The Ohio National Guardsmen who fired on students and antiwar protesters at Kent State University on May 4, 1970, were given an order to “prepare to fire,” according to two experts who analyzed a 40-year-old audio tape of the day’s tragic events for The Plain Dealer, a newspaper in Cleveland. Such a command could explain a mystery in the case: Why did 28 Guardsmen pivot in unison, raise their weapons, and fire 67 times? Several witnesses said at the time that they heard something that sounded like an order to fire, but most of the soldiers who acknowledged using their weapons later testified that they acted spontaneously.
Doris Krause, the mother of one of the four students who died, said a prepare-to-fire command “had to be,” but wished “there was better proof.” William Gordon, author of an exhaustive 1995 book on the shootings, Four Dead in Ohio, said the new analysis was potentially “a real game-changer.” “If the results can be verified,” he told The Plain Dealer, “it means the Guardsmen perjured themselves extensively at the trials.”
A former student who was one of nine people wounded in the shootings said on Monday that he would seek a new investigation of the incident, based on the new audio analysis.