October 9th, 2010
10:26 PM ET

Paper: Gunfire, tussle heard before Kent State shootings

A commotion and several shots from a pistol preceded the iconic Kent State University shootings that took place 40 years ago, analysis of an audio recording shows, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The new findings shed light - and raise new questions - on what caused the Ohio National Guard to open fire on anti-war demonstrators on May 4, 1970, in Kent, Ohio.

The events heard on the tape take place about 70 seconds before guardsmen begin firing, killing four students and wounding nine others in an event widely seen as a tipping point for American sentiment against the Vietnam War. The recording was found three years ago in library archives.

On the tape, a voice can be heard saying, "They got somebody," the newspaper reports.

"Kill him!" at least two male voices shout several times, the paper says.

"Whack that [expletive]!" or "Hit that [expletive]!" a female voice shouts, according to the Plain Dealer.

The audio seems consistent with eyewitness and news reports that an armed Kent State student identified as Terry Norman was involved in some sort of tussle. Norman was on the scene shooting photographs of protesters for the FBI.  He reportedly had been threatened by protesters on other occasions.

According to a forensic audio expert, four gunshots that match the sound of a .38-caliber revolver can be heard plainly, the newspaper reports.

While Norman has admitted to carrying a loaded .38-caliber revolver that day, the newspaper reports, there has been a decades-long dispute over when he discharged the pistol, before or after the guardsmen fired - or whether he even fired the weapon that day at all.

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Filed under: History • Military • Ohio • Protest • War
soundoff (174 Responses)
  1. Stan Drummond

    Deliberate Provocation??

    October 10, 2010 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
  2. hampton wickstosh

    how dare the university build an their gym addition on hallowed ground, forever forbiding future generations the ability to truly appreciate the gravity of that fateful days events. thankfully a handfully of true patriots continue to work dilligently to ensure we never forget or move on.

    October 10, 2010 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
  3. KeithTexas

    Four students killed at Kent State did what the deaths of 58,000 soldiers and 300,000 wounded in Vietnam couldn't do. It finally stopped the useless war in Viet Nam. I don't care how it happened, history is full of lies and obfuscations, all I care about are the results. If their sacrifice stopped the war then their lives were of more value dead than alive.

    October 10, 2010 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
  4. phil

    So a man working for the FBI did shoot those students. The eyewitness accounts of Norman shooting his gun 4 times are true. The police officer who initially reported Norman's gun had been fired 4 times, and later retracted that statement, is now exposed. How many years before the forensic evidence surrounding 9/11 is reported like this?

    October 10, 2010 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  5. NoWay

    Just what is expected when the NG is sent in to quell a riot? Sit down and drink pink lemonade?

    October 10, 2010 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
  6. Mark

    I was just a young lad of 16 when this happened. To this day I can't imagine what is going thru the minds of the National "Guardsmen". What must they think justified their means? One must not only think of what a total mess we have ourselved in right now but the travesty that we were engaged in. Iraq/Afghanistan=Viet Nam. Simple as that.....

    October 10, 2010 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  7. jack


    October 10, 2010 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  8. phil

    Did you guy's even read the article? It was a man employed by the FBI, Norman, NOT the National Guard who killed those students.

    October 10, 2010 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  9. bama

    We will never know what really happened, unless someone sets up to the plate.

    October 10, 2010 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
  10. GinnyL

    First, those of you who are comparing Kent State to the German Nazis' atrocities and the government's actions at Tiananmen Square are truly unaware of history. Nazis killed MILLIONS of people, with the implicit acceptance of the German population, and Tiananmen Square resulted in the death of AT LEAST 400 to 800 dissidents. One should not underplay the ripple effect of Kent State but it was not on the scale of the previously mentioned atrocities, which should never be compared to Kent State.

    Secondly, many protesters were not the peace loving people depicted in many posts. A small number of them moved from campus to campus leading protests. (One was later convicted of trying to kill his mother.) Throwing projectiles, including rocks, at counter protesters, National Guard members, and policemen was not that unusual. And let me give me one small example of their "strong" convictions against the war. My college roommate and I would go to parties and compete on how quickly we could turn a person who was supposedly against the Vietnam war into one who supported it. We found only one that stuck to his guns. The rest slowly turned from "against" to "for" the war as we presented our "arguments." Many protests had low turnouts until the media showed up and, as the media left, so did the protesters. Lot of dedication there! While this will never support what happened at Kent State, it does put the peace movement in a different light.

    And thirdly, many "peace loving" people would wait outside the military bases when they learned a transport plane from Vietnam was landing. As the soldiers, many who had not wanted to go to Vietnam in the first place, would exit the base, tomatoes, eggs, rotten lettuce and other objects would pepper them. One of the extremely rare times I saw my husband cry was when he watched the hoopla surrounding the return of our Gulf wars soldiers returning, comparing it to his return from Vietnam. But he always said that among his roles as a soldier was to defend the rights of any person in the United States to peacefully voice their opinions.

    So while we should definitely remember what happened at Kent State, let's try to put the picture in the broader light as well.

    October 10, 2010 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  11. Cobra

    Thanks to all the radical hippies back then for creating the drug culture and spreading std`s,real contribution to America,lol.–Boomer generation ha!

    October 10, 2010 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. phil

    Modern forensics reveals the truth. FBI's Norman was identified back then as the man who murdered four students with his .38 handgun. Eyewitnesses told police it was Norman, and the police officer who took Norman's gun reported that it had been fired, and four chambers were empty. (he later retracted) So applied forensics lead to the truth, finally, in this case. Now let's apply those same forensic techniques to 9/11 and make them pubic. Oops! That's already been done by the 300 or so investigators hired by Congress to investigate Yet few of US are aware, and TV doesn't mention the volumes of forensic evidence they found. Maybe in forty years the 9/11 forensic evidence will be widely known.

    October 10, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Marines123

    Can we move on? President Kennedy was hit by a majic bullet also! Went in and out of his body at least three times! Yeah right! Sarcastic..

    October 10, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  14. okay

    Love the headline..aren't gunshots usually heard before a shooting ?

    October 10, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  15. phil

    @DC born....neither myself not the news reported guardsmen "only hit four" as you claim. Forensics have now proved beyond doubt that it was FBI man Norman who murdered those students. Now apply forencics to 9/11 and speak out or shut the hello up.

    October 10, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
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