THE KENT STATE SHOOTINGS:
CONCLUSIONS AND NEW INFORMATION IN
WILLIAM A. GORDON'S BOOK
Mr. Gordon concluded that there was no conspiracy among the enlisted soldiers, but there probably was a localized order to fire issued by one of the officers at the scene.
His argument is based on FBI interviews of eyewitnesses, which consistently suggest that the soldiers turned and fired in unison, and other evidence compiled after the tragedy.The shooting broke out just as the troops reached a campus landmark, the Pagoda near Taylor Hall, and were about to round the corner of the building and pass out of sight of the demonstrating students.
The Guardsmen successfully thwarted investigators by falsely denying that hand signals to fire existed; by removing their name tags so that investigators could not subsequently identify which soldiers might have received the order to fire; and by telling tales of being endangered by encroaching students. A Justice Department summary of the evidence reported that none of the four students killed were close enough "to pose even a remote danger to the National Guard at the time of the firing."
Two key witnesses (ironically, both ex-Marines who saw combat in Vietnam) testified that Sargent Myron Pryor gave a hand signal to fire, while others implied that Major Harry Jones gave the firing signal by motioning with his riot stick. Both the sergeant and the major denied under oath giving the order to fire.
Mr. Gordon stops short of pointing a finger at either individual, but he relentlessly ridicules their denials and their other sworn trial testimony, which repeatedly were at odds with witnesses. He concludes: "While the smoking gun still eludes us . . . there appears to have been extensive perjury at the trials. Even considering all the mitigating and extenuating circumstances, the Guardsmen literally appear to have gotten away with murder."
Mr. Gordon was able to penetrate secret federal grand jury testimony and learn that in 1974, the Justice Department asked a federal grand jury to indict eight Guardsmen on conspiracy charges. The grand jury balked and instead indicted eight soldiers on charges they violated the due process rights of the four slain and nine wounded students.
Previously undisclosed FBI files reveal that:
Both the FBI and campus police covered up of an incident involving an armed undercover photographer who was seen brandishing a .38 caliber pistol at students shortly after the Guard fired. Because the photographer, Terry Norman, was the only civilian with a weapon, he was initially suspected of being the man who fired the first shot.
Kent State administrators prevented the public from discovering that six KSU police officers alleged that KSU's police chief, Donald Schwartzmiller, was drunk during the burning of the University R.O.T.C. building on May 2, 1970, and could not take command.
In an extensive and exclusive interview for the book, President Richard Nixon's chief domestic adviser John Ehrlichman claimed that Nixon initially secretly nixed the federal prosecution of the Guardsmen at the request of Ohio Governor James A. Rhodes. Ehrlichman also said it was fair to say that Nixon "calculatingly exploited" antiwar protestors for political gain.
Mr. Gordon also raises questions about why:
No student or Guardsman indicted by the state and federal grand juries ever spent a day in jail as a result of the criminal proceedings;
Individuals who can shed additional light on any of these questions are encouraged to e-mail Mr. Gordon at BGordonLA@aol.com.