JFK Assassination Missed Shot and Missing Bullet

By ERIC ULIS

Although the Warren Commission Report ultimately provided many answers concerning the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22nd, 1963 in Dallas, few people probably realize that the Report was unable to answer a few critical questions. Moreover, that these questions, if answered, could dramatically reshape what we know about the events of that day.

Among the many Warren Commission findings was a determination that a total of three bullets were fired—all of them by Lee Harvey Oswald. Notably, only two of these bullets—or remnants of bullets—were recovered. Therefore, one bullet has never been found. Additionally, the Warren Commission was never able to determine which of Oswald’s three shots missed. While this fact may seem insignificant, in reality, determining which shot missed may be of enormous historical significance.

Let’s start by discussing the number of shots. In fact, of the 178 witnesses of the assassination in Dealey Plaza, 81% claimed they heard three shots, 12% claimed they heard two shots, 5% claimed they heard four or more shots, and 2% claimed they heard only one shot. Needless to say, this witness testimony is compelling. Likewise, when Oswald’s sniper’s nest was discovered on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository shortly after the assassination, three spent cartridges were lying on the floor thereby strongly endorsing the notion that precisely three shots were fired.

As the investigation started, evidence collected from the victims and the presidential limousine indicated that two bullets were accounted for and that one remaining bullet was still outstanding. This missing 3rd bullet—which apparently completely missed the presidential limousine and its occupants—has never been recovered. Therefore, the missing 3rd bullet is not only somewhat of a mystery it presumably still resides somewhere around Dealey Plaza yet to be discovered.

Importantly, the Warren Commission could not determine which of the three shots fired by Lee Harvey Oswald was the shot that missed—although most seem to think it was either the first shot or second shot. In other words, most generally consider the “kill shot”—to the President’s head—to be the 3rd and final shot. Here’s where I think the evidence may actually tell a different story.

As I have exhaustively studied the Warren Commission Report, the Zapruder film—which captured the assassination—witness testimony, and other materials related to the assassination, I have come to the conclusion that the missing shot was likely the 3rd shot. Meaning, Oswald fired one more shot after the fatal kill shot. Here are some reasons why:

  • I have seen nothing in the Zapruder film that suggests anyone reacted to anything before the shot that first struck the President in the back (likely occurring at Zapruder frame 223). Specifically, I’m referring to the Secret Service agents in the motorcade who were prompted to react once they heard the first shot. Generally speaking, the spectators at Dealey Plaza were very slow to grasp—and thereby respond to—what was unfolding and therefore are unreliable in terms of identifying individual shots via the Zapruder film. 
  • A lot of testimony from Secret Service agents, Jackie Kennedy, and other witnesses appears to suggest that the 1st shot correlates with the President being hit in the back (approximately Zapruder frame 223) and reaching for his neck. Of note, the number of people who actually witnessed the president being struck in the back is appreciably lower than the 178 people in Dealey Plaza who heard the shots. Needless to say, attempting to pin down the first shot requires a witness to not only have heard a shot, but to have also seen the president react to the shot. 
  • The kill shot (Zapruder frame 313) was approximately 4.91 seconds after the President was hit in the back. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that a 2nd shot was squeezed in between these two shots because of the time required to shoot a bolt-action rifle, and because the majority of witnesses stated that the 2nd and 3rd shots were “bunched together” relative to the 1st Simply put, the 4.91 seconds between the back shot and kill shot did not likely leave enough time for a 2nd shot—spaced accordingly—to have occurred. 
  • There is witness testimony that indicates that the kill shot was the 2nd shot—Secret Service agent Clint Hill stated he only heard two shots with the second being the kill shot, Jackie Kennedy stated that she thought the first two shots hit the president (back then head), Bill Newman stated he heard only two shots with the second shot being the one that struck the president in the head. Likewise, Emmett J. Hudson stated he heard a third shot after he saw the president get struck in the head. Again, all of these witnesses actually witnessed the kill shot. 
  • Given that the President was struck twice—with one shot completely missing—it stands to reason that completely missing the 1st shot—when the Presidential limousine was at its closest—seems unlikely. Additionally, missing the 3rd and final shot—after the President had been struck and killed—makes the most sense given that the limousine was at its furthest point from Oswald, the limousine was speeding away, the limousine was speeding around a curve, and Oswald had very little time to accurately reacquire the target after the 2nd shot considering the timing of the shots as described by witnesses.

Why is this important?

First off, to be in a position to establish that the 3rd shot was the missing shot is of immense historical significance because it answers one mystery. Also, it begs the question: What was Oswald shooting at considering that the President and Texas Governor Connally had both already been struck and were lying down and out of Oswald’s sight?

My research indicates that the 3rd shot would have taken place approximately two seconds after the kill shot. In other words, at approximately Zapruder frame 350.

There are two reasons for this conclusion.

  • Recall that the majority of witnesses described the 2nd and 3rd shots as being closer together than the first two shots. In my scenario the first shot would have occurred at frame z223. Then 4.91 seconds later—at frame z313—the kill shot hits. Then 2 seconds after that—at frame z350—a hastily fired 3rd shot would have been fired but completely missed. 
  • The Warren Commission investigated a man named James Tague who was struck in the face by a small piece of concrete that was apparently dislodged when one of the bullets hit a curb near where Tague was standing in Dealey Plaza. Moreover, the location of the chipped curbed lines up in such a manner that suggests the bullet responsible for the chipped curb was fired at the very end of the shooting sequence, thereby suggesting that this was the 3rd shot—and missing bullet—and that it occurred after the kill shot.

What does this mean?

Upon researching the approximate moment that the missing 3rd shot would have been fired—Zapruder frame 350—and pondering the previously asked question: What was Oswald shooting at considering that the President and Texas Governor Connally both had already been struck and were lying down and out of Oswald’s site?—a chilling possibility comes to light.

The answer to this question is revealed when one takes a look at Zapruder frame 350. It is at this very moment that Jackie Kennedy begins climbing upon the trunk of the limousine to retrieve a piece of the President’s shattered skull.

Considering this one must ask: Could it be that the missing 3rd shot was intended for Jackie Kennedy? Indeed, I believe the evidence suggests that this may be the case.

Of course, given that Lee Harvey Oswald himself was shot and killed two days later by Jack Ruby we’ll never know. That said, considering the evidence it seems that both the President and First Lady were targeted that day. But one survived.

The follow-up question must be: Why would Oswald also target Jackie that day? In my mind, we must consider that many of Oswald’s thoughts and motivations appear half-baked and illogical. That said, perhaps he was attempting to impress the Castro regime in Cuba—with whom he had very recently communicated—or the Soviets in the hopes of being rewarded in some manner, or being celebrated in the Communist world as a hero. Perhaps he considered a complete felling of the First Couple as necessary to make his point and establish his Communist credentials.

Given the tragedy of that day, it’s difficult to imagine that there is a silver lining to be found anywhere. Nevertheless, considering that Jackie Kennedy may have been targeted too, the tragedy could have been even worse. Therefore, perhaps Oswald only completed half of his mission that day.