Howard Leslie Brennan (March 20, 1919 – December 22, 1983) was a witness to the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. His description of a sniper he saw was, according to the Warren Commission, probative in reaching the conclusion that the shots came from the sixth floor, southeast corner window of the Texas School Book Depository Building.
Brennan, a 44-year-old steamfitter, watched the presidential motorcade from a concrete retaining wall at the southwest corner of Elm and Houston streets in Dealey Plaza, where he had a clear view of the south side of the Depository Building. He arrived at about 12:23 p.m., and while waiting for the motorcade, he looked up and saw a man appear at an open window at the southeast corner of the sixth floor, 120 feet (37 m) from Brennan, and observed him leave the window "a couple of times."
Brennan watched the Presidential limousine turn left from Houston to Elm at 12:30, where it passed the Depository and headed toward a freeway entrance for modern Interstate 35E. Soon after the President's car passed, he heard an explosion like the backfire of a motorcycle.
|“||Well, then something, just right after this explosion, made me think that it was a firecracker being thrown from the Texas Book Store. And I glanced up. And this man that I saw previous was aiming for his last shot. . . . Well, as it appeared to me he was standing up. and resting against the left window sill, with gun shouldered to his right shoulder, holding the gun with his left hand and taking positive aim and fired his last shot. As I calculate a couple of seconds. He drew the gun back from the window as though he was drawing it back to his side and maybe paused for another second as though to assure himself that he hit his mark, and then he disappeared.||”|
Brennan quickly reported his observations to police officers, and a description of the suspect was broadcast to all Dallas police at 12:45 p.m., 12:48 p.m., and 12:55 p.m. About a half hour later, Patrolman J. D. Tippit was shot and killed by Lee Harvey Oswald after Tippit spotted him walking along a sidewalk, and stopped to speak to him. Oswald fled and was captured in a nearby movie theater.
A few hours later, Brennan saw Oswald on television. Later the same evening Brennan identified Oswald in a police lineup as the person who most closely resembled the man in the window, but Brennan said he was unable to make a positive identification. On December 17, 1963, he told the FBI that he was sure that Oswald was the rifleman he had seen in the window. Several months later, he also testified to the Warren Commission that at the time of the lineup, he believed the assassination was part of a conspiracy, and he was afraid for the safety of himself and his family. Because Brennan declined to make a positive identification in the police lineup, the commission regarded Brennan's subsequent testimony, that he sincerely believed he saw Oswald, as probative but not conclusive evidence that Oswald was the gunman in the sixth floor window.
Brennan's memoir Eyewitness to History: The Kennedy Assassination as Seen by Howard L. Brennan, written with J. Edward Cherryholmes, was published posthumously in 1987 by Texian Press. (ISBN 0872440761)
- Testimony of Howard L. Brennan, Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 3, p. 143.
- U.S. Census, 1920, State of Oklahoma, County of Marshall, enumeration district 167, p. 3-B, family 51.
- Ancestry.com. Social Security Death Index [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2009.
- Ancestry.com. Texas Death Index, 1903-2000 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2006.
- "Eyewitness Identification of Assassin", Warren Report, p. 143-144.
- Testimony of Howard L. Brennan, Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 3, p. 141.
- Testimony of Howard L. Brennan, Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 3, p. 142.
- Letter from FBI to Commission dated August 3, 1964, re distance from eyewitness Howard Brennan's location, CE 1437, Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 12, p. 846–847.
- Testimony of Howard L. Brennan, Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 3, p. 142–143.
- "Eyewitness Identification of Assassin", Warren Report, p. 144.
- The Dallas Police Radio Transmissions of November 22, 1963, edited by Russ Shearer, version 3.0, Feb. 24, 1995.
- FBI Report, Dec. 18, 1963, Gemberling Report, Commission Document 205, p. 289.
- Testimony of Howard L. Brennan, Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 3, p. 147–148.
- Testimony of Howard L. Brennan, Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 3, p. 147.
- Testimony of Forrest V. Sorrels, vol. 7, p. 354–355.
- Testimony of Howard L. Brennan, Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 3, p. 148.
- Affidavit of Howard Leslie Brennan, May 4, 1964, Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 11, p. 206–207.
- "Eyewitness Identification of Assassin", Warren Report, p. 145–146.
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