What about the first shot fired at JFK?

That was the question raised by a 2015 article by Lucien C. Haag entitled The Missing Bullet in the JFK Assassination,” which appeared in the publication of the Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners (AFTE).

Max Holland has responded in the journal’s Fall 2016 issue and his blog Washington Decoded

Max Holland
Max Holland, theoretician

The Debate

Haag and Holland both believe that Oswald, alone and unaided, was the author of JFK’s death and that he fired the first shot. Their debate is really about how best to explain a central problem of the Warren Commission’s account: how three bullets caused a total of nine wounds in JFK (one fatal, two non-fatal) Governor Connally (five non-fatal), and bystander James Tague (one non-fatal).

Haag dismisses Holland’s theory of the first shot, first offered in a 2011 National Geographic show.

Holland argued that the first bullet grazed the arm of a signal light arm above Elm Street, missed the motorcade, hit a concrete curb, causing tiny fragment of concrete dislodged by the bullet core to slightly injure Tague who was standing in front of the motorcade when the gunfire erupted.

In its initial report, the FBI concluded the Tague was injured by a shot that was fired nearly 5.3 seconds after the fatal shot and that missed the motorcade entirely. The timing of that scenario was abandoned by the Warren Commission.

The Victim 

The problem with this theory is that Tague said he was injured before he heard the gunfire. Either didn’t heard the report of the first gun fired or that gun was silenced.

Tague believed that the gunfire came from multiple gunmen.

James Tague
James Tague

Shamefully, Tague was not invited to the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination, apparently because his account of the crime conflicted with the official theory of a lone gunman.

Tague died in 2014.

In an effort to clear up this evidentiary mess, Haag concluded the first shot missed and that Tague was injured by a bullet fragment from the shot that hit Kennedy in the head.

Who’s right?

I think Holland is right that Haag’s interpretation is not convincing. I think he is wrong that his own interpretation is more persuasive.

Holland assumes that Oswald fired the first shot through the branches of a tree. That begs the question, why would an assassin hoping to kill someone fire first at an obstruction in front of his target?

And is it really plausible that Oswald was such a poor marksman that he fired at one obstruction (a tree), hit another obstruction (the signal arm) and then, moments later became so proficient that he could hit the moving target of JFK’s head with precision? That seems unlikely.

(One KGB officer who met Oswald six weeks before Dallas said he did not have demeanor of a marksman.)


Like much of the official theory of JFK’s death, I find the argument and the evidence of the gunfire don’t hang together. Neither Holland or Haag has a convincing account of the first shot.

What do you think?

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From a 5-Star Amazon review of Jefferson Morley’s CIA and JFK: The Secret Assassination Files,

“Can’t imagine a more meticulous take down of the CIA’s decades-long subterfuge surrounding the assassination.”

Jefferson Morley’s new ebook, CIA and JFK: The Secret Assassination Files, available on Amazon, provides the fullest account of the role of CIA operations officers in the events leading to the death of JFK, with a guide to what will be declassified in October 2017.



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