Joseph Sima: Recorded and Published Testimony for the Historical Archives pertaining to the Tragedy/Shootings on May 4, 1970 at Kent State University – Kent, Ohio

Recorded: October 16, 2007
Interviewer: Craig Simpson

In early January 1969, I was approached by a girl from my high school, who shared a scholarship award with me. For ease of identity we will call her Jan. Jan was noticeably scared. A student that she had seen only a few times had displayed a dangerous tendency. He had taken her on a date to an area outside of Akron and proceeded to remove a handgun from the glove box of his car. He then went to the trunk and pulled out a rifle. His concept of the date, included discharging the weapons in an area that no doubt was prohibitive, not to mention that the law in the state of Ohio also forbid the carrying of concealed weapons/handguns. (especially minors) at the time. She told me that he worked for the Brookes Detective Agency. She also told me that he had detailed personal information about a mutual friend of ours who graduated from our high school and was in the Air Force at the time. He supplied her with detailed information about him that was not available to anyone, including civilian law enforcement. (Military records at that time were off limits) except for extreme misdemeanors or felonies.

This information coming from a very intelligent young lady with fairly good common sense was puzzling. I advised her that she should stay clear of this individual, because at best he may have a “Dick Tracy” type syndrome. The male student was Terrence B. Norman from Copley High School outside of Akron. There was no Brookes Detective Agency as the phony card indicated, although Brookes was his middle name. How he got a ton of military records on an airman was beyond me, as our friend had a perfect record and nothing suspicious. Evidently Norman was trying to impress her with his accessibility to information. The handgun did not have a permit under the state requirements. He did take a ton of pictures, usually of SDS and anti-war student organization members, and did develop and blow them up in his Akron area housing. The funny thing is that most pictures were black and white. (Government standard for the time?)

As I got back to Jan with the information – she confided that she would steer clear of this individual – which she did. One shocking item came up though. Jan stated that she was invited to go with Terry Norman to Washington D.C. on Sunday, December 1, 1968 .He stated to her that he needed an air travel escort with him from Cleveland, Ohio to Washington D.C. in order to attend a special meeting at the FBI Headquarters. The meeting lasted approximately and hour or so. Travel involved a flight leaving Hopkins Airport (Cleveland) on Sunday morning December 1, 1968, and returning that evening..

There were five witnesses at two locations that are testimonial witnesses.

(Now when J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI mentioned initially after the Kent State Shootings, that Terry Norman wasn’t theirs (FBI) and the agency later had to change it to: Norman started working for the FBI less than a week before the Kent State shootings. I knew Hoover and the FBI were lying to the media and the public, because I had proof of Norman’s association with the FBI dating back to 1968. If you want to be perfectly honest about it, Campus Police also knew it. So much for “honest” law-enforcement. Norman was and still is suspected of being the probable catalyst of the tragic shootings. His initial admission of firing his .38 caliber gun was followed by denial. I knew that the FBI wanted to diffuse this potentially volatile tragedy, for the self preservation and interest of the FBI itself , but I did not believe they would go to the point of concealing evidence and refusing detrimental testimonies which they did and continued to do by refusing to release the details of their informant’s actions on May 4, 1970 including the complete investigative details as well.

Fate and coincidence have been a part of this case since the beginning. It was around l:00 P.M. on May 4, 1970, when the orders were given to vacate the campus. I still remember how hot it was, the sun shining and a tremendously strong steady wind from the west. I remember the awe of the students not their anger. Most of us left peaceably without a word. I remember walking toward my apartment in the Glen Morris complex. As I passed two girls and a guy, I overheard them mentioning a student with a tan colored sport coat and a gun. I kept walking. Packing some of my belongings and heading for Cleveland was a task in that the main road toward the Ohio Turnpike (Route 43) was jammed, with thousands of students fleeing the shock of their young lives.

On the 11:00 P.M. news that night on WKYC-CHANNEL 3 - I almost fell out of my chair. The film of the Kent State Tragedy – was showing the student with the sport coat approaching the camera gun drawn and somewhat out of breath communicating with this group. What was actually said turned out to be “I had to shoot, I had to shoot” – “they would have killed me”. This was also witnessed by WKYC Commentator Fred DeBrine and Sgt. Michael Delaney of the Public Relations Office of the Ohio National Guard. Two other Guardsman also overheard this (and were instrumental in seeking a Federal Grand Jury for the case after relaying their information to Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana). When the gun was turned in Officer Thomas Kelly of the Kent State Police Dept. shouted that, ‘gun was fired four times, what do we do now?’ He later denied he he said it, despite several witnesses. Upon seeing this film (black and white – as we did not have a color television) I remembered what the three students mentioned about a student in a tan sport coat with a gun. I also realized that this was Terry Norman who I had not seen since March of 1969 at a Kent State Band Concert at University Auditorium. I had a compelling feeling that I needed to call the FBI Cleveland Office and report what I knew about him.

The next day, Tuesday May 5, 1970, I called the FBI – Cleveland Office and asked if they were gathering information on the Kent State case or if I should call a different location. They said they were working on the case and I identified myself and gave them an outline of what and who I was going to talk about. I went into detail about Terry Norman and his activities at and around Kent State, some of which were illegal or unlawful. About concealed weapons, the discharge of several weapons. Fake ID’s, a trip to FBI headquarters, in December, 1968, and his surveillance and photographic operations of anti-war organization members. The major item was that he was illegally armed on the Campus on May 4, and drew his pistol and may have shot it. The problem was he may have been at the wrong place at the wrong time and his actions in all probability (according to National Guard and student testimonies) influenced or prompted the Guard into firing. He had acted recklessly with firearms according to the Campus Police and was unconcerned when he discharged his personal weapons in a semi-urban area at an earlier time. I told the agent that WKYC had film of Norman and his gun drawn as he returned from the Commons area after the lethal shootings. It was May 4 – 11PM News (WKYC-CH.3) was the last time I saw that film , WKYC stated later that they did not have it and NBC News Archives in New York did not have it, The National Archives did not have it and the FBI has refused to talk to me about my testimony for 37 plus years. That film was both critically important from an historic viewpoint as well as a legal one that was needed in litigations.

A note of interest – Since the original film disappeared, and the FBI refused to speak to me about the information I had volunteered to them on May 5, 1970 – I could detect that the FBI had violated my confidence by concealing or refusing information that involved Mr. Norman during their investigation and coordination with the Grand Jury and Scranton Commission. I decided to prepare a letter and brief package of information for Senator George McGovern explaining the above and I personally delivered it to his Senate Office in March, 1971 (Spring Break) and another in August, 1972 (copies retained). He and Senator Bayh were very effective in pursuing a federal investigation – but even they could not escape the effectiveness of the concealment efforts of the FBI.

Based upon investigative books, writings, biographies etc. it is my opinion that if the truth had been released and it showed that an FBI student-informant had anything to do with the Kent State Tragedy – President Nixon, FBI Director – J. Edgar Hoover, and Ohio Governor – James Rhodes would have taken a lethal hit politically. So they felt they had no other choice which resulted in a totally botched investigation resulting in concealment of evidence, testimonies and the obstruction of justice in the Courts and Scranton Commission.. (The proeceeding is 100% fact and verifiable)

One final thought to ponder for Historians and Political Scientists alike…. It is noted that J. Edgar Hoover did not want the FBI involved in the Kent State Shootings and expressed this in front of John Mitchell and John Dean. It is also noted that many people realized that President Richard Nixon was paranoid over Kent State. He felt if he were to lose the re-election in 1972 it would be because of what happened at Kent. J. Edgar Hoover passed away on May 1-2, 1972. The Watergate Break-in took place a month and a half later on June 17, 1972. Do you, like many critical historians see a connection of the loss of Hoover and the need for the White House to keep tabs on a would-be Presidential candidate who had inside information on Kent State and had voiced his displeasure over the lack of proper investigation of the case in prior months? Why else would the White House jeopardize a re-election campaign which was an overwhelming favorite to win?

Just a thought to make you put things in perspective…since some historians have pondered why a “Watergate” was even remotely necessary – perhaps four dead students in Ohio might be a place to begin.