Badge Man is a name given to an unknown figure that is reputedly visible within the famous Mary Moorman photograph of the assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy. Some researchers have theorized that this figure is a sniper firing a weapon at the President from the grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza. Even though an alleged muzzle flash obscures much of the detail, the “Badge Man” has been described as a person wearing some kind of police uniform – the moniker itself derives from a bright spot on the chest, which is said to resemble a gleaming badge.
Speculation about the “Badge Man” figure helped create conspiracy theories regarding a plot made by members of the Dallas Police Department to kill President Kennedy. In response, abundant skeptics proposed numerous alternative interpretations of the image.
The Moorman photograph
During the Presidential motorcade through Dealey Plaza, Dallas resident Mary Moorman took a series of photographs with her Polaroid camera. Her nonprofessional photos captured images of all of the presidential limousine occupants, several other close witnesses (including Abraham Zapruder filming), two Dallas police motorcycle Presidential escorts, and much of the Plaza’s grassy knoll. The “Badge Man” is reputedly visible in Moorman’s fifth and most famous photo of the area, taken at the moment of the head shot that killed the President. This photo has been calculated to have been captured between Zapruder film frames 315 and 316, which was less than one-sixth of a second after President Kennedy was fatally shot in the head at frame 313.
Claims and speculations
In 1982, Gary Mack, the longtime curator and archivist for The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza (the former Texas School Book Depository), was the first person to claim discovery of the “Badge Man” figure. In Mack’s visual interpretation, a uniformed police officer can be seen standing behind the stockade fence, with his face obscured by a muzzle flash, but a small bright object is visible on his chest.
The question of the “Badge Man” figure’s existence helped perpetuate conspiracy theories that have alleged that members of the Dallas Police Department had killed Kennedy and simultaneously framed Lee Harvey Oswald.
In his initial observations, Mack was assisted by photographer and assassination researcher Jack White, who continued his experimentation with the Moorman photograph. In the mid-1980s, White put forward a new version, enhanced in contrast and brightness, which he claimed revealed the policeman figure in higher clarity.
White’s research was shown and discussed in the 1988 documentary series The Men Who Killed Kennedy. In it, a closeup of the enhanced “Badge Man” figure is repeated onscreen as a voice-over describes three shooters at Dealey Plaza, who are said to be in league with the Mafia. One of the three is described as standing in the “Badge Man”‘s position, behind the stockade fence on the grassy knoll. The narration identifies this shooter as Lucien Sarti, a French national and alleged contract killer.
To the anatomical right (photo left) of the supposed “Badge Man” figure, some researchers claim there is a second person seen, the self-proclaimed witness Gordon Arnold, who claimed in 1978 that he was filming the motorcade while wearing his U.S. Army uniform when a shot passed close to his left ear.
The Moorman photograph was seen contemporaneously in world media through UPI, but the Warren Commission did not include it in the volumes of its 1964 report. The House Select Committee on Assassinations (1976–1978) sent a high-quality negative version of the Moorman photo to the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) for enlargement, enhancement, and analysis. The RIT report states that it found no evidence of human forms anywhere in the background, and the specific area behind the stockade fence was deemed to be so underexposed that it was impossible to glean any information from it.
Some researchers have claimed that the “Badge Man” image is sunlight reflecting off a glass bottle and not a human figure. Some photos and films taken immediately after the assassination do, in fact, show a bottle sitting on top of the retaining wall. Researcher and computer animator Dale Myers believes the measurements of the Grassy Knoll area give proof that the alleged figure would have been in an impossible position to fire a weapon at the motorcade, saying “if [the Badge Man were] truly a human being of average height and build, [he] was located 12–18 feet (3.7–5.5 m) behind the fence line and elevated 3–4 feet (0.91–1.2 m) above the ground.”