At least two gunmen, probably three, fired on President John F. Kennedy when he was assassinated nearly a half-century ago, a history professor at Southeastern Louisiana University said Monday.
Michael Kurtz, who has taught a course on Kennedy’s slaying for the past 40 years, said physical and other evidence suggests multiple shooters and not just Lee Harvey Oswald, as the seven-member Warren Commission concluded a year after the president’s death in Dallas.
Despite years of allegations, nobody has conclusively proven the official government verison was incorrect.
Kurtz made his comments to the Press Club of Baton Rouge four days before the 50th anniversary of the assassination.
The historic anniversary has renewed longtime debates about whether Oswald acted alone, some of which Kurtz attributed to the U.S. government’s “massive coverup” of information about Kennedy’s slaying in the name of national security.
“To this day no one has given a solid theory on why Oswald killed Kennedy,” he said.
Kurtz also said that, in his view, at least two gunmen and probably three fired at Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963.
He said the president was shot from “in front” and struck in the area of the right front temple, which he said is notable since Oswald was said to have been the lone shooter from a sixth-floor window opening in the Texas Book Depository behind the motorcade.
“There had to be two gunmen firing from the rear, one of whom may have been Lee Harvey Oswald,” Kurtz said.
He said a third shooter could have been in what is known as the grassy knoll area of Dealey Plaza or a nearby storm drain.
Kurtz also disputed the commission’s conclusion that Kennedy and Texas Gov. John Connally, who was seated in the front seat ahead of Kennedy, were struck by the same bullet — one of three fired.
“This is sheer nonsense,” he said.
Kurtz said the physician who worked on the wounded Connally, who survived, insisted the governor was not hit by the same bullet that struck the president.
“But the fact is we still don’t know who killed JFK and probably never will,” he said.
Kurtz said he tells his students as much on the first day of class.
He also said that, while he does not believe President Lyndon B. Johnson — he was vice president under Kennedy — had any role in Kennedy’s assassination, he appointed the Warren Commission with members likely to identify Oswald as the lone killer.
The lineup included Earl Warren, chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court; Sen. Richard Russell, of Georgia; House Majority Leader Hale Boggs, of Louisiana; and Rep. Gerald Ford, of Michigan, who was later president.
“They were all people that had such close connections with the Washington establishment,” Kurtz said.
He said Johnson told two people, including ABC newsman Howard K. Smith, that he thought Cuban dictator Fidel Castro was behind Kennedy’s killing.
Efforts to destabilize or topple Castro’s regime went on during the Kennedy administration.
“Kennedy was trying to get Castro, but Castro got him first,” Kurtz said Johnson told Smith.
Johnson believed that such a public disclosure, Kurtz said, could spark a nuclear exchange with the USSR, a Cuba ally, and increased the need for Oswald to be dubbed by the Warren Commission as the lone killer.
Kurtz said Johnson also wanted the Warren Commission’s work to quiet rumors that he was behind the assassination, which took place in his home state of Texas.