Photo taken on Oct 28, 2021 shows the White House in Washington, DC, the United States. [Photo/Xinhua]

The “magic bullet” theory in the assassination of US former president John F. Kennedy in 1963 is facing renewed scrutiny in light of a new book by a former Secret Service agent who was in the motorcade that fateful day.

Paul Landis, now 88, was part of the security detail of first lady Jacqueline Kennedy on Nov 22, 1963, when the president was struck by two bullets while riding in a parade through downtown Dallas, Texas. Landis rode in a car directly behind the limousine that was carrying the president and first lady in the back seat, the governor of Texas and his wife in the middle, and two agents in the front.

Landis said he had long believed Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman but eventually began to wonder if additional shooters were involved.

“I didn’t think about it at all for about 45 years, and at that point, it was March 2014 and I started thinking that maybe it was time that I told my story,” Landis told People.com, His book The Final Witness: A Kennedy Secret Service Agent Breaks His Silence After 60 Years is to be published on Tuesday.

According to the inquiry that investigated the assassination, the Warren Commission, three bullets were fired. The first one missed, it said.

The second one was the so-called magic bullet, which was determined to have hit Kennedy in the back, exiting his throat before then hitting Governor John Connally, breaking his rib, exiting his body and entering his wrist and then thigh, with the bullet staying virtually intact.

The third shot was the one that killed Kennedy, striking him in the head.

Landis contends that he found what was believed to be the magic bullet in the back seat of the presidential limousine. He speculated that the bullet struck the president in the back but was undercharged and did not penetrate deeply, The New York Times reported.

The so-called magic bullet was positively matched to Oswald’s Mannlicher-Carcano rifle through ballistics analysis, the Warren Commission said.

“If the bullet we know as the magic or pristine bullet stopped in President Kennedy’s back, it means that the central thesis of the Warren Report, the single-bullet theory, is wrong,” James Robenalt, an Ohio-based lawyer, told the Times, speculating that Connally was hit by a different bullet.

Details revisited

Landis described how the president’s motorcade that Friday afternoon had “just completed the hairpin turn in front of the Texas School Book Depository in Dealey Plaza, and the cars were straightening out” when he heard the first shot.

“I recognized it immediately as the sound of a gunshot, turned to look over my right shoulder, and I saw nothing,” he said.

Landis said he saw the president sitting in the car and leaning slightly to his left, though it was unclear if he had been hit. That is when Landis turned to scan the surrounding areas, including the infamous “grassy knoll” along the road.

Then a third shot rang out. Landis described how one agent immediately rushed to Kennedy’s side before the motorcade raced to Parkland Memorial Hospital.

“It was like a flash of white, and then the air just filled with a cloud of blood and brain, flesh, bone matter — and I ducked so I wouldn’t get splattered as we drove through it,” he said.

At the hospital, Landis said, he ran to the president’s car, where the first lady was sitting with her husband’s head in her lap.

That is when Landis said he noticed a fully intact bullet “sitting on the back seat ledge, where the cushion meets the metal on the car”.

“I looked at it and I started to put it back. I didn’t see anybody in the vicinity, I was wondering where all the agents were,” People quoted him as saying. “And they all seemed to be overlooking the president or to help remove the president. So I put the bullet in my pocket.”

In the hospital he put the bullet in a blanket on a table, he said. “I figured this was the place the bullet needed to be. They would find it. And I felt a great relief that I had saved an important piece of evidence.

“I just figured, well, I’m going to be questioned by the Warren Commission and I can tell my whole story then. And that time never came.”

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