Jeffrey Miller/Allison Krause/William Schroeder/Sandra Scheuer, May 4, 1970
On May 4, l970 members of the Ohio National Guard fired into a crowd of Kent State University demonstrators, killing four and wounding nine Kent State students.
Beyond the direct effects of the May 4th, the shootings have certainly come to symbolize the deep political and social divisions that so sharply divided the America during the Vietnam War era.
In late April of 1970, the United States invaded Cambodia and widened the Vietnam War. This decision was announced on national television and radio on April 30, l970 by President Nixon.
Protests occurred the next day, Friday, May 1, across United States college campuses where anti-war sentiment ran high. At Kent State University, an anti-war rally was held at noon on the Commons, a large, grassy area in the middle of campus. Fiery speeches against the war and the Nixon administration were given, a copy of the Constitution was buried to symbolize the murder of the Constitution, and another rally was called for noon on Monday, May 4.
Friday evening in downtown Kent began peacefully with the usual socializing in the bars, but events quickly escalated into a violent confrontation between protestors and local police. The entire Kent police force was called to duty. Kent Mayor Leroy Satrom declared a state of emergency, and ordered all of the bars closed.
When the Ohio National Guard arrived in Kent at about 10 p.m., they encountered a tumultuous scene. A wooden building adjacent to the Commons was ablaze and would eventually burn to the ground, with well over 1000 demonstrators surrounding it. Confrontations between Guardsmen and demonstrators continued into the night, with tear gas filling the campus and numerous arrests being made.
Sunday, May 3rd was a day filled with contrasts. Nearly 1000 Ohio National Guardsmen occupied the campus, making it appear like a military war zone. The day was warm and sunny, however, and students talked amicably with Guardsmen. Governor James Rhodes flew to Kent on Sunday morning, and issued a provocative statement calling campus protestors the worst type of people in America and stating that every force of law would be used to deal with them. Further confrontations between protestors and guardsmen occurred Sunday evening and once again rocks, tear gas, and arrests characterized a tense campus.
On the morning of May 4, a crowd began to gather beginning as early as 11 a.m. By noon, the entire Commons area contained approximately 3000 people. Shortly before noon, General Robert Canterbury, the highest official of the Guard made the decision to order the demonstrators to disperse. A Kent State police officer standing by the Guard made an announcement using a bullhorn. This was met with angry shouting and rocks. Canterbury then ordered his men to load and lock their weapons. Tear gas canisters were fired into the crowd, and the Guard began to march across the Commons to disperse the rally. The protestors moved up a steep hill, and then down the other side of the hill onto a parking lot as well as an adjoining football field. Most of the Guardsmen followed the students and soon found themselves somewhat trapped on the football field because it was surrounded by a fence. Yelling and rock throwing reached a peak as the Guard remained on the field for about ten minutes. Several Guardsmen could be seen huddling together, and some Guardsmen knelt and pointed their guns, but no weapons were shot at this time. The Guard then began retracing their steps from the football field back up the Hill. As they arrived at the top of the hill, twenty-eight of the more than seventy Guardsmen turned suddenly and fired their rifles and pistols. Many guardsmen fired into the air or the ground. However, a small portion fired directly into the crowd. Altogether between 61 and 67 shots were fired in a 13 second period.
Four Kent State students died as a result of the firing by the Guard.
The closest student was Jeffrey Miller, who was shot in the mouth while standing in an access road leading into the parking lot, a distance of approximately 270 feet from the Guard.
Allison Krause was in the parking lot; she was 330 feet from the Guardsmen and was shot in the left side of her body.
William Schroeder was 390 feet from the Guard in the parking lot when he was shot in the left side of his back.
Sandra Scheuer was also about 390 feet from the Guard in the parking lot when a bullet pierced the left front side of her neck.