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Transcription of the recorded statements of Walter Howard, Elizabeth Runyon, Greg Shaw, and Russel Thackler conducted by the Commission on KSU Violence.
[Unknown Speaker]: Testing, 1, 2, 3.
[Russel Thackler]: My name is Russel Thackler. My address is 6817 Greenleaf Avenue, Parma Heights, Ohio. Telephone number is 843-9215.
The statement I’m–make is what I saw on Monday. I was returning from class, from Franklin Hall, from my 11 o’clock class that ends 11:50. Well, I knew there was going to–I heard a rumor that there was going to be a rally, so I–being curious and all–I walked over, and I walked over by the Johnson Hall sign of the–on the Commons and I watched what took place. Well, I got there in time to see the National Guard line go up–start to go up the hill, and being curious, I waited a little bit, then went to–as they went over the hill–went over and seen them on the football field, their lines and all that. They shot a couple more tear gas canisters, as I recall, then they–there was a front line that fell down. Two, like in a firing position facing Prentice Hall, and there was another line by the fence there. I don’t know the time and such, I don’t really know. It’s all sort of vague right now. As I recall, there was a number of sticks, stones, and I don’t know if there was any bricks thrown, I couldn’t tell. There were objects being thrown at the Guard. But the Guard didn’t seem to be that well trained. Maybe it was getting–the abuse was getting to them, I don’t really know, but they were waving–a couple of them were waving at them, telling them to come on in. One–some–I seen one, or two, pick up rocks and throw them back at students. One picked up a tear gas canister that was thrown back at them, and threw it at the students too, so, it wasn’t that orderly a bunch there.
Then they–as I recall–they shot the last tear gas canisters up on the knoll there and they started to walk back. At this time, I was–I moved over from that hill next to Taylor–between Taylor Hall and Johnson Hall, and I went around and walked on the entrance to Taylor Hall on that balcony or patio, whatever you want to call it, and that’s where I was standing when the incident took place. When I was watching, I–the Guard started to walk back, and then there was an officer in a fatigue cap. He had a .45–well, he had a pistol, or a handgun, but I think it was a .45 caliber pistol. As the Guard was walking back, he was the only one, I think he fired the first shot. The only reason why I say that–when he fired into the–the gun–into the air, his arm went back, and I’ve had some experience firing a .45 caliber gun, and I realized the kickback it had.
Now, there were–now, this is sort of jumbled in my mind, I don’t know if it’s making much sense, but when–after that one–after he fired, a few seconds and all that, and all of a sudden, they formed skirmish lines. By that I mean, there were men on their knees, firing, and there were men standing up. I don’t know if that–if they had orders, if that was said before they went up the hill, or what, but his firing seemed to trigger the response from the Guard to turn around and fire. I still think, my own opinion, that the National Guard is not that disciplined, that–where they can turn around and fire at will. I believe that there was an order given for that.
Friday–one of the incidents leading up before that, well–Friday night I was in downtown, so I couldn’t add very much. Saturday night, I did observe the rally that took place on the Commons Saturday night. I really–the only reason why I attended, I guess is just because I was curious and there wasn’t really anything for us to do on campus, which is a poor excuse, I realize, but that’s what it was, cause two or three of my friends went down there–we watched and–watched them burn the flag and such, and seen one molotov cocktail thrown against the building, but it didn’t ignite it. Then we walked back on top of the hill and watched the happening there. I just don’t understand why the university wasn’t prepared. They must have realized something was going to happen when you–when a curfew on downtown–you have close to maybe six or seven thousand people on campus, I don’t believe there was enough activities, or something that would interest the people on Saturday night.
Well anyway, we went there and we watched. As I recall, police did come and the fire did start, after. I didn’t see very much from my vantage point. I’m sorry I won’t be very much use. I did see the firemen come–their hoses–and I seen them chopping up–I didn’t–only knives I seen in the rally were hunting knives–I didn’t see any machetes or stuff like that, and they could’ve possibly done it. That’s about all I could add to that. I watched them teargas the crowd. What I don’t understand, it was never made mention, that there was a lot of students that did help put out that fire over by the shed and prevented the trees in that area around Commons from being burnt, but that’s about all.
On Sunday, I stayed in campus. I don’t really know what to say–I couldn’t say why it happened. I can only–believe it was frustration–frustration for what’s happening in Cambodia and South Vietnam, but also frustration on this campus. I don’t believe the communications between this campus and such are not open. I don’t believe this university, at the time, really was concerned with students and their problems and such. Like myself–I was sort of mad at the university because I couldn’t take a couple courses that I needed to graduate, that means I have to come back in the summer to pick these courses up. Stuff like that, I mean, it irks kids. And I mean, parking facilities and such, tickets–passing out tickets when not really necessary, enforcing that stupid parking thing on campus–if you don’t have a sticker and such, you can’t park and go to the library at night, things like that. Or poor quality food that we were getting for the past couple weeks at the dorm where I lived at Leebrick. That leads to disgruntled students, and it doesn’t seem to get–you don’t seem to get any results going through channels, or else you don’t–they don’t seem to be heard, and I think that leads to frustration on campus. Before I think that school would open, it should take care of these lines of communication, make it known that the university does care for students, just not a number–that you care about, instead of–like you just–just not a number, that there’s some concern for students, that the profs show a little concern for students instead of just saying, he’s doing his job, and he’s doing it for more–just because he has to be there, or something like that. I don’t think that’s right. Before the university starts to open needs lines of communication, and more concern for the undergraduate students. I mean undergraduates–people are paying their way and such, so that there is concern. Maybe this won’t be much help to you, but that’s about all I have to say, thank you.
[recording resumes after a short break]
[Unknown Speaker]: Okay, thank you.
On May the 1st, the night that the so-called violence started downtown, I happened to be in the vicinity of Water Street, around the cove. I’d gone downtown after a track meet that I had with my assistant coach to see a friend of mine at the Pirate’s Alley in [Tin’s?] bar there. On reaching Water Street, we parked at my home on Willow and walked down, and on reaching Water Street, we observed a crowd of, oh, possibly 100 to 200 young people in a circle, having Water Street blocked off. And they were throwing fireworks and doing little dances and shouting around and just having a general good time.
But as we got there, most of the traffic was stopping and turning around and going the other way, because they had the street blocked. But one man and woman in an Oldsmobile about, oh, ‘68 or ‘69 year, wanted to get through, so they opened the circle on one side and allowed them to get in and then closed it off behind them. Then, when the car was in the middle of the circle, they started shouting and dancing around and shouting obscenities, and one thing and another, and finally then pounding on the fenders of the car and jumping on it. And well, the man tried to get out by gunning the engine, starting up, but there were some of the people that were jumping in front of the car, and naturally not wanting to hit them, why he would stop. And then, kind of as a spontaneous reaction, I guess someone took an old beer bottle or a rock–I don’t know what it was–and smashed one of the windows, the back one, and then that started it, and I don’t know how much of the glass was broken, but various objects were thrown at the car, breaking glass, and they were pounding on it and everything else. And finally, the man just kind of gunned it a couple of times and knocked some people out of the way that were near the fenders, and finally got out of the circle and went north on Water Street toward Crain and got out of the vicinity.
So I told this friend of mine–I said, “Well gee, let’s get into the bar here. I don’t want to get involved in any of this.” So we went to the end of the Pirate’s Alley. The door, which was locked, and the owner opened it and allowed us to go in. Well, we watched some of the proceedings from the doorway that went on after that, and there was three–or possibly four–I think three motorcycle riders from the Chosen Few–well they had jackets on with “Chosen Few” on the back of them–that were putting on a little rodeo out there, a little show, doing wheelies and going around in circles on Water Street, while the crowd kind of clapped and shouted and everything and a little bonfire was started out there. At this time, I don’t know where the police were. This went on for, oh I don’t know, 45 minutes maybe to an hour, while we were there and then word came that the bars were being closed down. Well, by this time the Sheriff’s Department–the deputies had moved in and gotten behind the crowd on Water Street, and started to move the crowd south on Water toward Main.
By this time, most of the bars I guess had emptied out, and of course this has increased the crowd to three or four times as large as it was. And the sheriff’s deputies moved these people down Water Street, and we came out of the bar naturally, being closed down, and we’re behind the deputies as they were going down, we were observing this. And as this crowd was going down Water Street, they were shouting and running around and started to smash windows, kick-in windows. And, like Getz Hardware, they kicked the window in and dragged out the lawn spreader, various things, and used it to smash some of the other windows, and the Savings and Loan. And shoes from the–from Morton’s were used as missiles and so forth. So they moved the–the sheriff’s deputies moved these people down to Main Street and turned them left. They told them at various times to vacate the downtown vicinity, and they moved up Main Street, east toward the campus.
Now, during this time, these people that were in the crowd had every opportunity to move off one of the side streets, or to go to the parking lot to get their car, or to just get out of the general vicinity. But many of them seemed to be just observing or defiant enough just to not move along. And so there was, at this time, no abuse by any of the Sheriff’s Department or anything, they just moved the people along. And ADTs were going off, alarms, all over of course, by this time. They moved them up to Depeyster up to the top of the hill, and then there was kind of a confrontation there with the group, or mob, of students on the east side of Depeyster, and the sheriff’s deputies on the west side.
We were standing at this time–my assistant coach and I were standing under the marquee of the theater, because it was raining a little bit, it was drizzling a little bit. And we had asked the deputies at this time, as we were coming along–I’d recognized a couple of them and I’d asked them if there was anything that we could do to help out and he said well, “no,” that everything, they thought, was pretty much under control. And still, at this time, they asked them to disperse and to go their way and to–and the people had every opportunity, of course, to go either down Depeyster, up one of the side streets, or anything just to get out of there, or get their cars wherever they were parked. But they still didn’t seem to want to move–either observe, or taunt, or just be defiant.
And so at this time one of the deputies with a walkie-talkie came over and said, “What are you fellows doing?” and we said that we were merely observing, and he said, “Well, you had better leave, because they’re going to declare a curfew and they’re going to start picking up people in the downtown area and taking them in and booking them.” And I said, well, “That’s good enough for me,” and my assistant coach and myself headed then up Depeyster North and up across Columbus to my house, where he got his car and went home. And of course I went in and talked to my wife, I told her about what was going on downtown, and of course she didn’t–it was hard to believe. And then we kind of listened and we heard the crowd then–from the corner we live just up Willow, a little way off Main–and we could hear the crowd and everything, down around Willow, and Lincoln Street, and around Prentice Gate and noise ‘til, oh I don’t know, it must have been three o’clock in the morning or so. And so then, of course, that was my eyewitness account of what happened Friday night, and if it’s of any use, why I’d be glad to help out in any way I can.
[recording resumes after a short break]
[Unknown Speaker]: Okay, you’re on.
[Greg Shaw]: My name is Greg Shaw. I live at 7348 Sylvan Drive. This is in Kent–Twin Lakes, Ohio. Telephone number is 673-2638.
I’m supposed to be telling about my accomplishments, or experiences, on Friday night, that the trouble at Kent State University started. Well, here I shall begin. Me–a friend of mine and myself were returning from a party. My friend’s name is Brian Aldridge, he lives on Park Avenue in Kent. When we were on the railroad tracks behind the grain storage elevators in Kent, we were deciding whether to hitchhike to Twin Lakes, which is–was our destination, and how we would get there. Whether we would hitchhike by the Bissler furniture store at the corner of–at the corner on the other side of Main Street bridge, or at the Crain Avenue bridge.
At the point that we were standing there trying to decide, a person in plain clothes, carrying an M1 Carbine rifle, with a 30-round magazine and a bayonet mounted on the front of it, came running up to us and told us to–and I quote–“Get our goddamn ass moving.” We did so, down towards the Crain Avenue bridge. At this point, he trotted along beside us until we got to a parking lot somewhere between, I believe it’s [Joe and Ann’s?] restaurant and another factory, or storehouse, or something, where evidently his car was parked. We then got in the car and I didn’t look back after that.
Then, we proceeded to hitchhike home. We were picked up by an attendant at the gun department, or firearms department at K-Mart in Stow, Ohio.
[recording resumes after a short break]
[Unknown Speaker]: Just go ahead.
[Greg Shaw]: This is Greg Shaw. I made the last statement, which is on this tape.
I was with my camera equipment for the United Press Agency, stationed on the far–I believe it’s the right-hand corner of the KSU Commons. This is Sunday night. I was inside the rope with a National Guardsman by the name of [Ferris?]. This was approximately 10:30, maybe 11 o’clock at night. When I was standing beside the Guardsman, facing Taylor Hall, I believe it is–is that the one up on the hill?
[Unknown Speaker]: Yeah
[Greg Shaw]: I’m facing Taylor Hall, when a student approached from behind on the other side–he did not cross the rope, but he approached from behind. This was unknown to us, now, we did not know that the student was coming from behind us. And with a tin can, walked up and dropped it behind the National Guardsman, and frightened the National Guardsman and myself quite intensely. And after this, I–about ten minutes after this–but the Guardsman didn’t do anything. But about ten minutes after this I walked down to the Administration Building where I was–to the news office, the Kent State University news office, and where I met two people from the WKSU radio station. I’m not sure of their names.
But then being escorted by two National Guardsmen, from the–a detachment from the area surrounding the Commons, which they were guarding at that time. We were accompanied through the Administration Building down towards Main Street and to the corner of Lincoln. This is all at about 12 o’clock at night, I believe. When I got to the corner of Lincoln, at the corner of Lincoln and Main Street was completely surrounded by Guardsmen, up–going all the way up Lincoln, each within about three foot of the other person. The Guardsmen were armed with M1 Carbine rifles with 30-round magazines. There were no bayonets on the rifles, except the ones that the Guardsmen had. There was an armored personnel carrier parked at the corner of Main and Lincoln. We then proceeded up Lincoln for about one block and witnessed an arrest by a Kent Police Department car and two officers. There were four students arrested that I could see. I don’t know anything else about that cause we didn’t stop to question.
We were then escorted back to the Administration Building, through the Administration Building, and out towards the Kent State University ROTC building. When we were in front of the ROTC building across the street from the one that got burned down–previous night. The captain, or colonel, in charge asked the two guardsmen to “Please remain here.” We were on our way to Tri-Towers apartments. I was still with the two reporters from WKSU radio station. We then proceeded by ourselves to as far as we got, to Taylor Hall, then we were stopped and asked our press credentials. They were then shown. Then we continued ‘til we got to just outside of Taylor Hall–not Taylor Hall, Tri-Towers.
Then we were stopped again and asked for our press credentials. We then proceeded, when we were approached by a student leader, evidently of one of the dorms beside Tri-Towers, and asked to please go home, because they didn’t want us causing any trouble there. We waited in that area for five minutes by the assignment of the–a person in charge at WKSU radio station. Then we proceeded back towards WKSU radio station and got to the radio station. Then, as I was watching through the door–whether this is relevant or not, I do not know–but as I was watching through the door, I did see sirens over by Tri-Towers–or not sirens, but flashing lights from a police car. I was then out–well I was waiting outside for my ride to pick me up. I was again stopped and asked questions and had to show my press credentials to four state Ohio patrolmen and a state Ohio patrol car.
[recording resumes after a short break]
[Unknown Speaker]: [first part of the sentence is cut off] to do this.
[Elizabeth Runyong]: I have to do both together?
[Unknown Speaker 1]: Yeah, this has to [unintelligible]
[Elizabeth Runyon]: I’ll have to stop it, but both of [them?] can start it again [unintelligible]
I’m Elizabeth Runyon, 146 Old Orchard Drive, Hudson, Ohio. My phone is Olympic 3-6268. I’m a teaching fellow in the English department.
I was not on campus Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, May 1 to 3, but I came on campus about nine o’clock on Monday morning, May 4th. I saw the subpoena–I’m sorry, I saw the injunction posted on the door of our building and I read the injunction. I saw several posters, which asked people to come to a meeting, or a rally, on the Common at 12 o’clock. I did not know that we were not supposed to attend that meeting. I neither saw, nor heard, anything to indicate that we were doing anything illegal by attending that meeting.
I did go to the Common at about 10 after 12. I stood up behind a fence on the Bowman side of the Common and watched what went on for some time. After a while I walked in the direction of Taylor Hall. I saw the tear gas being thrown back and forth between the Guardsmen and the students. I saw the officers march up the hill toward Taylor Hall. I stayed–I was perhaps 50 yards or so behind the officers, or the National Guard, at the time they fired on the students. Some of those who had been watching and listening heard the shots and said, “Oh those are blanks.” Within a few minutes after that, the ambulances began arriving. I gradually walked up toward the little pagoda at the top of the rise. I climbed up on that so I could get a better view of what was happening. There was of course a huge mass of students in front of where I was.
I began to hear what I considered to be wild rumors flying around, to the effect that someone had had his head blown open. I thought that I would be responsible and not accept just any wild statement that was made, so I–several of us who were talking about it–I said to them, I was fairly sure that’s not true, surely they were not shot, they probably got–the students probably got hit by a brick or by a stone and there’s a little blood, so someone is beginning to make fantastic statements about their having been shot. Someone else ran through the crowd saying two students had been killed. I didn’t believe this either, although I did see some students lying down on the grass, surrounded by others who were kneeling around them. After–when the people were carted off in the ambulances, I gradually walked down toward the area where the actual shooting took place. I saw the bullet hole in the metal sculpture and took part in a number of discussions about which way the bullet must have been coming, you know, to have made such a hole as it did. I talked to various people who had been closer than I, had been in front, rather than in back, of the Guardsmen at the time of the shooting. I did not see on the ground any rocks or objects of any kind that might have been thrown by students at Guardsmen.
Although I did not see the actual stoning of the Guardsmen just prior to the shooting, I had seen many of these same students who were involved in the entire action just a few minutes before, when they were down in the direction of the Common. Although I have read recently a letter from a Guardsman’s mother, which appeared in the Beacon Journal, calling this a “shouting, bloodthirsty mob,” or words to that effect, I did not have the feeling that the students I saw were bloodthirsty in any sense. They were loud and raucous and a few of them may well have been throwing stones, as far as I know. But, I certainly did not have the impression that they were the wild, bloodthirsty mob that they had been called by some people.
As far as the actual shooting, I did not hear any single shot that preceded the barrage of shots. I did see the Guardsmen kneeling right at the time that I heard the shots. What I saw corresponded quite closely with a picture I’ve seen since in the paper, I believe taken by a student, which showed some of the men kneeling and shooting. I spent perhaps an hour–an hour and a half or so, in that general area talking to students, to some faculty members, to some students and former students of my own who had witnessed what went on. Eventually we moved back toward–I guess it’s Johnson and whatever that other dorm is, and stood near this short flight of steps that leads up in the direction of Bowman. And I also sat for a few minutes on the hill on the edge of the Common and heard a graduate student, and I believe Dr. Baron from psychology, speaking to the crowd in almost hysterical tones, urging them not to make a move toward the Guardsmen on the other side of the Common, because they would be killed if they did.
When this group was told to disperse, I did walk back up toward this little flight of steps in the direction of Bowman. After standing there for some time, with a number of other faculty members from the English department, we then went back to Satterfield, to our own building, and shortly after that the campus was cleared. I wanted to make one point clear and repeat that I did not know that I was not supposed to attend that meeting, and I have talked to a number of other people since–people in my own department and in other departments in Satterfield, who did not know that the meeting was illegal. It is my impression that this may well have been true of many of the students who went to the meeting or the rally. I inquired as to where the information was posted or given out that the meeting was illegal and I was told that it had been on the radio. However, since I don’t live in Kent, perhaps I didn’t hear the station on which it was announced, and I don’t have a car radio, so I didn’t hear it on the way over. None of the bulletin boards or doors that I happened to look at, where things are usually posted, indicated that the meeting was illegal in any way.×
Recorded statements of Walter Howard, Elizabeth Runyon, Greg Shaw, and Russel Thackler conducted by the CKSUV.
Thackler relays his observations of May 4, 1970. He was an eyewitness to the shootings. Comments on the training and discipline of the National Guard. Talks a bit about events of a Saturday night rally. Questions why the University was not better prepared. Is critical of communications on campus and lists other student complaints and frustrations.
Howard was a resident of Kent. He talks about incidents on Friday night before the shootings. He was going to a bar (Pirate's Alley) with his assistant coach after a track meet that evening and encountered crowds on Water St. He describes the situation there that night including damage that a crowd caused to a car that was trying to drive through the street. He observed other events from the bar until receiving word that the bars were being closed down. He observed vandalism that occurred in downtown Kent at that time.
Shaw discusses his experiences on Friday and Sunday nights before the shootings.
Runyon was a teaching fellow in English dept at time of shootings. She reports on events of May 4, 1970. She arrived on campus around 9AM that day. Went to the Commons at around 12:10. Did not know the event, which she calls a "meeting," was illegal. She was behind the Guard at time of shootings and eventually went up to the crest of the hill near the Pagoda. Reports hearing what she thought at the time were wild rumors about someone having "his head blown open." Saw the bullet hole in the Solar Totem sculpture. She objects to the characterization of the crowd as being a "blood-thirsty mob;" not what she observed. She spent about an hour or so speaking to people on the scene afterwards, sat on the hill and heard faculty urging students to disperse and not make any more moves toward the Guard, for their own safety.
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Commissions, Hearings, Tribunals
|May 4 Provenance||
May 4 Collection