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  • Matt Crumpton

Ep 28: The Allegations of Paul Landis

Updated: Apr 23

Last season on Solving JFK, we looked at both sides of many of the hotly disputed questions in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, including eyewitness testimony and evidence that was gathered from the Texas Schoolbook Depository Building, Dealey Plaza, Parkland Hospital, the J.D. Tippit crime scene, the Texas Theater, Bethesda Naval Hospital, and the Dallas Police parking garage where Jack Ruby killed Lee Harvey Oswald. The primary question we asked last season was Did the Warren Report get it right that Oswald acted alone to kill President Kennedy?

 

You can go back to Episode 27 of Season 1 to hear the ultimate conclusions of the podcast on each issue. The bottom line is that, after reviewing the arguments from both Warren Report defenders and critics on the main evidentiary questions, I believe that there are enough problems with the official story to warrant a deeper dive down the rabbit hole.

 

In Season 2 of Solving JFK, we’ll look at Oswald’s life growing up, his time in the Marines, his defection to the Soviet Union, his time in Dallas, New Orleans, and Mexico City. We’ll hear from official story defenders and critics about the characters allegedly surrounding Oswald like Guy Banister, David Ferrie, George De Mohrenschildt, and Ruth Paine. We’ll also cover claims of other assassination plots against President Kennedy, Oswald being impersonated, and Oswald’s having ties to American intelligence agencies. We’ll even get around to talking about the infamous backyard photo showing Oswald posing with a rifle and a pistol and Oswald’s alleged assassination attempt on General Walker.

 

But first, before we get into Season 2, in September of 2023, there was HUGE news related to the JFK Assassination – so huge that, if true, it could potentially impact what we discussed in Season 1. Of course, I’m talking about the new claims of former Secret Service agent Paul Landis. Today, on Solving JFK, we’ll talk about Landis and his recent recollection of picking up the magic bullet from the back seat of the limo and placing it on Kennedy’s stretcher.

 

The Claim

 

Paul Landis, who is 88 years old today, was one of the two secret service agents who was guarding Jackie Kennedy on the day of the assassination.[1] (The other agent was Clint Hill, who is famous for running up from the follow up car and jumping on the back of the presidential limo.) Landis recently released a book called The Final Witness, which chronicles a shocking story that has previously never been told about a key piece of evidence in the JFK Assassination. 

 

According to Landis’ co-author, presidential historian and attorney, James Robenalt, once the presidential limo reached Parkland Hospital and President Kennedy had been placed on a gurney :

  

“Landis saw and did something that he has kept secret for six decades, he says now. He claims he spotted a bullet resting on the top of the back of the seat. He says he picked it up, put it in his pocket, and brought it into the hospital. Then, upon entering Trauma Room No. 1 …, he insists, he placed the bullet on a white cotton blanket on the president’s stretcher.”[2]

 

The bullet that Landis found looked QUOTE “largely intact and only moderately damaged, its base having been squeezed in.”[3] It sounds like Landis is describing Commission Exhibit 399, also known as the Magic Bullet, or the Single Bullet that the Warren Commission says went through Kennedy’s body, and then entered Governor Connally’s back, shattering his ribs, then fracturing his right wrist bone before being implanted into his left thigh.

 

The Warren Report concluded that the nearly pristine bullet in evidence, CE 399, was found on a Governor Connally’s stretcher.[4] That finding supports the Commission’s position that the bullet that went through Kennedy ultimately ended up in Connally’s leg.

 

But Paul Landis is now saying that the pristine bullet, CE 399, is the one he picked up and that he got it at the top of the seat behind Kennedy. This would most likely mean that the bullet fell out of Kennedy’s back, consistent with the Sibert and O’Neill report, which chronicled the autopsy doctors saying the back wound was of a short depth.

 

If that’s the case, then CE 399 could not possibly have exited Kennedy’s neck and caused Connally’s wounds. And if CE 399 came from anywhere other than Governor Connally’s body, it is a decisive blow to the Single Bullet Theory, which is the backbone of the Warren Report.

 

Landis goes on to say that he placed the bullet on President Kennedy’s stretcher - NOT Governor Connally’s stretcher - because he assumed that the bullet would be found if it was on the same stretcher as Kennedy’s body. This would mean that when Darrell Tomlinson found the bullet, he was really finding a bullet from Kennedy’s stretcher that was placed there by Landis – NOT a bullet from Connally’s stretcher that fell out of his thigh.  

 

Here's Landis talking to NBC News about what he saw after Kennedy was loaded on to a gurney:

 

“I happened to look to the right where Mrs. Kennedy was sitting, and, sitting in a pool of blood there, I saw two bright brass bullet fragments. I picked one of them up. Looked at it and it was like the end of my little pinky. It was mushroomed. I put it back exactly where I found it. By then, Mrs. Kennedy was standing up. I was looking around for other agents. I didn’t see anybody.

 

But, I saw an intact full, bullet on the back of the seat where the cushioning met the trunk of the car. I picked it up and looked at it and the only thing I noticed that was wrong with it were bullet striations. There was no other deformities. I started to put it back. Mrs. Kennedy and Clint were leaving the car. I made a quick decision. I didn’t see anybody to secure the car. People were emerging on the car. I did not want this piece of evidence to disappear. And I slipped it into my pocket.

 

We raced through the lobby of the emergency room. On the way out of the car, I noticed Mrs. Kennedy’s pillbox hat, her clutch purse and I picked them up and I noticed there was a Zippo cigarette lighter on the seat that was all covered in blood …We got to Trauma Room one. They had to pivot the gurney that the president’s body was on and push it into the Trauma Room. I was pushed right next to the president’s body and standing right next to his feet. Most everyone in the room was focused on the head wound. All these things were whirling in my mind of what to do and I realized this would be the perfect place to leave the bullet with the president’s body and it would be found during the autopsy. So, I reached out. I put the bullet on the gurney right by his feet….[5]

 

Is It True?

 

Given that Paul Landis’s story is plausible - and is a total game changer if true -  the question is “Is it true?”And why would Landis wait so long to come forward with this information if it is?

 

Landis says that he has a good reason for not talking about this bullet that he found in the back of the limo. He said that he had post-traumatic stress from witnessing the gory scene of the President’s murder.[6] And that the event was so traumatic that he wasn’t able to look at anything related to the JFK assassination until around 2014 – 51 years after it happened.

 

In response to a question about why he didn’t say anything about the bullet before the release of his book, Landis said this:

 

“Well, nobody asked me and I never thought about it. I didn’t read anything about the assassination. I had nightmares. I buried everything. I refused to read anything about it because I figured I had been there. I had witnessed it. I didn’t need to read anything. All the assassination theories and things I never took a look at.[7]

 

Landis said that he learned of CE 399, the pristine bullet, while reading Josiah Thompson’s 1967 book, Six Seconds In Dallas, which was given to Landis as a gift in 2014. Landis says that after reading the book, he immediately contacted the other Secret Service agent who was guarding First Lady Jackie Kennedy that day - Clint Hill, to let Hill know of his recollection about finding CE 399.[8]

 

Clint Hill, for his part, has serious doubts Landis’ story. Here’s Hill talking to NBC News:

 

“If you check all the evidence, statements, things that happened. They don’t line up. It doesn’t make any sense to me that he would put it on the president’s gurney.”[9]

 

Hill added that, when Landis called him in 2014, he didn’t say he put the bullet on Kennedy’s stretcher. Hill says that Landis is adding that part of the story now and was not part of what Landis initially told him.

 

“He found a bullet, almost completely intact, which he picked up and put it in his pocket. And he says he brought it into the emergency room and dropped it off on a gurney in the Hallway.”[10]

 

Landis On The Record Over the Years

 

Paul Landis provided his written description of events to the Secret Service and later to the Warren Commission. However, he was never interviewed by the Warren Commission.[11] Landis never mentioned anything about bullet fragments or bullets in his statement to the Warren Commission.

 

Landis had a great opportunity to document finding a bullet or fragments in the back seat when he wrote a detailed six page statement one week after the assassination. But, curiously, all that the statement says about the limo’s arrival at the hospital – the time when Landis now says he discovered the bullet and fragments - is this:

 

“By this time, someone was lifting the president’s body out of the right side of the car. Agent Hill helped Mrs. Kennedy out of the car and I followed. Mrs. Kennedy’s purse and hat and cigarette lighter were on the back seat. I picked these three items up as I walked through the car and followed Mrs. Kennedy into the hospital.”[12]

 

Landis also says in his original statement that he did not enter the room where President Kennedy was. He stayed by the door.[13] This directly contradicts his recent claims.

 

The claims of Paul Landis are seriously undermined by the fact that Landis covered so many mundane details in his written statement, like a purse, hat, and cigarette lighter on the back seat, but failed to mention theheadline story of discovering a bullet that likely struck the president.

 

Remember, there was no magic bullet controversy on November 30, 1963 when Landis wrote his statement. I can’t think of a reason for him to make such a huge material omission like not mentioning finding a bullet or a fragment when he mentions so many other unimportant issues.

 

But, while the November 30th statement is one of the closest to the incident, it is not the only time Landis has been on the record about what he saw during the assassination. Despite Landis’ claims that he didn’t think about the assassination until 2014, he has been interviewed several times about the assassination over the years.

 

In 1983, Landis did mention a bullet fragment on the back seat in an interview with the Associated Press for the 20th anniversary of JFK’s death.[14] In that AP article, it says QUOTE:

 

“when Landis got to the Kennedy limousine outside the hospital, the president had already been taken inside, but he helped Mrs. Kennedy out. He said there was a bullet fragment on the top of the back seat that he picked up and gave to somebody.[15]

 

This sounds like the same placement as the full pristine bullet he now claims to have seen. Landis did say that he saw fragments now, as well. But he now says that the fragments were on Jackie’s seat. But, he didn’t mention anything on Jackie’s seat in 1983.

 

Landis gave an interview again in 2010 for The Kennedy Detail: JFK’s Secret Service Agents Break Their Silence by Gerald Blaine and Lisa McCubbin. In that interview, Landis pretty much said the same thing he told the Associated Press in 1983 – that a fragment was found on the back seat of the limo and that he gave the fragment to someone else, not that he put it on Kennedy’s stretcher.[16] Landis co-author, James Robenalt said that “Landis, who didn’t know McCubbin well, wasn’t sure whether he should trust her, so he withheld the truth about what really happened.”[17]

 

In 2016, Landis gave an interview for the Sixth Floor Museum where he describes the details of the back seat upon arriving at Parkland – including a reference to the bloody lighter that Landis originally mentioned finding.

 

            “What happened once you reached Parkland Hospital?

 

The limo pulled in. Halfback pulled up right behind. I jumped out of the car and I ran to the left side of the president’s car. I reached over and took Mrs. Kennedy by the shoulder. Tried to help her up. She didn’t want to move.….

 

and finally Clint walked through with Mrs. Kennedy. I had stepped into the limo also. There was a bloody cigarette lighter on the seat, her purse, and a bouquet of roses, and her hat. And I picked up her hat and the lighter. And we left the limo.[18]

 

How can Landis speak in such detail about the time when he found the bullet and fragments and not mention the bullets? More interesting, this interview was in 2016, which is after Landis says he began to learn about the details of the case and after he says he called Clint Hill to share his recollections.[19] Shouldn’t Landis have mentioned the bullet and the fragment in this 2016 interview when he was talking about the list of things he found in the back seat?

 

Landis does have a new book that just came out with author James Robenalt called The Final Witness. So, it’s easy to say that he’s just trying to make a quick buck. But, that doesn’t seem to make sense. Why would Landis ruin his legacy by saying something that he knew wasn’t true?

 

And get this, Paul Landis, even after destroying the Warren Commission’s explanation of the injuries sustained by Kennedy and Connally with his story, still thinks that that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. His conclusion is based primarily, according to him, on the fact that three shells were discovered on the sixth floor of the Schoolbook Depository.

 

Again, we have to explain what bullets caused each of the wounds of President Kennedy and Governor Connally. And if the Single Bullet Theory is not correct, there must be a new theory to explain each of the wounds – especially given the pesky James Tague injury, which takes one of three bullets off of the table. One bullet is the head shot. The last bullet has to account for all of the other injuries. This is why the Paul Landis story is such a big deal.

 

Here’s a fun fact: Of all places in the world, Paul Landis is from Worthington, Ohio, which is where I live and where I’m recording this podcast from at the moment.  So, I would really like to believe Landis.

 

But, I have to be honest, after looking at his prior statements, it’s hard to believe his story is credible. Especially, the fact that Landis didn’t mention the bullet in 2016 when he did the interview with the 6th Floor Museum. Remember, this was after 2014, when he first became aware of the importance of the bullet from Josiah Thompson’s book. So, I was looking forward to hearing what Landis had to say when he spoke at the 60th anniversary conference in Pittsburgh.

 

During that talk, my opinion of whether it is possible that Landis is telling the truth changed. That’s because Landis explained that his memory of finding the bullet was not suppressed and then later remembered. Instead, he laid out a scenario where he simply forgot to mention the bullet in the initial written statements, BUT THEN, he intentionally concealed this information about the bullet over the years, even though he remembered it.

 

When you look at it that way, Landis coming forward at this late moment in his life with information that he initially failed to remember the bullet, but then intentionally concealed that information for decades, could be viewed as an admission that is against his interest, which looks a lot more like a confession than a last minute “oh yeah, I found a bullet.”

 

I was still a little confused by all of this. So, I stood in line to talk to Landis and got in a quick question to see if it could clarify anything:

 

            “How you doing sir, my name is Matt, I’m from Worthington, Ohio.

 

            Where are you at in Worthington? I grew up at 111 W. North Street.

 

Did you graduate from Worthington High School. I graduated 1953, went on to Ohio Wesleyan.

 

I have a podcast called Solving JFK. It’s about the assassination. I wanted to ask you one quick question if I could, based on your presentation today. You said in 2014 that’s when you came across the Josiah Thompson book, 6 Seconds in Dallas, and that’s when you started thinking about coming forward with this information. My question is, in 2016, you gave an interview to the 6th floor library and didn’t mention it, is that because you were working on a book at that time and were planning on putting it out when you had it all together?

 

I have to redo that history.”

 

My question was definitely a little bit leading, but you’ve got to remember, there was a line of people behind me. Also, Landis doesn’t have great hearing and I had background noise to compete with. So, I knew I could just ask one question. His answer about having to redo that history was interesting.

 

There’s one more tidbit of related information that came to light during the Landis presentation at the conference. When Landis was joined on stage by renowned forensic pathologist, Dr. Cyril Wecht, Wecht said that if the bullet Landis describes is real, it could not have come out of his back in the car because it entered on a downward angle. So, it would not be the back bullet. And Wecht didn’t think it was the head bullet either.

 

This really throws a wrench into Landis’s story. If the bullet could not have exited from the back in the limo, and it couldn’t be from a head wound, then how could a pristine bullet that looks like CE 399 have possibly been in the place Landis says he saw it?

 

I think Paul Landis is a nice man. He does not appear to be lying. And I would like to believe him. But, as for me, I will not be placing any weight on the Landis allegation. You won’t hear me cite it in a debate. I suppose that it is possible. But, there is better evidence to doubt the single bullet theory that is much more reliable than Paul Landis’ back seat bullet, starting with the Sibert and O’Neill report. You can learn more about the Single Bullet Theory and the evidence that undermines it in episodes 13-15.

 

NEXT TIME ON SOLVING JFK: We’ll take a field trip to Pittsburgh for the 60th Anniversary JFK Assassination conference and hear from Alec Baldwin, Rob Reiner, and Josiah Thompson. Before turning our attention exclusively to Lee Harvey Oswald.

 


[1] New JFK Assassination Revelation Could Upend the Long-Held “Lone Gunman” Theory, by James Robenalt, Vanity Fair, September 9, 2023 -  https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2023/09/new-jfk-assassination-revelation-upend-lone-gunman

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Warren Report, p 81.

[6] Id.

[7] Id. at 15:58.

[8] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Russ Baker, Newest JFK Twist: Agent’s Explosive Story Conflicts With Forgotten Earlier One, September 12, 2023, Who What Why - https://whowhatwhy.org/culture/newest-jfk-twist-agents-explosive-story-conflicts-with-forgotten-earlier-one/

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[19] Id.

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