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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.
When testifying, Brennan identified himself as a 45-year-old steamfitter. In his testimony he spoke about how he 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 Texas School Book Depository Building. He arrived at about 12:22 p.m., and while waiting for the motorcade, Brennan observed the others in the crowd. He watched several people in and around the Texas School Book Depository and made special note of a man he saw 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."
During his testimony Brennan stated that he watched the parade as the presidential limousine turned the corner at Houston and Elm and headed toward the railroad underpass. Brennan heard a loud noise that he “positively thought was a backfire” just after the president had passed his location.
|“||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,“I could see the large red brick building across the street from where I was sitting. I take this building across the street to be about 7 stories anyway in the east end of the building and the second row of windows from the top I saw a man in this window. I had seen him before the President’s car arrived. He was just sitting up there looking down apparantly [sic] waiting for the same thing I was to see the President. I did not notice anything unusual about this man. He was a white man in his early 30’s, slender, nice looking, slender and would weigh about 165 to 175 pounds. He had on light colored clothing but definately [sic] not a suit. I proceeded to watch the President’s car … I heard what I thought was a back fire … I looked up at the building. I then saw this man I have described in the window and he was taking aim with a high powered rifle. I could see all of the barrel of the gun. I do not know if it had a scope on it or not. I was looking at the man in this window at the time of the last explosion. Then this man let the gun down to his side and stepped down out of sight. He did not seem to be in any hurry. I could see this man from about his belt up. There was nothing unusual about him at all in appearance. I believe that I could identify this man if I ever saw him again."
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. At about 1:10 p.m., 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. After the Tippit shooting, a description of Oswald came out, it was noticed that the description of the man who shot the police officer was very similar to the description given after the president was shot. After the shooting Oswald fled and was later captured in a nearby movie theater. 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. A few hours prior to seeing the line-up, Brennan had observed a picture of Oswald on television. Brennan attributed this to part of the reason he felt he could not make a positive identification, he did not want the image to have impacted his decision. 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. During the extensive questioning, Brennan stated 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.
In June 1967, the Associated Press released a 15 page report, prepared by journalists Bernard Gavzer and Sid Moody, that summarized the news agency's six-month investigation supporting the Warren Commission's findings; the report also addressed some of the allegations of its critics and accused them of building their cases upon deliberate omissions. Gavzer and Moody wrote that Warren Commission critics attempted to weaken the case for a shooter in the Texas School Book Depository by attempting to weaken Brennan's testimony, then discussed specific charges leveled by authors Edward Jay Epstein and Mark Lane. Indicating that Epstein wrote that Warren Commission attorney Joseph Ball told him that he was "extremely dubious" about Brennan's testimony and that Brennan was unable to discern a figure in the building's sixth floor window, Gavzer and Moody quoted Ball denying that he had made those statements about Brennan. They also noted that Lane wrote about Brennan's statement to the Commission that he had poor eyesight, but that Lane did not mention that Brennan testified he was farsighted at the time of the assassination nor did he emphasize that the vision loss Brennan sustained occurred two months after the assassination.
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.
- "Chapter 4: The Assassin". Report of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. 1964. pp. 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.
- Warren Commission Hearings, Volume III. AARC, 2014, 144
- Testimony of Howard L. Brennan, Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 3, p. 142–143.
- "Who Saw Oswald in the Sixth-Floor Window? : The JFK Assassination".
- Report of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Chapter 4 1964, p. 144.
- The Dallas Police Radio Transmissions of November 22, 1963, edited by Russ Shearer, version 3.0, Feb. 24, 1995.
- Testimony of Howard L. Brennan, Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 3, p. 147.
- Testimony of Forrest V. Sorrels, vol. 7, p. 354–355.
- 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.
- FBI Report, Dec. 18, 1963, Gemberling Report, Commission Document 205, p. 289
- 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.
- Report of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Chapter 4 1964, pp. 145-146.
- Thomas, Wayne (June 25, 1967). "AP Completes Study of JFK Death; Backs Warren Findings". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 2, 2015.
- Gavzer, Bernard; Moody, Sid (June 25, 1967). "The Lingering Shadow: Warren Report Critics—Have They Made a Case?". Section F: Special Report. Eugene Register-Guard. Eugene, Oregon. AP. p. 4F. Retrieved July 2, 2015.
- "AARC Public Digital Library - HSCA Hearings - Volume II, pg". ASSASSINATION ARCHIVES.