (several men aiming rifles over the grassy knoll fence). According to this FBI document, someone reported hearing that the police had gotten a phone call on 11/20 “regarding two men sighting in a rifle on Continental Street,” but the DPD denied it:

      https://www.maryferrell.org/mffweb/archive/viewer/showDoc.do?docId=57741&relPageId=113

      The story told by Davis and Kurtz appears to be a garbled version of a hearsay report that the Dallas police denied. Without a verifiable source for the “behind the fence” version, I see no reason to believe it.

      • Frank says:

        Jean, here is how your analysis sounds to someone like me: There were two reports of a unicorn flying over Dealey plaza. One report said it flew over the fence. The other said it flew over the plaza and disappeared. Without a confirming report that a unicorn flew over the fence I see no reason to believe there was a unicorn flying anywhere in Dealey plaza, but then again, I don’t believe in unicorns anyway.

        Now, in reality two reports of men sighting in rifles in Dealey Plaza in advance of an assassination is far easier for me to believe than the unicorns, but I can appreciate the difficulty that you have with it. As for the DPD denial, well, they had their man just like they were told they did, so no two man sightings please.

        • Jean Davison says:

          Frank,

          I don’t doubt the story because the police denied it, I doubt it because I don’t see any good evidence for it. Do you?

          Two authors making the same claim is not confirmation or evidence of anything. The only documents I’m aware of don’t say what Davis and Kurtz claim — Dealey Plaza and the fence aren’t mentioned, and the only street name that appears isn’t even in “the immediate vicinity.”

          The documents also add a detail that makes Dealey Plaza less likely, imo, unless you think plotters would set up silhouette targets there on November 20 and aim at them from behind the fence.

  4. Thomas says:

    If this is true it is astounding that the police didn’t make sure the area would be safe two days later when the President was scheduled to drive by. No reasonable police force would just figure, “The FBI will handle it.”

    It’s also hard to imagine why the FBI didn’t report this to the secret service to take action to ensure the safety of the motorcade, or take action themselves.

    If the story is true it’s a glaring example of ineptitude…or perhaps far worse.

    • David Regan says:

      Interesting also to note the following articles concerning Julia Ann Mercer: http://jfk.hood.edu/Collection/Weisberg%20Subject%20Index%20Files/T%20Disk/Truby%20J%20David/Item%2002.pdf

      • Jack Meadows says:

        Very interesting article! Thanks. That’s a pretty good description of the man seen in the 6th floor window of the TSBD & hurriedly leaving the building afterwards. It sounds like Malcolm Wallace perhaps? I don’t know his height but if he’s about 5′ 9″ then it’s a close match. His fingerprint (or thumbprint?) was found on the 6th floor. He was LBJ’s hitman.

    • We have to remember that the coverup of the assassination began almost immediately after JFK was fatally shot. I would think that the coverup was being planned out when the “target practice” was taking place on the 20th. I doubt that the FBI, with John E. Hoover in charge (who hated JFK), was going to do anything about a mock assassination two days before the actual event. A normal FBI would have, but again, not one run by Hoover.

  5. Christopher V. Pike says:

    In one of the issues of The Continuing Inquiry back in the late 70s sir early 80s, there was a brief story of a woman reporting having her rear window shot out while driving down Elm a few days before the assassination. Editor Penn Jones believed the report to be true and commented on the likelihood
    of that incident. I haven’t that piece at my fingertips but if this is helpful please reply and I’ll go digging.

  6. Allen Lowe says:

    yes, of course, Jean, “two unknown men sighting in a a rifle at two silhouette targets” in the “immediate vicinity” of the place JFK was killed” is completely insignificant; as the old blues saying goes, “who do you believe, me or your lying eyes?”

    • Jean Davison says:

      Allen,

      What evidence is there that two men sighted in a rifle near the assassination site? There was a report to that effect based on hearsay, but what evidence convinces you that it’s true?

  7. Allen Lowe says:

    yes there was a report; what makes you believe the world is round? Correct, there was a report; what makes you believe Abe Lincoln existed? Reports of his existence. What makes you believe Stalin was a Communist? Reports, reports, reports. That’s called evidence. What disturbs me about your side, Jean, is that, like the Republican Party, you will never, ever concede problems with your position. The pro-conspiracy side spends years dealing with problems in its ranks, refuting bad work and faulty evidence. You guys just look reality in the face and pretend it does not exist. Sorry, this does not make it anymore.

  8. Allen Lowe says:

    let me add, that JONES, a government man, reported (yes, reported) this as evidence the DALLAS PD had developed.

    so yes, it should have been part of the case. I don’t see you rejecting “reports” of Oswald’s “violent” tendencies or his supposedly rabid Communism, or his “shot” at Walker; all with much less substance than this.

  9. Jean Davison says:

    Allen,

    Do you really think that anything reported by a “government man” or anyone else should be accepted as fact? I’m amazed. Do you believe these reports from people who thought they’d seen Oswald in various places?

    Working on a Norwegian cruise ship in May 1963:

    https://www.maryferrell.org/mffweb/archive/viewer/showDoc.do?docId=58950&relPageId=12

    Shooting pool in a Los Angeles bar with Marina, Robert, and Jack Ruby:

    https://www.maryferrell.org/mffweb/archive/viewer/showDoc.do?absPageId=355483

    Working in a rodeo with Ruby in Tupelo, Mississippi:

    https://www.maryferrell.org/mffweb/archive/viewer/showDoc.do?mode=searchResult&absPageId=679987

    “Somebody said it, it must be true”??

  10. Allen Lowe says:

    never said that Jean; I merely suggested that it SHOULD BE INVESTIGATED and it creates PEOPLE OF INTEREST other than Oswald (which I know troubles you). Once again your technique is obvious – deny things which no one has alleged. Answer objections that no one has made. Though logic tells us that if a government investigator reports something that goes counter to his own agency’s theories or self interest, there is reason to be intrigued.

  11. Allen Lowe says:

    the other thing that troubles me about your response, Jean, is that it shows a lack of basic critical thinking; we are talking plausibility, so to equate the report of shooters at the fence with reports of working in a rodeo shows a basic lack of understand of the logistics of the JFK murder. Logic tells me – and should tell you – we have credible reports of a women (Mercer) who saw men go toward the area with a likely weapon; we have a report of rifle sighting at the same location. It ain’t, as I like to say, rocket surgery.

    Another thing, by the way, that troubles me is your ability to come up with these links; it is way too organized, as though your side passes around talking points. Nothing wrong with this per se; but it does show a willingness to conspire to keep your arguments alive (though by now they should be on life support). My point is that people work together, they organize events together. Like the assassination.

    • Jean Davison says:

      Allen,

      So far the only “report of shooters at the fence” I’m aware of was the claim made by authors Davis and Kurtz. Could you please cite the evidence that anybody ever actually reported seeing “shooters at the fence”?

    • Bill Clarke says:

      Allen Lowe December 28, 2014 at 11:10 am

      “the other thing that troubles me about your response, Jean, is that it shows a lack of basic critical thinking;”

      I thought it showed a great deal of uncommon common sense. Now I know we have a bad reputation in Texas but remember this was down town Dallas, not Dodge City or Deadwood in the 1800s.

      Do you really think a couple of ole boys could pull up, set out targets and begin firing their rifle in Dealey Plaza without the police being there before the second shot?

      This one needs to be filed away. Far away.

  12. Bill says:

    Just another case of people coming forward AFTER the fact and, until solid evidence is ever produced, it will remain another spook in the woods story. Very similar to the way Mark Lane took on the press with his “Jake Ruby” at the depository photo back in the day. Posh Posh…..:(

  13. Allen Lowe says:

    uhh… Bill – it doesn’t say they FIRED their rifles, but that they sighted them. Means something different.

    and, uhhh, Jean – you ask: “ould you please cite the evidence that anybody ever actually reported seeing “shooters at the fence” ? Read your own post, up above. You are my source; this is much appreciated, by the way.

    • Jean Davison says:

      No, Allen, so far the only people who’ve said “at the fence” are Davis, Kurtz, and you.

      Another poster and I found documents saying that someone present at the police station on 11/22 reported that a policeman had said that someone had called in (notice that this is already third-hand hearsay) to report someone
      “sighting in” a rifle. Depending on the document, this reportedly happened “near” the assassination site or “in the immediate vicinity” of the site, or “on Continental Street.”

      Maybe your understanding of critical thinking allows you to reword that to say “behind the fence.” Mine doesn’t.

      No one provides links for me, Allen. I find most of them using this search page:

      https://www.maryferrell.org/wiki/index.php/JFK_Assassination_Documents

      • Jean Davison says:

        I’m guessing that this rumor may’ve started as a report about seeing hunters firing at silhouette targets off Continental Avenue, which Google’s streetview shows crosses the Trinity River at a spot that’s relatively deserted even today:

        https://www.google.com/maps/@32.7806864,-96.8231289,3a,75y,90t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sXTwCVQCZz8Ajyge12rMUSQ!2e0!6m1!1e1?hl=en

        In those days there were a few places along the riverbank in the Dallas area where shooters would sometimes target practice using one of the levees as a backstop. And deer season opened that week in Texas.

        Anyway, that’s my guess.

        • I had never heard about this “rifle sighting” thing until I read this post. don’t know anything about it, but, if any truth to it, your explanation sounds very plausible. the only thing I can say about this whole thing is that it seems to me that laws of physics would indicate that kennedy head shot was from the front, as per viewing zapruder film.

    • Bill Clarke says:

      Allen Lowe December 30, 2014 at 11:32 am

      Oooohh. I see the cause of my confusion. On December 25, 2014 at 3:00 pm on this thread you said, “yes, of course, Jean, “two unknown men “sighting in” a rifle at two silhouette targets”.

      You said sighting IN a rifle. This infers, to me at least, that they fired the rifles. You have to punch some holes in the target to sight it in. That requires firing the rifle.

      Now if you had just said they “sighted” the guns that would be another story. But you didn’t.

      I say again, this one needs to be put away.

    • Bob Prudhomme says:

      Sorry, Allen, it pains me to correct you but, it is quite difficult to sight a rifle in if you don’t shoot it. Truth be known, almost impossible.

  14. Allen Lowe says:

    the other thing that amuses me, Bill (Clarke) is your statement: “Do you really think a couple of ole boys could pull up, set out targets and begin firing their rifle in Dealey Plaza without the police being there before the second shot?”
    Do you by any chance remember November 22, 1963?

    • Bill Clarke says:

      Allen Lowe December 30, 2014 at 11:35 am

      What I find amusing here, Allen, is the fact that you fail to distinguish between a very well planned and concealed assassination carried out by a concealed sniper (or snipers if it makes you feel better)and what would be, if it actually happened, a very public display of armed men walking around on Dealy Plaza with rifles. I think the idea of these men firing these rifles there is so ridiculous we will ignore that thought.

      And yes I remember that day well. I remember the police were there when the very first bullet was fired.

  15. Ronnie Wayne says:

    It would make complete sense that potential shooters would check out the scene and rehearse. At least a couple of days before so as not to draw too much attention to it. Good chance some in the DPD and or Sheriffs office might have known about it if you read much about their later statements and actions. Telling the FBI about it after the assassination = Hoover buried it, most likely, like Oswald’s letter to Hosty, flushed, burned, whatever.

  16. JH 777 says:

    It is logical to conclude that this incident never occurred.
    It is logigal to conclude that this is just another factoid.

  17. Rick Mireles says:

    I have.watched the Bell film on YouTube. There is a section where you see a policeman wearing an overcoat walking way from the knoll. He Is with a female, she keeps looking back at the crowd running towards the knoll. He seems to cover his face from the camera. Strange that they are walking way while everyone is walking towards the grassy knoll.

  18. Ed LeDoux says:

    Bob sighting a rifle without firing it must be news to you.
    Sorry your limited knowledge about such matters did not keep you from making a mistake.
    By removing the bolt and bore sighting the rifle on the bullseye you can then adjust the scope or sights if adjustable to align with the bore.

    Rick, I have been researching that “policeman” and he is called Hat Badge Man. His hat badge is a generic badge not used by Dallas Police or any law enforcement in Dealey Plaza that day.
    I am thankful you spotted HBM and are interested in him too.
    Simply google Hat Badge Man for all the details.

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