A new documentary alleges that a Secret Service agent was the second (and accidental) shooter in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
At the Television Critics Association press tour in Los Angeles on Sunday, producers and investigators behind Reelz Channel's new documentary "JFK: The Smoking Gun" made the claim that George Hickey, a Secret Service agent riding in the car behind Kennedy, accidentally shot the president on Nov. 22, 1963. The film follows veteran police detective Colin McLaren in his four-year investigation of the assassination and points at Hickey, who died two years ago.
McLaren's research built on the work of Howard Donahue, who spent 20 years studying the assassination and had his findings documented in Bonar Menninger’s book Mortal Error: The Shot That Killed JFK. McLaren and Menninger were on hand Sunday to take questions about their film, which the network billed in press notes as a "docudrama."
Addressing the crowd, McLaren claimed that Hickey and other Secret Service agents were out partying the night before Kennedy's fatal motorcade drive through Dallas. Based on his painstaking investigation, McLaren said, evidence suggests Hickey was not qualified to use the weapon he was holding the morning of the shooting.
"It was his first time in the follow car, his first time holding the assault weapon he was using," McLaren said. Producers said the film's theory is that shots rang out, and Hickey grabbed his weapon to return fire. When his car stopped suddenly, Hickey accidentally discharged his weapon -- making him the second shooter, the film's investigators and producers alleged.
McLaren said he believes that Hickey's weapon had hollow-point rounds -- different from the ammunition for the weapon used by Lee Harvey Oswald, whom the Warren Commission declared in 1964 was the lone gunman in the case. Menninger and McLaren said that based on their review of the forensics in the case, they believe that Kennedy was also struck by a hollow-point round.
Oswald was killed before he could stand trial, but the case has continued to inspire various theories around just how the tragedy occurred. Books and films have advanced different ideas -- including a second shooter theory.
"We're not saying this was intentional," Menninger said Sunday. "This was a tragic accident in the heat of the moment."
"We don't suggest he was in any way involved in a conspiracy," Menninger added.
Donahue wrote about his theory decades ago, but McLaren said it's taken decades -- and the release of thousands of JFK-related documents during the Clinton administration -- for a proper review of all the evidence and information related to the case. The authors acknowledged Sunday that there are many other books and films on the assassination, but said theirs is unique because it is based on a new review of the documents released during the 1990s.
McLaren and Menninger also alleged that the government -- including Robert F. Kennedy -- covered up the involvement of the Secret Service and Hickey.
The producers were pressed on how the alleged involvement of the Secret Service could be covered up for 50 years.
"Nobody was going to gain" from having this out there, Menninger said.
"We're not here to blacken the name" of Hickey or any other individual, or the modern-day Secret Service, McLaren said.
Menninger discussed the fact that he was sued by Hickey in the 1990s, but noted that despite a settlement, his publisher never removed his book from the shelves.
"I'm sure that [Hickey] suffered greatly from this," Menninger said. "The fact that he passed on -- maybe it's time to talk about it."
"Our documentary is going to be the only one that has opened the case forensically and looked at the evidence from the beginning and examined everything that happened that day in Dealey Plaza," Michael Prupas, the film's executive director, said.
Reelz Channel gained notice two years ago for airing the miniseries "The Kennedys," which some historical experts criticized as an unflattering portrayal of the family.
"No other network will touch these things," Reelz's CEO Stanley E. Hubbard said Sunday.
The documentary is set to air on Nov. 3, 2013, according to a press release.
"Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal."
John F. Kennedy is shown at six-months-old in Brookline, Mass., in 1917. (AP Photo/John F. Kennedy National Historic Site)
"Modern cynics and skeptics... see no harm in paying those to whom they entrust the minds of their children a smaller wage than is paid to those to whom they entrust the care of their plumbing."
Mrs. Rose Kennedy, mother of the late president John F. Kennedy, posed with three of her children, Rosemary, John and Joseph Jr., left to right, for the Kennedy family album in 1919. (AP Photo/Kennedy Family)
"Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future."
Young John F. Kennedy, his brother and three sisters are shown in 1923 with his mother, Rose Kennedy, in a picture from the Kennedy family album. The children are, from left, Eunice, Kathleen, Rosemary, John, and Joseph, Jr. (AP Photo/Kennedy Family Album)
"We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back from whence we came."
John F. Kennedy, future president of the United States, works on a Kennedy sailboat. No other information given. (AP Photo)
"Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners, and necessity has made us allies. Those whom God has so joined together, let no man put asunder."
John F. Kennedy, 16, second from right, front row, is shown in a team photo of the junior football team at Choate School in Wallingford, Conn., in 1933. (AP Photo)
"We should never negotiate out of fear, but we should never fear to negotiate."
John F. Kennedy, son of Joseph Kennedy, US ambassador to Great Britain, who swims in the backstroke event for the varsity swimming team at Harvard, where he is a student., prepares to dive into the pool March 10, 1938. On this day Kennedy is doing a practice swim. (AP Photo)
"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."
John F. Kennedy, of the 1940 class, as a student of the Freshman Swimming Squad at Harvard College in an 1936 photo for the Year Book. The identifications are listed back row: Coach Peterson, Urquehart, John F. Kennedy, Cutler, Curwen, Rines, Southwick, Manager Stern. Front Row: Dana, Hewitt, Griffin, Kendall, Wehle, Hobbing, Sagenkahn. (AP Photo)
"Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men."
John F. Kennedy, left, with Lem Billings holding Kennedy's dachsund Offie at The Hague, in August of 1937. (AP Photo/ John F. Kennedy Library)
"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich."
Joseph P. Kennedy, left, U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain, is seen with his son, John F. Kennedy, Jan. 5, 1938, in New York. (AP Photo)
"Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth."
Lt. John F. Kennedy, shown in 1943 in a wartime snapshot as PT 109 commander. (AP Photo)
"Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction."
Lt. John F. Kennedy, far right, with his crew, as a PT boat commander in 1943. (AP Photo)
“The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.”
Ensign John F. Kennedy, intelligence officer in November 1941 in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo)
"When written in Chinese, the word 'crisis' is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity."
Lt. John Fitzgerald Kennedy, USNR, son of former Ambassador to England Joseph P. Kennedy, today, June 12, 1944, received the Navy and Marine Corps medal for extremely heroic conduct while commanding a PT boat in the Pacific. Capt. Frederic L. Conklin (left), commanding officer at the Chelsea Naval Hospital where young Kennedy is awaiting a minor operation, presented the award. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy)
"Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names."
John F. Kennedy, just returned from Berlin and London, reads the inevitable news, in 1939. (AP Photo)
"Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one's own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others."
John F. Kennedy, son of United States Ambassador to Britain, Joseph P. Kennedy, is shown on his arrival in New York, September 8, 1938, from Europe as a passenger on the S.S. Bremen. (AP Photo)
"There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction."
John F. Kennedy, son of Joseph P. Kennedy, the United States Ambassador to Great Britain, is shown making a phone call from his office in the American Embassy, Prince?s Gate W., on March 9, 1939 in London, after taking up his duties in his father?s office. After a period, he will be transferred to the U.S. Embassy in Paris. He left Harvard University only a short time ago. (AP Photo)
"Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly."
A youthful John F. Kennedy is shown campaigning for Congress from Massachusetts' Eleventh District in 1946. (AP Photo)
"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."
A portrait of John F. Kennedy copied from the Harvard Yearbook, class of 1940. (AP Photo/Harvard College)
"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty."
John F. Kennedy is pictured as a 23-year-old graduate student at Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, in October 1940. He graduated Harvard College in June. (AP Photo)
"Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought."
John F. Kennedy, winner of the Democratic Nomination for Congress in the 11th Massachusetts District, relaxes with his dog, Mo, June 22, 1946, Hyannisport, Mass. (AP Photo/Peter J. Carroll)
"The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were."
John F. Kennedy, left, is shown with his brother, Robert Kennedy, and his dog, Mo, in Hyannis Port, Ma., in 1946. John Kennedy, 29, former war correspondent and author, won the Democratic nomination for a seat in the House of Representatives in the 11th Massachusetts Congressional District. (AP Photo)
"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other."
Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts, received the Doctor of Laws hood, June 17, 1956 at the Boston Garden, Boston, Mass., from Dr. Carl S. Ell (right), then President and new Chancellor of Northeastern University. Kennedy was the commencement speaker before 1,384 graduating students. His subject was “It’s your American now.” (AP Photo)
"Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future."
Congressman John F. Kennedy is shown talking to Eleanor Roosevelt, in Washington, DC, 1946. (AP Photo)
"Once you say you're going to settle for second, that's what happens to you in life."
Rep. John F. Kennedy, D-Ma., son of Joseph P. Kennedy, former ambassador to Great Britain, is shown looking through real estate advertisements on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on November 27, 1946, in his search for a place to live. (AP Photo)
"Things do not happen. Things are made to happen."
Sen. John F. Kennedy, D-Mass., and his fiancee, Jacqueline Bouvier, prepare a sailfish boat for sailing at Hyannis, Mass., June 27, 1953. (AP Photo)
"The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining."
Sen. John F. Kennedy, D-Mass., and his fiancee Jacqueline Bouvier, 23, pose on the lawn of the Kennedy residence during their weekend visit at Hyannis, Ma., on June 27, 1953. The couple announced their engagement June 23. (AP Photo)
"If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him."
U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy (D-Mass) and his fiancée Miss Jacqueline Bouvier, 23, smile happily as they prepare for a game of tennis at the Kennedy residence at Hyannis, Massachusetts on June 27, 1953, where they are spending the week-end. Miss Bouvier is from Newport, R.I., and McLean, W. Va. The couple's engagement was announced on Tuesday. (AP Photo)
"Mothers all want their sons to grow up to be president, but they don't want them to become politicians in the process."
U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy, D-Mass., and his bride, the former Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, cut their wedding cake during a reception following thier marriage Sept.12, 1953 at Newport, R.I. (AP Photo)
"A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on. Ideas have endurance without death."
Sen. John F. Kennedy, D-Mass, poses with his wife Jacqueline, and their 11-month-old daughter Caroline, during a visit to Hyannisport, Cape Cod, October 4, 1958. The family was visiting the summer home of the senator's parents Mr. and Mrs. Joseph P. Kennedy. (AP Photo)
"Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."
Pres. John F. Kennedy making inaugural address. (Photo by Joseph Scherschel//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)