Terry Norman acted like an agent provocateur on May 4, 1970. In the minutes before the Ohio National Guardsmen fired into the crowd of Kent State students, Norman was positioned in between the troops and the protesters--and threw rocks at the students.
This incident was witnessed by at least three people. Former student Tom Masterson told the Akron Beacon Journal that Norman threw as many as "a half a dozen, a dozen" rocks at the students. Ohio National Guard Sergeant Dennis Breckenridge reported he also saw Norman throw something into the crowd, although he thought it was a "baseball-type gas grenade." And John Martin, the captain of the Guard's 145th Infantry Battalion, Company A, also kept an eye on Norman. In a report to his superior offices, Martin wrote that he witnessed Norman's rock throwing and that he asked himself at the time: "What is this idiot doing?"
Norman himself admitted that he threw a few rocks, and it easy to understand why theorists might jump to the conclusion that Norman followed up his rock-throwing by subsequently firing a pistol he kept concealed in a shoulder holster beneath a tan sports jacket. He was the only non-military and non-law enforcement person on campus known to have been armed with a pistol. And the Guard had initially claimed a single shot from an unknown origin provoked the Guardsmen to return fire. However, the evidence simply does not support this conclusion. Not a single witness has claimed that to have seen the Guardsmen fire immediately following anything Norman did. Not a single Ohio National Guardsman who was on Blanket Hill that day tried to pin the blame on Norman, and they certainly would have had ample reason to deflect responsibility for their own shootings.
This is what the "Terry-Norman-started-the-shootings" theater argue: that he fired a bullet that caused the Guardsmen to turn in the opposite direction (not at Norman) and fire directly into the crowd of students. Ignoring, for the moment, this faulty logic, we have also known for 33 years that the most reliable evidence of what happened points away from him.
We have known ever since the 1975 what the results of a professional analysis of a tape recording of the shootings. This analysis, conducted by the Cambridge, Massachusetts firm of Bolt, Berenek & Newman, the same firm that analyzed the 18 1/2 minute infamous gap in the Watergate tapes, was entered into evidence during the 1975 wrongful death and injury trials. The analysis of the tape recording concluded there were three distinct shots fired before the main volley (not one), and that all three were fired by National Guard-issued M-1 rifles. That ruled out the possibility that the main volley followed the firing of the .38 caliber pistol university police later confiscated from Norman. In other words, Terry Norman did not trigger the Kent State shootings.
Theorists trying to pin the blame for the shootings on Norman conveniently pretend the strongest evidence exonerating him does not exist. Nor have they demonstrated they have any new evidence which might justify an official re-examination. What they are doing is grasping at straws in an effort to explain a mystery that has stumped almost every investigator who has examined it.
Arthur Krause, the father of slain student Allison Krause, used to warn reporters that Norman was a red herring and that he only served the purpose of distracting people from the more important question of why the soldiers killed his daughter and three others on May 4, 1970.
William A. Gordon (KSU) is the author of "Four Dead in Ohio: Was There a Conspiracy at Kent State" (http://members.aol.com/nrbooks/newinfo.htm).