Four Dead in Ohio is the first major reappraisal of the May 4, 1970 killings of four students at Kent State. The book is based on a 19-year investigation by William A. Gordon, a 1973 KSU graduate and an author whose relentless pursuit of answers earned him the reputation of being "the Boswell of Kent State." During his investigation, Gordon conducted over 200 formal interviews and spoke informally with each of the eight Ohio National Guardsmen who were criminally prosecuted, as well as many other key players in the drama (students, professors, White House and Justice Department officials, attorneys representing the various parties, the parents of the slain students, and various law enforcement officials). Gordon also attended the two major trials and unearthed both official and private documents in the archives at Yale, Kent State, the Ohio Historical Society, and the Nixon archives. The book also draws on the FBI's 8,000-page investigative file and other government records released under the Freedom of Information Act. Four Dead in Ohio re-examines the many different theories advanced for the shootings, as well as other unsolved mysteries of May 4. Gordon concluded: 1. There was no conspiracy among the enlisted Guardsmen, but there was probably a localized order to fire issued by one of the officers at the scene. 2. The Justice Department tried to convince a federal grand jury to indict the Guardsmen on conspiracy charges, but the grand jurors balked. Instead, the soldiers were charged with violating the victims' rights to due process. (They were subsequently acquitted by a federal judge.) 3. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover felt the victims deserved to be shot. 4. Hoover eagerly followed President Nixon's instructions to discredit accurate news reports that the shootings were unnecessary and the Guardsmen could be criminally charged. 5. Both the FBI and campus police covered up the actions of Terry Norman, a part-time Kent State student and undercover photographer who was initially suspected of firing the first shot. 6. The university prevented the public from learning that six of its police officers approached KSU administrators and alleged that their police chief was too drunk during the R.O.T.C. fire on May 2, 1970 to stop the arsonists. A subsequent university investigation determined that the fire could have been easily prevented if the police had done their job. The book also raises questions about why: 1. No student or Guardsmen indicted by the grand juries ever spent a day in jail as a result of the various criminal proceedings; 2. Several soldiers removed their identifying name tags; 3. A high school student, George Walter Harrington, who admitted to the FBI that he played an important role in the R.O.T.C. fire, was never prosecuted nor publicly identified before now; 4. The Nixon White House insisted on closely monitoring the progress of the FBI's investigation; 5. A student named Robert Freeman, who FBI files suggest was hit by shrapnel, was never identified as a possible 14th victim of the tragedy; and 6. A well-known sociology professor, just days after championing Kent State's few remaining radicals, did a bizarre 180 degree political turnaround and became an informant against the families of those killed.
History, Americas, United States,