Did the airstrip shooters deliberately target Congressman Ryan and members of the news media?

The answer is yes. The five people who died at the airstrip were Ryan, NBC reporter Don Harris, NBC cameraman Bob Brown,  San Francisco Examiner photographer Greg Robinson, and Temple defector Patricia Parks. Numerous other people were wounded – some even incapacitated by their wounds – but several other factors suggest that the Temple gunmen had specific targets in mind.

• Eyewitnesses say that, following the initial fusillade of gunfire, some of the gunmen left the vehicle on which they had arrived and walked down the airstrip to administer coup de grace shots on Ryan, Harris and possibly Robinson.

• Those statements are reinforced by the multiple bullet holes in Ryan’s body – likely between ten and twenty – suggesting deliberate overkill. Ryan’s autopsy includes 22 entries describing individual notations. Two of them – #5 and #7 – were bullets found under the skin and removed.  The problem with the autopsy is there is no description of the wounds, so we will never know if some were exit wounds. We also don’t know what weapons were used, although the reported use of shotguns might account for the 12 “puncture wounds” on both buttocks.

• Steve Sung, the NBC soundman who was wounded, told documentarian Stanley Nelson that the gunmen approached him where he lay under Bob Brown’s body, but that both he and Brown were so drenched by Brown’s blood that the shooters must have believed they both were dead.  “I survived by playing dead,” Sung said. Congressman Ryan’s aide Jackie Speier also believes she survived because the severity of her wounds made her appear as though she were dead.

• None of the other wounded were killed in this second, more deliberate attack. The fifth person to die – defector Patricia Parks – was fatally wounded in the initial gunfire and was likely an accidental victim.