Paul Landis & the ‘Magic Bullet Theory’: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Paul Landis

X (Clint Hill)/Getty Paul Landis and JFK right before his assassination.

Paul Landis is an 88-year-old former Secret Service agent for Jacqueline Kennedy whose revelation that he found a bullet in the JFK assassination casts doubt on the single gunman and “magic bullet” theory.

Landis provided new information about the assassination in an interview with The New York Times and in a forthcoming book called “The Final Witness.” His account contradicts what was known as the “magic bullet theory,” which formed the foundation for arguments that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.

Landis did not draw conclusions about who shot Kennedy in his interview with The New York Times.

“There’s no goal at this point,” he told the newspaper.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Paul Landis Says He Found a Bullet on the Top of the President’s Car’s Back Seat

paul landis

GettyPresident John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy ride with Texas Governor John Connally and others in an open car motorcade shortly before the president was assassinated in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

According to a Vanity Fair article by James Robenalt, Landis “was one of two Secret Service agents tasked with guarding First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy on November 22, 1963.”

The caption for his book reads, “Special Agent Paul Landis is in the follow-up car directly behind JFK’s and is at the president’s limo as soon as it stops at Parkland Memorial Hospital. He is inside Trauma Room #1, where the president is pronounced dead. He is on Air Force One with the president’s casket on the flight back to Washington, D.C.; an eyewitness to Lyndon Johnson taking the oath of office.”

According to Vanity Fair, Landis was standing about 15 feet away “on the right rear running board of the Secret Service follow-up car” when JFK was shot in Dallas. He and another agent had to coax Jackie Kennedy into letting go of her husband’s wounded body, the magazine reported.

In the key revelation, Landis claims that he found a bullet on the top of the back seat of the president’s car, and later placed it on JFK’s stretcher at the hospital.

According to The New York Times, it was long believed that the bullet was located on a stretcher holding Texas Governor John Connally, who was also shot in the assassination but survived.

The Warren Commission “decided that one of the bullets fired that day struck the president from behind, exited from the front of his throat and continued on to hit Mr. Connally, somehow managing to injure his back, chest, wrist, and thigh,” The Times reported, adding that this theory came to be known by skeptics as the “magic bullet theory.”

The key is that if the so-called magic bullet did not injure both Kennedy and Connally, then it would not have been possible for Oswald to have fired three shots, as evidenced by the amateur film shot by an onlooker, Abraham Zapruder.

“There was nobody there to secure the scene, and that was a big, big bother to me,” Landis told The Times. “All the agents that were there were focused on the president.”

The bullet “was a piece of evidence, that I realized right away. Very important. And I didn’t want it to disappear to get lost. So it was, ‘Paul you’ve got to make a decision,’ and I grabbed it.”

According to his book caption, Landis was never called to testify to the Warren Commission, which advanced the “magic bullet” and lone gunman theories.

2. Paul Landis, Who Was Raised in Ohio, Joined the Secret Service in 1958

Vanity Fair reported that Landis is from Worthington, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus.

He joined the Secret Service in 1958 at age 23, the magazine reported, graduating from Ohio Wesleyan University a year earlier.

A neighborhood friend had joined the Secret Service, giving him the idea, Vanity Fair reported, adding that, at 5 feet, 8 inches tall, he barely made the agency’s height requirement.

The Times noted, “A couple elements of his account contradict the official statements he filed with authorities immediately after the shooting.”

In his original statement in 1963, Landis said he traveled from Fort Worth, Texas, on a U.S. Air Force Flight and then went to Love Field in Dallas.

He said that he “heard a second report and it appeared the president’s head split open with a muffled exploding sound. I can best describe the sound as I heard it, as the sound you would get by shooting a high-powered bullet into a five-gallon can of water.”

He estimated the time between the first and second gunshot “must have been about four or five seconds.”

Landis said he was not certain which direction the second shot came from but “my reaction at this time was that the shot came from somewhere towards the front, right-hand side of the road.”

He wrote then, “I do not recall hearing a third shot.” It was Nov. 27, 1963. The statement does not mention Landis finding a bullet.

A blog post in 2015, however, says, “Landis later reported, ‘And when my eyes came back to the president again, it was a third shot and that was the one that hit him in the head.'”

3. John F. Kennedy’s Nephew Wrote on X, ‘The Magic Bullet Theory Is Now Dead’

Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the son of JFK’s brother, Robert F. Kennedy, wrote on X that the Landis revelation has killed the “magic bullet theory.”

“The magic bullet theory is now dead,” RFK Jr. wrote. “This preposterous construction has served as the mainstay of the theory that a single shooter murdered President Kennedy since the Warren Commission advanced it 60 years ago under the direction of the former CIA Director Allen Dulles whom my uncle fired.”

Kennedy continued: “The recent revelations by JFK’s Secret Service protector Paul Landis have prompted even the New York Times-among the last lonely defenders of the Warren Report-to finally acknowledge its absurdity.”

4. Paul Landis, Who Guarded the Kennedy Children & First Lady, Was Called ‘Debut’

jackie kennedy

GettyJackie Kennedy

Landis was given the Secret Service code name “Debut,” according to Vanity Fair, which said he was assigned to guard the Kennedy children and then the First Lady, along with Clint Hill.

In 1962, he traveled with Jacqueline and Caroline Kennedy to Italy, Vanity Fair reported.

Vanity Fair reported that Landis’ PTSD was so bad from witnessing the assassination that he did not read about it for 50 years.

5. Paul Landis Works as a Security Guard for the Cleveland History Center

According to Vanity Fair, Landis “exercises daily and plays golf once a week.”

The magazine reported that he works as a security guard and “a kind of welcome ambassador at the Cleveland History Center.”

READ NEXT: Jimmy Buffett’s Wife, Jane Slagsvol