Fact check: historian Ragone errs on grassy knoll testimony

“There was no contemporaneous account of people who were there that there was a gunman on the grassy knoll,” presidential historian Nick Ragone told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Friday.

That statement is inaccurate. In fact, as JFK Facts has documented, there were 21 law enforcement officers on the scene who thought a gunshot had come from the area in front of JFK’s limousine.


Ragone appeared with Josiah Thompson, author of “Six Seconds in Dallas,” to comment on Secretary of State John Kerry’s statement that he has “serious doubts” about the official version of President Kennedy’s assassination.

Thompson said that Kennedy was struck by a shot from the front. In disputing Thompson’s claim Ragone overlooked the documentation of eyewitness accounts by both conspiratorial and anti-conspiratorial writers.

Anti-conspiracist professor John McAdams says 33 people said a shot came from in front. Conspiracy minded writers, with a less selective reading of witness statements, assert that 51 people said that they believed a gunshot had come from in front of Kennedy’s limousine.

Either way Ragone is mistaken. In fact, there were lots of contemporaneous accounts of a shot from the grassy knoll area.

Both men were mistaken about the publication date of Gerald Posner’s “Case Closed.” Thompson said the book was published in 1988. Ragone said it was published on the 40th anniversary of JFK’s death in 2003. In fact “Case Closed” was published in 1993.

28 thoughts on “Fact check: historian Ragone errs on grassy knoll testimony”

  1. No amount of science 50 years ago or today can dispute the facts.If you study all the photo evidence it is plain to see that the shots came from the SDB. Noise echos in areas where there are hard surfaces that sound can bounce off and reverberate. Bullets traveling at over 2000 feet a second (which would be the case of the rifle and ammunition used by the assassin) are zipping by so fast that people can be fooled as to the actual direction it came from. It is possible to get a general idea sometimes, but witnesses in Dealey Plaza did not all agree on where the shots came from, depending upon where where physically located in the plaza.

  2. What exactly does Mr. Thompson mean when he says:

    “science within the last 10 years has come up with very important discoveries that tell us that Kennedy was actually killed by a shot from the right front”

  3. It amazes me how we get all caught up in the “details” of the assassination instead of looking at the most obvious reason for there being a second gunman. What is important is that there were too many shots fired for Lee Harvey Oswald to have done it alone. There was a shot that missed (James Teague). Kennedy is struck in the throat. Kennedy is struck in the back (see shirt and photo – too low for a throat entrance wound). John Connolly is struck in the back (he always said he was not struck by the same bullet and the Zapruter film shows that. Finally, Kennedy was struck in the head – regardless of where the bullet came from. Now, I count at least 5 shots. Even the Warren Commission said Oswald’s gun could only fire 3 shots in the amount of time calculated by the Zapruter film. Stick with a simple argument- too many shots. Remember, less is more. Now, let’s move from Dallas to Washington and find the real assassins.

  4. Also don’t forget the phony Secret Service agent on the knoll.Something quite fishy seems to have been going on there.

  5. Has Ragone never seen the photos or films showing police officers and bystanders running towards the Knoll after the shots ended?

  6. Fourteen of those 21 lawmen weren’t in Dealey Plaza, they were on Main Street, most of them in front of the Sheriff’s office. The sound of gunfire from the 6th floor would’ve been blocked by a building on the corner.
    Ragone said no gunman was seen firing from the knoll, and that’s true.

    1. Fair enough, but is there any real difference between 7 and 21 police officers, at least from a legal perspective? If 7 policemen testified in a criminal or civil trial that something happened, it happened for the purposes of that trial. Practically, you would never actually need this, because testimony of 1 or 2 cops is enough.

      The bottom line is that this is strong, credible evidence of a shot from the front.

      1. Also, arguably, a person on Main might be better positioned to determine whether a shot came from the Grassy Knoll, since there is no structure sitting between a spectator on Main and the Grassy Knoll. It’s not like Main is that far away either.

      2. There is no forensic medical evidence for a shot from the front, either from autopsy findings or the examination under anesthesia of Gov. Connolly.
        That is a fact.

        1. The autopsy was a sham. The House Assassinations Committee later ended up contradicting the autopsy’s version of Kennedy’s wounds and the bullet trajectories. They also never properly probed the wounds to determine their trajectory. There was manipulation of the evidence at the autopsy, but when the Zapruder film leaked it was obvious that the autopsy was false, the wounds couldn’t have been where it claimed because of the way Kennedy was positioned, so the House subcommittee came up with another version of the wounds. They put the entry wound at the top of the head and also moved the large exit wound towards the front. In the original autopsy, the entry wound was low on Kennedy’s head and the large wound was in the rear/side.

          This is not speculation, but comes directly from the autopsy documents and the house subcommittee’s report.

          1. I saw the autopsy photos when they first became public decades ago. Those pictures clearly showed an entry wound in the top center of the rear of JFK’s head. The bullet that Oswald was using that day was 160 grain and was designed to break apart after hitting its target. That bullet “exploded” JFK’s head, while blowing out a large “flap” out the right side of his skull. That was the area where blood and brain matter was seen gushing out of JFK’s head on the Zapruder film. That film was taken from the side of limo.

            There was also a B&W film taken from behind the Motorcade that was shown on one of the JFK assassination documentaries years ago, with Walter Cronkite doing the voice. I saw the entire documentary and recorded it on my VHS VCR. (Its in my stack of old VCR tapes in my house.) They ran the film clip frame by frame. It showed the fatal head shot coming from the upper right hand corner of the frame, and the next frame that same bullet was right behind the back of JFK’s head. The next frame showed JFK’s head explode. Then they played it in real time. Yuck. However, if there was ever any doubt in my mind that the fatal shot came from the SBD, that film, as well as the autopsy photos, convinced me once and for all that the shots came from the SBD. I was once an avid conspiracy theory believer; not any more.

    2. Ed Hoffman claimed to have seen a gunman from the grassy knoll.

      21 lawmen thought the shots may have come from the grassy knoll. Even in 14 of them weren’t in Dealey Plaza, that still leaves 7!!!!!!

      1. Yeah, Ed HOffman, ha. That man was born with a number of physical disabilities. His own family stated that “Ed made up a lot of stories”. Don’t believe a word Ed Hoffman said. Not all crack pots are assassins. Some crack pots make up stories to get attention.

  7. The deliberate mass confusion put out by our corporate-owned media keeps people constantly bewildered and anxious. People who rely on this obvious propaganda cannot be an informed citizenry, which is necessary for any kind of self-government.

  8. You keep posting about all of the “ear witnesses” but contemporary news reports within minutes of the assassination are nearly uniform in reporting that shots came from the TSBD. ABC,CBS,NBC were all reporting that same interpretation-from multiple sources.
    As all wounds on both men were medically documented to have come from behind it is difficult to place much credence in these claims of shots coming from the front. How could Tague be possibly hit by a shot coming from the front?

    1. Why was there not ONE employee of the TSBD who was frightened of returning to the building? Not one of the women who worked in the offices said, “Oh my god, there’s a gunman in our building! I’m not going back in there!” Instead, quite a few of them casually went back to their offices on the second, third and four floors. While nearly everyone else – as the photographic evidence shows – is running toward the knoll.

    2. No they weren’t. If you watch the original news reports, you will hear plenty of mention of shots possibly coming from the grassy knoll area, as well as the TSBD. As to your claim of it having been proven that “all wounds on both men were medically documented to have come from behind,” that’s only if you accept the second bullet theory. That’s an awfully slim thread on which to hang a claim that large.

    3. Initial reports either did not locate a source, or reported eyewitness accounts of shots from the knoll area. Jean Hill, for example, was on radio within 20 minutes with an account placing a shooter in front of the limousine. Reports specifically identifying the TSBD were not being transmitted until after 1 PM.
      Also, the report that Kennedy was struck in the throat by a bullet fired from ahead of him continued through the day.

      1. First reports on TV were CBS at !2:40, ABC and NBC a couple of minutes later. Within 20 minutes every network was reporting the TSBD as the probable source.
        Listen to the reports on the DVP site.

    4. Regardless of what the medical documentation may appear to show as to the direction of gunfire origin, the horrific, massive wound at the rear of JFK’s head (where a good portion of his brain exploded out & back towards the motorcycle escorts on Jackie’s side of the parade car)explains where the kill shot originated front. That wound was seen by a multitude of professional medical persons in Dallas as well as others.

      Films, photographs, x-rays & paper documentation are all subject to human manipulation in an effort to deceive. Obstruction of justice, hampering an official investigation, destruction of evidence & other criminal complaints were created and written into law because people pulled those stunts in the past to avoid prosecution & punishment for themselves or others that participated in a criminal act.

      Josiah Thompson covered that issue in ‘Six Seconds In Dallas’ back in 1967 (I remember giving a book report speech on it in high school). Perhaps the pretty reporter distracted him & he forgot to mention it?

    5. Clarence Carlson

      “As all wounds on both men were medically documented to have come from behind it is difficult to place much credence in these claims of shots coming from the front.”

      I respectfully submit that you are commingling two different issues. There are clearly witnesses at the scene, including law enforcement officers, who thought shots came from behind the stockade fence. In the investigation of any homicide this would be considered important information. Then there is the medical evidence which is known to have been so mishandled that it would likely be inadmissible and certainly challenged in court. Even if one accepts that the medical evidence proved that all shots came from behind (I don’t) it cannot logically prove that there wasn’t one or more other shooters, only that they didn’t hit the target.

  9. S.R. "Dusty" Rohde

    There are many ways to disprove the (solely) “shot from behind” theory, as well as the “Magic Bullet” theory. The WC declared the “Magic Bullet”, a single bullet, is responsible for all of JFK’s wounds and J. Connally’s wounds. Grain weights removed from both men disprove this assertion, as the weight exceeds the very concise specifications of the actual bullet weight, without even adding the many known small fragments left in JFK or the fragments left in Mr. Connally. The single bullet theory fired from behind is a proven hoax. This doesn’t prove bullets weren’t fired from behind, nor does it prove there weren’t bullets fired from the front. This is simply a starting point, a point to realize that what the public was told, wasn’t the truth. Lack of Truth causes suspicion, and rightly so. This puts us on a path, that we must from this point, re-examine all evidence for possible deception.
    A good starting point is with the backwound, a wound claimed by the WC that exited the throat, in complete disagreement with witnesses testimony.

  10. The country owes gratitude and thanks to Jefferson Morley for bringing professionalism and honesty to the search for the truth of the JFK assassination. It seems the vast majority of comments made in the media are inaccurate in one way or another or slanted to push a point of view. We inch ever so closer to the truth due to people like Jeff and others that contribute to this site and others like it.

  11. Ragone obviously meant there was no eyewitness accounts of a grassy knoll shooter.

    Posner’s book was updated for the 40th anniversary so he is at least “partly” right on that claim.

    1. What will be his conclusion after last nights episode on NOVA JFK Cold Case where they use state of the art techniques to disprove the belief in a shooter from the front of the car? This was an astounding program.

      1. That reconstruction was nothing but digital animation. Did you notice how close they moved Conally and Kennedy when they were trying to “prove” the trajectory of the single bullet? They were much further apart in the Zapruder film. And in the animation, when they showed their reconstruction of the Z film, they put Kennedy and Conally in those positions.

        I don’t need a reconstruction to show me what happened in the Zapruder film. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top