In 1963, Abraham Zapruder was the 58-year-old co-owner of a Dallas dress manufacturing company, Jennifer Juniors, and an avid amateur filmmaker. Yet he didn’t bring his top-of-the-line home movie camera to work on November 22 even though the president’s motorcade was scheduled to pass right by his office sometime after noon. Only after his secretary suggested he would regret not capturing JFK on film—after all, how often is a president less than a block away?—did Zapruder dash home to fetch his Bell & Howell Zoomatic.By which time, this Newsweek report suggests, Lee Oswald had already fired the first shot, the one that missed. The Warren Commission had an opportunity to suggest that possibility, but didn't make the case.
An important fact to realize is that the film he shot that day consists of two parts. The first segment, 132 frames (seven seconds long), shows police motorcyclists riding by. Zapruder stopped recording the advance escort because he did not want to run out of film. He restarted his camera only after he clearly saw Kennedy acknowledging the crowd from a gleaming blue stretch limousine. Thus, the 19 seconds of Zapruder film everyone is familiar with begin at frame 133—well after the Lincoln Continental had already negotiated the sharp turn onto Elm Street, putting it about 71 feet into the plaza.
On May 24, 1964, when the commission restaged the assassination in Dealey Plaza, the main thrust was to show that the “single-bullet” hypothesis was correct. The theory has since been endorsed by every reputable investigation, to the point where it should be called the “single-bullet conclusion.” Yet its corollary—if one shot had hit two men, then one of the three shots missed—was mostly ignored. That unaccounted-for bullet was a pesky problem but one the commission could not explain. No matter how many times it ran the Zapruder film through the projector, the missing shot could not be pinpointed in time.Simplest explanation: Mr Zapruder's camera starts again after the first shot. As Newsweek notes, it's a record of a shooting in progress. But there is additional evidence the Commission made less than full use of.
No one realized that the commission, despite its crucial revision of the FBI’s analysis, had also been Zaprudered. Squeezing the shooting sequence so that it fit inside the film made Oswald’s feat of marksmanship appear to be much more difficult than it actually was. The commission’s scenario, the one that reduced the shooting down to not just six but as little as 4.8 seconds, was all but impossible for expert marksmen to replicate. The commission’s riposte was that the report didn’t claim it happened that way—just that it could have. Since this legalistic answer verged on the absurd, the net effect was to cast doubt on the commission’s probity.
Dallas Deputy Sheriff Luke Mooney discovered the three spent rifle cartridges on the depository’s sixth floor. The hulls had fallen in a distinctive pattern: two were close together, just below the window sill, and the third was several feet away. When Mooney testified, he tried to offer his opinion about what this signified, but assistant counsel Joe Ball was not interested. Six days later, though, assistant counsel Melvin Eisenberg exhibited considerable interest in the matter while questioning FBI agent Robert Frazier. That’s because cartridge ejection patterns are predictable and routinely used to determine shooting positions. The pattern found on the sixth floor suggested that one shot was fired with the rifle aimed more or less perpendicular to the face of the building, with the ejected cartridge bouncing away unimpeded, while the other two shots were fired with the rifle pointed in a direction nearly parallel to the building’s face, with the spent hulls bouncing back to the sill after hitting the book cartons Oswald had stacked behind him in order to stay hidden. Unfortunately Frazier did not have Mooney’s insight.The pattern of the shots as fired, and the presence of street-side obstacles, suggests Lee Oswald had to reload, and then re-acquire his target.
Oswald, in keeping with his Marine training, had fired at the first good opportunity; that is, just after a good portion of the president’s upper torso came into Oswald’s sights at Position A. [image] The only reason this first shot missed was because it hit the only obstacle (apart from the tree) blocking Oswald’s line of sight during the entire procession: the traffic mast arm. He could not get off another shot before the limousine became obscured by the oak tree, so he fired his second shot at the first good opportunity: the instant the president’s main body mass appeared out from under the oak tree. This bullet pierced Kennedy’s upper back and was quickly followed by an utterly devastating third shot.In the image, you see that in position A, Oswald is aiming directly out the window, he must then traverse to the right to reacquire on the other side of the tree. Thus,
Instead of presenting three possible scenarios, the Warren Report would have described a shooting sequence that took slightly more than 11 seconds, with intervals of approximately 6.3 seconds and 4.9 seconds between the three shots. The misleading but sibilant meme first put forward in Life — six seconds in Dallas—would have been debunked, an accomplishment nearly as important as proving that one of the three shots hit both Kennedy and Connally. Because the shot by Oswald that missed was his first one, when it occurred defines the time span of the assassination. It also shows that Oswald’s allegedly remarkable feat of marksmanship was no feat at all, especially for an ex-Marine who once qualified as a sharpshooter.And the evidence was all there, if only the experts had seen it.