Kent May 4 Center seeking government acknowledgement of fault

Lyndsey Schley

A new effort is under way to get the government to re-examine the Kent State shootings and admit that an order to fire was given to the guardsmen.

On April 17, the Justice Department rejected a proposal to reopen the case based on new evidence unearthed in 2007. The May 4 Center and the May 4 Task Force are going forward using other avenues in an attempt to get the government to take responsibility for the shootings, wounded student Alan Canfora said.

“We’re not seeking any kind of a punishment or retribution or jailing of the national guardsmen,” Canfora said. “Basically, we’re encouraging them to join with us and reveal the truth for the sake of healing and reconciliation.”

The new efforts will be announced in the coming weeks.

The new evidence is the Strubbe recording. Canfora uncovered this tape during his time at Yale University in 2005 and 2006, and it is was recorded by Terry Strubbe during the shootings. It contains a call to fire, Canfora said.

“It’s digital forensic evidence that has been verified by professional sound analysis experts in New Jersey,” Canfora said. “Two people by the name of Stuart Allen and Tom Owen used modern state-of-the-art technology, and they determined that there was an order to fire immediately before the gunfire.”

The Justice Department called this evidence “inconclusive” in an internal FBI investigation.

This same recording was used in the 1974 grand jury trial against the guardsmen, but this section had never been heard.

“Though the Strubbe recording is 19 1/2 minutes long, the focus was only on the 13 seconds of gunfire and the period preceding the gunfire, so this evidence of an order to fire was never admitted into court,” Canfora said.

Wounded student Tom Grace says this recording helps make more sense of the incident.

“That is the missing link of evidence that clearly refutes all of the self-defense claims the guardsmen have made over the years,” Grace said. “It also explains why a body of men would turn at a 145-degree angle simultaneously and then, after one or two shots, let loose a fuselage of fire that lasted 13 seconds, because otherwise it would have been far more random in terms of their movement and in terms of the pattern of fire.”

Grace said witnesses have testified before that they heard a call to fire.

“There are a number of guardsmen that have testified to that,” Grace said. “I believe there were at least seven that indicated that they heard an order to fire. There were two or three students that testified at the civil trial in 1975 that were on the veranda right next to where the guardsmen were that saw [Major] Harry Jones, the man with the felt hat, bring his baton down giving a nonverbal order to fire. And then there was also a civilian employee of Kent State University who for some reason was trailing the body of guardsmen and also told author James Michener that he heard an order to fire.

“In spite of all this and in spite of the forensic experts that were commissioned by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Justice Department decided that that evidence was inconclusive, in their words, and they saw no reason to bring anyone else in and question them anew about what took place there over 42 years ago now.”

Grace said that if the Justice Department had investigated the evidence when Canfora brought it forward, they could have questioned Jones, who was believed to have given the call to fire. Jones is now deceased.

Contact Lyndsey Schley at [email protected].