What really happened in Dealey Plaza in the West End district of downtown Dallas, Texas, on Nov. 22, 1963? Did Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, fire the bullet from inside the Texas School Book Depository (now known as "The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza") that killed President John F. Kennedy and wounded Governor John Connally? Or did a second assassin fire the fatal shot from the “grassy knoll,” a small, sloping hill inside Dealey Plaza? These questions, which lingered for decades, finally have some definitive answers thanks to the work of forensic scientists who recently reconstructed the crime scene for the NOVA documentary Cold Case JFK.
A portion of the documentary explains how Michael Haag, an independent forensic science consultant specializing in shooting scene reconstructions, and Tony Grissim of Leica Geosystems, a technical advisor for the Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners, used 3D laser scanning to capture millions of highly accurate laser measurements from multiple points in Dealey Plaza and create a 3D virtual model of the plaza. Haag then analyzed the scene virtually from different vantage points surrounding the “grassy knoll” and examined distances and trajectories from those points to the location where President Kennedy was shot. “The 3D laser scan data allows me to look at any shot I want to, including the grassy knoll shot, shots from the sixth floor, missed shots, anything,” Haag said.
“What the laser scanner does is it spins around and it makes millions and millions of laser measurements that are very, very accurate,” Grissim explained, “and the result is it greatly enhances the data collection process at a crime scene.”
The work of Grissim and Haag, combined with virtual skull analysis by noted forensic pathologist Peter Cummings, provides new insights into the events that transpired on that fateful day. Watch the full episode here:
Plus, watch the special bonus material to learn what happened to the mysterious "first bullet" from JFK's assassination - The Shot That Missed:
What does Haag believe were the most ridiculous theories for where the gunshot originated? Listen to Haag’s interview with New Mexico’s 94 Rock.