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?



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.




  1. Anthony mauger says:

    1st point a trained marksmen shoots at a target leaving kill zone ! Only if you really messed up , 2 nd point Did he just wake up I’m going to shoot the big cheese today ,err no , you be on that rifle range till your fingers bleed 3 red and final point , lee was too calm when he was arrested , because he knew he didn’t do it

  2. S.r. "Dusty" Rohde says:

    If one rules out entirely the possibility of a frontal throat shot, then the first shot would be the one that hit JFK in the back. There was no “missed shot”, that bullet trajectory lines up very well with a shot taken from the Dal-Tex building, hitting the correct known entry and exit points and striking the windshield. The “missed shot’ was necessary due to the creation of the Single Bullet Theory two shots (which were actually a single shot). This made one shot to JFK’s head, and a single bullet accounting for the rest of the wounds. Thus, the “missed bullet” came into existence because they had to account for the empty shell. The Single Bullet Theory was created to hide the true trajectory of the bullets that hit JFK by tying them to an easily identifiable downward trajectory in John Connally’s body, the only shot fired that came from the TSBD.

    • S.r. "Dusty" Rohde says:

      Correction: “two shots combined to create a single shot” which were indeed two separate and distinct shots with differing trajectories.

  3. Bob says:

    That Frontline show was from 1993 and image enhancement software has improved a great deal since then so I would think another analysis ought to be done to try and extract more details from the film. I don’t doubt there was someone in the window since the snipers nest had to be built and the gun placed there. It just doesn’t prove who was there and if they ever fired a shot.
    My point is that by the time the Hughes film stops only a few seconds before the first shot there is no sign of a person with a gun
    tracking the limo to gauge the speed and make sure of his target.
    I am also struck by the fact that it would be very diffcult to describe anyone who was in the window in any detail since the boxes
    are in the way and the window is half closed. A shooter would be
    partly hidden behind the wall on the east side of the window
    when firing to the southwest.
    We never see any recreations of that scene from the street below
    to judge if it would be possible to identify anyone under those conditions.
    I doubt anyone could tell the height and weight of the people in the fifth floor windows either when looking up from the street.

  4. donna servidio says:

    I believe the fatal shot came from the front and exsited the back of the head…..i also don’t think that was kennedy brought back to washington because the brain was intact on the officer that was shot who resembled kennedy more then coinsedance…..he was used for the autopsy or parts of his body were….where is kennedys brain? dissapears mysteriously because DNA would prove it wasn;t his brain….very sad……

  5. Bob says:

    If the first shot came from the sniper’s nest it would have been a steep downward angle yet the Hughes films shows nothing in the southeast window as JFK’s limo turns the corner and gets within about 20 feet of the traffic signal.
    That means Oswald would have only about two seconds to position himself in the window and take aim. That seems pretty unlikely since he would not have even known where JFK was positioned if he hadn’t watched the approaching cars through his scope to identify the target.

    • Bogman says:

      Man, that’s a good point. Where the hell was he if he’s the shooter? He won’t know which car is the president’s unless he’s looking.

      And WHY NOT LOOK? Everyone else is hanging out of windows. He would just have to keep his gun beneath the window.

      Never thought of this before. Why isn’t Oswald watching the passing parade like everyone else from a window with the gun hidden? How else does he prepare for a motorcade if 1) he doesn’t know which car in the procession will be carrying the president, and 2) he has only a few seconds before the president is out of range once he makes that left turn.

      So strange.

      • Bob says:

        Also consider that Oswald did not know the motorcade was running late so he should have been in position at the time of the Hughes film being shot or even earlier.
        All of the so-called re-enactments of the shooting fail to include the actual circumstances that Oswald would have had to deal with.
        Building the snipers nest without being seen, assembling the rifle with no tools and having only seconds to find the target and carry out the whole assassination and get out of the window before Tom Dillard shoots his still of the snipers nest.
        No one ever duplicates that entire time constrained series of events just the actual shots at targets they are ready to shoot that they know will be in position at a specific time with a gun they know is well sighted in.
        Also nobody accounts for the fact that the MC rifle can put out a good deal of smoke from the barrel which would have been visible to the people on the street below and in the fifth floor windows.
        I watched a shooting re-enactment that even had a huge muzzle flash about 4 feet long. How could that go unnoticed?

        • theNewDanger says:

          Bob, you’ve captured the essence of what is wrong wth every defense of the Warren Omission’s Dealey Plaza phantasm, including the report itself.

    • Jean Davison says:

      A Frontline documentary found movement in the sniper’s nest window in the Hughes film, shown here:


      The HSCA agreed:

      http://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=60448&relPageId=26&search=“hughes_film” AND movement

  6. Kennedy63 says:

    When one examines the markings on the pavement, left by an errant bullet fired at the motorcade, theory necessarily requires inclusion of the common sense factor; namely, that a fragmented bullet wouldn’t leave a tell tale sign of a whole bullet groove, particularly at the same alleged angle leading back to the TSBD 6th floor window. Even more disparaging of these two theoretician’s assertions, is the fact that a yet unidentified man was photographed picking up (what is thought to be) a bullet from this same curbside (Sheriff Buddy Walthers is seen in the photo and he was later killed apprehending a fugitive: http://www.angelfire.com/country/DallasHistory/r13.html). The fallacy of both authors is trying to prove something based on tainted evidence. The extant Z-film is useless because it has been edited and altered, despite the number of “experts” who claim it is authentic. Experts can be fooled, hired, manipulated, and wrongly hypothesize. Since Alice was in wonderland, and all the impossible things she witnessed were, in fact, impossible, we give her literary license based upon her dream scenario; yet, we don’t actually believe the characters presented exists in reality. Alice’s story is an allegory about the power of the state and citizen dissent; equally, so to is the JFK assassination.

  7. Eddy says:

    The question doesn’t match my opinion. I believe the evidence supports shots fired in two groups. The ‘first shot at JFK’ did not have the primary intention of killing him but was intended to distract attention. It formed part of the first group of shots, it may have been fired by Oswald (but I’m unconvinced). The first shot group is evidenced by the Zapruder film as Kennedy is raising his arms and by the Dictabelt recording.
    The spotters decide after the first group that Kennedy has not been fatally wounded. The Limo is slowed, the snipers reload and somewhere around Z313 shots including the fatal one are fired. The Dictabelt recording picks up a shot from the Knoll at this point and the Parkland and Bethesda evidence best supports this as the kill shot (Large hole in back of head). The Zapruder film fails to support my view at this point, but that is another story.

    • Brian Joseph says:

      I find your comment interesting because I think there were two events going on that day. The first was to be or thought to be by participants, a false flag event. I think that Oswald was involved in this although I think it’s unlikely that he fired a shot. I think this event was intended to be a ‘failed’ attempt. Oswald would escape and it would eventually be reported that he was in Cuba. The US would demand that he be turned over and that wouldn’t be possible because he wasn’t there. This would then lead to an invasion of Cuba. In essence those involved in this operation including Oswald believed it was an Operation Northwoods type of false flag event and JFK wasn’t to actually be hit.

      I think that others who were aware of the operation used it to actually do the dastardly deed by piggy backing onto the false flag operation or that it’s possible the so called false flag operation had the intent to take JFK out from the start but participants like Oswald were unaware that was the plan.

      The scenario above fits with Oswald’s behavior and statements after the event.

  8. RonnieWayne says:

    Nothing I’ve read over many years has changed my mind. Based on JFK raising his hands towards his throat in the Zapruder film being the first evidence of a shot, and, experienced Dr. Malcom Perry identifying an entrance wound in the throat three times That afternoon. That was the first shot AT him. There well could have been a previous signal or distraction shot.

    • donna servidio says:

      so what are you saying? of course there were shots from the back they were stationed all over….what about the shot under the tressel that hit the cement? he was killed from the front…..and oswald had nothing to do with the shooting…he wasn’t at the party with LBJ the night before……was he? poor guy was a PATSY and thats the last thing he said before JACK RUBY whom oswald knew…killed him…it was planned so he couldn’t testify…..because the whole world was dupped into such a horrific MURDER………

  9. donna servidio says:

    there were six or more shooters place along the route…someone from the back shot him through the neck ..the kill shot from the FRONT was from the grassy knoll behind the fence…people started running toward it when they heard the shots…..everyone was in on it…FBI CIA LBJ…SOME SECRET SERVICE very sad and poor stupid oswald got in too deep so he became the patsy…….he knew jack ruby it was no mistake he was taken down before he could have a trial……kennedy wanted OUT OF VIETNAM….war is money for the country……..

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