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Old tape analyzed in KSU shootings

Survivor hears evidence that case should reopen

By Rick Armon and Carl Chancellor
Akron Beacon Journal staff writers
May 1, 2007

A man who was wounded in the 1970 shootings at Kent State University wants the case to be reopened because of what he says is new information contained in a 37-year-old audio recording.

Alan Canfora, 58, who was shot in the wrist during the incident, said a recording taken by a fellow student May 4, 1970, contains a voice yelling, ``Right here. Get set. Point. Fire.'' The command is given an instant before a 13-second barrage of gunfire, he said.

Canfora, director of the Kent May 4 Center, will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. today at KSU to call on the U.S. Department of Justice to reopen an investigation into the Ohio National Guard's actions that day. He will release copies of the tape.

Four students were killed and nine were wounded when guardsmen opened fire during a Vietnam War protest on campus.

The FBI investigated whether an order had been given to fire and said it could only speculate. One theory was that a guardsman panicked or fired intentionally at a student and others fired when they heard the shot. In all, 67 gunshots were fired.

William A. Gordon, author of Four Dead in Ohio, suspects Canfora's claim may be a hoax and a way to get attention for himself.

``He is always trying to be the center of attention and be in the news,'' Gordon said. ``He's always desperately trying to keep Kent State alive.''

The reel-to-reel tape, the only uninterrupted recording of the gunshots, was made by former Kent State student Terry Strubbe -- who stashed a portable recorder in the window of his dorm room. Telephone messages seeking comment were left for Strubbe.

A spokesman with the Ohio National Guard declined comment.

The tape already has been examined by the Justice Department and was used in wrongful death and injury trials.

Gordon asked why ``all the attorneys who prosecuted or sued the guardsmen did not hear these words, yet the most irresponsible propagandist of the Kent State shootings did?''

``The words Canfora says is on the tape... (are) not corroborated by any of the 540 eyewitness statements obtained by the FBI,'' he added. ``Nor did any of the witnesses at the 1975 wrongful death and injury trial prosecuted by Canfora's lawyers testify to hearing anything remotely similar.''

The Beacon Journal wrote a story about the tape in 2001 and did not mention the alleged order. In that story, Strubbe said he wasn't sure what would happen to the recording.

``It would be difficult for me if something like that happened to one of my kids -- to know that I was listening to one of the shots that killed by child,'' he said at the time. ``I certainly don't want to do something to cause any more grief or harm to some people that have already been through enough. I'm not sure if I want to, you know, profit from something like that.''

Canfora said he discovered about eight months ago that the tape was being stored in an archive at Yale University.

``I called and asked for a copy of the tape,'' he said. ``For $10, they sent me a CD. You can clearly hear the order.''

Only a small portion of the tape was analyzed during the investigations after the shootings, Canfora said, and the section capturing the order was never considered.

He said he plans to send copies to U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan and Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann.

``We are hoping they will open a new investigation so the ultimate truth can be known... Who knows where this could lead,'' Canfora said.