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Four Puerto Rican Nationalists Opened Fire Onto the House Floor

March 01, 1954
Four Puerto Rican Nationalists Opened Fire Onto the House Floor Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
In this image taken moments after the shooting, (from left foreground) House Pages Bill Goodwin, Paul Kanjorski, and Bill Emerson carry a stretcher bearing a wounded Member to a waiting ambulance.
Four Puerto Rican nationalists, armed with handguns, opened fire onto the House Floor from the back row of the south gallery. At the time, the House was voting on a measure to re-authorize a program allowing migrant Mexican farm workers to work in the country. Numerous Representatives and staff were present, with Speaker Joe Martin presiding over the roll call. In the fusillade, five Representatives were wounded—Alvin Bentley of Michigan, Ben Jensen of Iowa, Clifford Davis of Tennessee, George Fallon of Maryland, and Kenneth Roberts of Alabama. All five survived, although Bentley was critically wounded. Gallery visitors and police quickly subdued the nationalists; later, they were tried and sentenced to long prison terms. Future Representatives Bill Emerson of Missouri and Paul Kanjorski of Pennsylvania were among a group of Pages who helped to evacuate wounded Members on stretchers to waiting ambulances on the East Front. Bill Goodwin, a House Page who also lent assistance after the shooting, later recalled the fateful day. “That’s something you just don’t forget,” Goodwin remarked. “To this day, I can still hear those bullets going phht-dut, phht-dut alongside of me, those two bullets that one landed above Bill Emerson, and one alongside Bill Emerson, which was just eight feet away from me, to my right. I can still hear those bullets hitting that mahogany wall. Phht-dut, you know? What a sound. And the thing is, I saw that it was a gun, you know? I saw it right from the start of it. Saw the guy stand up.”

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