Were Secret Service agents told to stand down?
While many are familiar with the Zapruder film, the footage below is less well known. It shows the Secret Service agent nearest to JFK apparently being told to stand down moments before Kennedy’s assassination in Dealey Plaza 50 years ago today.
As the narrator describes, the clip appears to show Secret Service agent Emory Roberts standing up and ordering Donald Lawton and Clint Hill, the two Secret Service bodyguards on either side of the presidential vehicle, to stand down, therefore preventing them from doing their job as human shields to the president.
The instruction appears to cause confusion inside the follow up car and most noticeably with Lawton himself, who seems perplexed that he has been called off the vehicle.
The narrator makes the point that the behavior seems slapdash and bizarre for an agency that sends an advance team a month prior to any location in order to iron out security procedures.
Analysis suggests that the absence of the bodyguards ensured that whoever was firing at Kennedy was not obstructed and had a clear shot. During a visit to Tampa four days earlier, Lawton was pictured riding on the right rear bumper of the limousine.
During an October 2013 C-Span interview (28:50), Clint Hill, the Secret Service agent seen on the left hand side of JFK’s car (and the one who subsequently ran after the car and reached out to Jackie Kennedy), claimed that Donald Lawton was actually just going off-duty to eat his lunch, and that he told the other agents, “OK you guys, I am going to lunch, have a good trip.”
This explanation hardly seems plausible given the nature of the situation in addition to Lawton’s body language. He clearly shrugs his shoulders and outstretches his arms three times as if baffled at something and asking for answers.
Secret Service agents claimed that it was Kennedy himself who had given an order four days earlier to call off the bodyguards because he wanted to be more accessible to the people, describing the Secret Service agents as “Ivy League Charlatans”. However, Congressman Sam Gibbons, who often rode alongside Kennedy, stated, “I rode with Kennedy every time he rode. I heard no such order.”
What do you think? Does this video represent proof that at least one Secret Service member was in on the plot to kill JFK and ordered a stand down?
For more analysis, see Gerald Blaine and the Kennedy Detail – Was the Secret Service ‘Stood Down’ in Dallas?