Monday, July 1, 2013

Reporter's Exclusive Story: I Was in the Airport Ambush; How Rep. Ryan, 4 Other Died, by Ron Javers,

"Tim Reiterman, reporter from the Examiner, with two bullet wounds in his left arm, and I with my shoulder wound, were among the lucky ones."

What are the chances that in a large-scale act of violence involving five dead, 10 to 12 wounded, and perhaps a dozen gunmen, one victim would get shot twice, both times in the left arm? Does it give new meaning to "double barrelled?" And notice how carefully Javers refers to his shoulder wound. Was it a bullet wound? A fragment? Ricochet? The article is datelined San Juan, Puerto Rico. Javers must have phoned it in when his military transport stopped to drop off half of the wounded, before carrying the rest to the comfort of the federal bosom in facilities near Washington D.C.

November 20, 1978, The Daily Register -San Francisco Chronicle, page 1, Eyewitness tells of Guyana killings, by Ron Javers,

Editors Note -The following eyewitness account of the killings in Guyana was written by San Francisco Chronicle reporter Ron Javers, who was wounded Saturday In the gunfire that killed Rep. Leo J. Ryan and four others on a remote airstrip in Guyana. Javers, who was en route to Washington. D.C. with the other wounded, dictated the story to his city desk.


Copyright San Francisco Chronicle

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Jonestown is every evil thing that everybody thought — and worse.

We knew that before the shooting started

The slaughter began at 4:20 p.m. Saturday (Guyana time) while we were standing beside the twin-engine airplane that had brought us lo Port Kaituma, seven miles outside Jonestown, on Friday and that had returned to pick us up

I was waiting between Bob Brown and Don Harris, the two NBC men who were killed We had become close friends during the course of our ordel.

The firing erupted from guns close by I was hit first. I was knocked to the ground by a slug in the left shoulder, apparently from a 38-caliber weapon

I crawled behind the right wheel of the plane

Bob Brown stayed on his feet and kept filming what was happening, even as the attackers advanced on him with their guns.

He was incredibly tenacious

While I was trying to decide whether to stay where I was or risk the 100-yard-dash across the close-cropped grass field to the Jungle. I saw Brown go down

Then I saw one of the attackers stick a shotgun right Into Brown's face. Inches away, if that.

Bob's brain was blown out of his head. It spattered the blue NBC minicam.

I'll never forget that sight as long as 1 live.

I ran. and then I dived head-first into the brush

I got up and scrambled as far into the swamp as I could I. Pattie Parker, one of the people who hid asked us to help her escape from Jonestown, was lying at the foot of the plane's stairs

Greg Robinson, the San Francisco Examiner photographer at the scene, was at the left wheel, his body crumbled almost In half.

There were four Guyanese soldiers at the far end of the field.

They told us they had not been able to shoot at the attackers during the assault because they were afraid they would kill still more people.

The only policeman at the field, carrying a single-shell shotgun, had been disarmed the moment the men from the People's Temple began firing from their truck and trailer while we were getting ready to. board the two planes; our own craft and the smaller one that was set to carry away the fugitives from Jonestown.

As nearly as we could tell, about half the attackers were white and half were black. Those of us who had survived were still terrified.

We took our most seriously wounded to the soldiers' tent and then we retired into Port Kaituma, the settlement next to the airstrip and went into a small cafe called a Rum House.

The local Guyanese new they were risking their own safety by letting us stay, but they were extremely kind to us.

We stood watches during the stormy night — taking turns standing guard in pairs outside the police hut where our wounded were lying

The heavy tropical storm made movement difficult and uncomfortable — not only for us but those who had chosen us as their quarry. The rain may have saved our lives.

Every time we heard a noise, especially whenever we heard a truck along the Port Kaituma road, we thought we would be attacked again.

Of course, none of us had any weapons.

And time moved slowly, infinitely slowly.

When we first reached Jonestown, on Friday night, the atmosphere was lively and cordial We found ourselves getting a real Cook's Tour, with everything arranged for us There was great rock music from the Jonestown band and entertainment during dinner

And while we tried, mainly at first, to get away from the organized fun, we were told how happy everyone was.

But before we left for an evening's drive through foot-deep mud to Port Kaituma, a young man slipped Don Harris of NBC a message written on a child's slate, saying, 'Please help me get but of Jonestown.'

It had four signatures.

Back in Port Kaituma, where the entire group of us tin-roofed disco — a small beer parlor with a phonograph and a few records — local Guyanese began telling us horror stories.

They told us about one man who had escaped from the colony last summer, only to be captured by guards from Jonestown and then beaten.

When we returned the following morning to Jonestown, we were not surprised to see Jim Jones' carefully stage-managed production start to crack.

Edith Parker, one of the 1.200 followers trapped in Jonestown, approached Congressman Ryan and said she wanted to leave with him.

The list grew.

About an hour before it was time for us to leave Jonestown, nine people said they wanted to go.

Then 12.

Finally, about 20 got up their courage to defy Jones.

There were loo many of us for one truckload. The reporters and cameramen were told we would go out in the first batch, but Congressman Ryan would wait to leave in the second.

We were relieved to be going.

Jones agreed that the 20 people who wanted to could leave with us. He even said he thought they might be "belter off" somewhere else if they no longer wanted to stay In Jonestown.

Suddenly, there was a commotion In the central building that serves as the colony's meeting place - a large structure with a tin roof and packed dirt floor.

A cheer rang through the crowd.

Then, a young white man made a direct lunge at Ryan with a knife.

The blade was at Ryan's throat when Mark Lane and Charles Garry, Jones' lawyers and long-time supporters, grabbed the weapon.

The attacker was cut before he could be disarmed.

And Ryan's shirt was drenched with the attacker's blood

Ryan ran to the truck at that point and we lumbered off through the mud to the airstrip.

Shaken by what he thought was his successful narrow escape, Ryan told us as we reached the airstrip, 'I wouldn't be alive If it was not for Mark Lane.'

Ryan lived only a few minutes longer.

After the violence of the attack at the airstrip, we still had to wait for rescue.

It was getting dark, and there was no chance for a rescue plane until morning.

We spent the night listening to the stories the 12 former residents of Jonestown had to tell.

They corroborated every evil story about the place that we had heard.

They told us how Jim Jones had led the entire colony Into making a maniacal suicide pact with him.

They talked about stores of weapons in the so-called peaceful jungle mission.

And whenever there was a crisis, they recalled, Jones had assembled the whole colony into a huge circular assembly and mesmerized them into agreement.

We understood then why there had been an ominous cheer from the People's Temple residents at Jonestown before the young knife wielder charged at Ryan.

Daybreak — which we never expected to see, finally came.

At 8: 30 a.m., the first batch of Guyanese troops arrived at Port Kaituma.

They had flown to a landing field at Mathews Ridge about 30 miles away, and were transported by truck about halfway from the ridge to where were waiting.

Then, to ensure themselves against being ambushed in exposed vehicles, they completed their march on foot.

Still more troops arrived.

There were enough at last to secure the perimeter of the Port Kaituma airstrip It was still fairly early In the morning

While 80 soldiers marched to Jonestown to make sure no more marauders could sweep out from the deadly settlement, rescue flights arrived to take out the survivors.

Soon, we were in Georgetown and aboard an American C-141 Hercules hospital plane on our way home to safety.

Five in our group were critically or severely wounded

Tim Reiterman, reporter from the Examiner, with two bullet wounds in his left arm, and I with my shoulder wound, were among the lucky ones.

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