The Justice Department has decided not to reopen an investigation into the 1970 Kent State University shootings in Ohio, saying there are legal obstacles to further prosecutions and doubts about new evidence reported by The Cleveland Plain Dealer
The Plain Dealer reported Tuesday the decison was based on an “inconclusive” FBI analysis of an audio tape the newspaper uncovered in 2010.
The tape reportedly contains unusual sounds, pistol shots, and an order for the National Guard to fire on the students during their May 4 protest of the Vietnam War.
“It’s absurd for anyone to expect the Justice Department to thoroughly investigate itself, including its FBI division,” Alan Canfora, one of the nine students who was wounded during the shootings, told the Plain Dealer.
“I don't think they’re fair, I don’t think they’re objective, and the only way they can alleviate this controversy about their own failed investigation is to go to some outside, independent experts,” added Canfora, who now heads the Kent May 4 Center.
The government’s refusal to reopen the case may mean there never will be complete answers to the question of what prompted the Guard to fire on the students, killing four and wounding nine, as they were scattering and the protest was ending. A presidential commission determined lethal force wasn’t warranted.
Eight Guardsmen were charged in the shootings, but the criminal case was dismissed in 1974. A civil lawsuit followed, ending with a $675,000 settlement and a “statement of regret.”
The Justice Department decision, delivered in a letter to the newspaper from Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, comes just ahead of the Kent State May 4 commemoration next month. Canfora said there would likely be a discussion among the surviving shooting victims in attendance about what else can be done to get more answers.
“I’m convinced that with further independent analysis of the digital forensic evidence, we’ll conclusively soon prove that the Kent State massacre was an intentional slaughter of innocent, unarmed students,” he said. “I think at some point even the government will have to admit that truth.”
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