Who is Terry Norman?

Harold Rice, a Kent State University policeman, takes a gun from Terry Norman, a 21-year-old FBI informant and the only civilian known to be carrying a gun the day of the shootings at Kent State University. Norman would become a key figure in endless conspiracy theories surrounding the incident at Kent State. The circle surrounding the gun is drawn in India ink and cannot be removed without damaging the print, which is the only known copy. (Photo via MCT Campus/Akron Beacon Journal)

He's the man who some say could answer many of the persisting questions about May 4.

He's also not talking.

It was 1968, and a young woman boarded a plane with now-elusive Terrence Brookes Norman. Her ticket read “Mrs. Terry Norman,” though she had only met him a few months ago. They weren’t even dating.

“He sheepishly asked if that was OK, only because it saved a lot of money on the ticket,” said Janet Sima, former Kent State student who inadvertently befriended the man who may have sparked the university’s greatest tragedy.

“There was some sort of take-your-wife-along-on-your-business-trip special with a half-price or greatly discounted fare,” she said.

They headed to Washington, D.C., for Sima’s first trip to the capital and Norman’s next meeting with a “federal agency.”

“He left me alone in a building for probably over an hour and a half while he had his meeting,” Sima said.

Two years later, Norman was an FBI informant being paid to photograph student protesters for government records. Past statements and a new analysis of an audio recording place him in the center of a congressional inquiry into his role in the May 4, 1970, shootings.

The Ohio National Guard opened fire on student protesters that day after being taunted with rocks and banter. Four students died and nine were wounded. New evidence has prompted some to wonder whether Norman’s actions led to the shooting.

Norman was the only civilian known to be carrying a weapon May 4 — a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver. While his testimonies indicate he never fired the gun, witnesses say otherwise. Some question whether his alleged shots incited the Guard to fire.

Yet, before Norman ever wielded a weapon on Blanket Hill, he was known to show off his arsenal and to boast of his security clearance to friends. He created business cards for a fictional detective agency and sat in the back rows of classrooms to photograph students.

While there’s ample proof of his work for the FBI, much else about Norman remains a mystery.

Norman’s youth

Norman was born in 1949 to Delsie and Winnie Norman. He attended Copley High School. In 1967, Norman revealed hopes of becoming a lawyer and a career soldier in his senior yearbook, according to an article in the Tampa Tribune by Janis Froelich.

But Norman ended up at Kent State the next year, enrolled as a law enforcement student.

Norman was in Sima's psychology class during the fall of 1968. He was taking pictures of her, and, wondering why, Sima confronted him. He said the photos were for the yearbook.

“That is how I met Terry Norman,” Sima said. “I also found out he was not associated with the yearbook.”

The incident struck her as odd, but Sima continued to associate with Norman. He presented her with a business card from the “Brookes Detective Agency” — Brookes being Norman’s middle name — which he said he worked for.

May 4th Audio

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Listen to the recording analyzed by forensic audio expert Stuart Allen, who examined a tape recorded by a Kent State student from his dorm window overlooking the May 4, 1970 protests. Allen's report concluded four shots were discharged 70 seconds before the Ohio National Guard opened fire on students.

Sima said she found no record of any such agency with the chamber of commerce.

Norman even spouted off private information of Sima’s friend who was in the U.S. Air Force, showing off how easily he could access that data.

One evening, Norman took Sima out for a drive. They stopped in a remote field and she said Norman taught her how to hold and fire a handgun. She also said he carried a rifle in his trunk.

“I never felt threatened in any way that he carried a gun,” Sima said. But she added, “Looking back, Terry Norman was under 21, most likely could not legally own or carry a gun and shouldn’t have been discharging a gun in a field someplace.”

He later worked as a security guard for Blossom Music Center and was bonded for $1,000 to carry a concealed weapon. But that didn’t take effect until the summer of 1967.

“Agent provocateur”

Sima wasn’t the first to notice strange behavior from Norman.

Joe Butano, former soundman for Cleveland NBC affiliate WKYC, said Norman often caught a ride to class with the WKYC crew in the weeks leading up to May 4.

Butano said he remembers the day Norman revealed to him that he carried a .38-caliber revolver. The two were sitting in an NBC vehicle. When Norman asked if he wanted to see the gun, Butano responded:

“No, I don’t want to see it. I want you to get out of the car.”

He told Norman he didn’t want to have any trouble with NBC. Norman didn’t argue.

Butano was also aware of Norman’s involvement with the FBI prior to May 4. Norman photographed meetings of Students for a Democratic Society, an active political movement during the 1960s. He developed the film and handed the photos to someone in an unmarked vehicle, Butano said.

“They’d go through his envelope of pictures,” he said. “They would take a few, pay him some money and come back. Terry said, ‘My God, that’s the easiest 60 bucks I ever made.’”

James Renner, now editor for the Cleveland Independent, wrote a report in 2006 on Norman’s puzzling actions for the Free Times.

“I think he was what you call an agent provocateur,” Renner said. “I think he was hired by the FBI to incite instability within SDS.”

Disputed involvement

Monday, May 4, 1970, drew near.

On Friday, a riot erupted downtown as student protesters became restless. Saturday, the ROTC building became a smoldering mess.

Editor's blog: Daily Kent Stater reporters talk about the story



Editor's note: Some of the images contain graphic content.

The burning of the ROTC building


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Footage of the riots

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The aftermath of the riots


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Barclay McMillen, assistant to Kent State president Robert White, stood by the building the night it was torched. In a letter to the Record-Courier, McMillen wrote that a law enforcement student approached him “brandishing a snub-nosed pistol.”

The student asked him, “What can I do?”

McMillen responded, “Get the **** out of here,” according to his letter.

The same student, he wrote, was there with his weapon the day of the shooting.

Sunday was eerily peaceful. Students brought flowers to the National Guard, but Monday brought unrest and hostility from both parties.

Norman wandered Blanket Hill that day, taking photographs of the protesters, which the FBI could potentially use as evidence. And he carried a campus police-issued press pass, though he was not a member of the press.

His statements to police indicate he was involved in an altercation, which, experts say, can be heard in an audio recording made by student Terry Strubbe.

“They got somebody,” a man says in the tape.

“Kill him!” two more yell.

Norman confirmed this in his first statement to the university police after the shootings.

“I was completely surrounded by demonstrators,” Norman said. “They were yelling kill, kill, kill and kill the pig and stick the pig.”

Although this part of his statement coincides with the recorded audio, other parts do not. Norman recounted the day’s events, placing the firing of the National Guard before his attack by students — something recent analysis of the audio disproves.

Seconds after the struggle, four shots resonate on Strubbe’s recording. Audio forensic expert Stuart Allen recently analyzed this section of the tape and found the shots to be from a .38-caliber revolver, new evidence that prompted U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Cleveland) to open a congressional inquiry.

Seventy seconds after those four shots, the National Guard’s volley began.

Amid the conflict, Norman ran toward the Guard to surrender a .38-caliber revolver to Kent State Patrolman Harold Rice and Det. Thomas Kelley.

Butano was standing nearby and overheard the conversation.

“(Kelley) opens it up and says ‘Oh my,’” Butano said. “He dumps the shells in his hands and says, ‘Oh my, four shots have been fired. What are we going to do now?’”

Kelley later denied this statement, though Fred DeBrine, a reporter with WKYC that day, said he also overheard the comment.

The Department of Justice compiled a list of physical evidence from that day. Norman’s gun was among the weaponry and gas masks.

The list states the cylinder housed five cartridges. Four were semi-jacketed, hollow-point bullets. The last was a jacketed, cone-shaped bullet.

“That got me wondering if it just had been reloaded to look like it hadn’t been fired at all,” Renner said. “I mean, I just couldn’t understand why you would load your gun that way.”

Congressional inquiry threatened by political reshuffling


The congressman who launched an inquiry into Terry Norman’s involvement in May 4 will lose his committee seat that oversees the FBI. That could thwart the progress of an investigation into why Norman was carrying a gun that day.

U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Cleveland) launched the inquiry after The Plain Dealer reported new findings from forensic audio expert Stuart Allen. The new evidence revealed four gunshots that had the same sonar fingerprint of a .38-caliber revolver, like the one Norman was carrying that day.

The U.S. House Domestic Policy subcommittee, which Kucinich chairs, is still waiting to hear from the FBI regarding the information requested.

Kucinich is pushing for a hearing before the end of the year.

“The Chairman believes that holding this hearing swiftly is important in order to ensure that the information is entered into the record before any more time passes,” said Kucinich’s press secretary Nathan White in an e-mail.

Kucinich will lose his position as chairman at the year’s end, and U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Urbana) is projected to take his place, according to a Plain Dealer editorial.


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Though Norman denies ever discharging his gun, both DeBrine and Butano maintain he told them otherwise.

“He indicated that there were kids trying to kill him, and he was trying to defend himself,” DeBrine said. “He told us that he had fired in the air and fired into the ground. “

After talking with Norman, the WKYC crew was interested in interviewing him. Butano said Norman agreed to meet them the next day before his 8 a.m. shift at Radio Shack.

“When we got there he said, ‘I’m sorry guys. I can’t do the interview. The FBI told me to keep my mouth shut and say nothing,’” Butano said.

Norman told them he wouldn’t be in town much longer.

Subsequent events

“The FBI whisked Terry away to Washington, D.C., where the metro police employed him as an undercover narcotics agent in August 1970,” according to Froelich’s report.

Norman’s gun was also removed from Kent. It was housed in the Kent State security office until March 1973, when it was returned to the Smith & Wesson company. The gun was “stripped and renickeled,” according to FBI documents.

Clarence M. Kelley, former director of the FBI, said in a July 1973 letter to then-Rep. Don Edwards that he had “no knowledge of its present whereabouts.”

But a special agent to the FBI retrieved the gun from Smith & Wesson just one month later. An FBI lab test, dated October 1973, determined the gun had been fired but could not distinguish when.

Norman didn’t make news again until the late 1980s. He moved to California, where he worked for Anacomp, an Indianapolis-based information technology firm. He and his wife, Kathleen Norman, were arrested for charges related to embezzlement.

Norman worked as a telecommunications manager and was responsible for clearing invoices, according to court documents. With that authority, he created the fictitious company, Southwestern Telecommunications and submitted false invoices to Anacomp, stealing roughly $675,700.

Norman spent more than three years in prison for approving 230 faulty invoices.

Little is known of Norman following his incarceration. Renner tracked him down in Asheville, N.C., for his 2006 article in the Free Times. He said Norman was working there as a used car salesman.

Hoping for an interview, Renner parked his car at the end of Norman’s drive and waited.

“I don’t know how he found out I was there, but all of a sudden I look in the rearview mirror and there’s this truck barreling down on me,” Renner said. “I think it’s going to collide with me. It brakes to a stop and this guy comes flying out, and it’s Terry Norman.”

He had seen recent pictures of Norman at his dealership, so he said he recognized him immediately. Norman asked Renner why he was there, and he explained. As Renner began to open his car door, Norman reached under his jacket.

“At that point,” Renner said, “I just put up my hands and said, ‘Look, I’ll leave.’”

Terrence Brookes and Kathleen Norman live in Pisgah Forest, N.C., near Asheville. But when the Daily Kent Stater called their residence in October, a man identifying himself as Terry denied any relation to the Norman who was wielding a .38 on May 4.

Another call Monday was cut short.

“You can stop calling,” the man said.

Contact Taylor Rogers at trogers@kent.edu and Emily Inverso at einverso@kent.edu.

Related stories:

May 4 activists call for Justice Department investigation


Justice Dept. holds option for May 4 hearing in Congress


Kucinich: May 4 hearing could happen before end of the year


Opinion: The May 4 Tape — What happens next?


Kucinich opens inquiry into Kent State shootings


May 4 congressional inquiry update


University relations forced to deal with May 4 back in headlines


Audio expert even more sure of authorization to fire


Special Section: May 4th - 40 years later

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