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.