R.I.P.: THE BLACK DOG MAN
By Martin Shackelford

     One of the more persistent myths in Kennedy assassination research
is the idea that someone was perched with a gun behind the concrete
retaining wall on the grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza. This individual has
long been dubbed "The Black Dog Man." It is a misnomer, as we shall see. 
         Like many myths, this one has been exposed in whole or in part
by a variety of independent researchers. The author owes a debt of
gratitude for the work of Robert Cutler, Richard Trask, Bill O'Neil and
Matthew Smith, who provided some of the elements which eventually came
together to create this article. 
         A little after noon on November 22, 1963, secretary Marilyn
Sitzman went down into Dealey Plaza with her boss, Abraham Zapruder. As
they prepared for the filming of the President's motorcade, Ms. Sitzman
saw a young black couple eating their lunch on a bench in front of and
below the pedestal on which she and Mr. Zapruder were standing1. The
location of the bench is indicated in a detail from a chart (Figure 1)
which appears in Richard Trask's comprehensive study of the photographic
evidence2. The bench appears in a film frame3 and in a photo4 which also
shows the paper lunch bags from which the couple had been eating. One was
drinking an orange pop, and one a red pop5. 
        When the shots began, the young woman was standing up, looking
toward Elm Street. She appears, as the image long identified as "The
Black Dog Man," in the  Hugh Betzner and Phil Willis photos. An
enlargement from the Betzner photo, published by Matthew Smith,
definitely looks like a woman6 (Figure 2). The House Select Committee on
Assassinations photo panel found flesh tones in the image7; and it is
clear from good color copies of the 5th Willis photo8 that the flesh
tones of the image are darker than those of most of the other people in
the picture, including Zapruder and Sitzman, approximately the same
distance from the photographer.
         When she stood up, she apparently set her orange pop bottle on
the concrete wall, where it appears, orange tone visible in a good
enlargement, in the third photograph by Jim Towner (Figure 3)9. Sitzman
later recalled seeing the bottle10. Barbara Rowland mentioned police
inspecting a pop bottle there11.
        After the last shot was fired, Sitzman heard the crash of
breaking glass, which was "much louder than the shots were", and the
young couple ran up the steps, last seen heading for the pergola area
behind her12.
        The breaking glass was apparently the red pop bottle, which left
a pool of red pop, later mistaken by some spectators for a red snow
cone13 or a pool of blood14.
        An image often mistakenly cited to bolster the theory of an
assassin in this location is frame 413 of the Zapruder film, which shows
the back of a man's head and a straight image which somewhat resembles a
rifle15 (Figure 4). Also in the image is a bush located just in front of
Zapruder. The image of the "rifle" passes between Zapruder and the leaves
of the bush, indicating it (probably a branch) was closer to Zapruder
than the leaves (similar images, though not as long, appear elsewhere in
the frame, also crossing leaves: Figure 5). On the other hand, leaves
appear between Zapruder and the man's head, indicating the man was beyond
the bush. Robert Cutler has established that the man is probably one of
the three men standing on the knoll steps, visible in the Moorman
photograph and Muchmore film, among others. 
         The preponderance of the witness and photographic evidence,
then, indicates that the figure long referred to as "The Black Dog Man"
was in fact a young black woman, part of the couple having lunch on the
knoll that day. Logic, too, tells us that an assassin is unlikely to have
positioned himself in plain view of Zapruder and Sitzman. In addition,
Sitzman clearly stated that no shots were fired from any location that
close to her16. "Black Dog Man," rest in peace. 
        
1 She reported this to Josiah Thompson, in an 11/29/66 interview; the tr
anscript is cited by Richard Trask, Pictures of the Pain: Photography and
the Assassination of President Kennedy (1994, Yeoman Press, Danvers MA),
pp. 73 (hereafter cited as Trask); full citation is in footnote 4, p.
148.  
2 Trask, p. 56.
3 Trask, p. 76. 
4 Trask, p. 75; on p. 74, he identifies the photo as having been taken by
Johnny Flynn of the Dallas Morning News.
5 Phone conversation 10/16/94 with Bill O'Neil, regarding his 10/25/92
conversation with Marilyn Sitzman in Dealey Plaza during the A.S.K.
Conference (hereafter O'Neil phone). 
6 Matthew Smith, JFK: The Second Plot (1992, Mainstream Publishing
Company, Edinburgh)
7 HSCA v. 4, p. 410.
8 See, for example, p. 24 of Robert J. Groden, The Killing of a President
(1993, Viking Studio, New York) (hereafter Groden). 
9 An excellent enlargement appears on p. 194 of Groden.
10 10/24/94 letter from Bill O'Neil, summarizing his 10/25/92 conversation
with Sitzman (hereafter O'Neil letter). 
11 Warren Commission v. 6, p. 184, cited by Trask, p. 74.
12 Trask, pp. 73-74; O'Neil phone; O'Neil letter. 
13 O'Neil letter. 
14 This was photographer Malcolm Couch's assumption in his Warren
Commission testimony; it is also featured prominently in a chapter in
Unsolved Texas Mysteries by Wallace O Chariton, Charlie Eckhardt and
Kevin R. Young (1991, Wordware Publishing, Texas).
15 For a high resolution color copy, see Groden, p. 195.
16 O'Neil letter: referring to the Badgeman location, about the same
distance, Sitzman stated "the blast of a high-powered rifle would have
blown me off that wall." She did allow, however, that a shot could have
been fired from "farther down, closer to the overpass...or maybe they
were using silencers."