Without an eyewitness, the FBI turned to polygraphs, angle of shot diagrams
Third in a four-part series
At 12:35 p.m. on Nov. 17, 1972, the phone rang in the office of acting FBI Director L. Patrick Gray in Washington.
It was Deputy Attorney General Ralph Erickson, calling to order an investigation into the shooting of two students at Southern University amid a cloud of tear gas 25 hours before.
FBI officials quickly made plans to send dozens of agents from across the country, including some who had investigated shootings at Kent State in Ohio and Jackson State in Mississippi. The first group arrived in Baton Rouge two days later, setting up in the Capitol House Hotel, a white-painted, square brick building downtown.
“It took us just overnight to set up the office,” said Jack Stoddard, an agent from Philadelphia. On Monday morning, Nov. 20, he said, “assignments were given out.”
Within three days, the FBI knew that the students, Denver Smith and Leonard Brown, had been killed by a single blast of buckshot – and that the shot had likely been fired by one of the East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputies near a palm tree in front of the school’s administration building.
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By Drew Hawkins, Adrian Dubose, Allison Allsop And Alex Tirado
LSU Manship School News Service