Arnold Rowland


Arnold Rowland was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, on 29th April, 1945. After graduating from high school in June, 1963, Rowland found employment in Oregon. This included work as a shipping clerk and clothes salesman. He later returned to Texas where he became involved in promotional advertising.

In 1963 Rowland was working as a part-time pizzamaker at the Pizza Inn in Dallas. He was also attending classes at W. H. Adamson High School. On 22nd November, 1963, Rowland and his wife, Barbara, went into Dallas to see the visit of President John F. Kennedy. The Rowlands stood at the west entrance of the Dallas County Records Building on Houston Street, about 150 feet from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository.

At 12.15 p.m. Rowland saw a man with a "high-powered rifle" standing about five feet from the south-west corner window, on the other side of the building from the "sniper's nest" where it was argued Lee Harvey Oswald fired his rifle. He told the Warren Commission: "I noticed on the sixth floor of the building that there was a man back from the window, not hanging out the window. He was standing and holding a rifle, This appeared to me to be a fairly high-powered rifle because of the scope and the relative proportion of the scope to the rifle..."

Later, Rowland saw another man with a rifle at the "east end of the building, the one that they said the shots were fired from". He added that the man was black, about 55 years old, practically bald and very thin.

Primary Sources

(1) (1)Arnold Rowland, statement at the Dallas Sheriff's Office (22nd November, 1963)

I am a student at Adamson High School in Dallas, Texas. I am employed on weekends at the Pizza Inn located on West Davis Avenue in Dallas. At approximately 12:10 p.m. today, my wife Barbara and I arrived in downtown Dallas and took position to see the President's motorcade. We took position at the west entrance of the Sheriff's Office on Houston Street. We stood there for a time talking about the security measures that were being made for the president's visit in view of the recent trouble when Mr. Adelai [sic) Stevenson had been a recent visitor to Dallas. It must have been 5 or 10 minutes later when we were just looking at the surrounding buildings when I looked up at the Texas Book Depository building and noticed that the second floor from the top had two adjoining windows which were open, and upon looking I saw what I thought was a man standing back about 15 feet from the windows and was holding in his arms what appeared to be a high-powered rifle because it looked like it had a scope on it. He appeared to be holding this at a parade rest sort of position. I mentioned this to my wife and merely made the remark that it must be the secret service men. This man appeared to be a white man and appeared to have a light colored shirt on, open at the neck. He appeared to be of slender build and appeared to have dark hair. In about 15 minutes President Kennedy passed the spot where we were standing and the motorcade had just turned west on Elm heading down the hill when I heard a noise which I thought to be a back fire. In fact some of the people around laughed and then in about 8 seconds I heard another report and in about 3 seconds a third report. My wife, who had ahold of my hand, started running and dragging me across the street and I never did look up again at this window.

(2) (2)Arnold Rowland, interviewed by Arlen Specter and Gerald Ford before the Warren Commission (10th March, 1964)

Arnold Rowland: I noticed on the sixth floor of the building that there was a man back from the window, not hanging out the window. He was standing and holding a rifle, This appeared to me to be a fairly high-powered rifle because of the scope and the relative proportion of the scope to the rifle, you can tell about what type of rifle it is. You can tell it isn't a .22, you know, and we thought momentarily that maybe we should tell someone but then the thought came to us that it is a security agent. We had seen in the movies before where they have security men up in windows and places like that with rifles to watch the crowds, and we brushed it aside as that, at that time, and thought nothing else about it until after the event happened.

Arlen Specter: Now, by referring to the photograph on this Commission Exhibit No. 356, will you point to the window where you observed this man?

Arnold Rowland: This was very odd. There were this picture was not taken immediately after that, I don't think, because there were several windows, there are pairs of windows, and there were several pairs where both windows were open fully and in each pair there was one or more persons hanging out the window. Yet this was on the west corner of the building, the sixth floor, the first floor - second floor down from the top, the first was the arched, the larger windows, not the arch, but the larger windows, and this was the only pair of windows where both windows were completely open and no one was hanging out the windows, or next to the window. It was this pair of windows here at that time....

Arlen Specter: What is your best estimate of the distance between where you were standing and the man holding the rifle whom you have just described?

Arnold Rowland: 150 feet approximately, very possibly more. I don't know for sure.

Arlen Specter: Are you very good at judging distances of that sort?

Arnold Rowland: Fairly good.

Arlen Specter: Have you had any experience or practice at judging such distances?

Arnold Rowland: Yes. Even in using the method in physics or, you know, elementary physics of looking at a position in two different views, you can tell its distance. I did that quite frequently. And the best r can recollect it was within 150 to 175 feet.

Arlen Specter: Can you describe the rifle with any more particularity than you already have?

Arnold Rowland: No. In proportion to the scope it appeared to me to be a .30-odd size 6, a deer rifle with a fairly large or powerful scope.

Arlen Specter: When you say, .30-odd-6, exactly what did you mean by that?

Arnold Rowland: That is a rifle that is used quite frequently for deer hunting. It is an import....

Arlen Specter: Describe, as best you can, the appearance of the individual whom you saw?

Arnold Rowland: He was rather slender in proportion to his size. I couldn't tell for sure whether he was tall and maybe, you know heavy, say 200 pounds, but tall whether he would be and slender or whether he was medium and slender, but in proportion to his size his build was slender.

Arlen Specter: Could you give us an estimate on his height?

Arnold Rowland: No; I couldn't. That is why I said I can't state what height he would be. He was just slender in build in proportion with his width. This is something I find myself doing all the time, comparing things in perspective.

Arlen Specter: Was he a white man or a Negro or what?

Arnold Rowland: Seemed, well, I can't state definitely from my position because it was more or less not fully light or bright in the room. He appeared to be fair complexioned, not fair, but light complexioned, but dark hair.

Arlen Specter: What race was he then?

Arnold Rowland: I would say either a light Latin or a Caucasian.

Arlen Specter: And were you able to observe any characteristics of his hair?

Arnold Rowland: No; except that it was dark, probably black.

Arlen Specter: Were you able to observe whether he had a full head of hair or any characteristic as to quantity of hair?

Arnold Rowland: It didn't appear as if he had a receding hairline but I know he didn't have it hanging on his shoulders. Probably a close cut from - you know it appeared to me it was either well-combed or close cut.

Arlen Specter: What, if anything, did you observe as to the clothes he was wearing?

Arnold Rowland: He had on a light shirt, a very light-colored shirt, white or a light blue or a color such as that. This was open at the collar. I think it was unbuttoned about halfway, and then he had a regular T-shirt, a polo shirt under this, at least this is what it appeared to be. He had on dark slacks or blue jeans, I couldn't tell from that I didn't see but a small portion...

Arlen Specter: Were you able to form any opinion as to the age of that man?

Arnold Rowland: This is again just my estimation. He was - I think I remember telling my wife that he appeared in his early thirties. This could be obscured because of the distance, I mean...

Arlen Specter: When you saw him, you told her about him, and then did she look in the direction of the man?

Arnold Rowland: After she pointed something else out to me she looked in that direction.

Arlen Specter: Did you then look back toward the direction of, to the window where you had seen him?

Arnold Rowland: Yes; I even pointed to it with my wife.

Arlen Specter: Did you look back at the same time she looked back?

Arnold Rowland: Yes.

Arlen Specter: And when you looked back what, if anything, did you observe in the window?

Arnold Rowland: There was nothing there then.

Arlen Specter: Following that did you and she have any additional conversation about this man in the window?

Arnold Rowland: We talked about it momentarily, just for a few seconds that it was of most likelihood a security man, had a very good vantage point where he could watch the crowds, talked about the rifle, it looked like a very high-powered rifle.

Arlen Specter: Did you mention that to your wife?

Arnold Rowland: Yes; I did.

Arlen Specter: Have you described as fully as you can everything you discussed with your wife at that juncture?

Arnold Rowland: I think so.

Gerald Ford: Was there anybody else standing close to you as you had this conversation with your wife?

Arnold Rowland: There was a policeman about as far as me to the flag.

Gerald Ford: That is about how many feet, would you say?

Arnold Rowland: Twelve, thirteen feet.

Gerald Ford: Did it ever enter your mind that you should go and tell the policeman of this sight or this vision that you had seen?

Arnold Rowland: Really it didn't.

Gerald Ford: It never entered your mind?

Arnold Rowland: I never dreamed of anything such as that. I mean, I must honestly say my opinion was based on movies I have seen, on the attempted assassination of Theodore Roosevelt where they had Secret Service men up in the building such as that with rifles watching the crowds, and another one concerned with attempted assassination of the other one, Franklin Roosevelt. and both of these had Secret Service men up in windows or on top of buildings with rifles, and this is how my opinion was based and why it didn't alarm me. Perhaps if I had been older and had more experience in life it might have made a difference. It very well could have.

Gerald Ford: After you and your wife looked up and saw that there was no one in the window, did you ever again look at the window?

Arnold Rowland: Yes; I did, constantly.

Gerald Ford: And as you looked at the window subsequently did you ever see anything else in the window?

Arnold Rowland: No; not in that window, and I looked back every few seconds, 30 seconds, maybe twice a minute, occasionally trying to find him so I could point him out to my wife. Something I would like to note is that the window that I have been told the shots were actually fired from, I did not see that, there was someone hanging out that window at that time.

Gerald Ford: At what time was that?

Arnold Rowland: At the time I saw the man in the other window, I saw this man hanging out the window first. It was a colored man, I think.

Gerald Ford: Is this the same window where you saw the man standing with the rifle?

Arnold Rowland: No; this was the one on the east end of the building, the one that they said the shots were fired from.

Gerald Ford: I am not clear on this now. The window that you saw the man that you describe was on what end of the building?

Arnold Rowland: The west, southwest corner.

Gerald Ford: And the man you saw hanging out from the window was at what corner?

Arnold Rowland: The east, southeast corner.

Gerald Ford: Southeast corner. On the same floor?

Arnold Rowland: On the same floor.

Gerald Ford: When did you notice him?

Arnold Rowland: This was before I noticed the other man with the rifle.

Gerald Ford: I see. This was before you saw the man in the window with the rifle?

Arnold Rowland: Yes. My wife and I were both looking and making remarks that the people were hanging out the windows I think the majority of them were colored people, some of them were hanging out the windows to their waist, such as this. We made several remarks to this fact, and then she started watching the colored boy, and I continued to look, and then I saw the man with the rifle.

Gerald Ford: After 12:22 or thereabouts you indicated you periodically looked back at the window in the southwest corner where you had seen the man with the rifle What happened as the motorcade came along?

Arnold Rowland: As the motorcade came along, there was quite a bit of excitement. 1 didn't look back from then. I was very interested in trying to see the President myself. I had seen him twice before but I was interested in seeing him again.

Gerald Ford: You never again, after the motorcade once came into your view, looked back at the School Depository Building?

Arnold Rowland: I did after the shots were fired...

Arlen Specter: Will you now relate what occurred as the Presidential motorcade passed by you?

Arnold Rowland: Well, the car turned the corner at Houston and Main. Everyone was rushing, pressing the cars, trying to get closer. There were quite a few people, you know, trying to run alongside of the car such as this; officers were trying to prevent this. The car turned--we had more or less a long period of time that they were within our sight considering some of the other people. The car went down Houston, again turned on Elm, and it was proceeding down Elm when we heard the first of the reports. This I passed off as a backfire, so did practically everyone in the area because gobs of people, when I say gobs, I mean almost everyone in the vicinity, started laughing that couldn't see the motorcade. The motorcade was obscured from our vision by the crowd.

Arlen Specter: What would the occasion be for laughter on the sound of a backfire?

Arnold Rowland: I don't know. A lot of people laughed. I don't know. But a lot of people laughed, chuckled, such as this. Then approximately 5 seconds, 5 or 6 seconds, the second report was heard, 2 seconds the third report. After the second report, I knew what it was, and -

Arlen Specter: What was it?

Arnold Rowland: I knew that it was a gun firing.

Arlen Specter: How did you know that?

Arnold Rowland: I have been around guns quite a bit in my lifetime.

Arlen Specter: Was the sound of the fire different from the first and second sounds you described?

Arnold Rowland: No, that is just it. It did not sound as though there was any return fire in that sense.

Arlen Specter: What do you mean by return fire?

Arnold Rowland: That anyone fired back. You know, anyone in the procession such as our detectives or Secret Service men fired back at anything else. It gave the report of a rifle which most of the Secret Service men don't carry in a holster although I am sure they had some in the cars but the following two shots were the same report being of the same intensity, I state, because from a different position I know that the same rifle is not going to make the same sound in two different positions especially in a position such as it was, because of the ricocheting of sound and echo effects.

Arlen Specter: What is your basis for saying that, Mr. Rowland, that the rifle would not make the same sound in two different positions?

Arnold Rowland: This is due to a long study of sound and study of echo effects.

Arlen Specter: When had you conducted that study?

Arnold Rowland: In physics in the past 3 years.

Arlen Specter: Have you read any special books on that subject?

Arnold Rowland: Quite a few....

Arlen Specter: Can you describe the second sound by comparison with the first sound which you have described as being similar to a backfire?

Arnold Rowland: The second to my recollection was identical or as closely as could be.

Arlen Specter: How about the third shot?

Arnold Rowland: The same.

Arlen Specter: Sounded the same to you?

Arnold Rowland: Yes.

Arlen Specter: Did you have any impression or reaction as to the point of origin when you heard the first noise?

Arnold Rowland: Well, I began looking, I didn't look at the building mainly, and as practically any of' the police officers that were there then will tell you, the echo effect was such that it sounded like it came from the railroad yards. That is where I looked, that is where all the policemen, everyone, converged on the railroads...

Arlen Specter: Now, as to the second shot, did you have any impression as to the point of origin or source?

Arnold Rowland: The same point or very close to it.

Arlen Specter: And how about the third shot?

Arnold Rowland: Very close to the same position.

Arlen Specter: After the shots occurred, did you ever look back at the Texas School Book Depository Building?

Arnold Rowland: No; I did not. In fact, I went over toward the scene of the railroad yards myself.