Nowhere Man: The Strange Story of Gordon Arnold

Part Three

by Dave Reitzes


Newsmen cover the knoll area in the seconds following the shooting

(Photo by Frank Cancellare)

The thing that is so obviously problematic about Gordon Arnold’s story is that if he really did have the dramatic confrontation he described with the men in police uniforms (or one man, according to Arnold’s account in The Men Who Killed Kennedy), it is an indisputable fact that no one ever reported witnessing it, and none of the many photographs of the knoll area taken in the moments following the assassination depict it.

On November 22, 1963, Lee E. Bowers, Jr., was a signal operator for the Union Terminal Railroad Company, working out of the railroad’s north tower, located a short distance behind the stockade fence overlooking the grassy knoll, elevated some fourteen feet above ground level. Endnote In The Men Who Killed Kennedy, Gary Mack claims Lee Bowers as a corroborative witness for Gordon Arnold’s story. Mack notes that Bowers testified to the Warren Commission that there were two men behind the stockade fence, near where Mack and Jack White place “Badge Man” and the man with the hardhat in White’s enlargements of Mary Moorman’s Polaroid.

However, Bowers’s description of the men is at odds with the Mack/White interpretation of the images in Moorman. Neither man described by Bowers wore a police uniform, for example; Bowers said “there were two men. One man, middle-aged, or slightly older, fairly heavy-set, in a white shirt, fairly dark trousers. Another younger man, about mid-twenties, in either a plaid shirt or plaid coat or jacket.” Endnote

Modelling the Trajectory

Dale K. Myers is an expert in computer animation who has done a meticulous analysis of the photographic evidence on the “Badgeman” issue. It’s an example of what you get when you bring real expertise, rather than buff enthusiasm, to the topic.

“Were they standing together or standing separately?” Warren Commission counsel Joseph Ball asked him. “They were standing within ten or fifteen feet of each other, and gave no appearance of being together, as far as I knew,” Bowers replied. Endnote After the shooting, Bowers observed, at least one, possibly both of the men remained in the area as police and bystanders began flooding into the parking lot. Endnote

These two men were the only strangers Bowers noticed in the area. Endnote If his testimony is to be believed, he did not see a man fitting Gordon Arnold’s description walk toward the railroad bridge; he did not see anyone fitting the description of a plainclothes officer or agent in a suit; he did not witness a confrontation between two such individuals; he did not see a man fitting Arnold’s description walk back along the fence; he did not witness a second confrontation between the two individuals, in the same approximate area as the two men Bowers did describe; he did not see a police officer behind the fence prior to or immediately after the shooting; he did not see a man wearing a hardhat (a la Mack and White) standing behind the fence; he did not see anyone fire a gun; he did not see a weapon of any kind; and he saw no one flee the area. He simply heard three shots and could not tell which direction they came from. Endnote

Just prior to the shooting, two motorcycle policemen who had preceded the presidential limousine briefly slowed their cycles and waited for the slow-moving limousine to catch up with them. Endnote One was Officer Stavis “Steve” Ellis, who had just driven past the grassy knoll and turned around to face the President. “If there had been any shots fired from the grassy knoll,” Ellis would state, “I couldn’t have missed it since I was right even with that area when the shots were fired.” Endnote

Ellis recalled:

During the shooting, my back or, more accurately, my left side was turned to the grassy knoll, but I was never more than about 100 feet from the spot where someone is supposed to have fired. Just an instant before, nobody was standing there, and I didn’t see anyone approaching. If a shot had come from that close to me, I would have known it. There was no shot fired from the grassy knoll. There were three shots fired, and all three came from back up toward the School Book Depository. Endnote

Motorcycle Officer William G. “Bill” Lumpkin had also turned around to face the President at the time the shots rang out. He recalled:

At the time [the shots were fired] I was facing east on Elm with the grassy knoll to my immediate left, and the corner of the stockade fence was less than 100 feet away. I saw nothing on that hill that looked in any way suspicious. I’m absolutely positive that there were only three shots, that they all came from back up Elm Street from the right rear of the President’s limousine, and that no shot was fired from the grassy knoll. Endnote

Officer James Chaney was riding a motorcycle only a few feet from the presidential limousine’s right rear fender, close enough for his uniform to be spattered with the President’s blood after the fatal head shot; Endnote Officer Douglas L. Jackson rode a motorcycle just to Chaney’s right. Endnote A shot from the grassy knoll would have come from the right of both men and passed directly in front of them. Endnote In a diary entry the evening of the assassination, Officer Jackson wrote, “I knew that the shooting was coming from my right rear [towards the Book Depository] and I looked back that way . . .” Endnote

“You did not see the person who fired the shot?” Officer Chaney was asked by ABC newsman Bill Lord within hours of the shooting. “No, sir,” Chaney replied, “it was back over my right shoulder.” Endnote

Directly across the street from the grassy knoll were bystanders Charles Brehm, his five-year-old son, Mary Ann Moorman (who took the famous Polaroid picture of the assassination) and her friend, Jean Lollis Hill; a little to the west stood Associated Press photographer James Altgens, amateur photographer Richard Bothun, and spectator Malcolm Summers; then Jack Franzen with his wife, Joan, and their young son Jeff. Endnote

Moorman, Brehm, Hill, Altgens, Bothun, Summers, and the Franzens shared the best view of the grassy knoll of any eyewitnesses as the shots were fired. They had different impressions of where the sounds were coming from (for example, Charles Brehm thought the shots came from one of the buildings at the corner of Elm and Houston, while Jean Hill thought they came from the knoll), Endnote but none of them saw anyone fire at the President, none of them saw anyone on the knoll with a weapon, and none of them reported seeing anything even remotely like the confrontation Gordon Arnold later described. Endnote

Emmett J. Hudson was employed by the Dallas Parks Department as the groundskeeper in Dealey Plaza. Hudson had witnessed the assassination from halfway down the colonnade steps on the knoll, only a few yards from the corner of the four-foot-high concrete wall near where Arnold is supposed to have been. Endnote From this position, Hudson would hardly have been able to miss the young soldier, had he actually been there.

Yet, in a reference to amateur filmmaker Abraham Zapruder, Warren Commission counsel Wesley Liebeler asked Hudson if he had noticed anyone near him with a camera filming the assassination, and Hudson had not. Endnote Neither did he observe any dramatic occurrence on the knoll, such as the one described by Arnold. Endnote “I did look around but I did not see any firearms at all,” he stated in a sworn affidavit dictated within hours of the shooting. Endnote He heard three shots and believed they came from high and behind the limousine. Endnote

Two eyewitnesses, Abraham Zapruder and his secretary, Marilyn Sitzman, had an elevated view of the area behind the wall where Gordon Arnold claimed to have been, only a few yards away. Prior to the shooting, Zapruder had mounted a four-foot-high pedestal overlooking the knoll area in order to gain a suitable vantage point from which to capture the motorcade with his home movie camera. As he suffered from vertigo, he asked Sitzman to stand behind him on the pedestal and help steady him while he filmed. Endnote

Neither Zapruder nor Sitzman ever described anyone resembling Arnold in any of their statements, although Sitzman did recall two other people in that area. As she described to investigator Josiah Thompson, “there was a colored couple. I figure they were between 18 and 21, a boy and a girl, sitting on a bench, just almost, oh, parallel with me, on my right side, close to the fence.” Endnote The bench was located almost precisely where Arnold would later describe himself as having stood. “And they were eating their lunch, ‘cause they had little lunch sacks, and they were drinking Coke. The main reason I remember ‘em is, after the last shot . . . I heard a crash of glass, and I looked over there, and the kids had thrown down their Coke bottles, just threw them down and just started running towards the back.” Endnote

“Now,” Thompson asked her, “to get to this area between the stockade fence and the cement abutment, or small mall: Did you turn after the shot to look in this general area?” “Yes,” she said. “And did you see anyone in this area?” “No,” she replied, “just the two colored people running back.” Endnote

Sitzman’s recollection of the couple eating lunch is supported by a photograph discovered by Richard Trask, showing two men examining a paper bag and food wrappers on the bench behind the concrete wall. Endnote Visible in Jim Towner’s last photograph is a glass bottle perched upon the concrete wall, right in front of the bench, apparently left there by one of the young people described by Sitzman.


Click here to see the entire photograph

When asked many years later by researcher Gus Russo about the possibility that someone had been shooting at the President from the knoll area, Sitzman replied, “That’s absurd. I was only a few feet away, and I didn’t hear or see anything suspicious.” Endnote After the shooting, in fact, Sitzman immediately informed Sheriff’s Deputy John Wiseman that the shots had come from the Book Depository, not the knoll. Endnote


The view of “Badge Man’s” location from Abraham Zapruder’s pedestal

(Photo by Kim Reinholt)

Mr. and Mrs. Arthur John Chism had been watching the motorcade with their three-year-old child from the north side of Elm Street, near the Stemmons Freeway street sign. They both had the impression that the shots came from behind them, in the area of the concrete pergola in between the grassy knoll and the Texas School Book Depository. Mrs. Chism turned to look behind her, “but I couldn’t see anything.” Endnote

“My wife and I began seeking cover,” Mr. Chism said. Endnote As captured in photographs by Life magazine staff photographer Art Rickerby, “seeking cover” meant running directly past the corner of the concrete wall, behind which Gordon Arnold would later claim to have had his upsetting confrontation. Endnote Neither of the Chisms ever reported anything unusual occurring there.


The Chisms (left) run for cover

Riding a motorcycle off the left rear fender of the presidential limousine was Officer Robert W. “Bobby” Hargis; riding to Hargis’ left was Officer Billy Joe Martin. When he heard the first shot, Martin testified, “I looked back to my right . . . At the building on the right there [the Book Depository].” Endnote He couldn’t tell for certain where the shots had come from. Endnote


Officer Robert W. “Bobby” Hargis

Officer Bobby Hargis abandoned his motorcycle and quickly scanned the windows of the Book Depository. “I knew [the shots came from] high and from the right,” he related soon after the shooting. “I looked for any sign of activity in the windows, but I did not see anybody.” Endnote Unsure of what to do, Endnote he ran up the knoll, past the corner of the wall where Arnold is alleged to have been, towards the overpass. Endnote (As a motorcycle officer, of course, Hargis carried no shotgun.) Endnote

Warren Commission counsel Samuel Stern asked Hargis, “Did you observe anything then on the overpass, or on the incline, or around the Depository?” Stern asked him. “Anything out of the ordinary besides people running?” “No; I didn’t,” Hargis replied. “That is what got me.” Endnote

Looking down on the knoll area were three employees of the Texas School Book Depository — Harold Norman, Bonnie Ray Williams, and James Jarman, Jr. — who had been watching the motorcade from the southeast corner of the Depository’s fifth floor when they heard the shots. Endnote They had a clear view of the area behind the concrete wall, but didn’t observe anything occurring there. In fact, they would testify that the shots came from directly over their heads. Endnote


The view of Gordon Arnold’s alleged position from the “Sniper’s Nest” window of the Book Depository

The three men subsequently ran to the west side of the building, “Curious to see why everybody was running that way,” as Harold Norman put it. Endnote Norman recalled for the Warren Commission, “We saw the policemen, and I guess they were detectives, they were searching the empty cars over there,” in the parking lot behind the picket fence. Endnote Bonnie Ray Williams said, “We saw the policemen and people running, scared, running — there are some tracks on the west side of the building, railroad tracks.” Endnote “We wondered why they were running that way.” Endnote As James Jarman put it, “officers and various people was running across the tracks, toward the tracks over there where they had the passenger trains, and all, boxcars and things.” Endnote

None of the three ever reported a police officer or anyone else with a rifle or shotgun on the knoll, and none ever mentioned seeing a police officer or officers accost a bystander in that area.

Young married couple Bill and Gayle Newman and their two little boys, Billy and Clayton, were watching the motorcade from the north side of Elm Street, a short distance east of the pergola steps and concrete wall. When the shooting began the Newmans threw themselves down on the ground, shielding the children. They both thought the shots came from behind them, possibly from the pergola area between the grassy knoll and the Texas School Book Depository — not because of the sound of the shots, Bill Newman would later recall, but because of what he “visually saw: the President going across the car and seeing the side of his head come off. The sound played little factor.” Endnote The Newmans never did see anyone suspicious in the knoll area. Endnote

21-year-old Jean Newman (no relation to Bill and Gayle) was watching the motorcade from slightly further east on Elm Street. When the shooting began, she said, she “looked around to see if I could see anything, but I saw no one whatever with anything that resembled a gun or anything of that kind.” Endnote She told the FBI that “she immediately turned and looked up the hill to the north toward the parking lot but did not see anything . . .” Endnote

Back on Houston Street, several cars behind the President’s limousine, was the vehicle designated Camera Car 1, the first of three cars loaded with professional news photographers and motion picture cameramen. NBC cameraman Dave Wiegman began filming as the car approached the turn to Elm Street, while the shots were still being fired. Endnote Wiegman leaped from the vehicle, continuing to film, and ran around the corner. Endnote Unable to see the President, his attention was drawn to the figure of Bobby Hargis, who had just dismounted his motorcycle and begun running up the knoll. “I figured he knows something’s up there, so I ran up there,” Wiegman recalled. Endnote

Wiegman found himself alongside Secret Service agent Thomas Lemuel “Lem” Johns, who had leaped from the car following Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson’s limousine at the start of the shooting and attempted to catch up with the Vice-President’s slow-moving vehicle. (When the cars in the motorcade suddenly sped up following the abrupt departure of the President’s limousine, Johns was momentarily stranded in Dealey Plaza.) Endnote Wiegman saw Bill and Gayle Newman on the ground, but otherwise “I saw nothing up there” on the knoll, he would recall. Endnote “Lem was sort of looking around,” Wiegman observed, but “Couldn’t see anything.” Endnote Spying nothing else of interest in the area, Wiegman began filming the Newmans. Endnote

Analyzing the Bond Photos

Don Roberdeau has carefully analyzed a key set of photos from Dealey Plaza, those shot by Wilma Bond. The Bond photos, like those analyzed by Dave Reitzes in this essay, not only fail to corroborate Arnold's story, but contradict it at key points.

Immediately behind Wiegman were two other cameramen from Camera Car 1, Thomas Craven of CBS and Thomas Atkins, a Navy photographer assigned to the White House. Craven had jumped from the car just after it made the turn to Elm Street; he followed Officer Hargis and Dave Wiegman up the knoll. “I saw the Newmans,” Craven recalled, “that’s when I started running — when I saw them lying on the ground. . . . I guess we scared the hell out of that family as we started taking pictures of them. We made pictures of everything that was moving.” Endnote

Tom Atkins was right behind, motion picture camera ready, trying to “find a scene to shoot.” The only thing he could see of interest was “that mother and father and kids” — the Newmans — “and I started to shoot that.” Endnote

Directly behind Camera Car 1, a second car bearing five professional photographers (Camera Car 2) made the turn onto Elm Street just after the shots ended. United Press International’s Frank Cancellare, known to his friends as “Cancy,” was the first in the vehicle to react. As the Associated Press’ Henry Burroughs remembered, “We came up to the scene of the shooting and people were running all over the place. Cancellare got out there and there was a policeman running, as I recall, up the hill and Cancy followed him . . .” Endnote

Also following Officer Hargis up the knoll was AP photographer James Altgens, “thinking perhaps if they had the assassin cornered I wanted a picture, but before I had gotten over one-quarter of the way up the incline, I met the officers coming back and I presumed that they were just chasing shadows, so to speak, because there was no assassin in the area apparently . . .” Endnote Altgens then took a “good look” around the area, Endnote but, as he would relate in his Warren Commission deposition, the only noteworthy sight on the knoll were the Newmans: “I noticed the couple that were on the ground over here with their children, I saw them when they went down and they were in the area and laid there some time after the Presidential car had disappeared. . . . I looked at them and they weren’t hit by a bullet, so I took another long look around before I started my dash back to the office . . .” Endnote

Another occupant of Camera Car 2, official White House photographer Cecil Stoughton, would recall, “As we rolled to a stop just around the corner, Cancellare leaped out of the car and ran to take a picture of a family cowering on the grass. Tom Atkins was already there shooting his 16mm Arriflex, and instead of doing likewise, I slipped on my 150mm lens on the Hasselblad and shot one frame . . .” from inside the car. Endnote

Stoughton’s photograph depicts Tom Craven and Tom Atkins with their cameras pointed at the Newman family. Behind them, captured in clear, crisp focus by Stoughton’s lens, is the concrete wall behind which Gordon Arnold would claim to have had his unsettling encounter. In Stoughton’s photograph there is very obviously no one standing behind the concrete wall or anywhere near it.


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Stoughton and Burroughs remained in the car, as did Art Rickerby and Dallas Morning News photographer Donald Clinton “Clint” Grant, both of whom snapped several photographs of the knoll area from inside the vehicle. Although their car was passing directly in front of the concrete wall, the only subjects they seem to have found worthy of photographing were the Newman family, Frank Cancellare (in the process of photographing the Newmans), and photographers Atkins and Wiegman, now running to catch up with their car again. Endnote

Wilma Irene Bond, a bookkeeper at the nearby Justin McCarty Manufacturing Company, had viewed the motorcade from a spot alongside Houston Street, facing away from Dealey Plaza. Endnote She didn’t know where the shots came from, Endnote but snapped the first of six photographs of the knoll as people began to converge upon that area. Endnote Located dead center in the frame — only a few yards from where Dave Wiegman, Tom Atkins, and Jim Altgens can be seen standing — is the corner of the concrete wall, just behind which the purported confrontation described by Gordon Arnold is supposed to have taken place. No one is visible there.


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In Dave Wiegman’s film and in the background of Tom Atkins’s film, the motorcycle of Officer Clyde Haygood can be seen approaching the scene. Endnote Wiegman, Atkins, Altgens, and Officer Haygood, still astride his cycle, can all be glimpsed in the background of a photograph taken by civil engineer James Towner, who had watched the motorcade from the corner of Elm and Houston. Endnote Just beyond Haygood and the others can be seen the corner of the concrete wall; if anyone is behind it, one cannot tell.


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Officer Haygood had been on Main Street approaching Houston when the shots began. Endnote As he turned the corner to Elm, he “could see all these people laying on the ground there on Elm. Some of them were pointing back up to the railroad yard, and a couple of people were headed back up that way, and I immediately tried to jump the north curb there in the 400 block, which was too high for me to get over. . . . And I left my motor on the street and” — passing the wall where Gordon Arnold’s encounter ostensibly took place — “ran to the railroad yard.” Endnote (Like Hargis, Haygood had no shotgun.) Endnote


Officer Clyde Haygood prepares to search the knoll in these frames from Malcolm Couch’s film

What did Haygood find? “Well, there was nothing,” he would testify. “There was quite a few people in the area, spectators, and at that time I went back to my motorcycle . . . which was sitting on Elm Street.”

Haygood’s dash to the underpass was captured in the background of several photographs, including Wilma Bond’s second photograph of the knoll and another picture snapped by bystander Phil Willis. Also clearly visible in both images is the corner of the concrete wall; no one can be seen behind it. Approximately thirty seconds had passed since the shots were fired. Endnote


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In the moments that followed, Wilma Bond snapped three more exposures that show the corner of the concrete wall. By the last of these, a handful of spectators can be seen beginning to follow Officer Haygood up the knoll. “The people were running helter-skelter here and there,” witness Charles Brehm would recall. “They were running up to the top of that hill it seemed to me in an almost sheep-like fashion following somebody running up those steps [possibly the young, black couple described by Marilyn Sitzman]. There was a policeman who ran up those steps also. Apparently people thought he was chasing something, which he certainly wasn’t. There were no shots from that area, but some of the people followed him anyway.” Endnote

Apparently, no one noticed anything unusual going on behind the concrete wall; and no one can be seen in that area in any of Bond’s images.


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Several of Wilma Bond’s photographs show the first press bus rolling down Elm Street. On that bus Fort Worth Star-Telegram photographer Harry Cabluck snapped three pictures through a window. His second image captures very clearly the entire length of the concrete wall; no one can be seen behind it. Endnote


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Cabluck’s photo also captures a man in a suit (above left) who may be Dallas Morning News reporter Kent Biffle, a passenger in the car behind the press bus. Endnote “Nobody knew what was happening at that point,” Biffle would later recall; Endnote but believing the shots had come from the knoll area, Biffle headed in that direction. “Some teenagers followed,” he said. “One of them darted ahead and hit the fence before I did. I remember thinking, ‘This nutty kid is going to get his head blown off and he’s not even getting paid for it.’” Endnote “He just vaulted over that fence,” Biffle said, recalling how he quickly followed suit. “He shamed me into doing it.” Endnote “Puffing, I followed him.” They never did find an assassin, however. Endnote Nor did Biffle see anything unusual on the way up the knoll or on the way back.

As the shots ended Camera Car 3 was approaching Elm Street and the Texas School Book Depository. KRLD cameraman James Underwood, WBAP cameraman James Darnell, and Dallas Morning News photographer Thomas Dillard jumped from the vehicle and began photographing the events unfolding around them. As the car approached the triple underpass, the two remaining passengers, Dallas Times Herald photographer Robert Jackson and WFAA cameraman Malcolm Couch, told the driver to stop, and both ran back to the knoll area. The films of Underwood, Darnell, and Couch all captured lasting images of the knoll, but no corroboration for Gordon Arnold’s story. Endnote

Bystander Jay Skaggs, who had run towards Elm Street after the shooting, snapped a photograph of the knoll from a position close to that of Wilma Bond. By this time a number of people had begun to walk towards the railroad overpass, but no one can be seen near the corner of the concrete wall. According to Skaggs, approximately one minute had passed since the shots were heard. Endnote


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As more spectators followed Officer Haygood up the knoll, Jim Towner snapped a photograph showing people beginning to run behind the concrete wall. If anything suspicious was going on in that area, no one seems to have noticed.


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During that time the knoll had been a constant focus of attention for the eyewitnesses closest to it, for the Dallas police officers whose responsibility it was to establish what had occurred in the area and restore order, and for the newsmen responsible for, and whose livelihood depended upon, capturing the most newsworthy events unfolding around them. Few seconds passed without a professional or amateur photographer recording the scene.

Yet, if Gordon Arnold’s story is true, no one took notice of a soldier being robbed at gunpoint in broad daylight by two police officers, one of whom was crying; and none of the numerous photographers present captured Arnold or his confrontation with the police officers on film.

Who speaks for Gordon Arnold?
Continue to Part Four

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