New evidence surfaces in Kent State shooting

Published May 2, 2007

KENT, Ohio - Survivors of the National Guard shooting that killed four Kent State University students during an antiwar rally released an audiotape Tuesday that they said includes a military order to fire on the demonstrators.

"The evidence speaks for itself, " said Alan Canfora, 58, one of nine students wounded during the 1970 shooting. Four students were killed in the 1970 shooting, which followed several days of protests over the Vietnam War.

Canfora played two versions of the tape - the original and an amplified version - in which he says a Guard officer issues the command, "Right here! Get Set! Point! Fire!"

The tape begins with static in the background and screams from protesters. The word "point" can be heard followed by the sound of shots being fired. There is no indication on the tape of who said the word.

The tape, played to a group of reporters and students at a small university theater, was given to Yale University for its Kent State archives in 1979 by an attorney who represented students in a lawsuit filed against the state over the shooting, Canfora said. He found out about the tape six months ago while researching the shooting.

Canfora said he will turn over copies of the tape to federal and state officials with an appeal to reopen the investigation over how the firing began.

"We're hoping for new investigations and new truths, " he said. "We need truth, we need healing."

After the shooting, the FBI investigated whether an order had been given to fire and said it could only speculate. One theory was that a guardsman panicked or fired intentionally at a student and that others fired when they heard the shot.

After an initial investigation, the case was reopened in 1973 when a grand jury indicted eight guardsmen. They were acquitted of federal civil rights charges the next year.

The reel-to-reel audio recording was made by a student who placed a microphone at a windowsill of his dormitory, Canfora said.

Stan Pottinger, who helped prosecute the guardsmen when he was an assistant attorney general with the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, said Tuesday that he doubts anything was overlooked then.

He said that he could not specifically recall the tape but that audio recordings and film were carefully studied.

Canfora said only a small portion of the tape was reviewed during various investigations.

Joseph Lewis, 55, of Scappoose, Ore., shot in the abdomen and ankle in 1970, joined Canfora at the news conference and said he believes the tape recorded a military command to fire.

"It sure sounds like an order to fire. On that day I did not hear an order to fire. I seem to hear one on this tape, " Lewis said.