Plain Dealer Editorial, Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 13, 2010
New forensic evidence from the infamous May 4, 1970, campus shootings at Kent State University could change history if what sounds like precipitating gunshots and a possible order to “prepare” to fire can be confirmed.
The findings were reported by Plain Dealer science writer John Mangels, based on a high-tech analysis earlier this year of a copy of the original 30-minute reel-to-reel tape of the confrontation. The analysis was commissioned by The Plain Dealer.
The results bear on the question of what made 28 Ohio National Guardsmen resort to lethal force and fire a total of 67 shots on the crowd of students and protesters, killing four people and wounding nine.
Two respected forensic audio scientists in New Jersey carried out the analysis for The Plain Dealer, using declassified Cold War spy technology and other sophisticated means to isolate voice commands and sounds on the tape. The methodology wasn’t possible in 1970. On the other hand, the experts were dealing with a cassette copy, not the original.
That’s why a planned congressional inquiry by the U.S. House Domestic Policy subcommittee should not be derailed — especially not by Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, of Urbana, Ohio, who could become subcommittee chairman next year.
The current Democratic chairman, Cleveland Rep. Dennis Kucinich, is trying to fast-track his inquiry before he loses his leadership position at year’s end. A spokesperson for Jordan said the congressman had made no decision yet about whether the subcommittee would pursue an investigation into the new KSU forensic evidence, should he take the helm.
Jordan, or whichever Republican becomes the committee chairman, should delve into this stubborn mystery. The new discoveries about what might be on the tape have spawned hundreds of questions, but they’ll lead nowhere unless someone looks for more of the answers.