From an artile called SECRET SERVICE REPORT 491By Patricia Lambert
As a guest, you are not allowed to view links.
or LoginBonnie Ray Williams — The Chicken Bone Story
Forty minutes after the shots were fired, Deputy Sheriff Luke Mooney discovered the so-called sniper's nest on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. Several tall stacks of boxes were arranged around the southeast corner window concealing it from view on three sides. Inside this enclosure, other boxes were stacked directly in front of the window. Presumably the gunman rested his rifle on this smaller pile of boxes. On the floor in front of the window, Mooney found three spent shell casings. And at the west end of the enclosure, on top of one of the tall stacks of boxes, Mooney saw a partially-eaten chicken bone and a lunch sack.
Four other men were on the sixth floor when Mooney found the sniper's nest: Police officers E.D. Brewer, G. Hill and CA.A. Haygood, and Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig. When Mooney saw the shell casings he yelled out, and the other men responded immediately by going to his location. All of them - Brewer, Hill, Haygood and Craig - later testified that they too saw some portion of the chicken lunch at the same window where the shells were found. In addition, Officer L.A. Montgomery, who arrived on the sixth floor after the shells were found and was one of the two men assigned to guard the scene, testified to seeing the lunch remnants at the sniper's nest.
There is a remarkable unanimity in the statements of these six men. The lunch remnants consisted of at least two chicken bones, an ordinary lunch sack, and a Dr. Pepper bottle. Not all six men saw all of these items, some saw more than others, but no one saw anything differently. They all described what they saw and where they saw it in similar terms.
The similarity of language used to describe the bones is particularly striking. Three of these men gave almost identical descriptions. Mooney said he saw "one partially eaten piece of fried chicken," while Brewer saw "a partially eaten piece of chicken," and Montgomery saw "one piece ... I believe it was partially eaten." Obviously, these men were describing the same chicken bone. This is further supported by the fact that they all saw the bone at the same location: on top of a box. Mooney indicated that the bone and sack were on top of one of the larger stacks of boxes at the west side of the window. This corresponds with the testimony of Gerald Hill, who said the "chicken leg bone" and the sack were "on top of the larger stack of boxes that would have been used for concealment." Montgomery, too, saw a piece of chicken "on a box" (he also noticed another piece on the floor). And Roger Craig, who remembered only the sack, saw it "on top of a box."
Three of these men - Haygood, Brewer and Montgomery - saw the Dr. Pepper bottle, but only Montgomery described its location in any detail. (Montgomery's testimony regarding the location of the bottle as well as the second piece of chicken on the floor deserves great weight since he guarded the scene after the others left, and had greater opportunity to observe the area.) He said that the bottle was "over a little more to the west of that window ... sitting over there by itself." This means that the bottle was separated from the stack of boxes on which the bone and sack rested, that it was on the floor somewhat farther west of the sniper's nest. This may explain why Mooney, Hill and Craig did not see the bottle.
A precise and consistent picture emerges from the testimony of these six witnesses. On top of one of the tall stacks of cartons which formed the west end of the enclosure encircling the sniper's nest was a partially eaten chicken bone and a paper sack; on the floor nearby was another bone; and outside the enclosure and farther to the west was a Dr. Pepper bottle.
Exactly one hour after Deputy Sheriff Mooney discovered the sniper's nest and saw the chicken bone and lunch sack there, Dallas Police Inspector J.H. Sawyer told the Associated Press about the chicken lunch and that wire service, quoting Sawyer, carried the story:
Police found the remains of fried chicken and paper on the fifth floor. Apparently the person had been there quite a while.
This first public reference to the chicken lunch (which incorrectly identified the sniper's nest as being on the fifth floor) occurred one hour and 42 minutes after the assassination. In it, Inspector Sawyer linked the "fried chicken" to the assassin and word flashed around the world that the gunman had eaten fried chicken shortly before killing President Kennedy.
United Press International actually photographed the "Dallas police technician" as he removed part of the lunch from the building. This photograph shows the "police technician" holding two sticks, one protruding into the mouth of a Dr. Pepper bottle and the other attached to a small lunch sack. The caption reads:
A lunch bag and a pop bottle, held here by a Dallas police technician, and three spent shell casings were found by the sixth floor window. The sniper had dined on fried chicken and pop while waiting patiently to shoot the President.
Many other stories appeared in the new media that day describing the gunman's chicken lunch. On November 22, it was generally believed that the chicken lunch belonged to the assassin. The first five witnesses to see the sniper's nest thought so, as did Inspector Sawyer, who first relayed the information to the press. Furthermore, the photograph of the "technician" carefully removing the sack and bottle from the building indicates that the Dallas Police regarded them as significant evidence.
Nevertheless, when the Warren Report was published ten months later, the chicken lunch was dismissed as inconsequential. It was not found at the sniper's nest, the commission decided, but 20 or 30 feet west at the third or fourth set of double windows. Furthermore, according to the Commission, it was left there not by the assassin, but by Bonnie Ray Williams, the same witness who later watched the motorcade from a windows on the fifth floor next to Harold Norman.
In arriving at its conclusions, the Warren Commission relied on two pieces of evidence: (1) the Dallas Police photographs of the sixth floor taken by R.L. Studebaker which show no sack, no bones, and no bottle at the sniper's nest, but do show a sack and a bottle on the floor at the third set of double windows; and (2) the testimony of Bonnie Ray Williams, who claimed he left the sack and bottle on the floor as shown in the Studebaker picture.
The Studebaker Picture
Detective Studebaker testified before the Warren Commission that he took the picture of the chicken lunch "before anything was touched and before it was dusted." The picture shows a Dr. Pepper bottle and a lunch sack on the floor near a two-wheel cart in front of the third set of windows. There are no chicken bones visible in this picture nor in any other picture taken that day. Studebaker explained why. The chicken bones, he told the Commission, "were all inside the sack, wrapped up and put right back in."
By the time Studebaker took this picture, the chicken bones seen at the sniper's nest by Deputy Sheriff Mooney and police officers Brewer, Hill and Montgomery were no longer visible because they were "inside the sack." Also, the sack and bones were no longer atop a box in the southeast corner, but now were on the floor in front of the third set of windows. Studebaker may have taken this picture "before [anything] was dusted," but he certainly did not take it "before anything was touched."
The fact is, no one who saw the chicken lunch that day saw what Studebaker photographed. In addition to the six men who saw the lunch at the sniper's nest, other witnesses arrived on the sixth floor later that afternoon. These later witnesses saw the lunch at various locations, but none of them saw the sack and bottle as photographed. Like Mooney and the others, these men also saw the chicken bones. But unlike the first group of witnesses, each of these men saw the lunch at a different place. Officer Marvin Johnson saw the sack, "remnants of fried chicken" and the bottle at the second set of double windows; Detective E.L. Boyd saw "some chicken bones" and a "lunch sack" on "top of some boxes" at the third set of double windows; and FBI agents Nat Pinkston and J. Doyle Williams, accompanied by an employee of the Depository, William Shelley, viewed the scene after the sack and bottle were removed from the building, and saw the bones along with some wax paper on the floor near the center (i.e., third) window.
The wide variety of these later sightings and their chronology (that is the fact that they all occurred after the initial group saw the lunch at the sniper's nest) suggest that the lunch was removed from its original position and moved about on the sixth floor before it was finally placed on the floor in front of the third set of double windows where it was photographed.
Clearly, the Studebaker picture, supposedly taken before anything was touched on the sixth floor, suffers from a severe credibility problem. During his Warren Commission interview, Studebaker was asked if he saw any chicken bones at the sniper's nest, and he replied that he did not recall any, and if there had been, "it ought to be in one of these pictures ...." There, Studebaker defined the problem.
Not only did the deputities and officers who saw the lunch on November 22 fail to provide testimony that supported the picture, but the two of them who saw the picture unequivocally rejected it. When Deputy Sheriff Mooney and Officer Montgomery were shown the Studebaker picture, both of them told the Warren Commission that they did not remember the scene it depicted. And Montgomery, after looking at the picture, continued to insist that there were chicken bones "over here around where the hulls were found ... I know there was one piece laying up on top of the box there."
[Dallas Police] Lieutenant J.C. Day, who also took photographs of the sixth floor that afternoon, arrived on the scene with Studebaker and was his immediate superior. Day is the only one of these later witnesses who provided any support for Studebaker's picture. He is the only one of this group, except Studebaker, who did not see the chicken bones outside the sack. Also, he recalled seeing the lunch sack and pop bottle at the third set of windows. However, when he was shown the picture, he was unable to locate th sack and commented that it didn't show in the picture. He then stated that he didn't remember where the sack was located.
Day's failure to see the sack in the picture is understandable. As shown, the sack is practically hidden from sight. It is on the floor at the east end of of a two-wheel cart between the cart and a stack of boxes. A sack in that position would have been difficult to spot on November 22. Certainly no sack in that location could have been confused with one on top of a box in the southeast corner, 20 or 30 feet to the east.
If the chicken bones were inside the sack as Studebaker claims and as his picture indicates, none of the people on the sixth floor that day would have seen them. But six of them did: three from the first group at the scene, and three who arrived later. The only explanation for this contradiction is that the bones were outside initially and were put inside the sack before the picture was taken. Since the bones were obviously moved from outside the sack to inside, it is hardly unreasonable to suggest that the entire lunch was then moved from one location to another, from the sniper's nest to the third set of double windows before being photographed.
The question that remains is why this was done. A police affidavit contained in the 26 volumes of Commission Hearings and Exhibits provides the motive. Sometime on November 22, Wesley Frazier, the man who drove Oswald to work that Friday morning, signed a sworn statement which included the following information:
Lee (Oswald) did not carry his lunch today. He told me this morning he was going to buy his lunch today.
This statement, made the day of the assassination, established that the remnants of a chicken lunch found at the sniper's nest were not Oswald's. This meant someone else ate his lunch there, and the bones, sack and bottle were evidence of that fact. Once it was known that Oswald did not bring his lunch to work that day, the chicken lunch became an impediment to the theory that Oswald, acting alone, fired the fatal shots from the southeast corner window of the sixth floor. Consequently, the chicken bones, lunch sack and Dr. Pepper bottle were moved away from the alleged sniper's nest in order to disassociate them from the gunman.
The Chicken "Sandwich"
Two weeks after the assassination, the Secret Service found a witness to support the Studebaker picture. Bonnie Ray Williams was interviewed on November 23 by the FBI, but not until he was interviewed by the Secret Service in December did he lay claim to the chicken lunch found on the sixth floor.
The day after the assassination, Williams was interviewed by the FBI and gave a detailed account of his movements on November 22:
At approximately 12 noon, Williams went back upstairs ... to the 6th floor with his lunch. He stayed on that floor only about three minutes, and seeing no one there, descended to the fifth floor ....
Here Williams described a brief three-minute trip to the sixth floor. There is no suggestion in this FBI report (1) that he at his lunch on the sixth floor; (2) that his lunch contained chicken bones; or (3) that he left anything behind on the sixth floor. Williams' entire chicken bone story materialized in December when he was interviewed by the Secret Service.
SS491 summarizes Williams' statement in part as follows:
After Williams picked up his lunch on the first floor he returned to the sixth floor and sat near the windows in the center of the building overlooking Elm Street and ate his lunch. Included in his lunch was a chicken sandwich and Williams claims that there were some chicken bones in the sandwich and he left them on the floor at the time he ate. He also left an empty Dr. Pepper bottle at the same location. He drank the Dr. Pepper with his lunch.
Williams ... went to the fifth floor ... prior to 12:15 p.m.
Williams' three-minute trip to the sixth floor, which he described to the FBI the day after the assassination, expended here to 15 minutes during which he at his curious "chicken sandwich" and left the bones behind.
Williams' Secret Service story is not only late-blooming but, like Norman's, it conflicts with his earlier statement to the FBI. This December testimony is the final solution to the problem posed by the chicken bones. It is an important solution, however, one that fails to explain the most credible evidence, the testimony of those who saw the chicken bones at the sniper's nest. On the contrary, it is a story that corroborates the Studebaker picture, the only testimony to do so, and that alone is cause for skepticism.
Three months later, when Williams testified before the Warren Commission, he improved his story somewhat. He included the two-wheel cart (shown in the Studebaker picture), claiming he sat on it while eating his "sandwich." And he added a sack, saying he put the bones back inside before he "threw the sack down."
To his credit, Williams' reluctance to associate himself with the chicken bones is apparent in his refusal to call his lunch "fried chicken." He repeatedly referred to it as a "chicken sandwich." This "sandwich" prompted the following exchange between Williams and Commission attorney Ball:
WILLIAMS: I had a chicken sandwich.
BALL: Describe the sandwich. What did it have in it besides chicken?
WILLIAMS: Well, it just had chicken in it. Chicken on the bone.
BALL: Chicken on the bone?
BALL: The chicken was not boned?
WILLIAMS: It was just chicken on the bone. Just plain old chicken.
BALL: Did it have bread around it?
WILLIAMS: Yes it did.
Understandably, Ball had difficulty visualizing a chicken sandwich with bones in it. That was Williams' story, however, and Ball resolved the problem by suggesting that Williams' "chicken on the bone" had bread around it. This conjured up a strange culinary image but it permitted Williams to have his "sandwich" and the Commission to have an explanation for the bones found on the sixth floor.
There is no doubt about the function of Williams' testimony. As first outlined in the December report, the message imparted was clear: the bones found on the sixth floor which received so much early publicity were not found at the sniper's nest as first reported, but at a totally different windows, well removed from the southeast corner, and they were not left there by the assassin, but by Bonnie Ray Williams.
This story, secured by the Secret Service ten days after the assassination and passed on to the staff of the Warren Commission, determined the course of the inquiry regarding the chicken lunch. By providing this innocent explanation early in the investigation, the Secret Service precluded the exploration of other possibilities which might have yielded quite a different story. Certainly if someone other than Oswald ate his lunch at the sniper's nest, and that person was there when the shots were fired or shortly before, that information would have had an impact on the Commission's investigation. There is evidence that such a person was seen at the sniper's nest.
A witness outside the building, Arnold Rowland, testified that he saw an elderly Negro at the window of the sniper's nest five or six minutes before the shooting. In addition, there is other evidence that another witness, Amos Euins, moments after the shooting, said the man at the sniper's nest was black. (Euins later said he could not say whether the man was black or white.) The Warren Report explains that while Rowland was not regarded as a credible witness, his assertion about the elderly Negro at the sniper's nest was investigated. This investigation consisted of interviews with certain employees of the Depository which determined that the only two men who might fit Rowland's description were on the first floor "before and during the assassination.
A more vigorous inquiry might have been conducted if the Commission, in addition to investigating Rowland's clam, had been actively seeking an explanation for the presence of chicken bones found at the sniper's nest. The chicken lunch would have given Rowland's allegation more substance and additional steps might have been taken. For instance, the Commission could have made an effort for Rowland to identify the Negro he saw from among the employees of the building. Also, fingerprints on both the lunch sack and the bottle could have been checked against those of the employees. Since the chicken lunch was dismissed early in the Commission's investigation, it was not associated with Rowland's testimony, and only a superficial effort was made to identify the man Rowland claimed he saw at the sniper's nest only minutes before the shooting.
The Warren Commission's attitude toward the lunch remnants was determined early in December when the Commission's inquiry was just beginning. The testimony in SS491 indicated to the Commission staff that the lunch was totally unrelated to both the sniper's nest and to the assassin. This position is challenged by the testimony of the Deputy Sheriff who found the shells, and four other law enforcement officers present on the sixth floor at the time, as well as by the testimony of the officer who guarded the sniper's nest. Unfortunately, these men all testified late in the investigation, long after the Secret Service interview with Williams had steered the Commission's inquiry away from the chicken lunch.