The Altgens 6 Photograph

Photo taken by Ike Altgens 1.6 seconds after the President reacts to a throat wound

(Above) Altgens 6


After studying all the available evidence and building on the groundbreaking work of Sherry Fiester in her book "Enemy of the Truth, Myths, Forensics and the Kennedy Assassination" I believe that the person responsible for two frontal shots which struck President Kennedy was situated on the "South Knoll". A more accurate description for this spot would be the northern edge of the Terminal Annex Building parking lot facing Dealey Plaza (at the top of the grass slope rising from, and adjacent to, Commerce Street). This parking lot is bordered to the east with a pergola identical to the one on the north of the Plaza and to the west with the railroad which crosses the plaza via a rail overpass (forming the triple road underpass). It is considerably shorter in length than its opposite number behind the stockade fence. This study focuses on the first of those two shots, the one Parkland Doctors described as an entry wound in the throat.

The clue to the origin of the throat shot is hidden in plain sight in one of the most famous photographs taken during the assassination. It was taken by photographer James William "Ike" Altgens known as "Altgens 6". Once again for accuracy, it is in fact Warren Commission Exhibit (WCE) 203. I will examine the clue the photo contains in greater detail as this study progresses. Firstly, some background information. The photograph was taken a little over a second after the first shot struck the President. Altgens was the Associated Press (AP) Dallas Bureau photographer and his assignment that day was to capture a panorama of the city with the Presidential motorcade prominent. He chose the railroad bridge as a vantage point but was moved on by the two uniformed officers stationed there who informed him it was railroad property and only railroad workers were permitted to view from there. whilst strictly true this was lax policing as railroad workers or not, persons on a bridge under which the motorcade would pass were nevertheless a security hazard. Altgens' presence there would not have changed that. The only people that should have been there were the two police officers.

Altgens originally positioned himself on the corner of Main and Houston and, after taking a pre-focused photograph, used the median strip of grass between Elm and Main in the centre of the Plaza to make his way to the next spot he had chosen as a vantage point. His Warren Commission testimony explains:

 

Mr. Altgens: This would put me at approximately this area here, which would be about 15 feet from me at the time he was shot in the head - about 15 feet from the car on the west side of the car - on the side that Mrs. Kennedy was riding in the car. (7H517)

Mr. Altgens: I made one picture at the time I heard a noise that sounded like a firecracker - I did not know it was a shot, but evidently my picture. as I recall, and it was almost simultaneous with the shot - the shot was just a fraction ahead of my picture but not that much - of course - at that time I figured it was nothing more than a firecracker, because from my position down here the sound was not of such volume that it would indicate to me that it was a high velocity rifle. (7H517)

Mr. Altgens: ...After the presidential car moved a little past me I took another picture, now just let me back up a little here - I was prepared to make a picture at the very instant the President was shot. I had refocused to 15 feet because I had pre-focused in that area and I had my camera almost to my eye when it happened and that's as far as I got with my camera. Because, you see, even up to that point I didn't know the president had been shot previously. I still thought that all I heard was fireworks and that they were giving some sort of celebration to the President by popping those fireworks. (7H518)

Without knowing it, Altgens had captured crucial evidence of the origin of the shot he heard and described in this photo - WCE 203 or more famously, Altgens 6


The video that follows is in my opinion one of the most important breakthroughs in the study of the shooting sequence in the half century following the event. With intelligent use of little more than the film itself, New Zealander Ant Davison has rendered the Zapruder film in such a way as to give us a hitherto impossible perspective. By creating a moving diorama, the viewer is able to keep in view objects and people that the original film itself either has both passed or has yet to reach. Whilst this is obviously a construct and inadmissible in a court of law, this is not a court of law. As I will stress throughout this presentation, it is the application of logic and deduction in an attempt to weigh up the balance of probabilities to establish a case beyond reasonable doubt for the origin of the shot that struck Kennedy in the throat. Davison's film may not be admissible but it alerts us to frames of the original film, as well as other evidence, which in themselves would be admissible. For our purposes this rendition allows us to judge the amount of time JFK was behind the Stemmons Freeway sign, calculate when he was hit behind that sign and when Ike Altgens took the photograph which forms the starting point for this hypothesis.


 

(Right) Davison Zapruder Rendition

Ant Davison has created a view of the incident not even visible to Abraham Zapruder himself...yet most probably very similar to that of his secretary Marilyn Sitzman who stood behind him to steady him as he felt unsteady at the height of the abutment he was standing on. My analysis uses this video extensively in calculating distances and timings, as well as using it as a means of judging the speed of progress of the limousine. At this stage I shall use it to establish which Zapruder frame coincides with WCE 203.

Sprague Survey Diagram

(Above)  Robert C. Cutler Survey Map with annotations


Another image which will be used extensively was compiled for early HSCA investigator Richard Sprague by Robert C. Cutler and is a survey map of Dealey Plaza showing the Book Depository at the top - North, with Main Street running East-West. It marks the places of many of the witnesses as well as estimates of vehicles, including the limousine with reference to specific frames of the Zapruder film.

Where was Altgens?

Altgens movements shown on Sprague Diagram.

(Above) Diagram 01 - Altgens' Movements

Note : The references to Zapruder and "Z" Frames will become apparent as we progress.

 

Let us recall where Zapruder said he was in relation to the Presidential Limousine at the time of the throat and head shots. Firstly, it is important to understand that he had originally stood on the corner of Main and Houston, taking photographs there.  After the Limousine passed him he cut across the median strip of grass between Main Street and Elm in order to take further shots. Both are shown on the Sprague survey above. Again, here is his Warren Commission testimony. First his position when taking the photograph he became most famous for, Altgens 6 or WCE 203

 

Mr. Liebeler: How far away was the Presidential car when you took the picture that has been marked as Commission Exhibit 203 - you must have had your camera focused.

Mr. Altgens: Yes, Sir; it was about 30 feet. (7H520)

 

Altgens distance from Limousine at throats and head shots

(Above) Diagram 02 - Limousine Distances from Altgens


The blue dot is the point marked "Ike Altgens" on Diagram 01 showing Altgens' change of location. It is where he said he ended up after crossing the grass between Main and Elm. The Image above has oversized renditions of the limousine superimposed where I believe Altgens shot WCE 203 and was about to shoot his next photograph when the Head Shot occurred, captured as Zapruder frame 313. In the renditions JFK is depicted as the yellow dot, a detail not significant at this stage. I have taken the scale used at the bottom of the original Sprague survey map, tidied up the numbers and used it to draw radii of 15 feet and 30 feet from the point established by Sprague as being where Altgens was stood. Whilst crude, anyone can replicate this by printing the original Sprague survey, noting where it says "Z259" on Elm Street (more later) and measuring the distances using the scale at the foot of the diagram for reference. The point is, as a photographer, Altgens knew distances and had pre-focused his camera for each shot. What he told Liebeler was accurate.

 


 

Next - The First Clue