Howard Brennan Reevaluated




Howard Brennan at TSBD

 


 


 


 


Howard Leslie Brennan


Brennan’s statement to the Dallas Police Department:


SHERRIF’S DEPARTMENT
COUNTY OF DALLAS, TEXAS


Before me, the undersigned authority, on this 22nd day of November A.D. 1963 personally appeared Howard Leslie Brennan, Address 6814 Woodard, Dallas, Texas


Age 44, Phone No. EV1-2713


Deposes and says: I am presently employed by the Wallace and Beard Construction Company as a Steam fitter and have been so employed for about the past 7 weeks. I am working in the Kay Railroad yards at the West end of Pacific Street near the railroad tracks. We had knocked off for lunch and I had dinner at the cafeteria at Record and Main Street and had come back to see the President of the United States. I was sitting on a ledge or wall near the intersection of Houston Street and Elm Street near the red light pole. I was facing in a northerly direction looking not only at Elm but I could see the large red brick building across the street from where I was sitting. I take this building across the street to be about 7 stories anyway in the east end of the building and the second row of windows from the top I saw a man in this window. I had seen him before the President’s car arrived. He was just sitting up there looking down apparently waiting for the same thing I was to see the President. I did not notice anything unusual about this man. He was a white man in his early 30’s, slender, nice looking, slender and would weigh about 165 to 175 pounds. He had on light colored clothing but definitely not a suit. I proceeded to watch the President’s car is it turned left at the corner where I was and about 50 yards from the intersection of Elm and Houston and to a point I would say the Presidents back was in line with the last window I have previous described I heard what I thought was a backfire. It run in my mind that it might be someone throwing firecrackers out the window of the red brick building and I looked up the building. I then saw this man I have described in the window and he was taking aim with a high powered rifle. I could see all of the barrel of the gun. I do not know if it had a scope on it or not.


            I was looking at the man in this window at the time of the last explosion. Then this man let the gun down to his side and stepped down out of sight. He did not seem to be in any hurry. I could see this man from about his belt up. There was nothing unusual about him at all in appearance. I believe that I could identify this man if I ever saw him again.


H. L. Brennan


Subscribed and sworn to before me on this the 22nd day of November A.D. 1963.


C. M. Jones
Notary Public, Dallas County, Texas


WARREN COMMISSION TESTIMONY


 


….Mr. Belin.


Mr. Brennan, could you please tell the Commission what happened from the time you sat on that retaining wall, what you saw?


Mr. Brennan.


Well, I was more or less observing the crowd and the people in different building windows, including the fire escape across from the Texas Book Store on the east side of the Texas Book Store, and also the Texas Book Store Building windows. I observed quite a few people in different windows. In particular, I saw this one man on the sixth floor which left the window to my knowledge a couple of times.


Mr. Belin.


Now, you say the window on the sixth floor. What building are you referring to there?


Mr. Brennan.


That is the Texas Book Store.


Mr. Belin.


I am going to ask you to circle on Exhibit 477 the particular window that you said you saw a man leave and come back a couple of times.


…..Mr. Belin.


Here is a marking pencil. Will you just mark the window that you believe you saw the man. All right. And do you want to put a letter “A”, if you would, by that.
All right, now you have marked on Commission Exhibit 477 a circle with the letter “A” to show the window that you saw a man in, I believe you said, at least two times come back and forth.


Mr. Brennan.


Yes


Mr. Belin.


Did you see any other people in any other windows that you can recollect?


Mr. Brennan.


Not on that floor. There was no other person on that floor that ever came to the window that I noticed. There were people on the next floor down, which is the fifth floor, colored guys. In particular, I only remember two that I identified. ….


 


Mr. Brennan.


Well, as the parade came by, I watched it from a distance of Elm and Main Street, as it came on to Houston and turned the corner at Houston and Elm, going down the incline towards the railroad underpass. And after the President had passed my position, I really couldn’t say how many feet or how far, a short distance I would say, I heard this crack that I positively thought was a backfire.


Mr. Belin.


You thought it was backfire?


Mr. Brennan.


Of a motorcycle.


Mr. Belin.


Then what did you observe or hear?


Mr. Brennan.


Well, then something, just right after this explosion, made me think that it was a firecracker being thrown from the Texas Book Store. And I glanced up. And this man that I saw previous was aiming for his last shot.


Mr. Belin.


This man you saw previous? Which man are you talking about now?


Mr. Brennan.


The man in the sixth story window.


Mr. Belin.


Would you describe just exactly what you saw when you saw him this last time?


Mr. Brennan.


Well, as it appeared to me he was standing up and resting against the left window sill, with gun shouldered to his right shoulder, holding the gun with his left hand and taking positive aim and fired his last shot. As I calculate a couple of seconds. He drew the gun back from the window as though he was drawing it back to his side and maybe paused for another second as though to assure hisself that he hit his mark, and then he disappeared.
And, at the same moment, I was diving off of that firewall and to the right for bullet protection of this stone wall that is a little higher on the
Houston side.


Mr. Belin.


Well, let me ask you. What kind of a gun did you see in that window?


Mr. Brennan.


I am not an expert on guns. It was, as I could observe, some type of a high-powered rifle.


Mr. Belin.


Could you tell whether or not it had any kind of a scope on it?


Mr. Brennan.


I did not observe a scope.


Mr. Belin.


Could you tell whether or not it had one? Do you know whether it did or not, or could you observe that it definitely did or definitely did not, or don’t you know?


Mr. Brennan.


I do not know if it had a scope or not.


Mr. Belin.


I believe you said you thought the man was standing. What do you believe was the position of the people on the fifth floor that you saw–standing or sitting?


Mr. Brennan.


I thought they were standing with their elbows on the window sill leaning out.


Mr. Belin.


At the time you saw this man on the sixth floor, how much of the man could you see?


Mr. Brennan.


Well, I could see at one time he came to the window and he sat sideways on the window sill. That was previous to President Kennedy getting there. And I could see practically his whole body, from his hips up. But at the time that he was firing the gun, a possibility from his belt up.


Mr. Belin.


How much of the gun do you believe that you saw?


Mr. Brennan.


I calculate 70 to 85 percent of the gun.


Mr. Belin.


Do you know what direction the gun was pointing.


Mr. Brennan.


Yes.


Mr. Belin.


And what direction was the gun pointing when you saw it?


Mr. Brennan.


At somewhat 30 degrees downward and west by south.


Mr. Belin.


Do you know down what street it was pointing?


Mr. Brennan.


Yes. Down Elm Street toward the railroad underpasses.


Mr. Belin.


Now, up to the time of the shots, did you observe anything else that you have not told us about here that you can think of right now?


Mr. Brennan.


Well, not of any importance. I don’t remember anything else except–


Mr. Belin.


Let me ask you this. How many shots did you hear?


Mr. Brennan.


Positively two. I do not recall a second shot–


Mr. Belin.


By a second shot, you mean a middle shot between the time you heard the first noise and the last noise?


Mr. Brennan.


Yes; that is right. I don’t know what made me think that there was firecrackers throwed out of the Book Store unless I did hear the second shot, because I positively thought the first shot was a backfire, and subconsciously must have heard a second shot, but I do not recall it. I could not swear to it.


Mr. Belin.


Could you describe the man you saw in the window on the sixth floor?


Mr. Brennan.


To my best description, a man in his early thirties, fair complexion, slender but neat, neat slender, possibly 5-foot 10.


Mr. Belin.


About what weight?


Mr. Brennan.


Oh, at–I calculated, I think, from 160 to 170 pounds.


Mr. Belin.


A white man?


Mr. Brennan.


Yes.


Mr. Belin.


Do you remember what kind of clothes he was wearing?


Mr. Brennan.


Light colored clothes, more of a khaki color.


Mr. Belin.


Do you remember the color of his hair?


Mr. Brennan.


No.


Mr. Belin.


Now, I believe you said that after the last shot you jumped off this masonry structure on which you were sitting. Why did you jump off?


Mr. Brennan.


Well, it occurred to me that there might be more than one person, that it was a plot which could mean several people, and I knew beyond reasonable doubt that there were going to be bullets flying from every direction…….


 


…..Mr. Brennan.


I knew I had to get to someone quick to tell them where the man was. So I ran or I walked–there is a possibility I ran, because I have a habit of, when something has to be done in a hurry, I run. And there was one officer standing at the corner of the Texas Book Store on the street. It didn’t seem to me he was going in any direction. He was standing still.


Mr. Belin.


What did you do or what did you say to him?


Mr. Brennan.


I asked him to get me someone in charge, a Secret Service man or an FBI. That it appeared to me that they were searching in the wrong direction for the man that did the shooting.
And he was definitely in the building on the sixth floor.
I did not say on the sixth floor. Correction there.
I believe I identified the window as one window from the top.


Mr. Belin.


All right.


Mr. Brennan.


Because, at that time, I did not know how many story building it was.


Representative Ford.


But you did say to the policeman it was a window on the second floor from the top?


Mr. Brennan.


Right.


Mr. Belin.


And then what happened?


Mr. Brennan.


He


The Chairman.


May I ask there. By the second floor from the top, do you mean the one directly underneath the top floor?


Mr. Brennan.


Underneath the top floor, excluding the roof, yes, sir.


Mr. Belin.


And then what happened, sir?


Mr. Brennan.


He said, “just a minute.” And he had to give some orders or something on the east side of the building on Houston Street. And then he had taken me to, I believe, Mr. Sorrels, an automobile sitting in front of the Texas Book Store.


Mr. Belin.


And then what happened there?


Mr. Brennan.


I related my information and there was a few minutes of discussion, and Mr. Sorrels had taken me then across the street to the sheriff’s building…..


 


IDENTIFYING THOSE FROM THE FIFTH FLOOR AS THEY LEFT THE TSBD


 


….Mr. Brennan.


If I might add a part, that I left out a couple of minutes ago–


Mr. Belin.


Go right ahead, sir.


Mr. Brennan.


As Mr. Sorrels and some more men were discussing this, I mentioned these two colored guys.


Mr. Belin.


Yes.


Mr. Brennan.


Came out of the book store, running down the steps.


Mr. Belin.


You mean the two


Mr. Brennan.


That I had previously saw on the fifth floor.


Mr. Belin.


All right.


Mr. Brennan.


And I immediately identified these two boys to the officers and Mr. Sorrels as being on the fifth floor.


Mr. Belin.


Do you have anything else you wish to add now?


Mr. Brennan.


No; that concludes that.


Mr. McCloy.


They were running out of the building?


Mr. Brennan.


They came running down the front steps of the building on the Elm street side.


Mr. McCloy.


Did they then disappear in the crowd?


Mr. Brennan.


No; they took them in custody, I suppose, and questioned them.


Representative Ford.


The law enforcement officers stopped them, and you did what, then?


Mr. Brennan.


No. I believe Mr. Sorrels or the Secret Service man stopped them.
I am not sure, but I don’t believe an officer of the police department stopped them.


Representative Ford.


But you were standing on the steps of the Texas School Book Depository Building talking to whom?


Mr. Brennan.


Mr. Sorrels and another man, and I believe there was an officer standing there, a police officer.


Representative Ford.


And these two Negroes came out of the front door?


Mr. Brennan.


Yes, sir.


Representative Ford.


And you did what then?


Mr. Brennan.


I—


Representative Ford.


Spoke to Mr. Sorrels?


Mr. Brennan.


Spoke to Mr. Sorrels, and told him that those were the two colored boys that was on the fifth floor, or on the next floor underneath the man that fired the gun.


Representative Ford.


You positively identified them?


Mr. Brennan.


I did, at that time.


 


THE POLICEMAN: WELCOME E. BARNETT


 


Mr. Belin.


All right.
Before I go any further, do you remember the name of the officer you talked to in front of the
School Book Depository Building?


Mr. Brennan.


I don’t believe I ever heard it I do not remember his name….


[Note: …..This officer was W. E. Barnett of the Dallas Police Department. In a deposition to the Warren Commission on July 23, 1964 he stated…”about that time a construction worker ran from the southwest corner of the intersection (Elm and Houston) up to me and said, “I was standing over there and saw the man in the window with the rifle.” He and I and the sergeant (Howard) all three broke and ran for the door (of the School Book Depository building). I kept the man there with me. The Sergeant ran to the back to make sure it was covered. I kept the man there until they took him across the street to the courthouse…”…..Q. How long do you think it was from the time the last shot was until the time you were at the front door…A. It was around 2½ minutes.” (Barnett may have seen the car)…..]


THE LINEUP


…..Mr. Brennan.


Well, I was just more or less introduced to him in Mr. Sorrels’ room, and they told me they were going to conduct a lineup and wanted me to view it, which I did.


Mr. Belin.


Do you remember how many people were in the lineup?


Mr. Brennan.


No; I don’t. A possibility seven more or less one.


Mr. Belin.


All right.
Did you see anyone in the lineup you recognized?


Mr. Brennan.


Yes.


Mr. Belin.


And what did you say?


Mr. Brennan.


I told Mr. Sorrels and Captain Fritz at that time that Oswald–or the man in the lineup that I identified looking more like a closest resemblance to the man in the window than anyone in the lineup.


Mr. Belin.


Were the other people in the lineup, do you remember–were they all white, or were there some Negroes in there, or what?


Mr. Brennan.


I do not remember.


Mr. Belin.


As I understand your testimony, then, you said that you told him that this particular person looked the most like the man you saw on the sixth floor of the building there.


Mr. Brennan.


Yes, sir.


Mr. Belin.


In the meantime, had you seen any pictures of Lee Harvey Oswald on television or in the newspapers?


Mr. Brennan.


Yes, on television.


Mr. Belin.


About when was that, do you believe?


Mr. Brennan.


I believe I reached home quarter to three or something of that, 15 minutes either way, and I saw his picture twice on television before I went down to the police station for the lineup.


Mr. Belin.


Now, is there anything else you told the officers at the time of the lineup?


Mr. Brennan.


Well, I told them I could not make a positive identification.


Mr. Belin.


When you told them that, did you ever later tell any officer or investigating person anything different?


Mr. Brennan.


Yes.


Mr. Belin.


When did that happen?


Mr. Brennan.


I believe some days later–I don’t recall exactly–and I believe the Secret Service man identified hisself as being Williams, I believe, from Houston. I won’t swear to that-whether his name was Williams or not.


Mr. Belin.


All right.


Mr. Brennan.


And he could have been an FBI. As far as I remember, it could have been FBI instead of Secret Service.
But I believe it was a Secret Service man from
Houston
.
And I–


Mr. Belin.


What did he say to you and what did you say to him?


Mr. Brennan.


Well, he asked me he said, “You said you couldn’t make a positive identification.”
He said, “Did you do that for security reasons personally, or couldn’t you?”
And I told him I could with all honesty, but I did it more or less for security reasons–my family and myself.


Mr. Belin.


What do you mean by security reasons for your family and yourself?


Mr. Brennan.


I believe at that time, and I still believe it was a Communist activity, and I felt like there hadn’t been more than one eyewitness, and if it got to be a known fact that I was an eyewitness, my family or I, either one, might not be safe.


Mr. Belin.


Well, if you wouldn’t have identified him, might he not have been released by the police?


Mr. Brennan.


Beg pardon?


Mr. Belin.


If you would not have identified that man positively, might he not have been released by the police?


Mr. Brennan.


No. That had a great contributing factor–greater contributing factor than my personal reasons was that I already knew they had the man for murder, and I knew he would not be released.


Mr. Belin.


The murder of whom?


Mr. Brennan.


Of Officer Tippit.


Mr. Belin.


Well, what happened in between to change your mind that you later decided to come forth and tell them you could identify him?


Mr. Brennan.


After Oswald was killed, I was relieved quite a bit that as far as pressure on myself of somebody not wanting me to identify anybody, there was no longer that immediate danger.


Mr. Belin.


What is the fact as to whether or not your having seen Oswald on television would have affected your identification of him one way or the other?


Mr. Brennan.


That is something I do not know.


Mr. Belin.


Mr. Brennan, could you tell us now whether you can or cannot positively identify the man you saw on the sixth floor window as the same man that you saw in the police station?


Mr. Brennan.


I could at that time I could, with all sincerity, identify him as being the same man.


Mr. Belin.


Was the man that you saw in the window firing the rifle the same man that you had seen earlier in the window, you said at least a couple of times, first stepping up and then going back?


Mr. Brennan.


Yes, sir.


Mr. Belin.


About how far were you away from that window at the time you saw him, Mr. Brennan?


Mr. Brennan.


Well, at that time, I calculated 110-foot at an angle. But closer surveillance I believe it will run close to 122 to 126 feet at an angle.


Mr. Belin.


I believe that on Friday we paced the distance between the place where you were sitting and the front door of the Texas School Book Depository Building, and it ran about–


Mr. Brennan.


93-foot……


 


FILM OF BRENNAN AT THE FRONT DOOR OF TSBD MISSING?


 


…..Mr. Belin.


All right.
Will you put a mark to “G” at the end? And I believe you said that the car that you talked to the Secret Service agent in was at point “G” approximately?


Mr. Brennan.


Right.


Mr. Belin.


Now, are these accurate or approximate locations, Mr. Brennan?


Mr. Brennan.


Well, don’t you have photographs of me talking to the Secret Service men right here?


Mr. Belin.


I don’t believe so.


Mr. Brennan.


You should have. It was on television before I got home my wife saw it.


Mr. Belin.


On television?


Mr. Brennan.


Yes.


Mr. Belin.


At this time we do not have them.
Do you remember what station they were on television?


Mr. Brennan.


No. But they had it. And I called I believe Mr. Lish who requested that he cut those films or get them cut of the FBI. I believe you might know about them. Somebody cut those films, because a number of times later the same films were shown, and that part was cut.


Mr. Belin.


Who would Mr. Lish be with?


Mr. Brennan.


The FBI.


Mr. Belin.


All right.
We thank you very much for that information.
Is there anything else that you did at point “G” or anywhere else after the time of the assassination before you went to the Sheriff’s office?


Mr. Brennan.


I walked up the steps and stood on the outside of the doorway.


Mr. Belin.


Of what building?


Mr. Brennan.


Of the Texas Book Store, while the officers or the men that I was with gave some more orders. And then Mr. Sorrels taken me across to the Sheriff’s office.


Mr. Dulles.


You did not go inside the building?


Mr. Brennan.


No; I did not.


Mr. Belin.


Did you notice any people coming out of the front stairs of the building after these two Negroes came out?


Mr. Brennan.


Well, I recall people going in and out, but a different picture I cannot remember.


Representative Ford.


Where were you standing when you identified the two Negroes?


Mr. Brennan.


On the edge of the street, outer side of the sidewalk, when the two colored boys came out of the building and came down the steps.


Mr. Belin.


Was that at point “G”?


Mr. Brennan.


Yes, sir…..


 


BRENNAN: SNIPER WINDOW BOXES MOVED


 


…..Mr. Belin.


I note in window “A” there appear to be some boxes in the window. To the best of your recollection, what is the fact as to whether or not those boxes as shown in this exhibit appear to be similar to the ones you saw on November 22?


Mr. Brennan.


No; I could see more boxes.


Mr. Belin.


In the window or behind time window?


Mr. Brennan.


Behind the window.


Mr. Belin.


I am talking in the window itself.


Mr. Brennan.


No, no. That is–I don’t remember a box in the window, these boxes I remember are stacked up behind the window, and they were zigzagged, kind of step down, and there was a space it looked like back of here.


Mr. Belin.


Now, you are pointing to a space which would be on the east side, is that right?


Mr. Brennan.


Yes.


Mr. Belin.


When you say you don’t remember


Mr. Brennan.


Well, I can see those boxes there now. I don’t know whether you can see them or not. It seems like I can see the boxes in that picture.
Am I right?


Mr. Belin.


I don’t know, sir. I can’t see them on Exhibit 471. That could be the dirty window here.


Mr. Brennan.


Here they are here. Those boxes there.


Mr. Belin.


Well, here is Exhibit 482.
First of all, I see a box on Exhibit 482, right in the window.


Mr. Brennan.


Yes; I don’t recall that box.


Mr. Belin.


Do you recall that it definitely was not there, or just you don’t recall whether it was or was not there.


Mr. Brennan.


I do not recall that being there. So, therefore, I could not say it definitely wasn’t there…….


FROM BRENNAN’S BOOK


Eyewitness to History (Texian Press, Waco, 1987, with J. Edward Cherryholmes)


http://www.kenrahn.com/jfk/history/the_deed/brennan/Brennan_book.html – Intro


 


….I looked at my watch which indicated 12:18. By now I could hear as well as sense the excitement in the air. The sidewalks were lined to capacity.


….As I sat on the wall, looking around, I had an excellent view of the whole terrain. I could see people in every direction—it was a crowd that was becoming more excited by the minute.


Directly across the street from where I sat was the Texas School Book Depository Building. By now it seemed that every window in the place was open with one or more people peering out. There was a spirit of happy anticipation and I could hear much laughter and happy conversation. People were waving from the buildings and fire escapes.


I had thought all the windows in the Texas Book Depository were occupied, but as I looked closer, those occupied seemed to be confined to the lower floors. As I worked my gaze upward, I was struck by the fact that one floor, the one next to the top, seemed to be completely empty. I didn’t think much about it as I reasoned everyone would want to get on as low a floor as possible for the best view. Then, looking at the corner of the building, I noticed one man in the window. What drew my attention to him with all of the other people in the area, I don’t know. I looked at my watch and it was about 12:22. As I watched him, he went away from the window for a few seconds and then returned. I thought perhaps he was doing a special job and had just broken away from it for a moment to see what was happening outside.


There was nothing about this young man at first glance that seemed unusual. He appeared to be about average height, maybe 5’8” to 5’10” and of average weight, tending more toward the slender side. I’m not good at guessing ages, but he seemed to be 25–35. He had on light colored clothing. The thing that caught my attention was that he was alone. Most others were sharing this magic moment with someone, but he was a solitary figure who seemed to be in his own little world. After watching him for a while, I turned to look at some of the others and noticed two black men in the window directly underneath the lone man. There were exactly the opposite. They were laughing, smiling, waving to all who could see them and “having the time of their lives.” It was a festive mood which everyone seemed to find contagious.


After looking around at the crowd for a few moments, I fastened my attention again on the curious young man who was alone on the sixth floor of the building. The most unusual thing about him, I decided, was his demeanor. It stood out in sharp contrast to that of everyone else. There were undoubtedly those in the crowd who didn’t like the President. There had been reports of anti-Kennedy feeling and speculation that some kind of demonstration might take place. But from where I was sitting and from what I could hear, it was a happy, joyous crowd, glad for an opportunity to see their President who was, even then, becoming a legend. If there was animosity in Dallas, most people were keeping it to themselves.


As I looked at the man, it struck me how unsmiling and calm he was. He didn’t seem to feel one bit of excitement. His face was almost expressionless. I couldn’t detect either happiness or hate. Again he left the window for a few seconds, but almost as quickly he resumed his position there. It was only later that I discovered, along with the nation, that he was, in all probability, checking to make certain no one was coming up to the sixth floor to interrupt what he had planned.


SUSPICIOUS CAR – 55-57 OLDS


While surveying the area, I glanced away to the side of the Depository Building and found something I could not understand. At that time there was a side entrance towards the rear of the building on Houston Street. At some point during the morning hours, the police had sealed off parking in that block and forced all cars to move. Saw horses were placed at Elm and Houston to block traffic. As I looked around I saw a lone car parked beside the Book Depository with a while male seated behind the wheel. The car was an Oldsmobile, a 1955–57 model. It is difficult to tell the exact year unless one is an expert because all those years looked nearly alike. I remember wondering why all the other cars had been made to move and this one had not.


I didn’t have the chance to study the driver carefully but he was wearing civilian clothes and appeared to be middle aged.


One thing that interested me about the car was the way it was parked. The left front wheel was pulled sharply away from the curb and the driver had the door partially open. Later I wondered if the reason for this was so the car could make a quick U-turn in a speedy departure. As I was watching the man in the car I saw a policeman who was on foot walk over towards the car and begin talking to the man in a friendly, laughing manner. So far as I could see, there was no attempt made to get the man to move his car and after chatting for a minute or so, the policeman walked back to his post. It was this fact that made me think the police should have made some report about the presence of the car, but I have never seen any other account of this “mystery car.”


As each minute passed the crowd grew more and more excited and I could feel this along with everyone else. It was a tingling sensation, a kind of mass intoxication that everyone was getting caught up in. At about 12:26 the word spread that the Presidential motorcade was approaching and it would be only a few minutes until it came into view.


The crowd was now at fever pitch and it was one of the most exciting moments in my life. If nothing else happened that day, I would still remember it always. I looked up at the sixth floor of the Texas Book Depository where that quiet, strange man was hunched. He hadn’t changed his position or expression at all. He was perfectly calm and his face revealed nothing out of the ordinary. If someone had told me he was shortly about to assassinate the President, there was nothing in his behavior that would have made me suspect it.


Looking back, I know that the man was too calm, too unconcerned. If one can’t become excited at seeing the President of the United States, I wondered what it would take to move him. But the thought of assassination never entered my mind. During the several minutes I studied him, our eyes never met and he didn’t know I was watching him. I have often wondered since that time what would have happened if he had known. Would he have changed his plan? I doubt it…. He seemed not to be looking at anything in particular, rather gazing blankly into space, as if his mind were a thousand miles away. I’ve thought since that he was looking at the corner of Houston and Main from where the President would come. He seemed preoccupied. He left the window one last time for just a few seconds and then returned to his lonely vigil, At no time during all these many minutes did I see any rifle or anything that would have led me to believe that he was any kind of threat to the President.


I heard the wail of sirens from cars that were slowly approaching the corner of Main and Houston and swung around in that direction. Everyone around me was trying to do the same thing. Some moved from their positions to get a better look. From my position on the wall, I was head and shoulders above everyone else and glad that I had such a good seat. I could hear a ripple of applause beginning that would continue to swell in intensity as the motorcade drew nearer.


Two cars stopped at the corner of Main and Houston and I learned later that these were Secret Service Agents trying to secure the path of the President….


As the car came abreast of where I was sitting on the wall, Kennedy turned to wave at those on the other side of the street. The next moments have remained fresh in my mind for nearly twenty years. In one respect, the whole experience seemed to take only a few seconds. In another, it resembled slow-motion action that one sees in the movies at times. What has been recorded as taking less than ten seconds seemed like an eternity to me. I’m sure others on the scene felt the same as I. When the presidential car moved just a few feet past where I was sitting, President Kennedy looked back to our side of the street. Just at that moment the whole joy and good will of the day was shattered by the sound of a shot. It took an instant to realize that something had happened. My first instinct was to disbelieve my own ears. Nothing could have been further from my mind at that moment than that someone was trying to kill the President. My first thought was that it must have been a backfire. I’m sure many other people around me must have thought the same thing for there was no instantaneous reaction from the crowd. It was as if no one could really believe that such a thing was even possible, certainly not in Dallas.


I looked up then at the Texas Book Depository Building. What I saw made my “blood run cold.”


Poised in the corner window of the sixth floor was the same young man I had noticed several times before the motorcade arrived. There was one difference—this time he held a rifle in his hands, pointing toward the Presidential car. He steadied the rifle against the cornice and while he moved quickly, he didn’t seem to be in any kind of panic. All of this happened in the matter of a second or two. Then came the sickening sound of a second shot and I looked quickly back to the presidential car which had moved only a few feet, still not apparently aware that it was the assassin’s target.


I saw Governor John Connally reacting to being wounded and the instinctive response of his wife to try and help him. I remember thinking, “Oh my God! He’s going to kill them, he’s going to kill them all!” The immensity and horror of what I was witnessing almost overwhelmed me. I wanted to cry, I wanted to scream, but I couldn’t utter a sound. I could only watch the whole monstrous drama unfold.


Just then a woman close to me screamed in full realization of what was happening. She uttered something like, “Oh, my God!” But even as she did my eyes darted back to that solitary figure who was changing history. He was aiming again and I wanted to pray, to beg God to somehow make him miss his target. There wasn’t time to pray, not even time to think about what I was seeing but the sight became so fixed in my mind that I’ll never forget it for as long as I live. There was nothing I could do. It was a hopeless, sinking feeling. I would have gladly given my life in that moment to be able to save the President, but no one could move fast enough to shield him with his own body. Then another shot rang out.


All of this took only a few seconds. I didn’t realize at that moment that I was the only person who was actually watching the man firing the rifle. Simultaneous with the third shot, I swung my eyes back to the Presidential car which had moved on down to my left on Elm, and I saw a sight that made my whole being sink in despair. A spray of red came from around the President’s head. I knew the bullet had struck its intended target. Later, I would learn that the whole scene had taken less than ten seconds. In retrospect, it seemed like several minutes.


By the time the third shot had been fired, there was sheer pandemonium. Everyone was fully aware that the noise they were hearing was shots, not backfire. This was really happening. It was like a nightmare, only I couldn’t wake up from it. No one had to tell me what was ahead. The moment I saw the effects of the third shot, I knew that the assassin had been successful. No person could have survived that kind of wound.


Mass confusion and hysteria set in and I must admit, I was feeling it too. People were screaming. Men and women dressed in their fine suits and dresses, fell to the ground, getting them dirty, but hopefully getting out of the line of fire. At that moment, no one but me seemed to know where the shots had come from. By now uniformed policemen and plain clothes police, who I assumed were Secret Service or F.B.I. Agents came running from every direction. I jumped from the wall to try to get out of the line of fire. I never saw so many guns in my life. Most of the police were running towards the triple underpass which perhaps was a hundred feet or so ahead of the motorcade. Some were running towards an area to the right, slightly raised, which has come to be called the “Grassy Knoll.” Much speculation has been raised about whether there was another gunman there who was trying to catch the President in a cross-fire. Having witnessed the whole scene, I can say with certainty there was only one gunman present that day and all shots were fired from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. It is easy to understand why many thought the shots were coming from the area of the underpass as the buildings and open area combine to produce an “echo” effect.


Even as I hit the ground, my first instinct was to look back up to that man on the sixth floor. “Was he going to fire again?” I wondered. By now the motorcade was beginning to speed up and in only a couple of seconds the President’s car had disappeared under the triple underpass. To my amazement the man still stood there in the window! He didn’t appear to be rushed. There was no particular emotion visible on his face except for a slight smirk. It was a look of satisfaction, as if he had accomplished what he had set out to do. He seemed pleased that no one had realized where the shots were coming from. Then he did something that puzzled me. Very slowly and deliberately he set the rifle on its butt and just stayed there for a moment to savor what he had done, like a hunter who has “bagged his buck.” Then, with no sense of haste, he simply moved slowly away from the window until he disappeared from my line of vision.


I thought, “Any moment now, someone will set the police straight and they’ll charge the building to get him!” Some people were starting to get up off the ground, but as I looked around, no one was moving towards the building and I didn’t see any police available! Everyone was still trying to find out where the shots had come from.


The last thing I wanted to do was to get involved. I knew in that moment that I had to make a decision, the most important decision of my life. I didn’t have the time to think of all the possible consequences that might come to me as a result. I haven’t figured out why, of all the people who were present at the scene that day, I was the only person who saw the assassin fire, but Fate or God apparently chose me to be the witness. I was scared! I’d lived my whole life as a man who tried to mind his own business and not get involved in other’s troubles and now suddenly I was in a position where I might be called upon to play a part in one of the most momentous events in our nation’s history. As I got up from the ground, I realized I had to make a decision I would live with the rest of my life. I didn’t have time to dwell on the fact that I might be putting my life in jeopardy and possibly that of my wife as well.


I began to look for a policeman. Someone had just murdered the President of the United States before my eyes and there was no way under heaven that I was going to allow him to get away with it.


In that moment, while I was looking for police help, I heard someone say something behind me which made me angry and sick at the same time. I’ve said, before and during the time the motorcade passed I didn’t hear one adverse word directed towards the President, but just as I began to look for help, I heard a man behind me say, “I wonder if they got him!” All of my life I have tried to control a quick temper. My first instinct was to turn and go after whoever it was who had said it. I’m certain I would have taken out all of the frustration I was feeling at that moment on that individual. I didn’t even take time to think about how big he might be. At that moment I wanted to strike back for the loss that had come to me in the death of “My President.” But there were higher purposes to think about and I knew I couldn’t think about myself at that moment. I had to do everything I could to help catch THE ASSASSIN.


Finally, I saw a policeman standing at the Southwest corner of the SCHOOL BOOK DEPOSITORY and I ran across the street to get his attention.[1][4] There was much noise and confusion and people were trying to get out of the area. As I approached the policemen he said, “What do you want?” I said, “The man you want is in the building!” He said, “Are you sure?” I responded, “I sure am.” He grabbed my arm and we both ran to the front of the School Book Depository.


THE SUSPICIOUS CAR GONE


I glanced back towards the street to the side of the building. The car I had seen PARKED there before the motorcade passed WAS GONE. Although only a few moments had elapsed and all exits were blocked except one, the car had disappeared. The policeman who had been talking to the driver was gone, but I assumed he was looking for the gunman….


Many times since, especially in recent years, I have thought about the car parked alongside the Texas Book Depository and wondered where it came from and where it went. I have always wondered why the policeman allowed the car to be parked illegally beside the building with its wheels turned outward when other cars had been made to vacate the area. Of course, the paramount question in my mind was, “Who was the man sitting behind the wheel that day?”


As I watched the car, it never occurred to me that an assassination was about to take place and this might be the “get-away” car. Even though I could not have positively identified the man behind the wheel, I can say this for certain. The man was white, middle-aged and dressed in civilian clothes. I didn’t have an opportunity to study his face, so identification is impossible but I have always felt that somehow he was involved in the assassination.


Later, I would remember, “if that was a ‘get-away’ car, why didn’t it wait to pick up the killer?” Was it possible that he was being left on purpose? These questions and others tormented me for years after that experience and will never be fully answered. The one thing I knew for certain—there was a car there before the assassination and it disappeared before the assassin had time to get out of the building.


[Authors Note: Howard did not report the presence of the car beside the Book depository Building initially because he did not make an association. Subsequent to that time he had already made a formal statement and probably realized that to insert this new item might cast some doubt on his testimony. He thus determined not to say anything he could not verify absolutely. In retrospect, he acknowledged he probably should have reported it, but he wanted to be sure his testimony would stand since it was critical.]


While I was waiting for the policeman to return, I looked around again at the scene. The chaos and anguish of a few minutes earlier had subdued. There was no one still sitting on the ground and the noise and confusion had begun to settle. A curious, almost eerie quiet had descended over the area. Shortly after we got to the front steps of the building a plain clothes policeman came out of the door.[2][5] He asked me what I had seen and I told him. I gave him a description of the man I had seen on the sixth floor with the rifle. “He was a young man about 25 to 35 years old. He seemed to be of average height, not over six feet and he had dark hair that was beginning to recede.” He went to a police car that was parked nearby and broadcast the description I had given him. I learned later that this was the first description broadcast to all units of the Dallas Police Department and may have led Officer J. D. Tippit to stop Lee Harvey Oswald. After the broadcast, he and another officer returned to where I was standing. “Please come with me, I want you to show me where you saw the man with the rifle,” indicating I should follow them into the building. “Wait a minute,” I said, thinking of my wife and family, “I can’t go in there with you.” I was concerned that the man who moments before had shot the President was still in the building. “All right then will you stand right there until we come back?” I nodded yes and he went back into the building with two other policemen. Other officers were now returning from the “Grassy Knoll” and were surrounding the building.


As I stood there in front of the Depository I had a chance to think back over the past few minutes. It seemed impossible that only a short time ago I had been just another average American who had come to see the President pass by and now because of that I was an eyewitness to an assassination that would change the entire course of history.


TV REPORTER AND CAMERAMAN AT SCENE


Before I could reflect any longer I was confronted by a television reporter and cameraman. They wanted to interview me and find out what I knew about the shooting. I did not want to talk to him and I certainly did not want my picture broadcast. If there were more people involved than the young man I had seen then showing me on television as an eyewitness would be like hanging a target over my heart for someone to shoot at.


He kept asking “Who are you, what do you know about the shooting of the President?” I turned my back on him without answering. He continued to try to get me to talk even though I moved away from him. Finally I said “I don’t know anything.”


I learned later that my wife, Louise, had been watching television and was the reporter trying to interview me. Even though my name wasn’t given, she knew that I must have seen the assassination. My little grandson, who was less than two, pointed at the TV and said, “There’s Granddaddy!” My daughter Vicki had watched the whole scene in a beauty shop. I felt exposed to the whole world as I tried to evade that reporter and cameraman. I don’t know how long the reporter stayed with me, but it had to be several minutes: Each time he’d approach me I’d turn or move away a few steps. It is my sincere belief that Lee Harvey Oswald came out of the front door of the Depository while I was trying to avoid the TV reporter. If my attention had not been distracted I might have spotted him right there.[3][6]


In retrospect, maybe it’s just as well my attention was diverted. If Oswald and I had come face to face, and I showed recognition, he might have killed me to keep me from identifying him as he later killed Officer J. D. Tippit. Everything seemed to work in Oswald’s favor to make his escape from the Texas Book Depository possible.


About 25 minutes after the President was shot a man came out of the Depository and identified himself as Special Agent Forrest Sorrels with the Secret Service.[4][7] I gave him the same information that I had given to the other officers a few minutes before. Mr. Sorrels asked if I would accompany him to the Sheriffs office across the street and give them a written statement. “Of course, I will,” I said. “I want to see that man caught. I’ll do all I can to help you.”….


As I shut the car door and walked towards the house, I knew I had to tell Louise that I was an eyewitness to the assassination. I couldn’t just say nothing. Sooner or later she would find out. When and if the killer was caught, I would surely have to make an identification, so I decided the best thing to do was tell her the whole thing. When I opened the front door, Louise was standing there and I can never forget the look on her face. Somehow, she knew, I thought. But how?


My little grandson, Tyson, came running towards me, crying. “Granddaddy, I saw you on TV!” In a moment I knew that Louise had seen the reporter trying to interview me and realized something was wrong. “Howard, how are you involved?” she asked, looking me straight in the eyes. I hesitated for a minute trying to think what to say, finally I said, “It’s just a case of being in the right place at the wrong time. Louise, I was there. I saw him do it. I saw the man shoot President Kennedy. It was the most terrible thing I’ve ever seen in my life.” I told her the whole story, how I’d found a good seat on the wall and watched the man before the President came. About the awful moment when all hell broke loose and the shots rang out…


…As we watched TV, they showed the reporter trying to interview me again. I felt rage and fear at the same time. My privacy was being violated and there was nothing I could do about it. I wondered who was watching TV that might recognize me. I felt panic because I realized that if I was in any danger, then certainly Louise and my daughter Vicki and grandson Tyson might also be. By now, I recognized that I must be the only eyewitness, for I had heard of no one else coming forth as one….


While we were discussing this latest news, I saw something on the television that made me quake. I’m not certain of the exact time, but I believe it was about 5:30 p.m. that the first picture of Lee Harvey Oswald was flashed on the screen. I remember thinking, “It’s him! He’s the one who did it!” But I never said a word at the time, not even to Louise. Showing the picture of Oswald before any identification was made seemed very strange to me. Millions of people were seeing Oswald before I, the one person who could positively identify him, had been taken to an official lineup. I felt a sense of resistance within myself. How is this man going to get a fair trial?” I thought. “He is already guilty in the minds of everyone who is seeing him?”….


SA ROBERT C. LISH MAKES TV FILM DISAPEAR


….Pushing my way through this mob I found the office I’d been instructed to go to. Mr. Sorrels was there and another man who identified himself as Agent Robert C. Lish of the F.B.I. Lish was a short man of a medium weight and build who curiously wore his hat most of the time. I remembered talking to him earlier on the phone. I told Mr. Lish, “I’m not at all satisfied with this situation!” Lish looked a bit puzzled. What do you mean?” he said. “My picture has been on the television several times today without my permission and I know someone is going to recognize me and put two and two together. I want it taken off and I want it taken off right away!” Mr. Lish nodded and said something to another man who was in the room who immediately left. From that moment, my picture never appeared on that television channel again.


“I want to keep my identity a secret!” I told them. “We’ll do all we can to help you do that,” Lish said. “We want you to look at a lineup and see if you can find someone in it who resembles the man you saw on the sixth floor. I said, “I’ll be glad to cooperate, but I don’t think it’s fair for me to make an identification. Any one of a million people who saw him on television a while ago could make the same identification.” Lish smiled diplomatically.


I was led into a darkened room with lights at one end. When we arrived, a group of several men, perhaps as many as seven, were led in and made to stand in line with numbers over them. As soon as I saw him, I think he was number two, I knew without any doubt whatsoever that they had captured the man whom I saw fire the shot that killed President Kennedy. I felt a surge of emotion, a sense of outrage at this young man who had literally thrown the whole world into chaos. As I was looking at each of the men in the lineup I saw a face that I recognized. It was a Dallas Detective that I knew. He was perhaps the most well-known of all the Dallas Police and his picture had been in the papers many times. If he was there, that meant only one thing. My privacy had been broached. I felt sick and a little betrayed. I’d come to City Hall with the understanding that I would be dealing only with the F.B.I. and/or the Secret Service, not the Dallas Police.


DALLAS PD OFFICER ASKS LEADING QUESTION


The officer walked over to me sticking out his hand to shake. He greeted me by name and I knew if he knew who I was and what my connection with the case was, then others must know. He asked me, “Does the second man from the left look most like the man you saw?” He was talking about Oswald and I knew what he wanted me to say.


I felt even more angry and betrayed. I hadn’t agreed to make an identification to the local authorities. I knew that there were ways my identity could become known though the leaks in the police department and I didn’t want any part of it. I knew that they had Oswald on enough charges that he wasn’t going anyplace. He had been charged with resisting arrest and carrying a firearm without a permit. There was overwhelming evidence that he had killed Officer Tippit and so my identification in that moment wasn’t absolutely necessary. If they needed me later, I knew I could identify him.


I said brusquely, “He looks like the man, but I can’t say for sure!” I needed some time to think. I turned to Mr. Lish, who had detected my resentment and said, “Let’s go back to the office. We have some talking to do.” As we went, I commented that the man in the lineup wasn’t dressed the same way the man in the window had been.


“We forgot to tell you that he changed his clothes immediately after leaving the Depository, Lish said. When we reached the office I responded angrily, “You promised me anonymity. You people haven’t kept your word.” Sorrels looked genuinely puzzled. “What do you mean?” “If this Detective knows who I am and what my connection with the assassination is, then it won’t be long before everybody finds out.” Sorrels tried to be reassuring, “We’ll do everything we can to protect your identity, Mr. Brennan, but this isn’t entirely our jurisdiction.” I wasn’t sure just what he meant, and said so. “There isn’t anything we could do about it,” Sorrels explained. “The law is clear that murder, even assassination, is a state offense and must be turned over to local officials for investigation and prosecution!”


So it was out and I had to deal with it. No matter how hard they might try, it was only a matter of time before people would find out that the unidentified witness whose description had helped catch Oswald was really Howard Brennan. Suddenly, I didn’t feel very good. I felt very vulnerable, exposed to naked light, and I didn’t like it one bit. I knew I was going to be sorry that I decided to become involved.


While we were talking, Captain Fritz came in and asked me, “Can you make a positive identification of any of those we showed you in the lineup?” Having felt betrayed in my quest for anonymity, I was in no mood to hurry the process of exposure. I said, “You already have your man on enough charges to hold him for a long time. I’m not going to make a positive identification at the moment. If and when the time comes and you need it or have to let him go, we’ll deal with it then.” I wasn’t saying, “Yes, Oswald is the man,” nor was I saying, “No, he isn’t the one.”….


BRENNAN MEETS JFK’S DOUBLE


…About 9:30 we heard a knock at the door and we both went to answer it. Louise stayed a little behind me. It was Agent Lish of the F.B.I. Looking out I could see a car parked at the curb. Looking further I could make out that he wasn’t alone but had brought someone with him. “I’d like to see you if you aren’t too tired.”


“That’s perfectly O.K. I don’t think I’m going to sleep very much tonight anyway. Why don’t you come in and have a cup of coffee?” Lish came in and seemed more informal and friendly than I had remembered while at City Hall. “I thought we might get better acquainted and maybe answer some of your questions,” he said. As we started to pass pleasantries, another man stepped from the shadows on the porch where I had only seen his figure and moved into the light. Louise gave an audible gasp that all of us could hear and I felt a shock run through me. There standing in our little hallway was John F. Kennedy, alive again. At least that’s what I thought at that instant. The man standing there was the exact double of the late President in every detail. Had I not known that the President was dead, I would have staked my life that I was being visited by him. Every feature about him, his face, his hair, his build, even his clothes looked exactly like the President. It was as if a ghost had suddenly appeared. Even his voice sounded so much like Mr. Kennedy’s. My mind simply couldn’t absorb it all and Louise was struck dumb, her eyes wide open in amazement. Lish introduced the double as a fellow agent and apologized for not preparing us for this shocking experience. We all sat down at the kitchen table. Later I would learn that many American Presidents have had doubles, including President Roosevelt. All my life I had heard that there is someone, somewhere who looks exactly like you, but until that night I’d never known it for the truth. The agent told us some of his experiences doubling for the President. They were fascinating.


We emptied the coffee pot, made another pot, drank that and just kept the coffee and cookies in supply as we kept at vigil. A President was dead, a killer was being interrogated, a nation was in shock. Everything had slowed down to a crawl and on this Friday night as the hour grew later and later, it seemed unbelievable that my wife and I were sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee and eating cookies with F.B.I. agents we hadn’t even known a few hours ago….


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

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