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Many theories about J.F.K.

Some time ago I described the assassination of U.S. president John F. Kennedy, on Nov. 22, 1963, as “mind-shatteringly sudden and senseless and one of the most monstrous shocks ever inflicted on the American people.”

Until now I have not commented publicly on the intricate and ramifying controversial conspiracy theories that hold Kennedy was shot by someone besides Lee Harvey Oswald, who was killed by Jack Ruby two days later. These theories have been discussed almost as deeply as was the massive loss of an eminently capable and charismatic leader of the free world.

In a matter of a mere few weeks, theories began to be voiced about the fact Kennedy’s death could be traced to many other people, ranging from vice-president Lyndon Johnson to someone who had shot the president from an area near where Kennedy’s car had passed in his parade. I personally believed for many years that no one but Oswald could have shot J.F.K. because not one of the dozens of conspiracy theories could put a name or a face on that second, third or fourth shooter, and this marked failure of definitive identification persisted for not only years, but decades.

However, on the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination, in 2013, a friend of mine drew to my attention a film that shows rather convincingly that someone other than Oswald may have been intimately involved in this tragedy. The essential contention of this documentary film is that Oswald did indeed hit Kennedy with his first shot, but that a Secret Service agent riding in a car directly behind the presidential limousine raised his rifle in retaliation after hearing the initial shot and then accidentally discharged his firearm, striking the president as the agent’s car lurched forward. It may be debatable whether Kennedy could have survived had he not been struck by the agent’s bullet, but that understandably was very unclear at the time.

After watching the film, “The Smoking Gun,” several times, I was moved to consider this possibility of accidental death substantially and seriously. It is highly intriguing and instructive to view the re-enactment of other Secret Service agents ordering the chief medical officer at the Dallas hospital where the fatally wounded Kennedy was taken not to perform an autopsy on the body because that would reveal that the agent who was most directly involved would be in huge trouble. In fact, this directive from a chief Secret Service agent was carried out at gunpoint.

Further, similarly illicit control and manipulation of doctors’ procedures is alleged (with apparent full authentication in the film) to have occurred when the body of Kennedy arrived at a Maryland hospital. These astounding developments could be enough to sway even the most entrenched disbelievers in this greatly extraordinary aspect of the assassination.

Still, I am left with several fairly solid doubts about the unfolding of the assassination according to “The Smoking Gun.” Although a number of witnesses later testified that they smelled gunpowder around the time and the place that Kennedy was killed, one wonders why no one in the huge crowd near the parade actually saw the rifle of the Secret Service agent being discharged.

One view concerning this matter is that they were warned by other USSS agents not to report any details on what they saw, lest their lives be at risk.

However, how could the USSS possibly contact every member of a large crowd during or after such a tremendously chaotic and unmanageable series of events? And even if all witnesses could have been warned, is it not likely that someone would have spoken out in a relatively short time because of their being driven by conscience or financial gain from the journalistic world? Why did not the frightfully embarrassing and onerous connection of the assassination to the president’s own bodyguards become public knowledge within a few months or at least a few years?

I am inclined to attribute roughly a 60 per cent probability to the astonishing claim put forth by “The Smoking Gun.” I ask forgiveness for my waffling and ambivalence about this matter, but any readers wishing to impel me more decisively in a different direction are welcome to email me at

Lloyd Bonnell writes from Corner Brook.

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