The logic is as follows: if Hargis, riding to Kennedy's left and behind him, was struck by brain matter when the President's head exploded, that must mean that the shot came from in front of Kennedy, and to his right. It sounds plausible, but only if you don't know much about wound ballistics.
This claim goes back to Josiah Thompson's book Six Seconds in Dallas. Thompson's treatment of Hargis includes the following sentence:
This debris [from the President's head] hit Officer Hargis with such force that he told reporters the next day, "I thought at first I might have been hit." (Six Seconds in Dallas, p. 100)The problem here is that the "force" statement comes from Thompson, not Hargis. No one has ever produced any statement from Hargis saying he was hit with any "force," although he most certainly was "hit." Here is the article Thompson is quoting, from the Sunday News, New York, November 24, 1963, page 21 (courtesy of Steve Barber):
Motorcade Cop Tells How It HappenedThe best guess about what "something" hit Hargis will be discussed below. But here it's important to note that the "such force" statement has been repeated by a generation of conspiracy books as though it were Hargis' statement.
Dallas, Nov. 23 (Special) B.W. Hargis, 31, Dallas motorcycle patrolman who was riding in President Kennedy's motorcade, gave this account today of the Assassination:
"We turned left onto Elm St. off Houston, about a half block from where it happened. I was right alongside the rear fender on the left side of the President's car, near Mrs. Kennedy."
"When I heard the first explosion, I knew it was a shot. I thought that Gov. Connally had been hit when I saw him turn toward the President with a real surprised look."
Splattered With Blood
"The President then looked like he was bent over or that he was leaning toward the Governor, talking to him."
"As the President straightened back up, Mrs. Kennedy turned toward him, and that was when he got hit in the side of his head, spinning it around. I was splattered with blood."
"Then I felt something hit me. It could have been concrete or something, but I thought at first I might have been hit."
"Then I saw the limousine stop, and I parked my motorcycle at the side of the road, got off and drew my gun."
And They Took Off
"Then this Secret Service agent (in the President's car) got his wits about him and they took off. The motorcycle officer on the right side of the car was Jim Chaney. He immediately went forward and announced to the chief that the President had been shot."
Hargis Warren Commission Testimony likewise fails to mention his being hit with any "force:"
Mr. HARGIS. . . . and then as the President raised back up like that (indicating) the shot that killed him hit him. I don't know whether it was the second or the third shot. Everything happened so fast.The definitive interview with Hargis was done on August 7, 1968, by Al Oser and Tom Bethell, staffers for New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison. Oser and Bethell were aware of the implications of Hargis' testimony, and questioned him closely:
Mr. STERN. But, you cannot now recall more than two shots?
Mr. HARGIS. That is all that I can recall remembering. Of course, everything was moving so fast at the time that there could have been 30 more shots that I probably never would have noticed them.
Mr. STERN. Did something happen to you, personally in connection with the shot you have just described?
Mr. HARGIS. You mean about the blood hitting me?
Mr. STERN. Yes.
Mr. HARGIS. Yes; when President Kennedy straightened back up in the car the bullet him in the head, the one that killed him and it seemed like his head exploded, and I was splattered with blood and brain, and kind of a bloody water. It wasn't really blood. And at that time the Presidential car slowed down. I heard somebody say, "Get going," or "get going,"---- (6H294)
Bethell: You were sprayed with matter, and you were behind the limousine, and yet you say you initially ran to the Book Depository because of the suggestion of the direction of the shot.Given Hargis' position to Kennedy's left and behind him, he should have been able to see the back of Kennedy's head blow out, if that indeed had happened. Yet he explicitly says that he saw a "splash come out on the other side." He, in other words, is describing a wound to the right side of Kennedy's head. So it's deeply ironic that conspiracy authors have used him as a "back of the head" witness.
Bethell: But the actual - the fact that you were behind the car suggests that the shot in fact came from the front and right of the car.
Well, that right there is what I've wondered about all along, but see there's ah -- you've got to take into consideration we were moving at the time, and when he got hit all that stuff went like this, and of course I run through it.
Hargis: Well, that right there is what I've wondered about all along, but see there's ah -- you've got to take into consideration we were moving at the time, and when he got hit all that stuff went like this, and of course I run through it.
[ . . . ]
Hargis: "Well, like I say, being that we know that the shot came from the School Book Depository, right then it was kind of hard to say what run through your mind. You know you pick up these little things. You don't know why you do it. You don't know why you do 'em, you just do 'em. It's just kind of instinct. But I had in my mind the shots you couldn't tell where they was coming, but it seemed like the motion of the President's head or his body and the splatter had hit me, it seemed like both the locations needed investigating, and that's why I investigated them. But you couldn't tell, there was -- it looked like a million windows on the Book Depository. You couldn't tell exactly if there was anyone in there with a gun.
Oser: So, in your opinion as a police officer and you're feelings from having been there, it is also possible, is it not, that the shot could have come from the front of the vehicle as you indicated to the Warren Commission as well as you are now saying that it could have come from the Book Depository? It could have come from anywhere.
Hargis: Uh huh. That's correct.
[. . . ]
Oser: Did his head jerk when he was hit?
Hargis: Yes. Uh huh.
Oser: Which way did his head jerk? Or pop?
Hargis: To the left forward. Kind of that way.
Oser: Over on his...
Hargis: Left shoulder.
Oser: Left shoulder. Could you see what part of his head got hit?
Hargis: No I couldn't see what part of it got hit.
Oser: Would you say that he was hit in the rear of the head, the side of the head, or the front of his head?
Hargis: If he'd got hit in the rear, I'd of been able to see it. All I saw was just a splash come out on the other side. (NARA record number 180-10096-10005, discovered by Joel Grant)
In 1988, Hargis was interviewed by producers of the British production The Men Who Killed Kennedy (right). In it he vividly described his experiences in the motorcade. You can see a streaming video clip of Hargis (128K ISDN or better connection) by clicking here, or click here to download the clip to your hard drive. (You may need to right-click and pick "Save Link As.")
In this interview, Hargis adds another grisly detail: he was hit by a tiny piece of Kennedy's skull.
Hargis testimony has been impressive for its consistency. In 1995 conspiracist researcher Clint Bradford, who runs an excellent web site on the assassination, interviewed Hargis. Here is his account:
Ten Dallas policemen are currently on the force who were employed by Dallas PD in 1963. Then motorcycle officer Bobby Hargis is approachable, and will become sullen before your eyes as he relates his story.Hargis, in 1998, gave an essentially identical account to The Texas Monthly, saying he "rode through" the gore from Kennedy's head.
He was on the force only a week when he was given the assignment to flank JFK's limo -- left side, ten feet behind.
"I'm the only one living who was beside the car. When [JFK] was shot in the head, it splashed up, and I ran into all that brain matter and all that. It came up and down, all over my uniform."
A few minutes later, while at the TSBD, a co-worker leaned forward and flicked something off Hargis' upper lip.
"It was a piece of the President," Hargis said, as his gaze clouds through tearing eyes.
Find Officer Hargis now processing stolen cars for the Physical Evidence Unit. (Post on alt.assassination.jfk on 27 Feb 1999.)
So Hargis, whose testimony has not changed in any significant way since his first interview with the New York Daily News in 1963, is anything but a "back of the head" witness. Kennedy's brain matter was blown into the air by the violent explosion of his head. It came down all around him. Not only was Hargis' motorcycle moving forward, but the wind at the moment of the head shot was from directly ahead of the limo, as can be seen in this frame from the Muchmore film. Hargis ran into the spray, and one small piece of Kennedy's skull.
An honest cop, Hargis has been trying to tell people this for over 30 years.