Did Paul Landis Really Find a Bullet?
Updated: Sep 18
Paul Landis has become an overnight sensation with a New York Times article, based upon his soon-to-be-published book, that claims he found a bullet on the back seat of the presidential limousine.
This extraordinary claim, coming some sixty years after the assassination, is hard to take seriously.
Landis has changed his story over the years, and he has never publicly talked about his new story. Here is what he said right after the assassination:
Landis remembers two shots and says "I do not recall hearing a third shot."
Again, Landis reports two shots and says nothing about finding a bullet in the limousine.
Landis had another story in 1988. Here are some excerpts from an article in the Columbus Dispatch of November 20, 1988:
He is still saying that there were two shots.
But here is a key paragraph from the same article:
Arriving at the hospital's emergency entrance he remembers "going by the president's convertible and seeing the blood on the seat." And then he saw something else. "I distinctly remember there was a bullet fragment on the seat which I picked up and handed to somebody." He doesn't remember to whom, but he does recall hesitating beforehand, wondering, "Should I grab it, or should I leave it where it is in the car."
Still two shots but now he retrieves a fragment from the back seat and gives it to somebody.
In The Kennedy Detail, Landis puts a Zippo lighter in his pocket, and he puts a bullet fragment on the seat: (page 225 in the Kindle edition)
When Agent Paul Landis helped Mrs. Kennedy out of the car he saw a bullet fragment in the back where the top would be secured. He picked it up and put it on the seat, thinking that if the car were moved, it might be blown off. And then he saw a bloody Zippo lighter with the presidential seal on it. He picked it up and put it in his pocket. He picked up her hat and purse and brought them inside.
There was also this passage: (page 353 in the Kindle edition)
It had taken Paul Landis a long time to get over the trauma of what he’d seen. And it wasn’t until many years later that he was able to admit to himself that what he thought he heard and what he thought he saw in the chaos of those tragic moments had very simple explanations. He had said that one of the shots he heard seemed to have come from somewhere toward the front, but when he thought back with a rational mind, he believed it must have been an echo. It wasn’t a shot from the front: it was the shot fired from behind him, echoing off the overpass directly ahead.
And he had seen a man running up the grassy knoll, away from the street, and with his rational mind he realized that if he had been a bystander and had heard the barrage of gunfire, had seen the president’s head explode, he would have been running away, too. It was a natural human reaction—not evidence of a second shooter. He had made the statements five days after the assassination, still traumatized, and at the time he believed those statements to be true. He wished he had had the presence of mind then that he had now. He realized the effect of his statements, but what could he do now, after all these years? He too had been living with tremendous guilt and grief, on so many levels.
But Landis has no special plans for Friday, the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination.
“I’ll be hanging out at home, probably flipping channels, see what programs are on. There seem to be enough of them,” he said.
And no doubt, many of them will dwell on conspiracy theorists that have insisted Oswald could not have acted alone.
Landis said he understands the need for people to think that something this big had to come from some huge organized, well-planned effort involving several people.
But he doesn’t buy it. As hard as it may be to accept, he said, the president was brought down by one guy with a gun.
“Oswald. Three shots. That was it. He was a creep who got lucky,” Landis said. “Just some nut who, for some reason, everything went his way that day.”
Now, it's three shots, but nothing about finding a bullet and he is adamant that Oswald was the lone gunman.
Gerald Posner believes that is quite possible that Landis's story is true and that might explain how CE399 ended up on a stretcher at Parkland. This would not invalidate the single-bullet theory, if the bullet had actually been found near the front seat.
But the game-changer for me is the 1988 story from Ohio - where Landis said he found a fragment and gave it to someone. That story is far too different from today's story -- where he found a bullet and placed it on a stretcher -- for me to accept his story.
David Von Pein found an article from 1983 in which Landis also spoke about taking a bullet fragment from the limousine: