SEARCH UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES
Transcription of the recorded statements of Mike Johnson and Jim McCain conducted by the Commission on KSU Violence.
My testimony has to do with the incidents that took place on Monday, May 4, in regards to the shooting on campus.
I arrived at campus at about approximately 12:05 and I was not aware of martial law being in effect. I was unaware that it was illegal to assemble on campus. I was there for three reasons: I was curious, I was sympathetic with the cause against Cambodia–the move into Cambodia, and I was also there because I thought the meeting on Commons, which again I wasn’t aware was illegal, was going to be run by more rational elements who I had hoped would take–channel the energy that had developed over–during this period, during the weekend, over Cambodia, to channel this energy into constructive means.
At approximately 12:10, I went to the parking lot above the practice football field by Prentice and Taylor Hall. There were a group of students–I was facing the practice football field and a group of students to the left of me, and a group of students to the right of me, and I decided to avoid these groups in order to avoid the tear gas. At the time I arrived at this parking lot, and the approximate position in the parking lot would be by an island close to Taylor Hall, that end of the parking lot–and as I was facing the football field, the National Guardsmen were already assembled there. They weren’t doing too much and the students were more or less standing around watching. I did observe one student who, from the parking lot, tried to throw a small stone at the National Guardsmen. It was a futile effort, he realized it, he turned around and shook his head, and that was the last I saw him attempt to throw anything. I saw no knives, no guns, no bottles, no bricks, nothing larger than perhaps a few rocks thrown. For the most part, the students were curious and they were not really chanting that much.
I also did observe two, more militant-looking, which doesn’t mean that they were militants, but militant-looking people approach the National Guardsmen while they were on the football field. They came approximately within 30 yards of the Guardsmen. One was waving a flag, they didn’t throw anything, the guardsmen–some of the guardsmen knelt and pointed their guns at these two students who immediately turned around and walked away. At the time I didn’t realize it, but it was a foreshadowment of things to come.
Shortly thereafter, the Guardsmen reassembled and they were not firing tear gas which may–which led me to believe that perhaps they were out of tear gas, but they still had the bayonets fixed. They reassembled and they began marching back towards Taylor Hall, up across the cement pathway and up the hill. The students moved out of the way. They did not try to stop or confront the Guards. There was no–for the most part, the students were not there to confront the Guards. They didn’t want to–probably they were afraid, they didn't want to get stabbed or cause any violence on either part. Also, I might mention that there were Guardsmen who were stationed behind me on a small hill above Commons between–well, I could see them– between the gap between Prentice and Taylor and they, for the most part, were stationary, and were not participating.
To get back to the Guardsmen who were marching up the hill–they marched through the students. The students closed the gap after they marched through. Most of the students were retreating from the Guardsmen away from the hill by Taylor. A few students in front of me were more or less–they moved back and then they stopped and they turned and they may have been yelling a few things at the Guardsmen. And about approximately half a dozen to a dozen, that is 6 to 12 people, were throwing small rocks. Again, I saw no bottles, no bricks, nothing larger than these small rocks.
The Guardsmen reached the top of the hill, they suddenly turned and I heard three shots almost simultaneously and then simultaneously again a volley erupted from the Guardsmen. I heard no single shot that would lead me to believe that there had been a sniper. The loudness of the rifles that were fired or the guns that were fired were approximately the same. It sounded like the same caliber of weapon. I might add that not all the Guardsmen were pointing their guns directly at the students. Approximately three had them at 45-degree angles. Now whether they were firing or not, I could not tell. For the most part the Guardsmen were–had their rifles leveled at the students, although a few were firing down and whether they were firing into the ground or into the parking lot I couldn’t tell. I might also add that not all the Guardsmen were firing. I would say it was approximately 15 men who did–or it sounded about the volley of the size of about 15 men who did the actual firing. Immediately as they turned and they opened up fire I laid flat on the ground. It was incomprehensible to me at the time that they were firing live ammunition. I thought they were blanks. They were not surrounded by the students. The closest student was–oh a few students were within 100 to 150 feet of the Guardsmen. I–there were no large groups of students any closer than that.
Again, the Guardsmen were not backed up against the wall. It didn’t appear to me that they were surrounded. It was more or less a U-shape that the students had made and it seemed to me that the Guardsmen, their backs were–the way their backs were facing towards Commons, there were very few students that prevented them from–that could prevent them from continuing their march down the hill and to realign themselves with the original group of Guardsmen. But instead they did turn and fire and I did hit the ground and the volley, it seemed to me, lasted approximately 15 seconds. It began sporadically as I stated before, but ended almost simultaneously. I heard no command. I was not in a position to hear a command. I could not hear a command to either open up fire or to cease fire. I saw–I was unable to see a baton raised or lowered. At the time I thought that it was not a command to open fire because of the way it happened, it seemed to me that it was more of a few people acting on their own individual decision. Though the way it ended, I thought that maybe that there had been a command to cease fire.
After the firing, I got up and I still thought they were blanks. It was again inconceivable that they would open up on armless students, but that assumption was soon discounted as I walked approximately 15 feet towards this pathway that led into the parking lot and there was a student who had obviously been shot in the head. The blood was flowing from the head area. He was making no movements whatsoever. I came within about two feet of him, I felt that there was nothing I could do. There was no doubt in my mind that this boy was dead. So I immediately turned around and there was another student who had received a wound in the back. Whether he had received it in his rear end or in his spine, I was unable to determine. It was a low–and in that area and I asked him if he could feel his legs or feel the wound. He said, “No,” he couldn’t move his legs, he couldn’t feel the wound. There wasn't much blood emission from the wound.
For the most part I stayed with him, although during this time about five Guardsmen from this stationary group between Prentice and Taylor walked over to the one boy who had received a wound in the head that I had witnessed first. They walked over to him, they looked at him and they turned around. The students didn’t try to rush them to take away their weapons. My feeling, and I think the feeling of most students there was–haven’t we had enough and just leave us alone with our own dead. There were a few people who emotionally yelled a few things at these Guardsmen similar to, “Are you satisfied now? Are you animals?” More a passionate outletting of emotion, rather than a violent attack on these Guardsmen. And the Guardsmen turned around and left and went back to their platoon or to their group. There were no other Guardsmen that I saw that made an attempt to assist any of the wounded. We waited for ambulances, which eventually came and took the students away.
[recording resumes after a short break]
[Mike Johnson]: I would also like to add that, in my opinion, I was unaware of outside agitators. I know myself the reason, the motivation behind my being there was again the move into Cambodia and the frustration that this had created. I had talked to a friend previously and I was concerned about what organization on campus perhaps, or outside agitators perhaps, were involved in the incidences that had taken place up to Monday and he told me that it was his opinion that it was very spontaneous, that there were no leaders who you could call “revolutionaries,” that had been in the past stirring-up campus–or campus unrest at Kent State. It was curious, concerned students for the most part who were there that Monday.
[recording resumes after a short break]
[Jim McCain]: My name is Jim McCain. M-c-C-a-i-n. I’m a doctoral student and graduate assistant in the Department of Political Science at Kent State University. I live–or did live, at Glenmorris Student Apartments; officially my things are still there, I’m not residing there. At this point the mail is still going there. It’s 920, Apartment #3, on Morris Road, is the mailing address there. My phone number there is 678-9745. I’ve been–since that was temporarily evacuated at least, I’ve been staying at the home of Dr. Eastman and he is with the Institute of Government Research and Service, the director of that organization, and his phone number is 678-9212. He lives at 1748 Elm Drive in Kent. Additionally, the Political Science office phone number is 672-2060. The Institute of Government to which I am attached is 672-2619.
We walked around the campus and I was quite surprised by several things. Primarily, the fraternization process which was taking place between the students, especially the coeds, and the National Guardsmen. I felt that, at that time, that this was unforgivable. It certainly was not a type of activity which was a commendation to the fighting unit of any sort. My initial reaction was, if violence was taking place on campus, I was glad that order at least was being reestablished on campus and to that extent, I was glad that perhaps the Guardsmen were there. That was my initial reaction. However, I noticed as I walked around campus, coeds sticking flowers and dandelions in the rifle barrels, coeds giving soda pop and food to the National Guardsmen and the National Guardsmen accepting these things readily. Long, lengthy, friendly discussions going on between the National Guardsmen, the coeds and other students.
And at Glenmorris where I lived, on Sunday afternoon, from my living room window, which faces the swimming pool, one of the two in the Glenmorris complex, I noticed two National Guardsmen coming over to use their swimming pool with coed residents of the Glenmorris complex. I thought that my goodness, this was certainly nothing which would tend to suggest that these people are going to use much physical violence on the population which they were seeking to control and at that point I thought, well, perhaps I have made a mistake. Perhaps the National Guard is not the best unit for this type of activity and perhaps a crack airborne division or someone with similar prestige may have been better qualified. I say this because I hadn’t suspected that a military unit would carry on any fraternization process, would accept anything from a population which it seeks to control. This gave every indication, I am sure, to the students engaging in this fraternization process, and to myself as well, that there was not going to be any serious confrontation or violent confrontation, that there was sort of a fun and games type atmosphere attached to the process.
The process carried on. My girlfriend and I were standing at the corner of Summit Street and Morris Road, in front of Satterfield Hall. A car came by, an elderly gentleman was driving the car, apparently with his family out for a Sunday drive looking at the university. I said nothing to the individual, he stopped and shook his fist at me and started cursing–”You people live here, why the hell don’t you take care of it!” and that sort of thing. I continued to say nothing and at that point a Highway Patrolman came to me and said, “You’d best move on, you don’t want to cause no trouble here.” And this, I think, at least, I think–in my own mind, I thought, my goodness what a misunderstanding of that incident.
A third incident that I’d like to relate concerns the insolence of the Portage County Sheriffs. On Sunday night after having taken my girlfriend back home, I drove back into town and the National Guardsmen on the Ravenna end of Main Street told me to turn right and to get off of Main Street and I told him that I was trying to get home back to Glenmorris as expeditiously as possible, and he said, “Well, you’ll have to circumnavigate the town and come back in the best way you can.” So I went to Crane Avenue and down to Water Street and up Water Street and a Portage County Sheriff was there directing traffic, several of them were. I was behind another car. The car in front of me turned right. They would not let this car go straight ahead. He had no other choice but to turn right, and I rolled down my window to speak with one of the sheriffs and ask, number one, how I could get to where I was going and if it was possible to proceed straight ahead on Water Street to get closer to Glenmorris so I could turn in. As I rolled down my window, he yelled at me and said, “Follow that car boy, follow that car,” and I started to talk to him to ask him this question and he said, “Don’t give me any argument or I’ll beat your fucking ass in with this stick.” And at that point, I had little alternative at all. I didn’t mind his–I was not objecting to his authority, I was objecting to the way in which he exercised it. Obviously tensions were rather high. I did turn right and attempted by some means to get back to Glenmorris.
As I approached, I was going up the street, by–where Sparkle Market and the fire station is located on. A National Guardsman lowered his rifle at me, took aim, and said “Halt.” I immediately stopped the car and put my hands in the air as if I had nothing I was going to do there–I could do no else but to stop. A Guardsman came up and said, “You’ll have to get your ass off the street.” I said, “Well I’m trying to go home.” At that point a Kent City Policeman came up. I told him that I lived here in Kent, that I was trying to get home, could he please advise me as to how to get there. He finally allowed me to pass through and passed the word along the line to let me through and reminded me that I should “Get my ass off the street as quickly as possible.” That was probably the least insolent thing that was said to me all evening.
Again, it was apparent to me, not because I’m a political scientist, but that helped to give me some insights–it was apparent to me that there was great confusion in terms of communication, apparently between National Guardsmen, Highway Patrolmen, Summit and Portage County Sheriff officials, city policemen and so forth. Under the circumstances, I suppose that was the best they could do.
But on Monday, for example, after this fraternization process had continued through the weekend, I was in my office in Bowman Hall, and one of my colleagues came in and said that students had been shot. At first I couldn’t believe it. I said, “Certainly you are joking. If they’ve been shot with anything, it was probably teargas,” and he said, “No, they’ve been shot, some have been shot through the head,” those were his words, I didn’t know, and I still don’t, where they were shot. But it seemed incredible to me, the confusion and pandemonium from that point on, totally out of proportion to anything imaginable. The communications into our office, via the telephone of course was cut off. Secretaries wanting to go home, not knowing–student secretaries wanting to go home, actually being frightened and some were crying and I–one asked if I would not take her home and I said, “Yes, I would.”
I came to Main Street via Lincoln Street and one Guardsman was standing there directing traffic and as he was directing me through the intersection, there was another Guardsman trying to cross the same intersection. Various types of things which was typical of–it sort of reminded me of Atlanta before the siege, of accounts I’ve read of that, and no real communication, or no effective coordination being exercised by anyone apparently.
One other thing I would like to add to this testimony is the fact that my roommate, who is a Black student, and quite active in the Black organization on campus–I asked him when he came back on Sunday night, I said, “What part are the Blacks playing in the events that are occuring on campus?” Of course, he was at home in Cleveland over the weekend and he had–when I asked him this question, had just talked with several other Black students on campus and he said that Black students were not involved in anything and he seemed to be quite gleeful about the fact that the Black students did not have to do anything, the white students were doing it all. His prophecies–the ideological types of prophecies that the organization had predicted were coming true without the personal intervention of Black students and at that point I didn’t–I was not aware of any outside agitators. Of course, we all know–or at least it’s been my experience that when I read about events or disturbances which take place over time the situation has a tendency to draw various radical groups and various radicals who, just on their own, migrate towards this source of disturbance.
Well I heard nothing of anything conspiratorial that I could tell, I–as far as I knew, it was–the types of things that I heard my colleagues talking about, that I heard undergraduate students talking about, were exercising rights of assembly which of course they did not know had been suspended. That communication apparently–and I’m not sure if it would have made a difference if they had known it, they were probably going to try to assert it anyway, as they did on the Commons. But nothing which would tend to suggest that there was any subversive type of organization or any type of group that was infiltrating the campus from outside to instigate trouble. There may in fact have been particular individuals on the scene and around. If so, I was not aware of them and undergraduates and other people that I’ve talked to that traveled around the scene more so than I, suggest that they were not aware of them either. That’s about all.
Recorded statements of Mike Johnson and Jim McCain conducted by the CKSUV.
Johnson, a student, political science major, at time of the shootings, was unaware of martial law being in place when he arrived on campus on Monday. He was interested in the rally on the Commons and relays his observations of what occurred before, during, and after the shootings. He states that he did not witness a command to fire. He directly observed wounded and slain students. He also notes that he was unaware of "outside agitators" being present.
McCain was a doctoral student and grad assistant in political science at the time of the shootings. He was a resident of Glen Morris apartments at time of shootings. He talks about "fraternization" among Guardsmen and students before shootings and the fact that this made him uncomfortable with their control of campus. He comments as well on Portage County Sheriff personnel speaking abusively to him at a roadblock getting into Kent on Sunday night. He also had a high-tension interaction with a National Guardsman that same evening. He comments on communication issues among the various police and government agencies in Kent at that time. McCain notes at end of recording that his roommate was a black man, and McCain asked him about black students' roles in the events of May 1-4, and was told by the roommate that there was no involvement by black students/organizations in the events. McCain also assesses that the events were not influenced or caused by so-called "outside agitators."
Kent State University
Special Collections and Archives
This digital object is owned by Kent State University and may be protected by U.S. Copyright law (Title 17, USC). Please include proper citation and credit for use of this item. Use in publications or productions is prohibited without written permission from Kent State University. Please contact the Department of Special Collections and Archives for more information.
|DPLA Rights Statement||
|Format of Original||
|Subcollection||Commission on KSU Violence records|
Commissions, Hearings, Tribunals
|May 4 Provenance||
May 4 Collection