[Photo: Loran Hall and Larry Howard, c. 1963, anti-Castro team delivering paramilitary supplies to Cuba raiders in Miami and New Orleans. Harry Dean claims they were drivers for Lee Harvey Oswald]
Disclaimer: The following analysis of Warren Commission testimony consists of my independent research and observations regarding the hundreds of testimonies contained in the WC Hearings and Exhibits. My observations inform my opinion.
WC WITNESSES WHO SAW LHO WITH A MEXICAN OR CUBAN ACCOMPLICE
On (or about) Wednesday, September 25, 1963, as Silvia Odio testified, both Silvia and her sister Annie saw Lee Harvey Oswald (LHO) at their apartment door in the company of two Latino men. Silvia and Annie described one of the Hispanic men as Cuban and the other as a Mexican.
Annie didn’t testify before the Warren Commission (WC) like Silvia did, but five other WC witnesses did testify about LHO in the company of Mexican or Cuban companions in New Orleans. Those five witnesses were: DRE director Carlos Bringuier, three NOLA bartenders Orest Pena, Ruperto Pena, Evaristo Rodriguez, and NOLA attorney Dean Andrews.
The WC didn’t follow-up on these claims. (As we’ve said, the policy of the Assistant US Attorney General, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, and Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren himself, was to deny any possibility that LHO had accomplices who were still at large). Let’s briefly summarize the WC testimony of these five witnesses.
1. Carlos Bringuier – director of the DRE: I’m a 30-year-old Cuban attorney who found asylum in America in when I was 26, shortly after Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba in 1960.
· I have many Cuban refugee friends, including Orest Pena, Ruperto Pena, and Evaristo Rodriguez. Orest is the owner of the Havana Bar in New Orleans. Ruperto and Evaristo are bartenders for Orest.
· As they told me, near the end of July 1963, Evaristo was tending bar at 3 a.m. when he saw two strangers, a Mexican (or Cuban) and an American, came into their bar. (Orest saw three strangers). The American ordered a lemonade, which was astonishing. The men were boisterous and disorderly, but they soon left. After the JFK assassination, Evaristo and Orest recognized that the American was LHO, so Orest told me that they saw a Cuban and a Mexican with LHO in his bar.
· On August 9, 1963, I fought with LHO on Canal Street because he was handing out FPCC handbills. We were both arrested. Orest bailed me out. Twelve days later I appeared on WSDU TV with LHO, Bill Stuckey, and Ed Butler.
· One day between August 15th and 30th, as I recall, after Ruperto had a shouting match in that bar with two Mexicans, he asked me to call the FBI because his English is poor, and he thought they were communists. The FBI said to call back if he sees them again. Soon, Ruperto saw them sitting in a car outside and he asked me to call the FBI again, which I did.
· I also heard Bill Stuckey’s preliminary radio tape of LHO on August 17th, in which LHO admitted that he had been to Mexico before his famous September 1963 trip there. [The transcript of that tape is “Stuckey Exhibit No. 2” on WC Hearings volume XXI].
2. Evaristo Rodriguez – bartender at the Havana Bar: I’m 23, a Cuban refugee who escaped to America in a small boat in 1962. I know Carlos Bringuier, Orest Pena and Ruperto Pena. I’m a bartender at the Havana Bar, in New Orleans, working for Orest Pena.
· In the summer of 1963, I was tending bar around 3 a.m. when two men came into the bar. One was Latino – possibly Mexican – and one was American. The Latino ordered tequila, while the American ordered a lemonade.
· I didn’t know how to make a lemonade, so I asked Orest, who was talking on the telephone at the other end of the bar. Orest told me how to make a lemonade drink and said to charge 25 cents. These two men complained boisterously about the prices and called Orest a ‘Cuban capitalist.’
· Then the American became sick in the bar and had to be walked out. I cleaned up and that was the end of the matter – we thought. After the JFK Assassination, Orest and I recognized that the American had been LHO. We told all our friends.
3. Ruperto Pena – bartender at the Havana Bar: I’m 34, a Cuban refugee. I work for my brother at the Havana Bar along with Evaristo Rodriguez. I also know Carlos Bringuier.
· I wasn’t working in the bar at 3 a.m. when Evaristo saw a Latin and an American come in. However, when Orest was on vacation (August 15 – 30) I had a shouting match in the bar with two Mexicans over the problem of Cuba.
· I thought they were communists, so I asked Carlos to call the FBI for me, because my English is poor. He did. The FBI told us that if I see them again, to call the FBI again. A few days later, I saw the two Mexicans sitting in a car on our street, so I wrote down the license of the car, and I asked Carlos to call the FBI for me again, which he did.
· I never saw the Cuban or Mexican man with an American who ordered lemonade, as Orest and Evaristo did. I never saw the American in person. Orest and Evaristo are very brave and honest, however, so when they say that the American was LHO, I trust them.
4. Orest Pena – owner of the Havana Bar: I’m 40, from Cuba, and I was naturalized into the USA in 1956. I’m the owner of the Havana Bar in New Orleans. I know Carlos Bringuier, and also Evaristo, who tends my bar with my brother. After the JFK Assassination, the FBI asked me if I knew anything about the JFK Assassination. I said no. They asked me if I ever saw LHO. I said yes – once at my Havana Bar. Then our avalanche began. Let’s take it chronologically:
July 30, 1963
· I don’t remember the exact date (maybe late July 1963) that LHO came into my bar. I didn’t yet know that his name was LHO. He wasn’t alone; he had one or two Latino friends with him. I have quite a long bar, so from far away, it looked to me that LHO was with two Latino friends. My bartender trainee, Evaristo Rodriguez, though, was the one serving LHO and said LHO was with only one Latino man. The oddity was that a grown man came into my bar and asked for a lemonade! We never saw that before! That’s how we remembered him.
· Evaristo came to me and asked, “What do we do?” I said, “Serve him!” I told him how to make lemonade, and to charge 25 cents. He made it and gave it to LHO and LHO angrily protested the price! His friend asked for a tequila, which cost 50 cents. He also protested my prices loudly and told Evaristo that I was a “Cuban capitalist” for charging so much. Evaristo asked me what to do. I asked, “Did they pay you already?” He replied, “Yes.” I said, “Don’t worry about it. If you worry about all the customers, you’ll go crazy.” Then LHO got sick on the table and floor, and then they walked away. Evaristo cleaned up, and that was the end of it.
· My brother, Ruperto, was absent that night, so we told him the next day
· We never saw LHO before, and we never saw him again. As for the companion that Evaristo saw, I felt sure he was a Cuban, although Evaristo and I debated whether he might have been Mexican. I say Cuban because I know my people. Even from the opposite end of my long bar, he looked Cuban to me. Now – to the best of my recollection, I never saw him before, and I never saw him afterward.
· Now, please don’t get confused, but we have more stories about more Mexicans in my bar.
· One night I had a conflict with two Mexicans who came to my bar while I was fixing my bongos. I let customers play them along with the jukebox, but one day one of my bongos went missing. So, I put a chain on my bongos to keep them available for everybody. Two Mexicans walked in, saw me, and made fun of our Democracy, mocking, “You call this a Democracy?” That angered me so I said, “Where do you come from? One said, “I come from Mexico.” I said, “Don’t brag to me about Mexico! If I take my car to Mexico, they steal my four wheels that night!” They walked out, offended, but I called the FBI and told them they might be communists because they had mocked our Democracy. The FBI said, “If they come back to your place, call us again.” I never saw them again so I just forgot about it.
· I will affirm this – those two Mexicans weren’t the same people who accompanied LHO when he ordered a lemonade. I never saw them before and I never saw them afterward.
· There’s more. My brother Ruperto told me about two suspicious Mexicans with whom he had a shouting match over the problem of Cuba. This was when I was on vacation. Ruperto asked Carlos Bringuier to call the FBI for him. Bringuier did, and the FBI said that if we see them again, to call again. Soon Ruperto saw them sitting in a car outside. Ruperto copied down their license plate number and asked Bringuier to call the FBI for him again, which he did.
· I see no connections between any of these incidents. I see no connection between LHO’s companions with the two Mexicans who mocked my bongos. I see no connection between LHO’s Latino companions and the Mexicans that shouted at Ruperto.
August 9, 1963
· I drove Evaristo to a doctor’s appointment on Friday, August 9, and as we drove back to the bar, Evaristo saw police officers in the street surrounding Carlos Bringuier. I didn’t see it, but I later heard that Bringuier got himself arrested because he and two Cuban friends went forth to stop somebody and his teenage friends from handing out Castro propaganda.
· The police arrested Bringuier, his two friends, and one other guy. They put them in jail in the first district and called Bringuier’s brother-in-law for bail. His brother-in-law called me for help because he could not leave their store unattended. So, I agreed to go to the police station and pay their bail, and then the brother-in-law would pay me back. At that time, we at the Havana Bar had no idea that Bringuier had actually locked horns with LHO.
November 22, 1963
· On the surprising day of the JFK Assassination, Evaristo and I recognized that LHO had been our lemonade man! I was at home, and every TV station displayed photographs of LHO. I instantly shouted, “Oh! That man was in my place a few months ago!” Although I was at the opposite end of my long bar, I saw LHO well enough to be certain about his face and build. Then, Evaristo ran to my house, rang my doorbell, and entered out of breath to exclaim, “Did you see that? The man who assassinated President Kennedy…he’s the one who ordered the lemonade!” We both realized it at the same time.
· My brother Ruperto called Carlos Bringuier, who was extremely interested. So, we quickly went over to Bringuier’s store to talk about all of these events. I liked JFK very, very much, so I was angry about the assassination. I talked about the lemonade incident at my bar for two weeks straight. I told most of my customers that I had seen LHO in my bar. We told so many people that I don’t know how many.
December 5, 1963
· It was still only a local conversation until the New Orleans FBI came to my bar on December 5, 1963. We told the FBI our simple, short, boring lemonade story. But the FBI kept sending agents asking the same questions again and again. Evaristo and I told our boring story over and over and over because that’s all we knew.
· I’ll say this – I see no evidence to link LHO with anybody else in a conspiracy to assassinate JFK. I see no evidence that LHO was involved with pro-Castro or anti-Castro people in connection with the JFK Assassination. I see no evidence that there was a pro-Castro or a anti-Castro plot to assassinate JFK. I know of nobody who has any information like that.
· For me, Carlos Bringuier is the most suspicious character because he knew LHO so well. He told me that LHO gifted him his Marine Corps Handbook. He still has it. Bringuier has always been politically involved, e.g., with his political organization called DRE (Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil). He told me that LHO had tried to infiltrate DRE.
· Like everybody else who opposed Batista, Bringuier originally favored Castro. At political demonstrations in Cuba, Carlos Bringuier would be out there, shouting, “Yankee go home!” Today he hates Castro as much as he hates Russia, yet he told me quite often that he also hates the USA, because the USA did not help defend Cuba from Castro. I personally saw how JFK’s blockade of Cuba gave Bringuier conniptions. It seemed to me that Bringuier despised JFK just as much as anybody.
5. Dean Andrews – attorney for “Clay Bertrand.” A snippet of his WC testimony will be most useful in our summary of his eyewitness account.
Mr. LIEBELER: I am advised by the FBI that you told them that Lee Harvey Oswald came into your office sometime during the summer of 1963. Would you tell us in your own words just what happened as far as that is concerned?
Mr. ANDREWS: I don’t recall the dates, but briefly, it is this: Oswald came in the office accompanied by some gay kids. They were Mexicanos. He wanted to find out what could be done in connection with a [Marine] discharge...
Mr. LIEBELER: Had you ever seen any of those kids before?
Mr. ANDREWS: None of them.
Mr. LIEBELER: Have you seen any of them since?
Mr. ANDREWS: ...Yes.
Mr. LIEBELER: Did they ever come back with Oswald?
Mr. ANDREWS: No. The Mexicanos came back.
Mr. LIEBELER: When were these people picked up by the police as you have told us?
Mr. ANDREWS: …Sometime in May…1963…on a Friday.
Mr. LIEBELER: That was after Oswald had been in your office?
Mr. ANDREWS: After Oswald’s initial contact. I think he had come back with this [one] Mexicano one more time.
Mr. LIEBELER: Now before we get into that, let me try and pin down how long it was after the first time Oswald came in that these kids all got arrested. …Was it a month? Two months? A week?
Mr. ANDREWS: No; it wasn’t that. Ten days at the most…
Mr. LIEBELER: Would you recognize this Mexican again if you saw him?
Mr. ANDREWS: Yes.
Mr. LIEBELER: Do you remember telling the FBI that you wouldn’t be able to recognize him again if you saw him?
Mr. ANDREWS: Probably did; been a long time. There’s three people I’m going to find: one of them is the real guy that killed the President; the Mexican; and Clay Bertrand.
Mr. LIEBELER: Do you mean to suggest by that statement that you have considerable doubt in your mind that Oswald killed the President?
Mr. ANDREWS: I know good and well he didn’t. With that weapon, he couldn’t have been capable of making three controlled shots in that short time.
Mr. LIEBELER: You are basing your opinion on reports that you have received over news media as to how many shots were fired in what period of time; is that correct?
Mr. ANDREWS: I am basing my opinion on five years as an Ordnanceman in the Navy…
There are significant proposals in Dean Andrews’ WC testimony. For current purposes, we only wish to dwell on his proposal that LHO was sometimes in the company of others – and not always alone. In particular, there seems to have been one Mexican and/or one Cuban in association with LHO’s late 1963 activities.
Let’s briefly summarize the WC testimony from these five witnesses, in the context of Silvia Odio’s WC testimony to the effect that she saw at her front door, for about a half-hour, three “greasy” strangers – two Cubans and LHO. Of the two Cubans, Silvia and Annie Odio agreed that one of them looked Mexican. Of these five WC witnesses, Evaristo saw LHO with one Spanish-speaking man, Orest noticed two, and he emphasized that one of them clearly looked Cuban rather than Mexican. (Ruperto never saw LHO personally).
Carlos Bringuier was a friend of these three, and his clothing store was three doors away from the Havana Bar. Bringuier didn’t see LHO in the Havana Bar. Yet soon afterwards, LHO had found out that Bringuier directed an anti-Castro paramilitary group, DRE. He walked into Bringuier’s store to gift him his Marine Corps Handbook. A few days later, on Canal Street, Bringuier and LHO would be tossed in jail for disturbing the peace. (Jim Garrison believed it was staged).
HARRY DEAN, LORAN HALL, LARRY HOWARD, AND LHO
Harry Dean, a patriot and a volunteer FBI informant in California, claimed that the two Latinos who visited Silvia Odio in September 1963 were actually two friends: Loran Hall (a Cuban American) and Larry Howard (a Mexican American).
In his book, “Crosstrails” (1990), Dean wrote that he and his leader Guy Gabaldon would go around East Los Angeles (e.g., Alhambra, El Monte, West Covina) to solicit cash, medical supplies, and paramilitary donations from members of the John Birch Society (1962-1963) and store them in Gabaldon’s garage. Then Harry would help Loran and Larry load their trailer so that they could deliver these donations to anti-Castro paramilitary groups coast to coast.
One day in September, Harry observed Gabaldon giving instructions and cash to Loran and Larry to drive Lee Harvey Oswald from New Orleans to Mexico. They did so. Loran and Larry picked up LHO in New Orleans in the late morning of September 25th, and on their speedy way from Louisiana into Texas, Loran made a quick detour to arrive at the Dallas apartment of Silvia Odio, at about 8 p.m. on September 25th.
Loran didn’t give Silvia his chosen war-name, Lorenzo Pacillo, but told her that his war name was “Leopoldo.” Larry likely gave her his real war-name, Alonzo Escruido, but Silvia didn’t remember it.
LORAN HALL AND LARRY HOWARD PART WAYS
Harry Dean has covered this part of Silvia’s testimony differently than every other researcher. The Cuban that Silvia saw at her door was the Cuban American Loran Hall. The Mexican that Silvia saw at her door was the Mexican American Larry Howard. These men took LHO to Silvia’s door because she was well-known in the anti-Castro community as a star member of JURE, and Loran had wanted to use JURE to help LHO get into Cuba as planned.
The FBI vowed to identify the men Odio said were with LHO on her front porch, if at all possible. They quickly identified a suspect – Loran Hall. (How they selected his profile so quickly, the FBI did not say). They questioned Loran, and he admitted that he had been at Odio’s apartment in late September 1963. But he wasn’t with LHO, he claimed. It was Larry Howard and William Seymour, two soldiers from his paramilitary group, La Sambra.
The trouble with Loran’s “admission” was that these two long-time soldiers reporting to Loran adamantly refused to vouch for him. They provided strong alibis. Soon (reported Loran Hall to Jim Garrison) he suffered two serious attempts on his life. Loran quickly changed his story; it wasn’t Silvia Odio, after all – it must have been some other Cuban dowager! He never saw Silvio Odio in his life! The WC accepted this version. Still, that was the end of La Sambra.
WC counsel Wesley Liebeler told WC General Counsel J. Lee Rankin, “There are problems -- Odio may well be right.” J. Lee Rankin himself called Silvia Odio’s account “credible.” Nevertheless, the Warren Report concluded:
“While the FBI had not yet completed its investigation into this matter at the time the report went to press, the Commission has concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald was not at Mrs. Odio's apartment in September 1963.”
© Copyright 2021 by Paul Edward Trejo. All Rights Reserved.
Warren Commission Testimony of Carlos Bringuier (April 7, 1964)
Warren Commission Testimony of Evaristo Rodriguez (July 21, 1964)
Warren Commission Testimony of Ruperto Pena (July 21, 1964)
Warren Commission Testimony of Orest Pena (July 21, 1964)
Warren Commission Testimony of Dean Andrews (July 21, 1964)
NOTE: The Spanish speaking witnesses from the Havana Bar required a translator to give their testimony. So, their clarity depended on the translator to properly relay the attorney’s question to the witness, to understand the witness’ answer properly, and to relay the answer properly to the attorney. (Carlos Bringuier didn’t require a translator, yet he also had obvious problems with English grammar).