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MendoCoastCurrent, August 12, 2010

This last weekend on August 7 and 8, the Kent State Truth Tribunal (KSTT) traveled to San Francisco to record and preserve narratives from west coast-based original witnesses to and participants in the 1970 Kent State shootings.

My sister Allison Krause was one of the four students killed at Kent State and our tribunal has provided an opportunity for me to follow in my father Arthur Krause’s footsteps and discover the truth for my family. My father, who for over ten years fought for justice in the courts, would add, “and not let our government get away with murder at Kent State”.

Throughout our recording sessions with the KSTT, I have felt the presence of Allison and my dad and I wanted to share him with you in this photograph, taken in 1975 at a candlelit memorial on the 5th anniversary of Allison’s death. After we lost Allison, Arthur Krause made it his business—until the end of his life—to get the truth out about Kent State and this year I feel he is joining our call for truth at Kent State in 2010.

Our second KSTT session in San Francisco (our first was this year at the 40th anniversary of the shootings, in Ohio in May) enabled us to see, hear and record critical details and first-hand observations. Our west coast participants, coming from vastly different walks of life, gave testimonials that provided greater insight and detail into the lead up to the Kent State shootings, the shootings themselves and the events that followed. A clearer picture is beginning to emerge about the 67 shots fired over 13 seconds by the national guard at unarmed students protesting the U.S. expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia at Kent State University in Ohio on May 4th 1970.

For the first time at the KSTT, we heard from participants with military training and background shine a light on the mechanics of the shootings at Kent State and the factors that came together to create this egregious military action.

Take a look around today and you’ll see that the lessons learned 40 years ago had a pronounced effect in silencing a generation. Despite the perspective we now have as a nation that the Vietnam War cost us dearly, the spirit of protest has only diminished over the past four decades. I think back on the passion and social consciousness of my peers and the older kids I admired when Allison was at Kent and I can see how badly scarred this feisty, compassionate sixties generation eventually became. Pulling out weapons set aside to defend America and turning them on its children betrayed for many some of the basic social contracts we all took for granted. I believe those wounds have still not healed and continue to plague this country.

We learned about live ammunition and training procedures from a former member of the Ohio National Guard, stationed in the same shooting troop deployed to Kent State. This brave Guardsman from the sixties reported on the use of steel-jacketed, armor-piercing bullets—bullets designed to be used against tanks and structures. These deadly bullets were deployed against Kent State students that day, shooting into a peaceful assembly of unarmed 19- and 20-year-old college kids as they changed classes during lunch time and attended a peace rally on that Ohio spring day.

Howard Ruffner, a student at Kent State and a stringer for Life Magazine at the time of the shootings, arrived at KSTT-SF with a huge stack of photographs he took on May 4, 1970. As an independent observer that weekend, Howard told us he photographed whatever he found—chronicling the exact movements before, during and after the shootings.

Howard shared, “The worst thing that happened to the guard from my perspective is: they were being yelled at and given the finger. It’s hard to understand what would cause people, close to their age, to turn and fire at people, and willingly do so.”

He shared with us his firm belief that the shootings were planned and intentional. “I have no idea what caused that first shot unless it was a planned activity because they got to a marked place, there’s a dirt path between that corner [of Taylor Hall] and the pagoda,” Ruffner told us. “You wouldn’t even have to give an order if you wanted to make a plan, because it’s right there. You get to that place, turn, shoot.”

Ruffner went on to describe how he believed the Kent State students were specifically targeted by the national guard. “It had to be a planned event because of the soldiers turn[ed] in unison. The firing of the weapons and so many shots in such a very short period of time. The fact that they could turn and have specific targets in mind when they got to the top… Some of the guardsmen turned and looked back on occasion on the way up the hill so that by the time they got to that high point they knew who they were going to shoot at.”

Gail Ewing, the first Ohio National Guard to participate, bravely offered his experience from 1964-67, with the same unit involved in the shootings at Kent State 1970.

Sharing chilling, military detail Ewing commented, “We had no training for riot control. I was sent to Cleveland for the riots in 1966 and we were given tear gas grenades and live ammunition and put on guard duty with no instruction on when to load your weapon or when to use tear gas. They just passed it out and put us on guard duty.” This is not unlike the behavior of the Ohio National Guard troop on Blanket Hill at Kent on May 4th.

Ewing added, “In terms of the decision-making, that order of live ammunition probably came from higher than local company commanders, it was at the state level or maybe even federal level,” confirming that government officials were directly involved in the killings at Kent State.

Linda Seeley, an activist witness to the events of May 4th, provided a heartfelt look into the elements of fear utilized that day. Here’s her take on the aftermath of Kent State, “The idea that these people could get away with cold-blooded murder in the face of witnesses—hundreds, thousands of witnesses—and never have justice done, only have the innocent being[s] accused [as] perpetrators and only have the witnesses live in fear… There’s a key here to looking at ourselves as a society and what we can do, not only realizing what [we] can do, the power, but realizing how long a wound lasts.”

We’re still processing all of this new information and insight from the narratives we recorded and preserved in San Francisco, and I invite you to take a look at our findings to discover the truth for yourselves.

This image of Arthur Krause was forwarded to me just this morning. Seeing my dad gives inspires me to pursue our right to know the truth and fight for justice at Kent State.

I’m also drawn to a recent comment from a facebook friend on the relevance of what we may learn from Kent State:

Freedom of speech and the right of assembly must be protected. The ability of the government to preserve order is a necessity in a civilized nation. These two elements must be balanced, but it is incumbent on those who are armed to ensure that ONLY those who cannot otherwise be prevented from harming others be subject to potentially lethal violence.

Our San Francisco event also brought Lester Chambers of the Chambers Brothers to ‘share his truth’ on Kent State as his recording of ‘Time Has Come Today’ was at the top of the charts when the Kent State shootings happened. For us, he performed ‘People Get Ready’, expressing his wish to amend the words of this song to: “People get ready there’s a CHANGE a’coming!” Please listen and get ready for the change a’coming!

The Kent State Truth Tribunal, please visit www.truthtribunal.org

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Editor’s Note: To learn more about the Kent State Truth Tribunal, please go to www.TruthTribunal.org and to support our efforts.

MendoCoastCurrent, February 2010

Allison wants the Truth Out in 2010, won't you help?Allison Krause was slain at Kent State University on May 4, 1970 by the Ohio National Guard. She was protesting against the VietNam war on her Ohio university campus.

The shots that killed Allison came from the Ohio National Guard that were occupying Kent State University over the first four days of May 1970.

Just before the shots of the Kent State Massacre, the guard turned and marched away from the protesting students. The guard continued up a hill, stopped and then turned in unison. Also in unison, they discharged 13 seconds of 67 armor-piercing bullets from their M1 rifles into a group of unarmed, protesting students, most of them over a football field distance away.

This same troop of guardsmen have continuously claimed that there was not an order to shoot.

Forty years later, everyone involved with Kent State–everyone that has walked this path of horror–knows the truth.

That when the Ohio National Guard marched up the hill and all turned in unison to discharge their weapons in unison…it is evident that it was their intention to shoot as they aimed their weapons at unarmed protesters. Some one made a decision and, as in all military situations, this troop of guardsmen followed orders.

With the advent of findings from a May 7, 2010-reported investigation of the Kent State audio tape by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, new evidence has surfaced to isolate and verify the verbal ‘prepare to fire’ order given by the Ohio National Guard seconds before shooting their weapons.

The trouble is that history does not report the truth at Kent State. And this is the reason for us to gather together for a truth tribunal…to share our stories, personal narratives..to document and honor these truths from all participants.

Allison calls for the national guardsmen to now share their ‘real’ truth at this tribunal. She calls for the truth in 2010!

Allison stood for peace and harmony and she is known for her words, “Flowers are better than bullets.”

This year we all call for the truth to finally be known about what happened at Kent State in 1970!

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The Kent State Truth Tribunal invites your participation, support and tax-deductible, charitable donations. If the Truth at 1970 Kent State matters to you, please join us here.

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Editor’s Note: Since January 1, 2010, we have been working on the Kent State Truth Tribunal, please go to www.TruthTribunal.org to learn more about our efforts to reveal the truth at Kent State in 2010. Thanks!

laurelnallison2On May 4, 2009 I participated in the 39th Annual Kent State University Memorial and gave this talk:

My name is Laurie Krause. I am the sister of Allison Krause, the daughter of Arthur and Doris Krause.

I want to thank you for gathering together today. It’s an honor to be here at Kent State University to participate. I’d also like to thank the student body and May 4th Task Force for inviting me.

I am here to honor people who follow their truths, to respect people who live their ideals, and to focus on the healing of Kent State and our community at large.

39 years ago today, my sister, Allison Krause, was murdered by the Ohio National Guard for protesting and demonstrating against the Vietnam War. Also killed were Jeffrey, Sandra and William, and nine other Kent State students were seriously injured. I’m pleased to see a number of the surviving protesters here today, thank you for being here.

Allison was a freshman at Kent State who was incredibly passionate about life. She was a peace-loving, confident, altruistic, honor-student wanting to get the most out of college, and she was also deeply in love with her boyfriend, Barry.

As my older sister, Allison was someone I looked up to. She was so creative. I still look up to her and continue to be inspired that the whole world may be changed by any real person, like you or me, walking forward with hope and living our ideals and truths.

Let me ask you, today, are you living your truth?

Allison vehemently disagreed with the US government and its involvement in Vietnam so she assembled with many others and protested on Friday, the first of May, not knowing that she was putting her life in jeopardy, yet feeling strongly that the actions committed by our government were wrong.

On that day, a group of 500 students assembled to protest the US invasion of Cambodia. Rallies were planned for Monday to continue protesting the expansion of the Vietnam War.

The Ohio National Guard was sent in on Saturday and Kent State became a war zone overnight. Students were tear gassed and wounded by bayonets during demonstrations taking place over the weekend.

The ROTC building was burned down in retaliation for the students being attacked for expressing their right to protest and assemble.

Press conferences held by Gov. Rhodes called protesters un-American. Rhodes declared a state of emergency, banned any further demonstrations and imposed martial law at Kent. Curfews were set. Students had to run from Guardsmen on campus late at night and Allison ran from them that night. Students couldn’t return to their dorm rooms and were stuck wherever they could find shelter for the night.

Over the following days, the Kent State University campus ignited into one of our country’s worst nightmares.

As tensions heightened over the weekend, Allison called home to my parents to let them know what was happening on campus. My father told Allison to be cautious; he even asked her to back down and not involve herself.

My parents, like most parents, were coming from a place of love for their daughter. They wanted her to be safe.

But Allison was aware of the risks involved. Still, she never considered not protesting against something she was incredibly passionate about. The Vietnam War had just taken a turn for the worse, it was a time when hope for peace was fading.

To Allison, it was an obligation to show dissension to the government invading Cambodia. She made her decision, and we all know the outcome.

That Monday, despite school officials attempting to ban the demonstration by sending out leaflets, more than 2,000 people arrived to protest the government’s actions.

The dispel process began that morning with leaders telling student protestors to go home or be arrested. Students responded to these infringements of rights by throwing rocks. Wearing gas masks, the National Guard used tear gas to exert control over the growing crowds.

After some time with a lot of maneuvering Guardsmen turned in unison and took aim.

The shooting lasted 13 seconds.

Dumdum bullets were used – a type of bullet that’s illegal in warfare – and explodes on impact.

My sister died in Barry’s arms.

Allison’s death symbolizes the importance of our right to protest and speak our truths freely.

The day after the shooting, my father Arthur Krause spoke on television, telling the public how Allison’s death shall not be in vain.

Afterwards, my parents followed their truth through the legal system and in the courts over the next nine years. They sought the truth about Kent State and the reason for the murder of their daughter … going all the way to the US Supreme Court. Their final appeal was settled and the federal government issued a statement of regret.

It’s no secret that my family holds Nixon, Rhodes and the State of Ohio responsible.

Also, with the recently re-discovered audio tape, proof of an order to shoot has been found.

We now know that our government intentionally committed this deadly act against the youth of 1970, calling them ‘bums’ as they protested the Cambodian Invasion.

Triggers were not pulled accidentally at Kent State. What happened was malicious, what happened was irresponsible, what happened was evil.

The shooting was at best, without any forethought, and at worst, with total forethought. Firing on a group of unarmed students, who were simply exercising their First Amendment rights to express dissent with their government was a crime.

What do we do with an order to shoot? What can you do when the government gives permission to use ultimate force, to use deadly force, against its dissenters?

It was the government’s goal to make a defining statement and shut down student protest across the country that day…and they did…for years!

There is no such thing as a true democracy when this happens.

The local, state and federal governments never accepted responsibility for the murder of Allison, Jeffrey, Sandra and William and the injuries sustained by nine others that occurred 39 years ago today.

The people injured in the protests are reminded of it everyday.

The Kent State shooting has changed all of our lives forever, both on the inside and the outside. My family lost its eldest child and were robbed from seeing her blossom in her life past 19 years. I lost my only sister and I miss her each day.

Looking back, did the Kent State protest and killings make a difference?

Well, there was a huge response by Americans.

The Kent State shooting single-handedly created the only nationwide student strike with over 8 million students from high schools to universities speaking out and holding rallies afterward.

And Jackson State also culminated in murderous acts in a similar quest to silence student protest.

We became a nation at war with itself.

But how did we let it get that far? How did this happen?

People will never forget that day at Kent State. Today marks an event that still hits deep for so many of us.

People who were directly involved, people who believe in the Bill of Rights and the freedom to disagree with the government, people who continue to share a vision of harmony and peace for all. We’re all active participants; we are all involved in what happened.

Today is about remembrance, honor, respect and a focal point for a change in the way we handle dissension with governmental actions.

What have we learned? What can we take away from this horrible event?

For starters, we must each take responsibility for what happened so we may learn from the past, to learn from our mistakes.

First, I’m interested in learning more about the re-discovered audio recording from a student’s window ledge during the actual shooting. With new recording and audio technologies, we have revealed that ‘order to shoot.’

The order to shoot has always been a concern. In fact, each and every governmental or military official throughout the legal battle has stated under oath that there was never an order to shoot.

However, I do not accept their words and I ultimately believe they perjured themselves. There is no way the National Guard could march uphill away from the crowd – to turn in unison after reaching the top, and to shoot into the crowd – without premeditated forethought. Their bullets murdered students from over a football field away. There is no way this could ever be accomplished without an order to shoot.  (Click to hear tape.)

Now with this re-discovered tape recording, we finally have proof that an order to shoot was given.

With this tape, it is very much my belief that until the truth is brought to light here, the Kent State Killings will continue to remain an ugly, unknown, unaccounted-for wound.

Case in point, just a little over a week ago Kent State students had another brush with aggressive police action during College Fest, a block party where 60 people were arrested and rubber bullets were shot into the crowd for ‘crowd control.’

People were shot for no reason, arrested for not disbanding, and fires started in the streets.

At an event with no political subtext, we can see how much kindling there already is, waiting for a spark to ignite an explosion of extreme violence. It’s still there!

We’re still seeing the same tension of the Kent State shooting that happened 39 years ago, today. The cause and effect is still active here at Kent State.

Unless we heal these wounds, they shall continue festering.

Instead of focusing on our differences, let’s focus on what brings us together.

Right now, at this point in time, it is critically important that we work together in harmony to benefit all.

We can’t perpetuate this us/them polarization of constant reaction to what’s happening around us anymore. I mean, how’s that working for us? Is that working?

So, how do you heal a community, a nation? Or should I ask, how do we heal ourselves?

Each day as we live our truths, our intentions capture a healing, beautiful, peaceful essence for positive change.

Despite harsh criticism by local residents, even by her own president, Allison and others continued on.

Allison believed in making a difference. Being anti-war and pro-peace and harmony, she was called to action. Although it was not her clear intention, Allison spoke, participated in and died for what she believed in.

The spirit of Allison asks “What are we but what we stand for?”

Don’t hope for a new tomorrow, live it today and live your truth each day. We all make a difference by speaking our truths against all odds.

Through-out my life I looked to my big sister for inspiration. Allison taught me the importance of living a life of intention and truth and I am now consciously and busily speaking my truths.

That is Allison’s message and it not just for me.

I want to close the speech by sharing with you how I have the spirit of Allison in my life as I live on the Northern California coast.

A few years ago under the Bush Administration, a major utility company and the federal government wanted to begin exploring wave energy renewable energy technologies in the Pacific Ocean near where I live.

As it progressed, the administration was very gung-ho on exploring wave technologies with a mentality of ‘throwing technology into the ocean and let’s see what happens!’

In March 2008, I marched for the Mendocino Wave Energy Moratorium, to be a voice for protecting the marine environment, to slow it down for proper environmental research to be conducted and to involve the community in this project.

In 2007 I also began publishing a blog called MendoCoastCurrent. I did this as my personal, political act and operate as the Wave Energy Blogger and an environmental activist now.

Allison showed me that it is my responsibility to live and speak my truth. If I do not agree with what’s happening, it is my right to protest, assemble and voice my concerns.

Since then I’ve encountered quite a few unforeseen obstacles and hostile harassment, yet I still believe that even in the face of opposing forces and arrest, I must fight my good fight…and keep on, keeping on! Allison whispers this in my ear.

Let’s stand up for what is right and best for all. We must protest against injustices and use our voices to speak out when we disagree with what’s happening.

On the Mendocino coast as all looked lost regarding the negative effects of wave energy with mounting environmental concerns regarding this nascent technology in our ocean, President Obama was inaugurated.

Obama and his administration bring us so much good news. They are approaching renewable energy technology from an environmentally-safe perspective along with incorporating community aims and input now. And that massive utility company is following suit.

Environmental concerns in creating safe renewable energy in my community may now be possible!

And I feel Allison smiling!

We must still remain ever vigilant yet I’ve found a great deal of hope and comfort in what I’ve seen these past one hundred days of Obama.

I’m hopeful that we may become more conscious of our use of our precious resources, in using and generating our electricity and in fueling our vehicles.

I’m hopeful that the truth about Kent State will someday be known.

As we learn to speak our truth, even in the face of danger and opposition, we bring change and harmony.

So I ask you…and I ask you for Allison as well…how are you speaking your truth today?

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MendoCoastCurrent, filmed May 1, 2010

LaurelKrauseKSTTKent2010Watch Laurel Krause in her Kent State Truth Tribunal testimonial, May 1, 2010 in this live stream video.
Laurel Krause’s KSTT livestream 5/4/10

[blip.tv ?posts_id=3825457&dest=-1]

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The Plain Dealer Editorial Board, May 12, 2010

Dozens of investigators, from the FBI to the Presidential Commission on Campus Unrest, reviewed the 1970 Kent State University shootings, but none could resolve the central mystery: Why did Ohio National Guardsmen pivot and pull the trigger in lockstep when they fired from the university’s Blanket Hill?

Over the years, there was no concrete evidence that the Guard had orders to fire.

Now there is, thanks to a sophisticated analysis of an amateur recording, according to a remarkable story by Plain Dealer Reporter John Mangels this week.

Gov. Ted Strickland should follow up on these intriguing findings and create a commission to study the tape, incident reports and eyewitness testimony and give a full accounting of that tragic day — not for the courts, but for the sake of the historical record.

Likewise, the U.S. and Ohio attorneys general should consider whether the new audio evidence is sufficient to reopen their inquiries and follow up with attempts to verify the tape’s analysis.

A contentious court case over the shootings, which killed four people and wounded nine, was settled in 1979. Ohio paid $675,000 to victims and survivors. There is no need to reopen it.

And it’s true that some important questions may never be answered. Analysis of the tape, for instance, sheds no light on who might have given the order to fire, or why.

However, if what is heard on the recording can be verified as a command, it could shed light in all of the long-hidden corners of this case for the victims left behind and those still absorbing its lessons.

Already much has been learned from the shootings at Kent State. Law enforcement now uses less lethal methods to control even unruly protesters.

Still, deadly clashes between police and civilians continue to occur in tense, hostile times that are reminiscent of Kent State during the Vietnam War.

New Orleans is reeling from recent, stunning admissions from four police officers who pleaded guilty to covering up a police shooting of innocent, unarmed civilians on the Danziger Bridge after the devastating Hurricane Katrina. Police now say they raced to the bridge because of reports of gunfire nearby, but when they arrived, all they saw were unarmed civilians. A U.S. District judge was right to call the revelations sickening.

It took five years for the truth to come out about Danziger Bridge, for the record to begin to be set straight and for some cops to face justice.

Uncovering the truth about the shootings at Kent State University has taken far longer, but with a new revelation in hand, Gov. Strickland shouldn’t give up on it now. History is worth getting right.

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Watch and learn the truth about 1970 Kent State shootings from the original witnesses and participants recorded at the 40th anniversary in Kent, Ohio.

Kent State Truth Tribunal testimonials

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JOHN MANGELS, Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 8, 2010

Ohio National Guardsmen who fired on students and antiwar protesters at Kent State University on May 4, 1970 were given an order to prepare to shoot, according to a new analysis of a 40-year-old audio tape of the event. “Guard!” says a male voice on the recording, which two forensic audio experts enhanced and evaluated at the request of The Plain Dealer. Several seconds pass. Then, “All right, prepare to fire!”

“Get down!” someone shouts urgently, presumably in the crowd. Finally, “Guard! . . . ” followed two seconds later by a long, booming volley of gunshots. The entire spoken sequence lasts 17 seconds.

The previously undetected command could begin to explain the central mystery of the Kent State tragedy – why 28 Guardsmen pivoted in unison atop Blanket Hill, raised their rifles and pistols and fired 67 times, killing four students and wounding nine others in an act that galvanized sentiment against the Vietnam War. The order indicates that the gunshots were not spontaneous, or in response to sniper fire, as some have suggested over the years.

“I think this is a major development,” said Alan Canfora, one of the wounded, who located a copy of the tape in a library archive in 2007 and has urged that it be professionally reviewed. “There’s been a grave injustice for 40 years because we lacked sufficient evidence to prove what we’ve known all along – that the Ohio National Guard was commanded to kill at Kent State on May 4, 1970.”

“How do you spell bombshell?” said Barry Levine, whose girlfriend Allison Krause was mortally wounded as he tried to pull her behind cover. “That is obviously very significant. The photographic evidence and eyewitness accounts of what took place seemed to suggest everything happened in those last seconds in a coordinated way. This would be the icing on the cake, so to speak.”

The review was done by Stuart Allen and Tom Owen, two nationally respected forensic audio experts with decades of experience working with government and law enforcement agencies and private clients to decipher recorded information.

Allen is president and chief engineer of the Legal Services Group in Plainfield, N.J. Owen is president and CEO of Owl Investigations in Colonia, N.J. They donated their services because of the potential historical significance of the project.

Although they occasionally testify on opposing sides in court cases hinging on audio evidence, Owen and Allen concur on the command’s wording. Both men said they are confident their interpretation is correct, and would testify to its accuracy under oath, if asked.

The original 30-minute reel-to-reel tape was made by Terry Strubbe, a Kent State communications student in 1970 who turned on his recorder and put its microphone in his dorm window overlooking the campus Commons, hoping to document the protest unfolding below.

It is the only known recording to capture the events leading up to the shootings – including a tinny bullhorn announcement that students must leave “for your own safety,” the pop of tear gas canisters and the wracking coughs of people in their path, the raucous protest chants, the drone of helicopters overhead, and the near-constant chiming of the campus victory bell to rally the demonstrators.

Strubbe has kept the original tape in a bank vault, and recently has been working with a colleague to have it analyzed, and to produce a documentary about what the examination reveals.

The Justice Department paid a Massachusetts acoustics firm, Bolt Beranek and Newman Inc., to scrutinize the recording in 1974 in support of the government’s ultimately unsuccessful attempt to prosecute eight Guardsmen for the shootings. That review, led by the company’s chief scientist, James Barger, focused on the gunshot pattern and made no mention of a command readying the soldiers to fire.

Barger still works for the company, now known as BBN Technologies. When told Friday of the new findings, he said via a spokeswoman that in his 1974 review he “did not hear anything like that.”

Someone made a copy of the Strubbe tape in the mid-1970s for use in the civil lawsuits that the shooting victims and their families filed against the Guardsmen and Ohio Gov. James Rhodes, who had sent the reserves to restore order at Kent State.

One of the plaintiffs’ lawyers donated the cassette copy of the Strubbe tape to Yale University’s Kent State archives. Canfora, one of the wounded students, found it while doing research for a book. The Plain Dealer commissioned an analysis of a digitized version of the Yale tape.

Using sophisticated software initially developed for the KGB, the Soviet Union’s national security agency, Allen weeded out extraneous noises – wind blowing across the microphone, and a low rumble from the tape recorder’s motor and drive belt — that obscured voices on the recording.

He isolated individual words, first identifying them by their distinctive, spidery “waveform” traces on a computer screen, then boosting certain characteristics of the sound or slowing the playback to make out what was said. Owen independently corroborated Allen’s work.

For hours on Thursday, first in Allen’s dim, equipment-packed lab in Plainfield and later in Owen’s more spacious, equally high-tech shop in nearby Colonia, the two men pored over the crucial recording segment just before the gunfire. They looped each word, playing it over and over, tweaking various controls and listening intently until they agreed on its meaning.

“That’s clear as a bell,” Owen said at one point as he and Allen replayed the phrase “Prepare to fire” on two large wall-mounted loudspeakers. The two audio engineers didn’t add anything to the recording or fundamentally alter its contents. Instead, they boosted what was present to make it easier to hear. “It’s like putting on eyeglasses,” Owen said.

In addition to the prepare-to-fire command, the segment just before the gunfire contains several curiosities.

• There is a sound fragment milliseconds before the gunfire starts. Allen believes it could be the beginning of the word “Fire!” – just the initial “f” before the sound is overrun by the fusillade. Owen said he can’t tell what the sound is.

• The frequency of the voice giving the command changes as the seconds pass. “I’m hearing a Doppler effect,” Allen said, referring to the familiar pitch change that occurs as a siren passes. “It’s as if he was facing one way and turned another,” Owen said. That’s consistent with eyewitness accounts that the Guardsmen spun around from the direction they had been marching just before they fired.

• The 1974 Bolt Beranek and Newman analysis concluded that the first three gunshots came from M1s, the World War II-vintage rifles carried by most of the Ohio Guardsmen. The M1 is a high-velocity weapon with a high-pitched gunshot sound.

But Allen and Owen said the initial three gunshots sound lower-pitched than the rest of the volley. “It suggests a lot of things, but we’re not certified ballistics examiners,” Owen said. Pistols typically are lower-velocity, lower-pitched weapons. Several Guard officers carried .45 caliber pistols, but the Bolt Beranek and Newman analysis identified .45-caliber fire later in the gunshot sequence, not among the first three shots.

As author William Gordon reported in his exhaustive 1995 book on the Kent State shootings, “Four Dead in Ohio,” several witnesses told the FBI they saw a Guardsman with a pistol fire first, or appear to give a hand signal to initiate the firing. Gordon believes the firing command probably was non-verbal. A few students and Guardsmen claimed at the time that they heard something that sounded like an order to fire, but most of the soldiers who acknowledged using their weapons later testified that they acted spontaneously.

“This is a real game-changer,” Gordon said Saturday of the new analysis. “If the results can be verified, it means the Guardsmen perjured themselves extensively at the trials.”.

Without a known voice sample for comparison, the new analysis cannot answer the question of who issued the prepare-to-fire command.

Nor can it reveal why the order was given. Guardsmen reported being pelted by rocks as they headed up Blanket Hill and some said they feared for their safety, but the closest person in the crowd was 60 feet away and there is nothing on the tape to indicate what prompted the soldiers to reverse course, and for the ready-to-shoot command to go out.

Most of the senior Ohio National Guard officers directly in charge of the troops who fired on May 4, 1970 have since died. Ronald Snyder, a former Guard captain who led a unit that was at the Kent State protest but was not involved in the shootings, said Friday that the prepare-to-fire phrasing on the tape does not seem consistent with how military orders are given.

“I do know commands,” Snyder said. “You would never see anything in training that would say ‘Guard, do this.’ It would be like saying, ‘Army, do this.’ It doesn’t make sense.”

Whether the prepare-to-fire order could lead to new legal action or a re-opened investigation of the Kent State shootings is unclear. A federal judge dismissed the charges against the eight indicted Guardsmen in 1974, saying the government had failed to prove its case. The surviving victims and families of the dead settled their civil lawsuit for $675,000 in 1979, agreeing to drop all future claims against the Guardsmen.

The federal acquittal means the soldiers could not be prosecuted again at the federal level, although a county or state official potentially could seek criminal charges, said Sanford Rosen, one of plaintiffs’ attorneys in the civil lawsuit.

The legal issues would be complex, he said. The presence of a command could give rank-and-file Guardsmen a defense, since they could argue they were following an order.

The command’s significance may be more historical than legal, Rosen said. “At very least, it puts new [focus] on the training and discipline of the Ohio Guard, and provides a lesson of how things should be done correctly when you are faced with civil disorder, particularly when you bring in troops.”

In Pittsburgh, Doris Krause has been waiting 40 years to find out who killed her daughter Allison, and why. Now 84 and widowed, she said Friday the presence of the prepare-to-fire order doesn’t surprise her.

“It had to be,” she said. “There’s no other way they could have turned in unison without a command. There’s no other way they could fire at the same time.”

She is frustrated, though, that the recording can’t identify the person who gave the order. “I wish there was better proof,” Krause said. “We have to find a man with enough courage to admit what happened.

“I’m an old lady,” she said, “and before I leave this earth, I’d like to find out who said what is on that tape.”

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