Man recalls Kent State shootings

David Jacobs
5/1/2005 11:27 pm

Reno resident Richard Hicksted was a Kent State student when four students were shot to death in May 1970. He is shown at his home on Thursday. - David B. Parker/RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL David B. Parker/David B. Parker
Reno resident Richard Hicksted was a Kent State student when four students were shot to death in May 1970. He is shown at his home on Thursday.

Kent State University maintains an extensive electronic archive on the May 4 shootings, including a detailed chronology, answers to frequently asked questions, memorial event details and links to other sites.

For info on the Web, go to:

Like most college students this time of year, Richard Hicksted was busy getting ready for exams on May 4, 1970.

He ended up watching a national tragedy unfold.

Hicksted, now 58 and of Reno, was a senior at Kent State University, where four students were shot to death when National Guard troops opened fire during an anti-Vietnam War protest. Nine others were wounded, with one permanently paralyzed.

The school says there was 13 seconds of rifle fire by a contingent of 28 Ohio National Guardsmen.

Hicksted said he was in the area near where the shooting occurred but got out of harm’s way as ongoing tensions continued to escalate on the northeast Ohio campus.

“All of a sudden tear gas is thrown into the crowds, and then people are picking (up) the tear gas and throwing it back,” he recalled.

Hicksted said that as he started to leave a crowded campus-commons area, he saw guardsman who appeared to have clips in their guns.

“I said, ‘This is not a good place to be. … You know there’s going to be a major problem at this university in 10 minutes.’ Then that’s when everything happened,” Hicksted said.

He learned of the shootings immediately on the radio while on another part of campus. His school year had prematurely ended, his studies and graduation delayed, and he lost his campus job.

Now, 35 years later, Hicksted says “The story I see on television is not what I saw happen exactly. I think it’s a different story.”

“They make it seem like this whole university was in an uproar, and they needed to bring in the National Guard to stop it,” Hicksted said. “I think bringing in the National Guard caused the problem. I think it was wrong.”

“Now being in the position the (Ohio) governor was, I don’t know what I would have done either. What do you do when there’s an (ROTC) building that burns?” he asked.

“With everything that was going on in the country at the time, you don’t know what it is going to escalate into,” said Hicksted, an electronics/technology-related consultant.

He says it’s “hard to believe it’s been 35 years.”

“Anytime I say I’m from Kent State, everybody asks, ‘Were you there?’ ” Hicksted said.

In 1970, at least two events were held at the University of Nevada, Reno to remember the Kent State victims.

Each May 4 on the Kent campus, classes end at noon. Many memorial events take place, as they will Wednesday.

“The kids here today weren’t even born, and they are still very touched by it,” said alumni representative Nancy Schuster. “It is a very quiet, very, very solemn day.”

Copyright © 2005 The Reno Gazette-Journal