Craig Roberts

Craig Roberts

Craig Roberts landed in Vietnam in July 1965 as a rifleman with the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines. He was promoted to lance corporal but he was badly wounded at Da Nang and after eleven months in the country he was sent home. Roberts was transferred to the Temporary Disability Retired List (TDRL) and was discharged on 28 February, 1968.

Roberts joined the Tulsa Police Department in August, 1969. Two years later he joined the TAC Squad, which was Tulsa's first special operations team. Roberts was selected for his Vietnam combat experience and his training as a sniper and with explosives. He attended Bomb Disposal School in Dade County, Florida and was one of three department bomb technicians.

In 1978 Roberts transferred to Police Community Relations where he served for three years as one of the department's public relations officers, giving lectures to organizations and schools. By 1981 he had become the department's "Press Release Officer" and had extensive contact with reporters from the media, both print and television.

In 1982 Roberts transferred to the helicopter unit and became its maintenance director. He also served as one of Tulsa Police Department's patrol pilots. Roberts retired from the department in March, 1996.

Craig Roberts in the author of two books on the assassination of John F. Kennedy: Kill Zone: A Sniper Looks at Dealey Plaza (1994) and JFK: The Dead Witnesses (1994). He is also the author of Combat Medic-Vietnam (1991), Police Sniper(1993), The Medusa File: Crimes and Coverups of the US Government (1996), The Walking Dead: A Marine's Story of Vietnam (1996), Doorway to Hell:Disaster in Somalia (2002) and Crosshairs on the Kill Zone: American Combat Snipers Vietnam Through Operation Iraqi Freedom(2004).

Primary Sources

(1) Craig Roberts, Kill Zone: A Sniper Looks at Dealey Plaza (1994)

Unlike Oswald, who failed to qualify on the rifle range in Boot Camp, and who barely qualified "Marksman"-the lowest of three grades-on a later try, I was a trained and combat-experienced Marine sniper. I had spent a year in Vietnam, during which time I had numerous occasions to line up living, breathing human beings in the crosshairs of my precision Unertl scope and squeeze the trigger of my bolt-action Model 70 Winchester and send a .30 caliber match-grade round zipping down range.

Here I was, a professional police officer and writer, looking down at the most famous ambush site in history through the eyes of a sniper. A strange feeling came over me. A feeling of calm, dampening my anger. The trained investigator inside me surfaced and took over my emotions. I began to scrutinize what my senses were absorbing.

First, I analyzed the scene as a sniper. In the time allotted, and in the distance along the street in which the rounds had impacted the target from first report to final shot, it would take a minimum of two people shooting. There was little hope that I alone, even if armed with the precision equipment I had used in Vietnam, would be able duplicate the feat described by the Warren Commission. So if I couldn't, I reasoned, Oswald couldn't.

Unless he had help.

I looked at the engagement angle. It was entirely wrong. The wall of the building in which the windows overlooked Dealey Plaza ran east and west. By looking directly down at the best engagement angle-which was straight out the window facing south-I could see Houston Street. Houston was perpendicular to the wall and ran directly toward my window. This is the street on which the motorcade had approached and would have been my second choice as a zone of engagement. My first choice was directly below the window, at a drastic bend in the street that had to be negotiated by Kennedy's limousine. It would have to slow appreciably, almost to a stop, and when it did, the target would be presented moving at its slowest pace. The last zone of engagement I would pick would be as the limo drove away toward the west-and the Grassy Knoll. Here, from what I could see, three problems arose that would influence my shots. First, the target was moving away at a drastic angle to the right from the window, meaning that I would have to position my body to compete with the wall and a set of vertical water pipes on the left frame of the window to get a shot. This would be extremely difficult for a right handed shooter. Second, I would have be ready to fire exactly when the target emerged past some tree branches that obscured the kill zone. Finally, I would have to deal with two factors at the same time: the curve of the street, and the high-to-low angle formula-a law of physics Oswald would not have known.

Even if I waited for the target to pass the primary and secondary engagement zones, and for some reason decided to engage instead in the worst possible area, I still had to consider the fact that Oswald made his farthest, and most difficult shot, last. I estimated the range for this shot at between 80 and 90 yards. It was this final shot that, according to the Warren Commission, struck Kennedy's head.

As an experienced sniper, something else bothered me. Any sniper knows that the two most important things to be considered in selecting a position are the fields of fire, and a route of escape. You have to have both. It is of little value to take a shot, then not be able to successfully get away to fight another day. Even if the window was a spot that I would select for a hide, I had doubts about my ability to escape afterwards. According to what little I had read, the elevator was stuck on a floor below at the time in question, and only the stairway could have been used as a means of withdrawal. And there were dozens of people-potential witnesses-below who would be able to identify anyone rushing away from the scene. Not good.

But Oswald was not a trained or experienced military sniper. He was supposed to be little more than some odd-ball with a grudge. And for whatever reason, had decided to buy a rifle and shoot the President of the United States. Or so the Warren Commission would have us believe.

(2) Craig Roberts, Kill Zone: A Sniper Looks at Dealey Plaza (1994)

Knoll and the Picket Fence, which I had purposely saved for last. I walked up the slope and around the fence, arriving in a parking lot that was bordered on the northwest by train tracks. I walked the length of the fence, stopping at a spot on the eastern end.

I looked over the fence at Elm Street and froze. This is exactly where I would position myself if I wanted the most accurate shot possible considering the terrain I had explored. It had some drawbacks-it was close to witnesses, and prone to pre-incident discovery-but the advantages far outweighed the disadvantages for a determined assassin. The target vehicle would be approaching instead of moving away, thereby continually decreasing the range; the shot would be almost flat trajectory, making the down-angle formula a mute point; the deflection (right/left angle) would change little until the car passed a freeway sign on the north curbline; and finally, it offered numerous escape route possibilities. Behind me, to the north and west, was a parking lot full of cars, a train yard full of boxcars, and several physical terrain features to use as cover during withdrawal. It was by far the best spot.

Looking almost due east, across the grassy open park-like Plaza, I could see two multi-story office-type buildings approximately the same height as the Depository. The roof tops of either building would be excellent firing positions for a trained rifleman with the proper equipment, and would be the places I would select if I wanted the best possible chance of not being detected in advance. Without going to the roofs of each, I could not determine the accessibility of escape routes. But for firing platforms, they were ideal.

Then, considering the possibility of multiple-snipers (which meant a conspiracy), I had to ask myself how I would position the shooters to cover the kill zone in front of the Grassy Knoll?

My military training once again took over. I would use an area within the Plaza that would afford the best kill zone for either a crossfire or triangulated fire. Simply put, I would position my teams in such a way that their trajectory of fire converged on the most advantageous point to assure a kill. In the military, single snipers are seldom used. Normally, the smallest sniper team consists of two men, a sniper and his spotter/security man. Even in police SWAT teams, a marksman has an observer who is equipped with a spotting scope or binoculars to help pick and identify targets and handle the radio communications.

In this case, I would position at least one team behind the Picket Fence (more if I wanted to secure the rear against intruders), another on one or both of the two office buildings (which I later found to be the Dallas County Records Building and the County Criminal Courts Building), and possibly a team on a building across the street north of the Records Building known at the time as the Dal-Tex building. I would have never put anyone in the School Book Depository with so many locations that were much more advantageous unless I needed diversion. If I did, it would be a good place for red herrings to be observed by witnesses.