The Justice Department has declined to reopen the investigation into the shootings at Kent State University on May 4, 1970, despite a new analysis recently completely of an enhanced copy of the only complete audio recording of the events of that day. According to Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez: "There are insurmountable legal and evidentiary barriers to bringing a second federal case in this matter." The review had been requested by wounded student, Alan Canfora, Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich and the sister of slain student, Allison Krause. Canfora said that, while disappointed, he wasn't surprised:
It's absurd for anyone to expect the Justice Department to thoroughly investigate itself, including its FBI division. I don't think they're fair, I don't think they're objective, and the only way they can alleviate this controversy about their own failed investigation is to go to some outside, independent experts.
Meanwhile, the analyst who conducted the recent re-examination of the Strubbe tape, Stuart Allen, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which commissioned the new analysis, that he was baffled by the FBI's conclusion that the recording is unintelligible. Moreover, according to Allen, the FBI's determination that the pistol shots Allen heard on the tape were actually doors slamming in the dorm where the tape recorder was located was "beyond ludicrous." Allen noted that he, too, had identified door slams on the tape but the four pistol shots he pinpointed sounded nothing like that.
In 1974, as outrage mounted over the government's inaction on this case, the Justice Department did charge eight low-ranking Guardsmen with having conspired to deprive the students of their civil rights (the only federal legal charge available in this type of murder investigation.) But a federal judge dismissed the case before it could even be heard by the jury, claiming that the government had not proven its case. A subsequent civil lawsuit by the victims and families against the Guardsmen and other parties ended in 1979 when the plaintiff victims agreed to settle the case for a piddling $675,000 award and a squirmily-worded "statement of regret" for what happened that day.
One key piece of evidence reviewed by the government reviewed back then was a reel-to-reel audio tape recorded by Kent State student, Terry Strubbe, from his dorm room window near Blanket Hill. The tape captured the sounds of the events leading up to the shootings as well as the fusillade itself and the aftermath. In 1974, an acoustics firm hired by the government analyzed (pdf) the tape but only focused on the pattern of gunshots. The analysis has often been questioned and made no mention of any unusual sounds or additional firing. The Plain Dealer says that the Justice Department now claims the FBI's Cleveland office apparently destroyed the original Strubbe tape in 1979 (emphasis added), leading Laurel Krause, Allison's sister, to ask: When did it become legal for the government to DESTROY KEY EVIDENCE in any investigation? (The tape that was analyzed by Allen was a cassette copy of the Strubbe tape apparently acquired by the plaintiff's attorneys during their representation of the victims in the civil suit, which was subsequently placed in the Yale University Archives where Alan Canfora "found" it about four years ago.)
The Plain Dealer further explained what Allen found on the rediscovered Strubbe tape:
Using software to filter noise and enhance sounds on the Strubbe recording, Allen and Owen determined there was a male voice readying the soldiers to fire seconds before the shooting began. "Guard! . . . All right, prepare to fire!" the analysts reported hearing, followed by another voice yelling "Get down!" The first voice then says, "Guard, fi--," with the final word drowned out by gunshots.Perez, the Assistant Attorney General who declined to reopen the case, said that "double jeopardy" and other legal constraints prevented the Justice Department from charging the surviving guardsmen again, pretty well ignoring the possibility that a thorough investigation would point to more senior officers who have never previously been charged in the case but who would clearly have had to be involved if, in fact, an order to fire was issued.
In October 2010, after Allen conducted dozens of hours of additional analysis, he reported discovering the sounds of a violent altercation, with shouts of "Kill him!" and four .38-caliber revolver shots about 70 seconds before the Guard gunfire begins.
Some Guardsmen claimed they had fired in reaction to gunshots, possibly from a sniper, but said their response was much quicker than the 70-second interval captured on the recording.
Some details of the altercation Allen identified on the recording seem similar to an incident involving Terry Norman, a Kent State law enforcement student who was carrying a concealed .38-caliber pistol during the May 4 protest. Norman was photographing demonstrators for the Kent State University police and the FBI. He claimed he was assaulted by angry crowd members and said he drew his gun to warn them away. But he denied shooting and said the attack happened after the Guard gunfire, not before.
Several witnesses said they heard a Kent State policeman who inspected Norman's gun exclaim that it had been fired four times. The officer later denied making the remark. An FBI lab test determined Norman's pistol had been fired since its last cleaning, but could not pinpoint when. A federal grand jury questioned Norman in 1973, but he was not charged.
Nonetheless, Perez said that the FBI did re-examine the Strubbe tape, deciding that what Allen heard as earlier gunshots were just doors slamming. The FBI never asked the Plain Dealer for the enhanced tape and never questioned Allen about his findings or techniques.
A team of eight audio examiners and technicians used software to try to enhance voices and sounds in critical sections of the tape.But this is patently untrue. A photograph of .38 caliber casings recovered from the campus in the hours after the shootings is included in the Yale University archives on Kent State. These shell casings, along with several other non-military shells, are noted in the FBI's own investigative files of evidence recovered from the campus in the days following the shootings.
Overall, the FBI examiners found the tape segment containing the purported firing command to be unintelligible, according to Perez's letter. Their impression, although admittedly uncertain, was that there were no commands, and that the shouts the newspaper's analysts interpreted as an order to prepare to shoot probably came from several people located closer to the tape recorder's microphone than where the soldiers stood.
As for the four suspected pistol shots prior to the Guard gunfire, the FBI examiners suspect – but again say they are not certain – they are door slams, as people entered and left Strubbe's dorm room. The FBI examiners said they heard seven similar thuds over a period of two and a half minutes after the Guard gunfire ended.
Perez's letter notes that a search of the Kent State grounds after the shootings "revealed no ammunition casings that were not attributed to the weapons used by the Guardsmen."
Allen said he compared the four banging sounds on the tape to a database of gunshots recorded from various weapons to determine they were from a .38. The sonic signature of a gunshot is distinctly different than that of a slamming door, he said – "not even close."So where do we go now? While I have long believed that the doors on finding the truth about what happened that day will be closed until everyone involved has been dead for a while and that the best we can do as present day researchers is to ensure that all of our discoveries are carefully preserved for future generations of researchers, others continue to press on.
On the tape, "we did hear doors opening and closing, but not at time of the pistol shots," Allen said. The analyst said he stands by his findings and would testify they are accurate to a "very high degree of scientific certainty."
Canfora said six of the seven surviving shooting victims, along with attorneys, will meet in Kent at next month's May 4 commemoration to discuss and reveal what actions they will take next. Canfora has repeatedly said the survivors don't seek prosecution or punishment of the remaining Guardsmen, but want an apology and an admission of responsibility.Meanwhile, Dennis Kucinich, who had promised hearings on the new Allen analysis in his Judiciary Committee subcommittee in 2011 but could never uphold that pledge after the Democrats lost control of the House, had this to say about the Justice Department's recent conclusions:
"We're considering all of our options," he said, including the possibility of civil lawsuits. "We never expected our efforts with the U.S. Justice Department to be our only avenue in the search for justice. I'm convinced that with further independent analysis of the digital forensic evidence, we'll conclusively soon prove that the Kent State massacre was an intentional slaughter of innocent, unarmed students. I think at some point even the government will have to admit that truth."
The Department of Justice has not answered the key questions before it. Their report only adds further questions. The different analyses of the recording have reached starkly, and in some cases diametrically opposed conclusions about what the tape tells us. One tells us shots were fired before the Guardsmen fired; another tells us that the sound we heard was a door. One tells us there was an audible vocal command; another tells us there was not. One tells us there were no unattributed shell casings found on site; another found a picture in Yale University’s archives of shell casings that did not come from Guardsmen. But none of these major discrepancies was addressed in the letter from Department of Justice.And so we continue to wait for the truth about what happened that sad day forty-two years ago. And we continue to hold Allison Krause, Jeff Miller, Sandy Scheuer and Bill Schroeder in our hearts and thoughts while hoping that no other family will ever again have to go through what their families endured back in 1970.
The letter also failed to indicate any efforts to reconcile the evidence in the recording with any prior statements about the incident made by FBI paid informant, Terry Norman, who was on campus that day and was known to have brandished a gun that might have created the sounds caught in the recording.
That is why I am requesting the full written analysis, complete with methodological detail, of the tape that was conducted by DOJ so that the American people can begin to know the full measure of the evidence.
P.S. For all of those who have asked, on Friday, the 4th, I will be publishing a diary on my experiences at the 40th anniversary event in 2010. Sorry this was so delayed but it was a very emotional day and, for a long time, I just wasn't ready to share it. Anyway, it will be up on Friday.
Laurel Krause just released a letter to President Obama:
Last week my mother Doris Krause urged me to write a personal letter to help you understand the May 4th Kent State Massacre from a mother's perspective, one parent to another. Voicing my reluctance to write again, I said, “I’ve written to President Obama more times than I can count.”
But Mom insisted, “Laurie, I want you to write about our family and how we’re similar to President Obama’s family. Let him know what happened when Allison went to college at Kent State, how she was shot dead protesting the Vietnam War by the National Guard on her campus. How afterwards your dad fought for the rest of his days, for Allison’s death to ‘not be in vain’ and how, even today, we have lost every Kent State battle for truth about Allison’s death.”
My 86 year-old mother, Doris Krause, was born and raised in Lorain, Ohio, growing up during the depression. When she was 20 years old, she married my dad Arthur just as he returned from service in WWII. Art and Doris Krause had two daughters, Allison and me.
In September of 1969, my big sister Allison went away to college. Allison was a smart, beautiful, loving, funny freshman enrolled in the Kent State University Honors College. She was deeply in love with her boyfriend Barry and was popular on campus. Allison had a special quality nearly impossible to describe, a compassionate, gorgeous, full-of-life young woman who seemed to have it all.
On April 23, 1970, our family celebrated Allison’s 19th birthday together in Kent, Ohio, going out for dinner. It was the last time any of us saw Allison alive.
Ten days later, our family life and world were torn apart forever. We heard about trouble at Kent State, then that Allison had been hurt. Frantically we searched for information on Allison but all the Kent phone lines were cut. Hours later we heard that Allison was dead on arrival at the hospital, killed by National Guard bullets.
Mr. President, there were no officials from Allison’s school, the state of Ohio or the National Guard to help us at the hospital when we identified Allison’s body on May 4th. Instead, at the hospital where her body lay still, we heard men with guns mutter to us, “they should have shot more.”
The 10 years following Allison’s murder were filled with lawsuits from the lowest courts in Ohio to the U.S. Supreme Court. I was going to college yet remember the government’s staunch resistance to our lawsuits and the utter unwillingness to share evidence or any reports on what happened to Allison in the May 4th Kent State Massacre. In 1979, the court cases ended with a settlement based on civil rights. http://bit.ly/...
During my family's pursuit of justice for Allison we were constantly hounded by the FBI. Our phones were tapped, threats were made to my father, agents took pictures of us where ever we went. This harassment finally culminated in my father being offered a bribe. In the presence of author Peter Davies, my father was told to name his price for dropping his case, "One million, two million?" It was made clear that the bribe was coming through the Ford Foundation, and if he refused it, his job at Westinghouse and our family's freedom would be in serious jeopardy. My father was furious and obviously turned this down in no uncertain terms, but the threats had a chilling effect on us. Every facet of our lives was ripped apart by Allison's death and the endless harassment by our government.
Since May 4, 1970, the U.S. government has never allowed the Krause family to know the facts or see the evidence related to Allison’s murder on her Kent State campus. The truth at Kent State remained buried until recently in the examination of the Kent State Tape. http://bit.ly/...
The Krause family rejects Attorney General Holder’s refusal to open a proper, impartial, independent investigation into the Murders at Kent State. We agree with Congressman Kucinich on Kent State, demanding the 2012 Department of Justice disclose their full report leading to their decision to close the books on Kent State again. http://1.usa.gov/...
Two years ago, I began phoning the Justice Department about the new evidence found at Kent State, as the statute of limitations never lapsed on Allison’s murder. Mr. President, AG Holder’s Department of Justice refused my calls and kept sending me to the civil rights division even though Allison died at Kent State.
Last week’s Department of Justice letters on Kent State do not mention the loss of life on that campus, continuing this government ploy to deflect murder by pointing to loss of civil rights. A violation of Allison’s civil rights turned into homicide when they fired the bullets that took her away from us. http://1.usa.gov/...
On May 4, 1970, just after noon as students were changing classes and a protest was called, the National Guard shot live ammunition at Kent State students. Our Allison was more than a football field away at 343 feet from the guardsmen that shot her to death. Since then, we have never learned what Allison did wrong to meet such a tragic, violent end. Our original call for ‘Allison’s death to not be in vain’ has been scrubbed from the history of the May 4th Kent State Massacre.
Coming back to what Mom asked me write to you, President Obama, she shared how, “The First Family is almost identical to the Krause family.” If this happened to your family President Obama, how do you think you’d survive this onslaught?
Last week Alison would have celebrated her 61st birthday. With the 42nd anniversary of Kent State approaching on May 4th, we continue to stand for Truth and Justice for Allison. We hope no more American families will bury their young as we did after Allison’s unnecessary and unwarranted death, with zero accountability by the May 4th Kent State Massacre perpetrators.
Please do not allow another Kent State anniversary to pass without truth and justice for Allison Krause and her fellow murdered classmates Jeffrey Miller, Sandy Scheuer and William Schroeder.
No More Kent States,
Kent State Truth Tribunal