Virgil (Ed) Hoffman was born in 1937. After leaving school he found employment at Texas Instruments in Dallas. On 22nd November, 1963, Hoffman stood on the shoulder of the Stemmons Expressway in Dallas when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The deaf-and-dumb witness claimed he saw a man with a rifle moments after the shots were fired. He later described how a man wearing a dark suit and tie, with an overcoat, ran west along the wooden fence with a rifle and tossed it to a second man who was dressed like a railroad worker. The second man then disassembled the rifle and put it in a soft brown bag.
Hoffman immediately tried to alert the Secret Service agents about what he had seen. However, unable to understand what he was trying to say, he was threatened with a machine-gun (believed to have been George Hickey). He then attempted to tell his story to a Dallas policeman (believed to be Earle Brown). Unable to understand him, Brown waved him away. Hoffman then visited the local Federal Bureau of Investigation office. No officers were there and so he left written details with the receptionist. (The FBI never responded to this note.)
Hoffman told his father, Frederick Hoffman, about what he saw. His father, concerned that his son could be in danger, urged him not to tell anyone about what he had seen. Ed Hoffman did tell his story to his uncle, Robert Hoffman, a Dallas police officer. However, the police officer decided not to take the story to the Dallas Police Department: "I know that Eddie's a very bright person and always has been, and can't think of any reason why he would make up something like this.... His father (Frederick) was very, very concerned that Eddie knew anything about the assassination at all. It was time when suspicions were running high and he (Frederick) was worried about Eddie getting involved in any way... It just wasn't a time for loose statements that couldn't be proved or backed up with any evidence."
In June, 1967, Ed Hoffman took his story to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. When agents checked out his story they discovered his father did not want it investigated. The following month the FBI reported that "the father of Virgil Hoffman stated that he did not believe that his son had seen anything of value and doubted he had observed any men running from the Texas School Book Depository and for this reason had not mentioned it to the FBI." One FBI agent confirmed the worries of Frederick Hoffman by telling Ed Hoffman to keep quiet about what he had seen or "you might get killed".
Ed Hoffman did keep quiet until 1975 when he wrote to Edward Kennedy about his story. Kennedy replied: "My family has been aware of various theories concerning the death of President Kennedy, just as it has been aware of many speculative accounts which have arisen from the death of Robert Kennedy. I am sure that it is understood that the continual speculation is painful for members of my family. We have always accepted the findings of the Warren Commission report and have no reason to question the quality and the effort of those who investigated the fatal shooting of Robert Kennedy."
On 25th March, 1977, Hoffman contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation again. This time Hoffman took with him Richard H. Freeman, one of the supervisors at Texas Instruments. Freeman understood sign-language and was able to help explain in more detail what Hoffman saw on 22nd November, 1963. Again the FBI showed little interest in pursuing the story.
Ed Hoffman died on 24th March, 2010.
On June 26, 1967, Mr. Jim Dowdy, 725 McLenore, Texas, advised a deaf mute, Virgil E. Hoffman, who is employed at Texas Instruments, had indicated he wanted to furnish information to Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. It was pointed out to Mr. Dowdy that Hoffman should put in writing in detail everything he saw the day of the assassination.
On June 28, 1967, Virgil E. Hoffman appeared at the Dallas Office of the FBI and advised he resided at 424 Grand Prairie Road, Grand Prairie, Texas, and was employed at Texas Instruments, Dallas. He said he parked his automobile near the railroad tracks on Stemmons Freeway and Elm Street, about 12:00 noon on November 22, 1963.
Hoffman said he was standing a few feet south of the railroad on Stemmons Freeway when the motorcade passed him taking President Kennedy to Parkland Hospital. Hoffman said he observed two white males, clutching something dark to their chests with both hands, running from the rear of the Texas School Book Depository building. The men were running north on the railroad, then turned east, and Hoffman lost sight of both of the men...
Hoffman said the only description he could furnish of the men was that one of them wore a white shirt. He stated he had discussed this matter with his father at the time of the assassination, and his father suggested that he not talk to anyone about this, but after thinking about what he saw, Hoffman stated he decided to tell the FBI.
On July 5, 1967, Mr. E. Hoffman, father of Virgil E. Hoffman, and Fred Hoffman, brother of Virgil Hoffman, were interviewed at 428 West Main Street, Grand Prairie, Texas. Both advised that Virgil Hoffman has been a deaf mute his entire life and has in the past distorted facts of events observed by him. Both the father and brother stated that Virgil Hoffman loved President Kennedy and had mentioned to them just after the assassination that he (Virgil Hoffman) was standing on the freeway near the Texas School Book Depository at the time of the assassination. Virgil Hoffman told them he saw numerous men running after the President was shot. The father of Virgil Hoffman stated that he did not believe that his son had seen anything of value and doubted he had observed any men running from the Texas School Book Depository and for this reason had not mentioned it to the FBI.
My family has been aware of various theories concerning the death of President Kennedy, just as it has been aware of many speculative accounts which have arisen from the death of Robert Kennedy. I am sure that it is understood that the continual speculation is painful for members of my family. We have always accepted the findings of the Warren Commission report and have no reason to question the quality and the effort of those who investigated the fatal shooting of Robert Kennedy.
On March 25, 1977, Richard H. Freeman, Texas Instruments, Semi-Conductor Building, Richardson, Texas, telephone number 238-4965, home address 2573 Sheli, Frisco, Texas, telephone 377-9456, telephonically advised Special Agent (name deleted) that he knew sign language and has communicated with Virgil E. Hoffman, a deaf mute who is employed at his building at Texas Instruments. Mr. Hoffman communicated with him by the use of sign language and Hoffman was concerned that the FBI perhaps did not fully understand what he was trying to communicate. Hoffman communicated the following information to Mr. Freeman:
Hoffman was watching the motorcade of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, at Dallas, Texas. Hoffman was standing on Stemmons Freeway watching the presidential motorcade, looking in an easterly direction when the motorcade sped away and headed north on Stemmons Freeway. Hoffman communicated that this must have been right after President Kennedy was shot. Hoffman saw two men, one with a rifle and one with a handgun, behind a wooden fence, approximately six feet in height, at this moment. This fence is located on the same side of Elm Street as the Texas School Book Depository building but closer to Stemmons Freeway. Since he is deaf, he naturally could not hear any shots but thought he saw a puff of smoke in the vicinity of where the two men were standing. As soon as he saw the motorcade speed away and saw the puff of smoke in the vicinity of the two men, the man with the rifle looked like he was breaking the rifle down by removing the barrel from the stock and placing it in some dark type of suitcase that the other man was holding. The two men then ran north on the railroad tracks by actually running on the tracks. Hoffman was standing approximately 75 yards from this fence. This fence was at approximately the same height or level as the ground floor of the Texas School Book Depository building.
On March 28, 1977, Virgil E. Hoffman accompanied Special Agent (name deleted) to Stemmons Freeway, also known as Interstate Highway 35 North, Dallas, Texas.
Hoffman communicated that he was driving a 1962 Ford Falcon on November 22, 1963. He parked his car on the west shoulder of Stemmons Freeway at the northbound lane near the Texas and Pacific Railroad overpass that crosses Stemmons Freeway. He could not see the presidential motorcade as it was proceeding west on Elm Street toward the Triple Underpass. He saw the motorcade speed up as it emerged on Stemmons Freeway heading north. His line of vision was due east looking from Stemmons Freeway toward the Texas School Book Depository building. The two men he saw were behind the wooden fence above the grassy knoll north of Elm Street and just before the Triple Underpass. He indicated he saw smoke in that vicinity and saw the man with the rifle disassembling the rifle near some type of railroad track control box located close to the railroad tracks. Both men ran north on the railroad tracks.
He tried to get the attention of a Dallas policeman who was standing on the railroad overpass that crosses Stemmons Freeway, but since he could not yell, he could not communicate with the policeman. He drove his car north on Stemmons Freeway after the motorcade passed him in an effort to find the two men, but he lost sight of them.
If Ed Hoffman's account is accurate, there was a Grassy Knoll shooter and a conspiracy. A deaf mute, Hoffman now claims to have stopped above the on-ramp of the Stemmons Freeway, hoping to get a view of the presidential limousine as it drove past. He thus had a view of the area behind the Stockade Fence at the time of the shooting in Dealey Plaza. He claims to have seen a man, dressed in a business suit, shoot from behind the fence, and then toss the rifle to a man in a man dressed as a railroad worker, who disassembled it, put it into a case, and walked off. An explosive story, if true.
If Hoffman didn't literally see a shooter, did he add that element to his story sometime after he talked to the FBI in 1967, or was it there all along? Mark Panlener, in a thorough review of this issue, concludes that Hoffman was telling of seeing a shooter and accomplice from the very beginning. Two witnesses, his wife Rosie, and his friend Lucien Pierce, confirm that he was telling of a shooter as far back as 1963. However, both are friends of Hoffman, and would not want to see him embarrassed. One need not believe they are lying to doubt their corroboration of Hoffman's story. It would suffice that they have heard several versions of the story, and are simply confused, remembering details given later as part of the first telling.
On the other side is Ed's father Frederick Hoffman who maintained until his death in 1976 his son's first version of the story did not mention the two men behind the fence or seeing a shot fired. Hoffman supporters claim that Frederick was simply lying - not from evil motives but out of a desire to avoid seeing his son in harm's way...
The fact that Hoffman changed his story in the 1990s, adding the Joe Marshall Smith encounter and Sam Holland and his coworkers, might suggest that he was capable of changing it between the time he talked to the FBI in 1967 and the time he talked to them again in 1977. But it's also possible that this badly shaken and highly emotional witness was talking about seeing a shooter when he first told his story on November 22, 1963.
After waiting for a time, Hoffman decided to walk along the shoulder of the freeway to a point where it crossed over Elm Street in hopes of getting a view into Dealey Plaza. From this vantage point, Hoffman was approximately two hundred yards west of the parking lot behind the picket fence at an elevation of about the height of the first floor of the Texas School Book Depository.
Being unable to hear, he was not aware that Kennedy's motorcade was passing through the plaza. However, he was aware of movement on the north side of the picket fence. He became aware of a man running west along the back side of the fence wearing a dark suit, tie, and an overcoat. The man was carrying a rifle in his hands. As the man reached a metal pipe railing at the west end of the fence, he tossed the rifle to a second man standing on the west side of the pipe near the railroad tracks that went south over the Triple Underpass. The second man was wearing light coveralls and a railroad worker's hat.
The second man caught the rifle, ducked behind a large railroad switch box - one of two at that site - and knelt down. The man disassembled the rifle, placed it in a soft brown bag (Hoffman's description matches that of the traditional railroad brakeman's tool bag), then walked north into the rail yards in the general direction of the railroad tower containing Lee Bowers.
The man in the overcoat, meanwhile, had turned and run back along the picket fence until midway, when he stopped and began walking calmly toward the comer of the fence. Hoffman could not see the corner of the fence due to cars and overhanging tree branches. Unable to hear, Hoffman was at a loss to understand what was happening as he watched these men.
However, moments later Kennedy's car came into sight out of the west side of the Triple Underpass. Hoffman saw the President lying on the seat of the blood-splattered car and realized something terrible had occurred.
As the presidential limousine turned onto the Stemmons access ramp just below his position, Hoffman decided to try to alert the Secret Service agents to what he had witnessed. He ran down the grassy incline waving his arms and trying to make them understand that he had seen something, when one of the agents in the President's follow-up car reached down and produced a machine gun, which he leveled at him. Hoffman stopped and threw up his hands and could only watch helplessly as the motorcade rushed past him onto Stemmons in the mad rush to Parkland Hospital.
Maybe it is better that I didn't understand what he had seen. I know that Eddie's a very bright person and always has been, and can't think of any reason why he would make up something like this. It would be completely out of his character for him to change his story or to add to it at a later date, but all I knew at the time was that someone in a car had pointed a gun at him. I understood it to be a shotgun. His father was very, very concerned that Eddie knew anything about the assassination at all. It was time when suspicions were running high and he [Frederick] was worried about Eddie getting involved in any way.. If I had known the whole thing I guess it would have been my duty (as a police officer] to come forward with the information and I imagine Chief Curry would liked to have known about it. But as a relative, I would have probably have felt pretty much like Eddie's father felt... It just wasn't a time for loose statements that couldn't be proved or backed up with any evidence.
Ed's pastor and sign language interpreter addresses many of those issues in the booklet "Eye Witness", anyone seriously interested in Ed's story and what he has described over time should get a copy. Specifically the booklet deals with Ed's observation of a policeman up by the fence after the shooting... as well as his observation of a train passing over the overpass shortly after the limo passed by him.
However, there is still considerable controversy over how much detail Ed really could see at that distance, how he could see the figures up by the fence given the number of cars and how they were parked up against the fence. The fact that the running man would have had to be behind those cars and the issue of how much depth perception Ed would have had at that distance to accurately call out specific locations. I've personally watched Ed locate the men behind the fence, trace their steps and describe his observations and there is no doubt in my mind of his sincerity. And he does describe the running men going out of sight behind the parked rail cars as he ran north into the rail yard.
However in attempting to duplicate his specific observations last year on a Dealey Plaza tour (the same way we attempted to see the detail Carr describes for a man with glasses on an upper floor), the whole tour group and myself were hard pressed to see how Ed could have seen that amount of detail pertaining to the "suit man" shooter that he describes... especially given the parked cars.
Again, personally, I have no doubt Ed saw something going on behind the fence and saw multiple people... beyond that I just don't know.
A lot of people do not know that Ed Hoffman, aside from being a deaf mute, does not have a good grasp of the English Language. It is so easy for misunderstandings on both sides to occur when trying to communicate with Ed over what he witnessed on 11/22/63. In 2002, A couple of researchers met with Ed Hoffman and his family in Dealey Plaza and Ed walked them through step by step as to what happened behind the fence as seen from the overpass he had stood on. Ed's daughter helped with the translation between Ed and the researchers.
Back in 1963, Ed didn't wear glasses and had better than average vision. Of course this is not uncommon when a person is without one of his five senses. Ed being deaf, did not know anyone was shooting at the motorcade for he could not hear the shots. It's what Ed seen that is important. What Ed did see was a puff of smoke at the stockade fence where a gentleman wearing a dark suit and hat had immediately turned away from it. Ed immediately noticed this individual had a long gun in his possession. Ed said the man did not run, but rather briskly walked the weapon up near the steam pipe where he tossed it to another man who then took the gun and broke it down before leaving the area. The hatted man then turned and casually walked back east along the fence in the direction he had just come from. The tossing of the gun near the steam pipe seems to be supported by a RR worker who told Seymour Weitzman that he had witnessed something being tossed through the trees. When Weitzman asked where did this happened exactly, the RR worker said 'over by the steam pipe'.
James Files did not say anything about walking a gun to the steam pipe and tossing it to anyone. Also, Lee Bowers described this man in the dark suit as being rather stocky, which doesn't match the build of James Files at the time of the shooting. So not only does Files not match the description of the man seen with the long gun, but his alleged actions do not match that of the man who tossed the gun over the steam pipe. These two important points tend to dispute Files being where he said he was on 11/22/63.
That is an excellent point you bring up regarding the acuity of the senses when one of them is compromised. It is common knowledge that a blind person's hearing is substantially more acute than that of a person who has all of his faculties intact. Consequently, the same can be expected of a deaf person's visual acuity as opposed to someone with their senses uncompromised, unless of course they had been diagnosed with myopia as a child. In this case, we have Ed Hoffman not needing glasses, and most likely wouldn't need them until later in life, and then only if presbyopia became an issue as it sometimes does in middle age.